Silky smooth with light vanilla flavors, this 4-ingredient Vegan Custard recipe is a must-have filling for vegan donuts, cakes, cream puffs, and more. No coconut needed and it’s easy to make in just 10 minutes!

If you’re looking for more non-dairy baking staples, check out my Vegan Condensed Milk, Heavy Cream Substitute, and Heavy Whipping Cream Substitution recipes!

drizzling vegan custard in a white bowl.

This perfect Vegan Custard recipe will make you feel like a real pastry chef. It’s velvety smooth with sophisticated vanilla flavors and easy to make with only 4 ingredients in 10 minutes!

Unlike other vegan custard recipes, my version isn’t overly thick or runny and is coconut-free and gluten-free. There are so many ways to use it, too! Enjoy the vanilla vegan custard (or any of the fun flavor variations below) in vegan cakes, eclairs, cream puffs, donuts, fruit tarts, and more.

What is custard?

Custard (crème pâtissière) is a smooth and creamy sauce made from dairy milk and/or cream, egg yolks, starch, vanilla, and sugar. Once it turns into a smooth sauce, the custard is served on its own (like pudding) or used as a filling for many pastries, like eclairs, tarts, and profiteroles.

I have tried several vegan vanilla custard recipes, none of which came close to a truly rich French custard. Luckily, my recipe tastes amazing and has a beautifully rich and creamy consistency!

How to make vegan custard

Find the complete recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.

Whisk the milk and cornstarch together in a bowl or large glass measuring cup until smooth. 

whisking cornstarch into plant milk in a glass measuring cup.

Afterward, add the sugar and milk-cornstarch mixture to a medium pot. Heat to a simmer over medium heat and whisk until it’s thickened (about 5 minutes). Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Tip: Don’t walk away from the stove! The custard needs to be whisked constantly to activate the starch and achieve that silky texture.

plant milk in a saucepan.

Transfer the custard to a bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top. Set it aside to cool.

Is the custard too thick? Add another ¼ to ½ cup of milk to make it runnier.

Use an immersion blender or regular blender to smooth the custard if there are lumps (there shouldn’t be). Use it anywhere you like and enjoy!

Flavor variations

  • Vanilla custard – You can take the vanilla flavors in this recipe up a notch by replacing the vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste or a freshly scraped vanilla bean. 
  • Lemon custard – Simmer ¼ cup of lemon juice along with the sugar and milk/cornstarch, then stir in ½ to 1 tablespoon of lemon zest when you add the vanilla.
  • Coconut custard – Either swap the oat milk for 1 can of full-fat coconut milk or full-fat coconut cream or replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of coconut extract.
  • Chocolate custard – Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the pot along with the sugar and milk/cornstarch, then stir in about 6 ounces of vegan chocolate when you add the vanilla.
  • Pumpkin custard – Stir ½ cup of pumpkin puree and ½ tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice into the milk-sugar mixture, then make the recipe as normal.
whisking vegan custard in a saucepan.

Ways to use vegan pastry cream

It’s a wonderful filling for all kinds of pastries and desserts, like:

You can also use it as a sweet and creamy dip for fresh fruit, a substitute for yogurt in parfaits, in vegan banana pudding, or a topping for strawberry crumble or vegan apple pie.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of plant milk is best for vegan custard?

For the best results, use full-fat oat milk (I like using Oatly barista milk). I’ve also tested this recipe with soy milk, almond milk, and cashew milk, and they all worked well. Full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream also work, but they will leave a coconut flavor behind.

What can I use instead of cornstarch?

I’ve tested this with arrowroot starch as a substitute for cornstarch and it worked pretty well. Tapioca starch did not work, as it made the custard more stretchy.

Why does my custard have lumps?

This sometimes happens after the custard cools but don’t worry because it’s completely normal! Simply blend it with an immersion blender, regular blender, hand mixer, or stand mixer with a whisk attachment until it’s smooth again (the same thing has to be done with traditional custard).

How do you store the leftovers?

Store the cooled custard in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. The leftovers will get lumpy in the fridge, but you can smooth them out with a blender before serving.

Can you freeze vegan pastry cream?

You can freeze it, but the texture thickens and changes once it’s thawed. Just blend it a little when it thaws and it will be good as new!

close up on a whisk drizzling vegan custard into a pot with more custard.
drizzling vegan custard in a white bowl.
4.89 stars (18 ratings)

Vegan Custard

Silky smooth with light vanilla flavors, this 4-ingredient Vegan Custard recipe is a must-have filling for vegan donuts, cakes, cream puffs, and more. No coconut needed and it’s easy to make in just 10 minutes!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 1/2 cups oat milk, full fat I used Oatly barista
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Whisk the plant milk and cornstarch in a measuring cup or bowl until smooth.
  • To a medium pot, add the sugar and plant milk/cornstarch.
  • Turn the heat to medium, 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.
  • Place in a bowl with saran wrap to avoid a film. Let cool. If it's too thick, add 1/4-1/2 cup more oat milk. This is a personal preference, whether you like it runny or thicker.
  • Once cool, if it is clumpy at all, use an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Then use wherever you'd like. Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Notes

  1. You may use another milk if you’d like. A richer milk with fat is going to be best, like soy milk if you don’t want to use oat milk. You can use canned coconut milk but it will taste a bit like coconut and be thicker.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. See post above for more flavor options.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 12 servings | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 103IU | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

*This recipe was originally published in January 2021. After some troubleshooting and a lot of testing, I have changed the recipe quite a bit. The old version was too thick, clumped easily and tasted too much like coconut. This recipe is easier and so much better!

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Comments

  1. 2nd try. Very good recipe. Note that I am using Miyoko’s unsalted butter. I put half of the butter from the recipe for the 2nd batch, first was too fat for me. Same result for the consistency. I will try without it next time as suggested in the recipe. Best custard recipe so far 😉

  2. My grandson is allergic to eggs not milk, can I use regular milk for this recipe? .  I’m making cream puffs for Christmas. He can have them, because the eggs in it are baked

  3. Hi Nora! LOVE your recipes, can’t wait to try this for your Boston Creme Pie Donuts! Quick question though: in the recipe you say to use the custard immediately. Does it not keep in the fridge (ie. can I make the custard a day or two before I am planning to use it in the donuts)? How long does it keep/what happens to it over time? In other words: why does it need to be used immediately?

    1. Hi Adi! Thank you so much! Sorry if that’s confusing. You can make it a day or two ahead of time, keep it in the refrigerator, then when you are ready to use it, remove it from the fridge and smooth it out if needed with an immersion blender. It may not need it though. Enjoy!

  4. Nora is there any substitute for the coconut milk? I need to make this for someone who needs to avoid soy, nuts, and coconut. Wondering if I can use oat milk for the plant milk and the coconut milk and increase the plant butter to make up for the fat from the coconut milk.

    Many thanks for your help and your wonderful recipes.

    1. I think it will work pretty well with another plant milk. I’ve never tried it but it will probably work okay. Thank you!

  5. This sounds awesome! Thank you for this recipe Nora! I was wondering if you used clear vanilla or brown vanilla extract? 

  6. The custard is super good with pancakes an fruits. We did not even wait to cool it dosn. Can we freeze the rest?

    1. Thanks! It might get a little strange once frozen, texture wise, but you might be able to put it in a blender or something to smooth it out again once thawed.

    1. Yes, I think it would. It’s actually a recipe I’m working on and will post in a few weeks or month. 🙂

        1. Hi Nora , can’t wait to try it out . I had a question : can I replace coconut milk and plant milk with cow / buffalo Milk ?

  7. I made this and the cake for the boston cream pie and it was delicious, but I’m wondering if you can make a custard without the coconut flavour? Like the old fashioned department store cakes that would have a custard in the middle. Same texture, but just sweet with no particular flavour. Making a cake for my Dad’s 75th birthday and trying to recreate that. Thanks in advance!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m not sure what to use in place of the coconut, maybe cashew milk, homemade would probably be best. I don’t feel like the custard tastes coconutty at all, but that might just be me. 🙂

  8. Warning! Do not sample this custard if your using it for another recipe! It’s too damn delicious! About to make it again for Boston Creme Donuts. I doubt we will make it that far!

  9. Thank you so much for posting this! I was thinking of making it today for my mom’s birthday as a fruit tart, using a frozen pie crust. Would the measurements be the same? And any suggestions on what to do with the crust beforehand?

    1. Hi Jaclyn! That sounds nice. I haven’t tried using the custard in a tart recipe, but I’m sure it would work. I don’t know what exactly you would do with the crust, probably bake it according to the package.

  10. I used Lite Coconut Milk with the same amount of cornstarch (1/2 cup) since that was what I had on hand and it still came out great! Will try the coconut cream next time 🙂

  11. Hi! I was going to add a little bit of my own touch to this and possibly use for a pop tart filling.  Do you think that would work? Would the pop tarts need to be kept refrigerated? 

  12. I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but I was wondering if the custard can be used immediately, without being placed in the refrigerator? Thank you.

    1. It’s edible, but in order to be spread on a cake it would need to be cooled first. Even for filling donuts with, I would chill it because it thickens up more, it’s a bit thin right after cooking. Hope that helps.

  13. I made an eclair cake with this custard, some store-bought graham crackers, and vegan chocolate frosting. It was incredible and totally works in case anyone else was wondering! So easy and so good!

  14. Hi Nora – thank you for all your fabulous recipes! Each one is a 5 star winner.
    Question about this custard – do you think it would work for a classic Italian cannoli (not the ricotta kind)? It’s one of the only things I miss since going vegan three years ago. Thank you!

  15. This is maybe a dopey question, but…could this be used as a frosting, of sorts? If I’m not trying to win any baking competitions and don’t really care how it looks?
    I ask because all vegan frostings seem to require a mixer and a mountain of vegan butter, neither of which I have, and I’d like to put SOMEthing on top of cupcakes or a cake.
    I don’t have a sense of how runny or stiff this would come out, but if there are ways for me to stiffen it up so that it would sit on top of a cupcake or whatever, that would be awesome.

    1. It might work! I have a recipe coming up for Boston Cream Pie where I put the custard in the middle layer and it worked well.

      1. Thanks Nora! So I went ahead and made this last night.
        I finished cooking it as instructed and dumped it in the fridge. I finished making my cake several hours later and when it was cool, and took the custard out of the fridge to attempt using it as frosting. It was solid! Like rubbery blubber! I was very surprised by this.
        So I stuffed it into my Vitamix and shoved it down as hard as I could so the blades would be able to grab it, and used my tamper, and after wrestling with it a whole bunch…the result was perfect lol. Exactly the texture I would expect custard to have, and it stayed that way overnight in the fridge.
        I frosted my cake with it and it obviously wasn’t as stiff as real frosting, so I couldn’t really do the sides, but it worked for the top.
        I consider this a success, even if it took a few detours to get there!

        1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! yes, the texture is a bit odd once chilled (though egg custards tend to need a smoothing out after chilling as well). I use a hand mixer or immersion blender and it smooths up nicely, but Vitamix works, too.

    1. Thank you! It’s good for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Don’t try to freeze it though, I did and it got super weird. ?

  16. This sounds like a recipe I want to try. Thanks so much! A question: Does this cream have to be kept refrigerated? Once I fill doughnuts, they may stay around for a few days. Can I keep the doughnuts on the counter and not in the refrigerator?

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