How to make chocolate pudding (without starch, tofu, avocados, chia seeds, etc.)

How to make chocolate pudding

This post was created in partnership with Califia Farms.

Confession time: I love pudding. Like, love it more than ice cream. Than cookies. Than two pound salads from Whole Paycheck. I love it more than shaved legs on clean sheets. Than running my fingers along wrought iron fences. Than blasting Kanye in my pint-sized powerhouse at 7AM (and I love that A LOT). Pudding is the perfect dessert. You can whip it up (well, this recipe at least) in less than ten minutes. And once it’s chilled, you can spoon the creamy deliciousness straight to your face. Or you can load it with a bunch of toppings and then spoon it straight to your face. You can dip things in it (like graham crackers!), use it to fill a pie, or freeze it to make double chocolate pudding pops (because it’s almost summer and I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like pudding pops) (HAVE YOU?).

Pudding: it’s easy, versatile, and delicious. And for those of you wondering why I would try to reinvent pudding without any of those things in the title, let me break it down for you. I had an accident with homemade, starch-thickened pudding a few years ago (and I still can’t bring myself to make – or eat – the stuff). And I’m a firm believer that tofu and avocados don’t belong in pudding (keep the black beans out of my brownies and applesauce out of my cookies, too, please). As for chia seeds, well, we all know that chia pudding isn’t actually “pudding”. So I set out on a mission to find a suitable thickener that would result in a pudding that’s indistinguishable from its starch-thickened counterpart. And although the initial stages of the development process had me thinking coconut oil was going to do the trick, I wound up stumbling across something far more superior.

So what was that superior something? PECTIN! It kind of blew my mind when I made the discovery because I was under the impression that pectin could only be used to thicken jams and jellies and fruit-based things of the like. But then I did some digging and learned that universal pectin relies on calcium for thickening (in a slightly acidic environment), which is much different than most varieties of pectin (which rely on large quantities of sugar). Armed with that knowledge, I connected the dots and came up with a testable hypothesis (I’m all about using the scientific method in the kitchen) (it makes me feel a little less terrible about the fact that I’m not using the degree I pay for each month), because if there’s calcium in almondmilk and the combination of dark chocolate and cacao powder creates a slightly acidic environment.. universal pectin should be capable of thickening pudding.

And I was right. So I’ve started testing my pectin-thickening hypothesis on other recipes (like homemade coconut yogurt and citrus curd) (and eventually – if I ever have a proper kitchen again – panna cotta and pots de créme), and hopefully I’ll be able to share them with you sometime in the not so distant future. But in the meantime, you should try your hand at this pudding even if you’re a lover of the stuff that’s made with starch or tofu or avocados or chia seeds – because it’s GOOD. Like, eat-an-entire-jar-in-one-day good.

PSST! I started a new page that will document recipe trials and notes along the way. It’s mostly for me but, if you’re even remotely interested in what recipe development looks like, it might be for you, too.

Things you’ll need (that you may not already have on hand)
+ Good quality dark chocolate (I love Chocolove, Theo, and Divine)
+ Califia Farms unsweetened better half (notes on other options, below)
+ Pomona’s universal pectin

Other things you’ll need
+ Food scale (not 100% necessary but you really should *try* to use one)

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Notes: The better half creamer is crucial, as it’s one of the things that contributes to the weightiness of the pudding. If you can’t find better half (my preferred grocer just recently started carrying it), substitute unsweetened almondmilk creamer. And if you can’t find that, full fat coconut milk should do the trick. For a kickass frozen treat (PUDDING POPS!), use an additional cup of unsweetened almondmilk and the cream from the top of a can of chilled + full fat coconut milk, and pour the liquid into a popsicle mold. For super thick pudding (suitable to fill a pie), reduce the better half to 1/4 cup (55g).

This post is sponsored by Califia Farms, maker of my favorite non-GMO + carrageenan-free almondmilk (amongst other delicious beverages). All opinions are my own, and I think Califia rules. 


1/2 cup (110g) Califia Farms unsweetened better half
1 cup (212g) Califia Farms unsweetened almondmilk
1/3 cup (88g) pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons (12g) cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon (1g) universal pectin

1 bar (90g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into large chunks
Pinch of vanilla bean powder, optional
Pinch of fine sea salt

You’ll also need
Coconut whipped cream
Your favorite toppings

Add the better half, unsweetened almondmilk, and maple syrup to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a light boil then slowly – while whisking – sift in the cacao powder and pectin then continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, just until the pectin has dissolved. Add the dark chocolate and whisk just until melted, then off heat, add the vanilla bean powder and salt, and give the pudding a good stir with a sturdy spatula (making sure to scrape the edges and bottom of the pan). You can either pass the pudding through a sieve and into one large jar (my go-to method), or into four small jars. The former requires a stir with a whisk after chilling and before consuming, and the latter results in pudding that can be eaten straight from the jar. Whichever route you go, allow the pudding jar(s) to cool on the countertop for 30-45 minutes, then cover with a lid and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least eight hours. When you’re ready to serve, top with coconut whipped cream and any of your favorite toppings. Pudding will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to three days.

Yield: 4 servings

Refined sugar-free chocolate pudding – replace the dark chocolate with unsweetened chocolate and increase the maple syrup to 1/2 cup. Boil the liquid + pectin mixture for 1-2 minutes more.
Double cacao pudding (also refined sugar-free) – replace the dark chocolate with two ounces of cacao butter and increase the cacao powder to 6 tablespoons and the maple syrup to 1/2 cup. Throw in a teaspoon of lucuma powder, if ya want.
Mocha pudding – toss in 1/2 a teaspoon of your favorite instant espresso powder (do not use strong brewed coffee as the water content will alter the consistency) and use Califia’s black & white in place of the unsweetened almondmilk.
Mayan chocolate pudding – add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Peanut butter chocolate pudding – add an extra 1/4 cup of unsweetened almondmilk and stir in 1/4 cup (64g) of creamy natural peanut butter when adding the dark chocolate.

How to make chocolate pudding


  • Reply Abby @ Heart of a Baker 17 May 2016 at 7:16 AM

    Hooooly crap I’ve been waiting for this recipe and YOU ARE A GENIUS. Girl, I can’t wait to try this and ohhh the possibilities! Also, I spent way too much time reading the evolution of a recipe page and love it, my notes are usually like ‘What the hell was I thinking? This is WRONG’. ha.

  • Reply Elizabeth 17 May 2016 at 7:52 AM

    i did not know universal pectin was a thing. and this is a recipe even i couldn’t fuck up! making. DAYUMMM

  • Reply Lily | Kale & Caramel 17 May 2016 at 8:30 AM

    Love love LOVE! What a freaking dope discovery, and how exciting that it came through your embracing the knowledge and process you already possess. Mother-effing awesome. Cannot wait to try!!

  • Reply Edlyn 17 May 2016 at 8:46 AM

    What a fucking amazing idea! In awe. Pudding lovers all over the world are gonna go crazy right now.

  • Reply Heather 17 May 2016 at 9:07 AM

    I am going to try this tonight. I love your dedication.

  • Reply Kate 17 May 2016 at 11:33 AM

    Oh yay! Can’t wait to try this! BTW, I read somewhere the other day about Trader Joe’s chocolate (which we love), that those nice big 72% bars are actually repackaged Callebaut. Could make a lot of this pudding with one of those!

  • Reply Tess 17 May 2016 at 12:56 PM

    I just made this (the unsweetened chocolate version) and am hoping it’s ready by dinner time! This is such a brilliant recipe, Ashlae. I am still so impressed that you’re churning out content without a real kitchen. Speaking of your kitchen, I can’t wait to hear more about it and see the progress. Your floor looks a-mazing!

    • Reply Tess 17 May 2016 at 5:18 PM

      Ashlae it turned out perfect!!!!!!! Even better than the homemade pudding from my childhood. Thanks a million! I’m going to try the mocha pudding next. :)

      • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:56 AM

        Hi Tess –

        So happy to hear that! <3

  • Reply Randle Browning 17 May 2016 at 1:09 PM

    These look so delicious. Yay for pectin! And yay for all the new Califia Farms varieties. Also, I think I’m obsessed with your new Evolution of a Recipe page. Question—what do you do with all the batches? Give them to friends? Choke them down? Give a dog the best day of his life?? This is something I haven’t yet figured out as a blogger… :P

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 7:02 AM

      Hi Randle –

      Such a great question! For the pudding, we just ate them all because I was only making 1-2 batches/week. But Thom either takes the excess to work, we give it to our friends and neighbors, or pass it out to the homeless folks who hang around our hood. Or a combination of all of the above.

  • Reply Danae @ Recipe Runner 17 May 2016 at 1:53 PM

    Yay! The pudding recipe is finally revealed! Genius to use pectin, I can’t believe I never thought of that. I’m totally with you on the no avocados and tofu in my pudding or beans in my brownies…I’m sorry, but you can taste a difference. Pudding is right up there with ice cream for me as far as favorite desserts, so I’ll be giving this a try for sure!

  • Reply Gemma 17 May 2016 at 4:14 PM

    Woah! This pudding looks utterly delicious and so creamy and super chocolaty!
    You always impress us with these brilliant recipes. :-)

    PS: can’t wait to see the new kitchen!

  • Reply Stacy 17 May 2016 at 4:30 PM

    You’re a genius!!

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:57 AM

      Hi Stacy –

      Nah, I’m just really bored. ;)

  • Reply Chelsea 17 May 2016 at 6:28 PM

    Your title had me confused – I had no idea where you were going with this pudding! But pectin, damn that’s neat! I have to say I like avocado pudding, but I know I’m weird so it’s not something I would make for others. This looks like a pudding I could still serve at a dinner party though!

  • Reply Rainbow Koehl 17 May 2016 at 6:43 PM

    Very interesting idea to use pectin. I would never have thought of that! I look forward to trying out this recipe (I am allergic to cow and soy dairy and prefer Califia’s Coconut almond milk blend thee days). Did you see the recent article in the NYT about using drained canned chickpea liquid in place of egg whites when whipping them for something like meringues. Crazy stuff.

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:56 AM

      Hi Rainbow –

      High fives for Califia! <3 I have heard of aquafaba and have a kickass (aquafaba) marshmallow creme recipe I'm going to share once I'm back in my kitchen.

  • Reply Dawn 18 May 2016 at 5:24 AM

    Wow you are my hero!!! I’ve always wondered how the St Dalfour jams were made without sugar. It says fruit pectin on the label but I didn’t realise you could buy the pectin. I wonder if they sell it here in Sweden?? If they do I will make some strawberry jam, from the Swedish strawberries, in the summer and send you a jar!!

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:55 AM

      Hi Dawn –

      Crazy fact: All fruit contains pectin and – if boiled + agitated – it will release enough pectin to thicken the jam on it’s own! I’m not sure you’ll be able to find the specific pectin I use in Sweden but, if not, you can totally order it online.

  • Reply Hanna 18 May 2016 at 7:08 AM

    I don’t care for pudding (or black beans in my brownies) but I’m bookmarking this recipe for warmer days because pudding (silly autocorrect tried changing pudding to pissing) pops! Put me up there on the list with everyone else who can’t wait to see your kitchen! I hope things are moving right along.

  • Reply Cathy Mitchell 18 May 2016 at 1:21 PM

    Hi, Ashlee.
    Is it okay to substitute 2% or whole milk or even 2% kefir for the almond milk?


    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:52 AM

      Hi Cathy –

      I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

  • Reply Ashley 18 May 2016 at 3:46 PM

    You are a made kitchen scientist and I LOVE it.

  • Reply Ashley 18 May 2016 at 3:51 PM

    ummm. Mad. Not made. You get it.

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:51 AM

      GIRL. I knew what you meant. ;) Also? I MISS YOU.

  • Reply Sophie 18 May 2016 at 9:01 PM

    Aweee, Shit! That is beyond genius. I raked my brain trying to come up with what your secret was, but never in a million years could I have pondered this! P.S Palmona’s is the bomb for idiot proof jam making (which is essential for me). Love love land more love.

  • Reply Rosie 19 May 2016 at 6:43 AM

    I love the pudding too and also love to try something new. :)

  • Reply Ryan 19 May 2016 at 7:44 AM

    This recipe is genius! I can’t have starch and have an oral avocado allergy so needless to say I haven’t had pudding in a long time. Have you thought about using aquafaba in place of the almond milk? I think it could be wonderful.

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:51 AM

      Hi Ryan –

      Bummer on the avocado allergy! You’re the third person I’ve heard of with an oral allergy – so wild. Anyway, I did not try aquafaba but only because it would have gone bad in the fridge within a day, or would have required a stabilizer like lecithin, gum, etc.

  • Reply Katrina 19 May 2016 at 3:05 PM

    Pudding is absolutely the perfect dessert. And pudding made with pectin sounds amazing! This is definitley on my to-try list!

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is 21 May 2016 at 4:45 AM

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  • Reply lila 22 May 2016 at 10:54 PM

    girl, wow, this is amazing. quality- and content-wise. i have been looking through your blog and this truly is a practical and beautiful visual journey. i love your work and this one, i don’t even know what board to pin it on! mad props. you inspire me to keep getting better!

  • Reply Ukhils 23 May 2016 at 11:29 AM

    What is ” Better Half” please?

    • Reply Ashlae 24 May 2016 at 6:49 AM

      Hi Ukhils –

      It’s a super thick, coconut cream/almondmilk creamer. If you want to know more about it, follow the link in the recipe. :)

  • Reply nadine 23 May 2016 at 1:11 PM

    Oh goooosh! Need to try this very soon! Merci!

  • Reply Amy | The Whole Food Rainbow 24 May 2016 at 3:05 PM

    Hey Ashlae! I am such a simple chocolate pudding girl, and this looks so good, I have to get my paws (paws? Oh God that’s worrying…) on some of that creamer. Pectin! I never thought of that either and now you say it is’s so obvious. Great thinking!! Looking forward to seeing your new kitchen, now i’m over the hump of my insane jealousy, it must have been so tough for you, as a food blogger (extraordiaire) especially, not to have a proper kitchen you’ve done so well!! <3

  • Reply Abby | Lace & Lilacs 25 May 2016 at 4:35 PM

    Ooh, this pudding looks crazy-delicious, Ashlae. LOVE! <3

  • Reply Kate 3 June 2016 at 1:55 PM

    How cool! Of course this would work but never in a million years would I have thought of it. Digging those pudding cups too!

  • Reply Janel | Peach and the Cobbler 15 June 2016 at 8:18 AM

    I’m all over all of this! Pectin – who knew? GENIUS. Can’t wait to whip this baby up!

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