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What is Indian Pudding?

Indian Pudding is a classic American dessert, steeped in colonial history. This warm, spiced dish transforms simple ingredients like cornmeal, milk, and molasses into a comforting treat. Its unique texture and rich flavor profile connect us to the culinary traditions of early settlers and Native Americans. Ready to discover how this old-fashioned favorite can delight modern palates?
S. N. Smith
S. N. Smith

Indian pudding is a dessert made of cornmeal boiled with scalded milk, sweetened with molasses, and cooked slowly until thickened, then baked until set. It is most typically served warm with hard sauce, ice cream or whipped cream, heavy cream, or cider sauce. It may also be sliced and eaten cold as a breakfast dish.

Indian pudding dates to the Colonial days of America, when newly arrived Colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and elsewhere sought to re-create the dishes of their homeland with the ingredients they hand available to them in the new land. This dish is derived from the British hasty pudding, a dish made from wheat flour or oatmeal boiled with milk. Colonists did not yet have quantities of wheat flour, so they made their hasty pudding with cornmeal, which they had in abundance, thanks to the Native Americans, or Indians—hence the name. The Native Americans themselves enjoyed a version of this dish called supawn, a boiled cornmeal mush.

Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding.
Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding.

To flavor their Indian pudding, the Colonists added spices such as ginger and cinnamon, and they fortified it with eggs and butter, when available. A distinctly Yankee touch was the addition of molasses, which was a product of the local maritime trade. The Shakers made a variation of this pudding that replaced the molasses with maple syrup as a sweetener. For further embellishment, Colonial cooks might have added raisins into the boiled cornmeal mixture before baking, or topped the finished Indian pudding with a healthy slug of thick cream.

Blackstrap molasses, which is used to make Indian pudding.
Blackstrap molasses, which is used to make Indian pudding.

Today, Indian pudding remains a popular dessert, especially in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. Its appeal has expanded beyond the New England region, particularly at Thanksgiving time. It has a comforting, homey texture; is inexpensive and relatively easy to prepare; and as a bonus, it has some surprising health benefits.

Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding, contains potassium, folate, vitamin A, and phosphorus. Enriched cornmeal contains riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine as well. Prepared with eggs and milk, Indian pudding is a source of both protein and calcium. Blackstrap molasses, used to sweeten the dish and give it its characteristic flavor and color, is a good source of several minerals, including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Low-fat milk may be used successfully in the recipe, and butter can be replaced by margarine or omitted altogether.

Cinnamon can be used to spice Indian pudding.
Cinnamon can be used to spice Indian pudding.

Although many connoisseurs of this traditional dessert would be hard-pressed to forego the customary scoop of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream melting lusciously overtop, some of the more health-conscious might be persuaded to swap it for frozen yogurt.

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Discussion Comments


I bet you could substitute corn meal with masa harina. It would probably have more calcium and have a creamier texture. I think many Indians would've used corn treated with lime in the olden days anyway. Perhaps?


@waterhopper: They are actually different. While both are delicious, Indian rice pudding is my personal favorite! I will post the recipe for anyone who might want to try it. The following is a list of ingredients needed:

1 cup cooked long-grain rice, 1 cup milk, ½ cup heavy cream, ¾ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup sugar, 1/3 cup golden raisins, ¼ tsp. ground cardamom, and 1/3 cup chopped unsalted pistachios.

In a large nonstick pan, combine the cooked rice and milk. Heat until it begins to boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer. Stir frequently. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase the heat to medium and add the cream, coconut milk, cardamom, and sugar. Cook until the mixture thickens again. It is best to use a whisk to prevent clumping. Once it starts to thicken, remove it from heat and stir in the pistachios and raisins.

Transfer to a large glass bowl (or individual serving dishes) and cover with plastic wrap. You can serve chilled or at room temperature.


I have a rice pudding recipe that is actually called Indian rice pudding. I noticed that the Indian Pudding article didn't say anything about rice. Are they different?

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    • Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding.
      Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding.
    • Blackstrap molasses, which is used to make Indian pudding.
      By: Kenton
      Blackstrap molasses, which is used to make Indian pudding.
    • Cinnamon can be used to spice Indian pudding.
      By: Natika
      Cinnamon can be used to spice Indian pudding.