Silky smooth and rich vanilla vegan custard, made with only 6 ingredients! No eggs or milk needed. Perfect for eclairs, tarts, donuts and more!
Custard and pastry cream are traditionally made with lots of eggs, milk and butter. I have tried several recipes, none of which came close to a rich custard/cream. Until now!
Many recipes out there for vegan custard or pastry cream basically taste like weird vanilla pudding… Not at all what I was hoping for.
This vegan custard tastes amazing – it’s rich, SO creamy, vanilla infused and thick, not runny.
Ingredients needed (with substitutions)
- Full fat coconut milk – You must use canned, full fat coconut milk. Coconut cream works as well, and will result in a thicker cream/custard.
- Plant milk – I have used soy, cashew and almond milk. Any unsweetened plant milk will work here, if you use sweetened add less sugar so it’s not too sweet.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar works best, but you could probably substitute a few tablespoons of pure maple syrup for a less sweet custard. Coconut sugar may also work, but the custard will turn brown.
- Cornstarch – I haven’t had luck with any other thickener, but arrowroot might work. Tapioca starch makes things more stretchy, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
- Vanilla extract – Use pure extract for best flavor. Or use a freshly scraped vanilla bean.
- Vegan butter – I have used Melt, Earth Balance and Country Crock with great results.
How to make it
You will love how easy it is to make! First, whisk the plant milk and cornstarch in a glass measuring cup or small bowl until smooth. This will help the custard be smooth and not have chunks.
In a medium/small pot, add the coconut milk, sugar and plant milk/cornstarch mixture. Turn the heat to medium-high, and whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and vegan butter. It should be smooth and the butter should be completely melted. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (or parchment paper) to avoid a film developing on the top.
Let it cool for a few hours in the refrigerator. Then use an immersion blender to smooth it out right before using (a hand mixer/stand mixer with whisk or even regular blender works as well).
Why is my custard a weird texture after cooling?
Don’t worry, the texture will seem a bit rubbery and not as smooth after cooling, this is normal. Simply blend it with an immersion blender, regular blender, hand mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment until smooth again. The same thing has to be done with traditional custard.
What is the difference between custard and pastry cream?
Pastry cream is usually thicker than custard, but I have found for this vegan version they can be used interchangeably. If you want a thinner custard, use only 1/4 cup of cornstarch and full fat coconut milk instead of coconut cream. Thicker pastry cream is great for eclairs and donut fillings.
Where can I use vegan custard/pastry cream?
I have several recipes coming up that use it, so be on the lookout for those (subscribe by email so you never miss a recipe!).
- Vegan Eclairs
- Vegan Cream Puffs
- Boston Cream Donuts and other cream filled donuts
- Fruit tarts
- Boston Cream Pie
- Cake fillings
Chocolate pastry cream
For chocolate flavored pastry cream, add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder when you add everything to the pot at the beginning, then stir in about 6 ounces of vegan chocolate when you add the vegan butter/vanilla.
Vegan Custard (Pastry Cream)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened plant milk (soy, almond, cashew, etc)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 can full fat coconut milk (13.5 oz)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
- Whisk the plant milk and cornstarch in a measuring cup or bowl until smooth.
- To a medium pot, add the coconut milk, sugar and milk/cornstarch mixture.
- Turn the heat to medium-high, and whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and vegan butter, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Place in a bowl with a layer of plastic wrap touching the top of the custard, to avoid a film forming. Place it in the refrigerator for a few hours to cool (you can speed this up by sticking it in the freezer for 30 minutes).
- Once cool, if it is clumpy at all, use an immersion blender to smooth it out. You could also use a high powered blender, stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a. hand mixer to smooth it out. Use immediately anywhere you'd like, or serve with a spoon and enjoy!
- For a thinner custard, you can decrease the cornstarch to 1/4 cup and use full fat coconut milk, not coconut cream.
- I have used soy, almond and cashew milk. They all worked well. Make sure to use unsweetened for best results; it may be too sweet if you use a sweetened milk.
- I have tried this using full fat coconut milk AND a can of coconut cream, and they both work well. The custard is thicker using coconut cream.
- If you need to substitute the sugar, you could likely add a few tablespoons of pure maple syrup instead, for a less sweet custard. Or use coconut sugar, but the custard will be brownish.
- You may leave out the vegan butter if needed, but it adds a richness that will be missed. It works without it though.
- Chocolate Pastry Cream - Add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder with everything in the pot at the beginning, then stir in 6 ounces of vegan chocolate chips when you stir in the butter.
I just made this today to use for the Boston cream pie I’m making for my wife’s birthday. This recipe came out nice and thick and I’m sure it will hold up to the second layer of cake on top. Thank you so much for this great recipe!
Hi Roy. You are welcome! How wonderful you are making a pie for your wife’s birthday! I’m so glad to hear the custard came out wonderful! Thanks for your terrific feedback! Enjoy the pie, and happy birthday to your wife!
Hi Nora. Would this be also good to use as a mixture for a pie shell? Thank you.
Hi Mari. This custard would be really good layered in a baked pie shell or tart shell with berries, ganache, or whipped cream on top. If you’re asking if it can be mixed into pie dough, then no, it will not work. I hope this helps!
I used this filling for a gluten free vegan Boston cream pie and it was amazing. You could taste the coconut milk as an aftertaste in the custard final product; once it was added between the layers of cake, it was not discernible. Some of the products used included: Westsoy soy milk, Goya Coconut milk and Country Crock olive oil blend. According to my family you couldn’t tell that the final product was “special” for my allergies.
Hi Sarah. I am so happy that you loved the custard! Thank you for sharing your tips and your great feedback! Your Boston cream pie sounds delicious!
Does it taste really coconutty? I have LOVED every single recipe of yours I’ve tried, but I’m worried that the coconut milk and/or cream will make it just taste like coconut
There’s a hint of coconut I would say. If you really don’t like the taste, you could probably sub all soy or another dairy free milk for the coconut milk. It will be a bit thinner, but it will work. Glad you have loved my recipes, thank you!
I added extra vanilla to help combat it.. and my family could hardly taste coconut at all
Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
This sounds fabulous! Wondered about subbing arrowroot starch for cornstarch–think it would work okay? Thanks in advance.
Hi Teresa. I have not tried this recipe with arrowroot, however, I think it would work.
I just made it with arrowroot and it seems to have worked. My only issue is it turned out looking like an off white dark cream colour. Is it supposed to be white white?
The color will depend on your vanilla extract, kind of milk you used and even the vegan butter type. If you want it to be whiter, use clear vanilla extract and Miyoko’s butter which is very white. But it’s fine if it’s off white as well.
I made this with unsweetened oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, corn starch, flieischmann’s unsalted margarine and the sugar. It was good, but the coconut taste still came through. Then I added a 1/4 teaspoon of Lorann oils flavoring bavarian cream. Hot damn, that really did the trick. I had to keep my hubby from eating it all before I could get the cake made.
Hi Barbara. Thank you for your feedback and ideas! I’m thrilled the custard came out delicious for you!
I can’t wait to try the vegan eclair and cream puff recipe!
I was wondering if you’ve ever tried to freeze the pastry cream? With or without the chocolate variation.
I have frozen it and it worked quite well, it just gets pretty thick. Hope you love the cream puffs!
Hi Nora! I’m wondering if I can freeze this and you said in one comment it gets super weird and in this one that it freezes quite well? Can you clarify?
Sorry for the confusion, Lisa! You CAN freeze the pastry cream, although the texture does thicken and change once thawed. Just blend it a little and it should be good as new!
Made it but it was more like the cornstarch putty the kids make. Way too much corn starch. If I make it again I will definitely use less and double the vanilla.
Mine was very thick when it came out of the fridge so I blended it in my high speed blender and then it was perfect. I would add more vanilla too.