Custard Powder Substitutes

Custard powder is a staple ingredient for many bakers and dessert makers. The powder contains cornstarch, flavorings, and colorings that help create the rich, creamy, eggy custard flavor when mixed with milk or cream. While traditional homemade custards start with milk, cream, eggs, and sugar, the powder offers convenience and easy consistency without curdling.

Custard Powder Substitutes

However, you may find yourself without custard powder when a recipe calls for it. Fortunately, several handy ingredients likely in your pantry can step in and mimic custard powder beautifully. By understanding the components of custard powder and key substitutes, you can still achieve delightful desserts.

Key Takeaway: Common pantry items like cornstarch, flour, and pudding mix make excellent substitutes for custard powder.

What Is Custard Powder and Its History

Custard powder contains a combination of ingredients that thicken and flavor milk to quickly produce a creamy custard. This powder eliminates lengthy steps needed for traditional homemade egg custards. It contains cornstarch, flavorings (typically vanilla), and food coloring.

The yellow hue comes from added dyes to mimic egg yolks. Some brands may also include dry milk powder. When reconstituted with milk and gently heated, custard powder easily creates the signature velvety richness of custard.

Custard powder's invention arose to help those with egg allergies enjoy custard.

Its creation dates back to 1837 in England, by Alfred Bird. Bird's wife was allergic to eggs, which prevented her from eating traditional egg-based custard. As a chemist, Bird experimented to develop an egg-free powder that could produce custard.

The resulting invention allowed Bird's wife and others to enjoy custard safely. By 1844, Bird commercialized his custard powder across Britain, where it became exceedingly popular. Today, major brands like Bird's maintain the standard he created.

Top Substitute Options for Custard Powder

When you lack custard powder, several handy ingredients can mimic its thickening powers and flavors. Here are the top substitutes to use in place of custard powder:


Since custard powder contains a hefty amount of cornstarch, plain cornstarch makes an excellent substitution. Use the same quantity of cornstarch as the custard powder specified.

Cornstarch alone lacks flavor, so add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt to approximate custard powder's profile. A touch of food coloring also helps cornstarch better visually resemble custard.

Cornstarch substitutes nicely in custard pie fillings, crème brûlée, and similar recipes needing thickening.


Regular flour can also substitute for custard powder due to its thickening abilities. Use an equal amount of flour as the custard powder. For flavor, add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Combine the flour, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly before mixing into the liquid called for in the recipe. Stir the mixture continuously as it heats to prevent lumping. Flour makes a better substitute in cakes, cookies, and donuts using custard powder.

Pudding Mix

Look to instant pudding mix, especially vanilla, as an easy swap for custard powder. Pudding mix contains sugar, cornstarch, milk powder, flavorings, and colorings much like custard powder.

Use the same measurements of dry pudding mix as you would custard powder. Pudding's consistency and flavor closely mimics prepared custard. Its ability to thicken and sweeten suits puddings, fillings, and dessert sauces calling for custard powder.


Tapioca powder works well in place of custard powder, since tapioca consists of starch from the cassava plant. Its texture resembles cornstarch.

Use the same quantity of tapioca powder as custard powder specified. Tapioca powder has little flavor, so add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to provide the classic custard taste.

Tapioca powder substitutes nicely in custard pies, bread pudding, and other desserts wanting that silky richness of custard.

Water Chestnut Flour

For another substitute made from starch, use water chestnut flour. Grinding dried water chestnuts produces this gluten-free flour. Despite its name, it acts more like cornstarch than traditional flour.

Measure out the same amount of water chestnut flour as the custard powder required. Boost flavor with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Water chestnut flour makes a tasty substitution in cakes, cookies, or ice creams with custard powder.


A 50/50 mixture of cornflour and cornstarch can replicate custard powder. The cornflour provides a hint of sweetness and yellow tint while the cornstarch thickens.

Use the same total amount of the flours as the custard powder needed. Add vanilla to taste. The dual flours work well in fruit desserts, puddings, and custard tarts.

Homemade Custard

While more effort than custard powder, you can craft homemade custard from scratch. Basic custard contains milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

Gently heating the mixture while continuously stirring allows the eggs to thicken the milk into creamy custard. Take care not to overheat or the eggs may curdle. Homemade custard works beautifully in place of prepared custard powder.

Milk and Eggs

Eggs and milk together form the foundation of homemade custard. Using about 3 cups of milk and 4 eggs with sugar and vanilla replicates custard powder in recipes.

Follow a double boiler method, combining the eggs and other ingredients before gently stirring into the hot milk. The eggs provide the thickening power of custard powder. This egg-based substitution suits custard cups, dessert pies, and sauces.

Key Takeaway: Swap in pantry staples like cornstarch, flour, pudding mix, and tapioca powder in place of custard powder when needed.

How to Use Substitutes Properly in Recipes

When using a custard powder substitute, follow some tips to properly exchange it into your recipe:

  • Maintain a 1:1 ratio of substitute to the custard powder amount specified.
  • Note if the substitute includes thickening ability, flavor, and color. Add ingredients like vanilla or food coloring if needed to match custard's properties.
  • Alter the liquid as needed. More moisture may be required with flour or cornstarch versus prepared pudding mix.
  • Allow extra stirring over heat to prevent lumps, curdling, and stabilize thickness.
  • Make sure to strain lumps if they develop when heating and stirring the substitute.
  • Adjust sweetness to taste depending on the sugar content of the substitute used.
  • Consider the application like pies, donuts, or sauces and choose a substitute that best fits the texture needed.

With some adjustments, you can achieve fantastic results using homemade custard or pantry substitutes in place of standard custard powder.

Ensuring Thickness Without Custard Powder

One key function of custard powder is its thickening effect. Some substitutes thicken well on their own, but you may need to add a binder if the replacement results in custard that is too thin.

Two easy options to thicken custard without custard powder are:

Cornstarch slurry - Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water to form a paste. Slowly add small amounts of the slurry into the warm custard, stirring constantly until desired thickness forms.

Arrowroot slurry - Make a slurry by mixing arrowroot powder with cold milk or water. Slowly pour into the warm custard, stirring until it reaches the preferred consistency.

The slurry methods gradually thicken without clumping or altering flavor. Test the thickness as you go until the custard resembles the consistency you want.

Is Custard Powder the Same as Pudding Mix?

While both make creamy desserts, custard powder and pudding mix differ in certain ways:

  • Custard powder needs milk or cream added and gentle heating to form the custard.
  • Pudding mix can be made with cold milk and without cooking, although heating it provides better thickness.
  • Custard powder has a mild flavor, mostly from the cornstarch. Pudding mix tends to be sweeter with more pronounced flavoring.
  • Mainly used for custard, custard powder also works in some puddings. Pudding mix strongly leans towards pudding desserts.
  • Pudding offers a wide variety of flavors beyond vanilla custard powder.

So while pudding mix makes an excellent substitute, the two products have differences. Pudding desserts tend to be richer in flavor compared to the more delicate, subtle flavor in custard.

What Is Custard and How to Make Custard Powder

Custard consists of milk and/or cream thickened with eggs and heated gently. Flavors like vanilla or chocolate heighten its taste. With a velvety consistency, custard makes both a lovely dessert itself or a component in other recipes.

Custard powder serves as a shortcut, utilizing cornstarch, milk powder, sugar, and flavorings to quickly thicken milk. By removing lengthy steps used for stove-top homemade custard, custard powder offers convenience and consistency.

To make basic homemade custard powder:

  • Combine 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla in a food processor.
  • Blend thoroughly until the ingredients integrate well.
  • For color, add 1⁄4 teaspoon yellow food coloring (optional).
  • Process the mixture again until uniform.
  • Store the powder in an airtight container until needed for recipes.
  • When ready to use, follow package instructions, typically mixing about 1⁄2 cup powder with 1-2 cups milk before heating and stirring to form the custard.

Now you can enjoy the richness of custard by making your own custard powder. Adjust the quantities as needed to produce the amount of powder you desire.

Key Takeaway: While pudding mix makes a suitable substitute, custard powder and pudding mix differ in flavor, ingredients, and applications.

Frequently Asked Questions About Custard Powder and Substitutes

What is custard powder made of?

Custard powder contains cornstarch, sugar, salt, artificial flavoring (usually vanilla), and food coloring. Some brands also include dry milk powder.

Why was custard powder invented?

It was created in the 1800s by Alfred Bird as an egg-free solution allowing his wife who had an egg allergy to enjoy custard.

Do you have to cook custard powder?

Yes, gentle heating is required after mixing the custard powder with milk to activate thickening and fully develop the flavor.

Can you use flour instead of custard powder?

Yes, flour can substitute for custard powder. Use the same amount of flour then add sugar and vanilla for flavor. Stir constantly while heating to prevent lumps.

Is custard powder gluten-free?

Traditional custard powder contains cornstarch, not wheat flour, so it is gluten-free. However, always check labels since some brands may contain other ingredients or contact with gluten products.

Can you make vegan custard with custard powder?

Yes, use non-dairy milk like almond, soy, or coconut milk when mixing with the custard powder to create vegan-friendly custard.

Does custard powder contain eggs?

No, custard powder is egg-free which is why it was originally invented as an alternative to traditional egg custards.

Is instant pudding the same as custard powder?

Instant pudding and custard powder are different, but in a pinch, dry instant pudding mix can substitute for custard powder using a 1:1 ratio.


Custard powder provides a fast, convenient way to create deliciously smooth and creamy custard. When you lack prepared custard powder, versatile ingredients already in your kitchen can step up as substitutes.

Use options like cornstarch, flour, pudding mix, and tapioca powder measured equal to the custard powder amount specified. Add extras like vanilla extract or food coloring as needed to better match custard's properties. With proper preparation and substitutions, you can still achieve wonderful custard textures and flavors for your desserts and baked goods.

Understanding custard powder's history provides insight into its invention and purpose. Alfred Bird first devised the powder as an egg-free solution so those with allergies could enjoy custard. While custard powder differs somewhat from instant pudding mixes, both offer shortcuts to creating luscious desserts. Follow recipes to whip up homemade custard powder for from-scratch flavor and control over ingredients.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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