Indian pudding is a delicious historical dessert first made by American colonists with cornmeal gifted by Native Americans, and molasses. This is one you have to try (and it’s perfect for Thanksgiving!)
Bear with me…this dessert is hard to describe! There’s something about it that makes it mouthwateringly irresistible. Indian pudding has been one of the very few desserts that has attained cult status in my mind. Strange, I know. Not many people have even heard of it, and it’s not a particularly glamorous dessert, to say the least. I grew up in the Northeast, where Indian pudding was still commonly on restaurant menus, especially in New England. It was a favorite of my dad’s, and I started making it in my teens, from the only cookbook that was in our kitchen, Fannie Farmer.
what makes Indian pudding so incredible?
Cornmeal is an especially sweet, carby grain, and when you blend it with molasses and cook it up like a thick pudding aaaaand then serve it hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…I don’t know, just try it yourself, you’ll see.
did you know?
Indian Pudding is a centuries old cornmeal molasses pudding first made by American colonists who were probably re-creating the hasty pudding they left behind in England. Hasty pudding is made with oats, but since oats weren’t available in America, cornmeal was substituted. Cornmeal (called Indian meal by colonists) was one of many food gifts from the Native Americans, and molasses was widely available for the early rum industry. You see how this is shaping up to be the perfect Thanksgiving dessert?
what you’ll need for a creamy Indian pudding
I haven’t had it in many years, and after testing this new recipe a few times this week, I’m reminded of why I love this classic dessert so much.
- you can use whole milk, or a combination of whole milk and half and half, which I prefer because it makes the pudding a little richer.
- plain yellow cornmeal is what I use. You can also use a fine cornmeal for a more refined texture, or stone ground for a grittier texture.
- look for regular unsulphured molasses and avoid blackstrap molasses which is fairly bitter.
- granulated sugar
- some recipes do not include eggs but I love how they enrich the pudding and give it a wonderful fluffy texture ~ this is not as porridge-y as some classic recipes.
- ground ginger and nutmeg
- vanilla extract
- vanilla ice cream for serving
- I normally wouldn’t put this in the ingredient list, but I feel that the ice cream is essential to this dessert, so make sure you have some in the freezer.
So basically this is a sweetened cornmeal porridge (I know, doesn’t sound very exciting) that somehow rises way above the sum of its parts to become a truly memorable dessert. Try it and see!
how to make this ahead for Thanksgiving
- Indian pudding is amazing when you serve it hot from the oven, but how do you pull that off when you’re entertaining? One solution is to enlist your slow cooker for the baking portion of the recipe. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or low for 6. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- You might also experiment with baking Indian pudding in individual containers. The trick here would be to make sure it doesn’t over cook, you want that loose pudding texture. My cast iron mini Dutch ovens from Magnolia would be perfect, I got mine at Target, but you can check Amazon for mini Dutch ovens.
- I haven’t tried this but I think you might be able to assemble the pudding ahead and refrigerate. Then set it out on the counter for an hour or so to bring to room temperature and bake while you enjoy dinner.
more Thanksgiving desserts
- Pumpkin Layer Cake with Caramel Frosting
- Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe
- The Ultimate Maple Cheesecake
- Maple Frangipane Pecan Pie
- Cranberry Gingersnap Pie
- Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 quart casserole
- larger outer pan that fits the casserole for water bath
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups half and half (half cream or single cream in the UK)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup molasses (add up to 1/2 cup for stronger flavor)
- 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 2 quart casserole. Have a larger pan ready that can fit the casserole to make a water bath for even baking. I use my turkey roasting pan.
- Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- Put the milk, half and half, sugar, molasses, ginger, nutmeg and salt into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and bring just up to the scalding point (not quite to a simmer) stirring almost constantly to dissolve and blend everything together.
- When the mixture is nice and hot, but not boiling, sprinkle in the cornmeal, while whisking. When all the cornmeal is incorporated, cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Pour about 1/2 cup or so of the hot cornmeal into the beaten eggs, whisking while you do this. Now pour that back into the saucepan, while whisking. Turn the heat down and cook the cornmeal for another 3 minutes (set a timer.) It will thicken and bubble like a polenta. I like to switch to a silicone spoonula for this part, it helps to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan cleanly so nothing scorches. Stir constantly, don't leave your stove.
- Stir in the vanilla, and then turn the mixture into your prepared casserole dish. Set the dish into the larger pan and add very hot water to at least an inch depth, or about halfway up the sides of your casserole.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Scoop the pudding into serving bowls and serve hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.