How To Make Vanilla Custard

Homemade vanilla custard is a delicious and indulgent sauce that can be served with many tyoes of desserts. Try it on your pie or crumbles!

To recipe
vanilla custard in a jug with a spoon
Recipe insights & TIPS

Skip the vanilla custard box mix and make your own homemade version! With only a few simple ingredients, it's the perfect sauce for lots of desserts including apple pie.

vanilla custard in a jug with a spoon

With the holiday season quickly coming upon us, It's time to start planning your Thanksgiving and Christmas menu! Of course all of the standard main and side dishes should be on it, like roasted root vegetables with maple balsamic sauce and the best homemade gravy for your turkey! But don't forget to save some extra special love for your desserts, and the easiest way to do that is to serve this creamy traditional vanilla custard sauce with them.

Why do I need this vanilla custard?

This easy to make sauce is the perfect addition to any pie, and lets face it, the holidays are full of pie. Usually a scoop of ice cream is good enough for pie, but after you taste this creamy, vanilla sauce you'll know that you just took your dessert to the next level. It's also great served over any type of cake such as pumpkin cake and gingerbread.

How to make vanilla custard

1. Combine the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar in a bowl. and whisk well.

2. Once the mixture has thickened and leaves a ribbon trail from the whisk, then it's time to add the warm milk.

3. The milk cannot be too hot as it might scramble the eggs but must be warm enough to work with the cornstarch to thicken the custard. When your milk is warming, look for bubbles appearing around the sides of the pot.  

4. Add the warm milk to the egg mixture. This must be done gradually to bring the egg up to the same temperature as the milk. This is called tempering. If you add too much milk into the egg, it could cook the egg and you'd end up with a lumpy mess. Whisk the mixture as you add about 1/4 cup of milk to the egg. Repeat this process four times and then the egg mixture should be okay to receive the remaining milk.

Place the custard back on to a medium-low heat and stir constantly for 10-15 minutes and it thickens. The perfect consistency is when the custard coats the back of a spoon like below.

Tips for making perfect vanilla custard

  • Have the egg yolks at room temperature before beginning.
  • Use whole milk for a creamier consistency.
  • If you do see some small lumps while stirring the custard, you can run it through a sieve to get rid of them.
  • Vanilla extract will work fine but vanilla bean paste will give an even stronger vanilla taste and you’ll see the flecks of vanilla through the custard.

FAQ's about this recipe

Can I serve my vanilla custard cold? Yes you can. The custard is good served with cold desserts such as tiramisu, carrot cake and sponge cake. You can also serve it warm with pie, crumbles and tarts.

Are the eggs fully cooked? As long as the sauce is cooked to at least 165 degrees.

Can I let my custard cool down over time? No, once the vanilla custard has reached the correct temperature and has thickened, transfer it from the pot to a clean bowl and either place in the fridge or sit the bowl into another larger bowl with some ice on the bottom.

How do I prevent a skin forming on the custard as It cools? Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap making sure to press it against the surface of the custard.

Can you freeze custard? You can freeze it, but at that stage it's best eaten as a frozen custard. Any attempt to defrost to and then try and bring t back to the silky smooth sauce will probably create a separation in the sauce and be ruined.

pouring warm vanilla custard over apple crumble dessert

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Creamy and delicious vanilla custard sauce perfect for pouring over pies or crumble!

20 minutes
Total TIME:
30 minutes
10 minutes


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredient Swaps


  1. In a small pot combine the milk and cream.
  2. Place over a medium heat and warm until you see bubbles appear around the edge of the pot.
  3. While the milk warms, add the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar to a bowl and whisk until the mixture becomes pale yellow and leaves a ribbon trail when dropped from the whisk.
  4. Once the milk is warm and bubbles are appearing around the edge of the pot, add ¼ cup of the milk to the egg mixture while whisking.
  5. Repeat this process another 4-5 times until the egg mixture has become much thinner.
  6. Slowly add more of the milk to the egg while whisking until all of the milk has been added.
  7. Transfer the mixture back into the pot and place over a medium heat.
  8. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula in a figure eight motion until the custard begins to thicken, about 10-15 minutes.
  9. The custard should coat the back of the spoon when done.
  10. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  11. Store in the fridge or use warm straight away.
  12. Reheat cold custard in a pot over a low heat.
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