Substitutes for Custard Powder

Custard powder is a staple ingredient in many dessert recipes, offering a thickening agent that creates a creamy, velvety texture. However, there may come a time when one’s pantry is missing this key element or they simply prefer an alternative to the traditional custard powder. In such instances, having a substitute for custard powder can be invaluable for the home baker, ensuring that desserts remain scrumptious without sacrificing consistency.

A variety of options are available when seeking substitutes for custard powder. These alternatives can cater to different dietary requirements, preferences, or simply what is readily available in one’s kitchen. From cornstarch to homemade custard mixes, these replacement ingredients allow individuals to maintain the integrity of their desserts while exploring new flavors and techniques.

In the following paragraphs, several suitable substitutes for custard powder will be discussed, providing a comprehensive guide for those searching for alternative options. By understanding the functionality and flavor profiles of these substitutes, home bakers can continue to create exceptional, mouthwatering desserts without relying solely on traditional custard powder.

What is Custard Powder

Custard powder is a dry, powdered form of custard used to create a creamy dessert sauce. Invented by Alfred Bird in 1837, it typically consists of a blend of cornstarch or cornflour, sugar, and flavorings like vanilla. Many commercially available custard powders also contain coloring agents to mimic the vibrant yellow hue of traditional custard made from egg yolks.

Alfred Bird’s invention of custard powder was a byproduct of his efforts to make a dessert for his wife, who had an egg allergy. The powder offered a solution that allowed for easy preparation and elimination of eggs from the recipe. It gained popularity due to its versatility, as it can be used as a base for various desserts, such as trifle and fruit tarts.

While traditional custard powder relies on the addition of milk for the cooking process, some variations of custard powder may call for specified amounts of liquid, such as water or alternative milk products, to suit dietary needs. The powder is usually mixed with the liquid, heated, and stirred until it thickens to the desired consistency.

Custard powder offers certain benefits:

  • It is convenient to store and has a longer shelf life than liquid custards or eggs.
  • It allows for control of the final product’s texture by adjusting the ratio of powder to liquid.
  • It is suitable for individuals with egg allergies or sensitivities.

However, it is essential to note that using custard powder as a substitute for traditional custard may alter the taste and authenticity of certain recipes. Yet, it remains a popular alternative and is easily found in most grocery and specialty stores.

Common Custard Powder Substitutes

Pudding Mix

Pudding mix is a popular custard powder substitute, as it is easily accessible and can provide a similar consistency and flavor. It typically consists of cornstarch, sugar, and flavoring agents, such as vanilla or chocolate. To use pudding mix as a substitute, replace the custard powder in a recipe with an equal amount of dry pudding mix. Keep in mind that pudding mix is usually sweetened, so adjust the sugar in your recipe accordingly.

Cornstarch and Vanilla

Another common substitute for custard powder is a combination of cornstarch and vanilla extract. Cornstarch, also known as cornflour, provides the thickening effect, while vanilla extract adds the desired flavor.

Cornstarch2 tablespoons
Vanilla Extract1 teaspoon

To use this substitute, mix the cornstarch and vanilla extract together and add them to the recipe in place of the custard powder. Note that cornstarch has a stronger thickening effect than custard powder, so you might need to adjust the amount to achieve the desired consistency.

Homemade Custard Powder

If you’d like to create your own custard powder substitute, consider making homemade custard powder. This typically involves mixing cornstarch, powder sugar, and flavoring agents, such as vanilla or almond extract. Here’s a simple recipe:

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring

Mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. When needed, replace the custard powder in a recipe with an equal amount of homemade custard powder. Adjust the sweetness and thickness as necessary, as homemade custard powder may have a different taste and consistency than store-bought varieties.

Custard Alternatives with Dietary Considerations

Gluten-Free Options

For those with gluten sensitivities or intolerances, there are several gluten-free alternatives to traditional custard powder. Some options include:

  • Arrowroot powder: A starch derived from the roots of the arrowroot plant, it is flavorless and can help achieve a smooth, thickened custard.
  • Tapioca powder: Extracted from the cassava root, this starch works similarly to arrowroot, adding thickness without any noticeable taste.
  • Potato starch: Made from potatoes, this starch offers a neutral flavor and acts as a thickening agent in custard recipes.
  • Cornflour: Not to be confused with cornmeal, cornflour is a fine powder made from corn starch and can be an effective thickener in custards.

Dairy-Free Alternatives

For individuals who cannot or choose not to consume dairy, there are several dairy-free options for creating a delicious custard without traditional milk and eggs:

  • Milk alternatives: Non-dairy milk alternatives, such as almond, soy, or oat milk, can be used in place of cow’s milk in custard recipes.
  • Egg substitutes: Eggs can be replaced with commercial egg replacers or a mixture of water, oil, and baking powder for a similar binding and thickening effect.
  • Water chestnut flour: This flour is derived from water chestnuts and can be used in combination with dairy-free milk to create a smooth, thickened custard consistency.

By choosing the appropriate gluten-free or dairy-free alternatives, individuals with dietary restrictions can enjoy delicious custard dishes without compromising their health or comfort.

Chocolate sweet custard cream dessert Vla served with mint leaves

Using Substitutes in Different Desserts

Puddings and Pie Fillings

When making puddings or pie fillings, traditional custard is often the go-to choice for its creamy and smooth consistency. However, you can use substitutes like instant vanilla pudding mix, corn flour, or tapioca pudding to achieve a similar result. When using these substitutes, be sure to adjust the consistency to your desired thickness by adding more or less liquid – usually milk or water. The taste of the final dessert might slightly differ, but you can still achieve a delicious outcome.

Cakes, Cookies, and Donuts

Substituting custard powder in cakes, cookies, and donuts can be a little trickier as it affects the overall structure and texture. Common substitutes include pastry cream made from scratch, eggs, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. When substituting custard powder in these desserts, consider the following proportions for a typical recipe:

  • 1 egg for every 2 tablespoons of custard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt

Remember to adjust the sugar content, as many commercial custard powder substitutes might contain added sugar.

Other Dessert Applications

There are several other dessert applications where custard powder substitutes can be useful. For instance, you can use gluten-free alternatives like water chestnut or commercial gluten-free custard powder for those with dietary restrictions. In fruit-based desserts like banana or strawberry puddings, you can opt for a slurry made of corn flour and milk for thickening.

When using substitutions, it is essential to take note of any allergens, calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium in each substitute, to ensure it fits your desired nutritional goals. Always experiment with flavors and consistencies to achieve a delicious and satisfying dessert while keeping in mind the necessary adjustments for each substitution.

Remember, by stocking your pantry with various substitutes for custard powder, you’ll be ready to tackle a wide range of dessert applications without compromising on taste or consistency.

Storing and Buying Custard Powder Substitutes

When looking for custard powder substitutes, it is essential to know where to buy them and how to store them properly. Many custard powder substitutes can be found at your local grocery stores or online retailers. Some common alternatives include cornstarch, instant vanilla pudding mix, and homemade custard mixes.

To ensure that your custard powder substitutes remain fresh and retain their quality, store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Using an airtight container is highly recommended to protect the products from moisture and maintain their freshness. Be mindful of the expiration date and any storage guidelines provided on the packaging.

Some custard powder substitutes may also contain riboflavin as a component. Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a common food additive responsible for the yellow color in custard. When searching for a substitute, it is essential to check the ingredients list to identify the presence of riboflavin, especially if you have dietary restrictions or allergies.

Here’s a quick reference table for buying and storing custard powder substitutes:

SubstituteWhere to BuyStorage
CornstarchGrocery storesAirtight container, cool & dry
Instant Pudding MixGrocery storesSealed pouch, cool & dry
Homemade MixMake with pantry itemsAirtight container, cool & dry

Remember to follow the specific instructions included with each substitute when preparing your recipes. The right custard powder substitute will allow you to create delicious custard-based desserts with ease, providing a similar texture and taste to traditional preparations.

Substitutes for Custard Powder

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 4 minutes
Course Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 177 kcal


  • Pudding Mix
  • Pastry Cream
  • Cornstarch
  • Tapioca Pudding
  • Water Chestnut
  • Baking Soda
  • Cornstarch combined with Cornflour
  • Milk and Eggs


  • Try our kitchen tested custard powder substitutes.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 177kcal
Keyword custard powder substitutes
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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