Sunday, February 14, 2010

Product Review: Natural Desserts Instant Vanilla Pudding

You know, every once in a while I get the hankering for a little pudding. The soft, velvety texture, creamy, soft mouth-feel that just slides right down without really having to even move your mouth. It just floats down to your tummy.


Well, most of the time, anyhow. I am not a huge fan of instant pudding, but there are times when you just don't want to stand over a stove and stir and stir and stir and stir. And then 30 minutes later, you have warm pudding. Sometimes, warm pudding is fantastic, but other times, you just want a nice, cold cup of creamy vanilla pudding, right?


And sometimes you want it right now, right?


Ah, the American motto. But I digress...

As I shopped around Whole Foods, I stopped by the baking aisle to check on a few items for a friend whose daughter has just recently gone gluten-, dairy- and corn-free. Very similar to me. In my attempt to help her make the transition smoothly, I was pricing some necessary items for them, when I spotted a little white box with words 'all-natural gluten-free instant vanilla pudding.'


I picked up the new little box and immediately do what I always do: turned it over. I am an ingredient reader. Have to be. My body is discerning and so am I.

Reading the ingredient label, I was neither frightened, nor appalled (it is Whole Foods, after all) and pleasantly surprised to see that corn starch was not their thickener of choice.

Thumbs up for those of us abstaining from corn.

Feeling pretty pleased about it, I dropped the Natural Desserts vanilla variety in my cart (there was also a tempting chocolate version, but I was in a vanilla mood, as we all have those kinds of moments - I can hear my good friend's husband shrieking. He is a chocolate purist. Not that the chocolate has to be pure, but it has to be pure chocolate.) and headed home.

Fast-forward a few days.

It's a lazy Sunday morning and I have decided to give the new item a try. I had also just recently purchased a bunch of new and fun items from my local Asian market, so something had to be tried. The vanilla pudding stood out. It beckoned to be eaten. And I was ready to answer that call.

Flipping it over again, I re-read the backside looking at the ingredients again and all the various verbiage: no corn, no wheat, no milk (unless you choose to use some), no eggs and no soy. Excellent. This could be a new favorite for me and my new gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free twelve-year-old friend.

Emblazoned across the top in bold italics - No Cooking! Just mix with milk! Great. Perfect for what I am looking for. There were also alternate suggestions for pudding, using milk (skim or whole) or milk alternatives (rice milk or even potato milk), pie filling, rice pudding and even a recipe for Cherries 'N Cream Pie. Mmmm. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Yep. My mouth was a'watering.

I dumped the package inside into a large bowl with two cups of cold milk (I used hemp milk because it was all I had and if the package says you can use rice or potato milk, well, hemp will work just as well). I started to whisk for the two minutes the package declared was the amount of time needed to whisk the powdery mixture into smooth and creamy goodness.

I whisked and I whisked, slow and gently, as recommended. I looked at my clock. One minute.

The mixture was still pretty much in a fluid state, so I figured something magical was about to happen around minute two.

Nope. Still liquid. Slightly thicker liquid, but nothing like pudding. Maybe like a watery sauce. Maybe.

I whisked some more and then I thought, well, why don't I just taste it? See how it tastes. Tastes like vanilla hemp milk with little pearly lumps in it.

Okay, so maybe the mixture has gelled before it mixed together fully. Interesting, considering the milk was cold and that's what the package directions tell you to do.

I whisked a little while longer, hoping for some change or some pudding magic to happen. I was only disappointed. So, I thought to myself again, as I do often while I cook or create, let's just leave it alone and see what happens. Maybe it will thicken on its own. Maybe.

I left it sit on the counter for about 7 minutes and when I came back, it looked, well, the same.

I flipped the box over again reading and scouring the words to see what I might have done wrong or where I may have flubbed. I could find no error. Put milk in bowl; dump in mixture; whisk together. Wa-la! Instant pudding. More like instant flavored milk.

Out of curiosity and not really wanting to waste half a box of hemp milk, I put the liquid into a saucepan and set it on medium. I thought maybe it just needed some heat, even though it was supposed to be a no-cook pudding mix.

I continued to whisk and stir, waiting for the mixture to at least get to the boiling stage. If it made it to that point and hadn't thickened, it wasn't going to. Whatever starch they used was either not enough or just wasn't working. Now, mind you, it has been close to an hour with all the whisking and waiting and whisking some more. I could have just made my own pudding and it would have taken less time without the confusion or frustration.

As the liquid began to boil, I realized it had thickened some to about the consistency of a nice sauce, but that really wasn't what I was looking for. And now that I had invested time and money into this project, I wasn't going to throw it away. It still had potential and I wanted pudding.

I mixed in some sweet potato starch (a fun find from the Asian market - starch from sweet potatoes! Ingenious!) and began whisking away. It began to thicken, as expected, and I realized that I put in maybe about half of what I would have to make my own pudding, so maybe the mix didn't have enough starch and whatever they were trying to do to make it be instant had failed miserably. I was kind of wondering if they had tested this product in-house before putting it in a box.

Maybe. Maybe not.

So, all in all, I would say, forget the $1.49 (or $2.49 on several websites) for the Natural Desserts Instant Pudding Mixes and if you can eat cornstarch, use one of those varieties - there are plenty. If you can't, just make your own at home. It will be less hassle, probably about the same cost, maybe even a little cheaper and you know what you're going to get when you are done.

Happy eating,


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. I thought for sure this entertaining story was going to have a happy ending. =) Sorry your pudding didn't work out -- just out of curiosity, did you end up eating it or did you throw it out?

    Now, the real question is... are you going to write up February's book club, gossip-column style? Alanna was just telling me how much she enjoyed reading about it and could *almost* picture herself right there with us. No pressure or anything -- just know that January's was very much enjoyed! =D

  3. Susan - Thank you for finding my blog and reading along. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Megan - Yes, I am sorry my pudding story didn't have a happy ending. Well, sort of. I did end up keeping it (I am not big on wasting food if it is edible or I can make it edible). It thickened up with some prodding and I added a little cardamom and have been enjoying it ever since. I've been eating it over a cake I made, but haven't taken pictures of yet. I will be sharing the recipe soon.

    I won't be writing up February's book club because I didn't take notes. I guess I could...

    Alanna wrote and told me she enjoyed it too, as did a few others. Okay, I might write it up even though I didn't take notes. Let me mull that over...

  4. My daughter and I are allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs and corn, and although you feel like this product was a fail, your story has blessed me! I needed instant vanilla pudding to use in a fruit trifle recipe, and couldn't find one that was free from all our allergens. It won't matter that it will not thicken for my recipe - you just use it dry. I am off to buy this one. Thanks for sharing!