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. I always use this recipe every time I make mille feuille for my vegan, French brother in law. He always loves it and so do I!

    1. How wonderful that you and your brother in law are loving this recipe! Thanks for your encouraging review! Wishing you happy cooking!

  2. I’ve made this twice, it’s just too thick and dense. I didn’t cook it the full 5 minutes because it was hard to stir any the 2 minute mark. Not sure if there’s too much cornstarch?

    1. You can use less cornstarch if you want a more runny custard, I prefer it thick. Or turn the heat down if it’s getting too thick that fast, and stop when it’s to your liking.

  3. Hi Nora! I’ve got a question for you– my cake layers are made and in the refrigerator, batter tasted amazing, so I know the cake is going to taste great! But on the custard, what do you think about using the new Country Crock Heavy Whipping Cream in place of the plant milk? Was wondering since it is substantially thicker if I might be able to cut down a little on the cornstarch? This was my ex-husband’s favorite for his birthday, so I’ve made many Boston Cream Pies the traditional way!
    Just discovered this heavy whipping cream at my local Walmart of all places, so am very excited to try it out. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, so I would really appreciate your opinion on this substitution! I use a LOT of your recipes btw, so thank you very much for all the legwork and testing you’ve done converting classic recipes and comfort food to a vegan format!

    1. Hi Debbie! Thank you for enjoying my recipes, I love to hear that. 🙂 You might be able to use the Country Crock Heavy Whipping Cream in place of plant milk. It’s hard for to me know without doing some testing. I’m sure it will work, but I don’t know how much you could cut back on the cornstarch, but you might be able to. If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it works out! Thank you again and I hope to hear from you soon.

      1. Thanks for reply, Nora. After I wrote, I realized I asked the wrong question. Instead of subbing for the plant milk, I subbed the Country Crock plant-based heavy cream for the canned full-fat coconut milk, and it turned out great! This was for my daughter who isn’t fond of coconut flavor coming through in so many vegan desserts, so this was perfect. I did not attempt decreasing the cornstarch this time but believe I could go down a smidge. Thanks again for a great recipe!

  4. It tastes great and is as thick as I wanted it to be but it has a gray tint to it. I used coconut cream for a thicker texture as suggested, but that was white, almond milk, and earth balance butter. Any suggestions?

    1. 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.

  5. This was sensational! I made the Boston cream cake for my birthday and thus made the custard the night before, and put it in the refrigerator.
    When it was time to layer the cake I took the custard out to let it get to room temperature and then used an immersion blender just like the instructions say!

    It brought the texture right back and the custard was stiff enough to hold the final layer of cake on top! SO in love with all Nora’s recipes!

    1. Hi Aristomelia. Your cake sounds dreamy! Happy birthday to you! Thanks for your awesome feedback and review! I appreciate you using my recipes! Happy cooking!

  6. Wow! Delicious!
    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!

    1. 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!

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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

    1. 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!

  9. This sounds fabulous! Wondered about subbing arrowroot starch for cornstarch–think it would work okay? Thanks in advance.

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. Hi Barbara. Thank you for your feedback and ideas! I’m thrilled the custard came out delicious for you!

  11. Hi Nora,

    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.

      1. 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?

        Thanks!

        1. 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!

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

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