Japanese Milk Pudding: Your Ultimate Guide

by Flora Baker

Creamy custard puddings are popular the world over, and many countries have their own version — like British flans in England, the decadently rich ‘creme brulee’ in France, or North America’s quintessential ‘pudding’. But have you ever wondered what Japanese pudding tastes like? Perhaps one of the simpler Japanese snacks available is milk pudding, a melt-in-the-mouth dessert with a pleasurably soft and velvety texture. While it tastes rather like sweet ice cream, milk pudding has more of a solid texture than anything you’d find in a cone – and though it may wobble a little, it won’t melt either. 

Sweet, creamy and silky smooth, milk pudding is also similar to another much-loved Japanese pudding called purin, a yellowy custard pudding that also includes a soft layer of dark caramel sauce on top. Purin (the phonetic translation of “pudding” in Japanese) is like the country’s version of crème caramel or caramel custard. The key difference between purin pudding and milk pudding? The inclusion of eggs in purin’s list of ingredients, which gives the pudding a denser, thicker consistency. Though it’s easy to get the two desserts confused at first glance, Japanese milk pudding is lighter in both taste and calories than purin. 

How Do I Make Japanese Milk Pudding At Home? 

Milk pudding is a delicious and popular dessert made with only a handful of ingredients: milk (as you might have guessed), plus fresh cream, sugar and unflavored gelatin. If you’re wondering how to make Japanese milk pudding for yourself at home, the recipe couldn’t be simpler to follow. The ingredients are whisked together in a pot, then heated on low for a few minutes until everything dissolves. Once you’ve divided the mixture into individual servings, place them into the fridge for 4-6 hours to set, then remove 15 minutes before eating to yield the perfect soft consistency (or eaten straight from the fridge if you like a firmer texture). 

You’ll get a richer flavor by using full-fat milk and heavy cream, but the dessert will still be delicious if you swap in some lighter ingredients or dairy-free alternatives. 

Are There Different Flavors of Milk Pudding? 

The true beauty of Japanese milk pudding, though, lies in its versatility. Normally it doesn’t include any flavoring beyond sugar, but an additional splash of vanilla extract will quickly elevate the ice cream taste. Furthermore, while many people enjoy eating it in its simplest form, milk pudding is also the perfect dessert canvas to experiment with a wide variety of toppings and alter the pudding’s base flavor. It’s common to add seasonal fruit syrups, purees and compotes made from strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes or peaches. Other toppings might include toasted nuts and seeds, or garnishes of edible flowers like pickled cherry blossoms, mint leaves, and dried rose petals. 

Japan’s love of incorporating seasonal ingredients into their cooking is great for this: for instance, you may find cherry blossom milk pudding hitting the shelves in late March or early April to celebrate the start of spring.

How Popular is Japanese Milk Pudding? 

Milk pudding has long been a popular snack in Japan. It’s sold in convenience stores and supermarkets across the country in pre-packaged form, making it easy to grab one on the road. As plenty of Japanese children grew up eating it, there’s an added nostalgia factor now too! 

You’ll typically find a few well-known dairy companies producing milk pudding in Japan. Hokkaido milk pudding, made with 3.6% Hokkaido whole milk, is particularly popular due to the creamy richness of Hokkaido’s famous milk. It already has a hint of vanilla which makes the milk pudding even more flavorful. Morinaga milk pudding – with its iconic red and white retro style packaging – was also featured heavily in the Netflix show Good Morning Call (Guddo Mōningu Kōru in Japanese). The show is basically an advertisement for milk pudding, so the snack has become even more popular with the show’s global fans. 

If you’ve developed a hankering for milk pudding – or just Japanese desserts in general – you can try out a Japanese snack box filled with both sweet and savory snacks!

Author Bio

Flora Baker is a writer, blogger and author based in London, UK. She runs the award-winning travel website Flora The Explorer and has written for Coastal Living, Telegraph, and National Geographic Traveler.