Make a vegan pastry cream (custard) within 10 minutes with this very easy recipe! It includes only 4 ingredients that you probably already have on hand and it makes for the BEST sweet vanilla-flavored sauce for tarts, fruit crumbles, cakes and donuts.
I should have made my own vegan custard a long time ago, it is truly an amazing recipe! It comes together in minutes (yes, really), it is made using only 4 basic ingredients you probably already have (plus some turmeric if you want it more yellow) and it is healthier than a classic custard recipe.
As a side note, pastry cream is a French classic cooking essential, known for its silky dreamy texture. It is a thicker type of custard sauce and is made typically with milk, eggs, sugar and butter. It is filled with amazing vanilla flavor and makes for a perfect custard filling for cakes (such as trifle) or vegan custard sauce for fruit desserts like crumbles.
It is very easy to make a vegan version of a pastry cream using plant-based milk and cornstarch to thicken the mixture. Such a delicious fuss-free and quick dessert topping idea you can whip up in minutes without much effort.
The leftovers tend to thicken in the fridge, which makes for a delicious vanilla-flavored pudding or thicker sauce for the next day!
Let me know if you gave it a try! ❤️
Why you will love this recipe
- Such an easy and quick dairy-free custard recipe
- Filled with vanilla flavors and is not overly sweet
- Done within 10 minutes and can be made ahead
- Perfect sweet cream for topping dessert recipes
- Healthy and low-in-fat
- Egg-less, dairy-free and completely plant-based
Ingredients you will need
(See below in the recipe card for the measurements)
- Non-dairy milk: I used full-fat oat milk from Oatly to make it, which worked out well. I think that soy milk would also be a great choice as it is thicker and higher in protein. Almond milk and cashew milk should be good too.
- Maple syrup: I avoid granulated white sugar when I can, so I made it with maple syrup and it worked out great. That being said, you can also make this recipe using regular white sugar!
- Cornstarch: a traditional custard or pastry cream is thickened using egg yolks. In this vegan custard alternative, the sweet cream sauce uses cornstarch as the thickening agent.
- Vanilla: I used vanilla extract for convenience, but if you have real vanilla pods, then you can use this instead. You will need a ½ tablespoon of the extract to get some good flavor into the sweet cream sauce.
- Turmeric powder: this is completely optional, but I like adding a small pinch of turmeric to create a subtle yellow tint typical of a custard. Don't worry, you won't taste it!
How to make vegan pastry cream
(See below in the recipe card for the full recipe)
Whisk the ingredients
In a small saucepan, add the plant milk, sweetener, vanilla extract, cornstarch and a tiny pinch of turmeric, if using.
Whisk very well until you do not see any clumps from the cornstarch (this should take 30 seconds or so). Make sure you go in all the corners with your whisk to ensure there are no lumps left.
The lumps will only get worse once you start warming up, so it is important to break them all up before you turn the heat on!
Once the mixture is all smooth and has no lumps left, then start warming it up. Keep whisking and cook on medium heat. Whisking often will also prevent lumping once you start heating it.
Once it starts to bubble, then vigorously whisk and keep cooking for 30-60 seconds or until pretty thick.
Remove from the heat and give the custard a quick taste (you may adjust the sweetness and vanilla taste if you want).
You can serve the warm custard right away or let it chill before serving.
If you are not serving the custard right away, then be sure to place a plastic wrap right over its surface to avoid creating a film over the cream (which happens pretty quickly when it starts to cool down).
- This vegan vanilla custard is not ultra sweet, perfect to accompany a sweet dessert. But, if you would like to make your custard sweeter, then simply add 1-2 extra tablespoons of sweetener and whisk (as a side note, the sweetness is enhanced once cold).
- Whisking the mixture thoroughly before turning the heat on is a crucial step! Make sure you remove all the lumps before warming the custard.
- And once it is warming up, keep stirring almost constantly. This will prevent the formation of lumps, plus milk tends to overflow easily.
My custard is lumpy or grainy
This is a common problem that also occurs with a regular custard recipe. First, make sure to whisk well before heating the custard. If you end up having some lumps anyway and would like to get rid of them, then you can strain the sauce using a fine mesh colander (push it with a large spoon) or give your custard a quick blend (use an immersion blender or regular stand blender).
My custard is too thin
This can happen if the cornstarch isn't measured properly or depending on the type of milk you use. In any case, DO NOT add cornstarch to the custard, it would lump. Instead, whisk 1-2 tablespoons extra cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of milk in a small bowl until fully combined. Then, heat the custard and pour the cornstarch slurry into the saucepan while cooking it. Whisk vigorously right away. It should do the trick!
My custard is too thick
That's an easy one, just add an extra splash of milk and whisk. Repeat until it reaches the desired consistency!
How to use vegan pastry cream
This sweet vanilla sauce is so versatile and can be used in so many ways!
When the custard is still warm or at room temperature, it should be still pourable and perfect to drizzle or dollop over desserts. Then, once it has cooled down (in the fridge), it turns into more of a pastry cream texture that's thicker and even pipable. Perfect to use as a stuffing cream!
So, depending on how you want to serve it, you might want to plan ahead so you can first cool it down before using it.
Here are a few ways to serve vegan custard:
- Stuffed in donuts (Boston cream-style)
- Cream filling to layer in cakes like in trifles
- Vegan fruit tart
- Fruit crumbles or crisps
- Cream puffs
- Simply served with berries
I find this vegan custard recipe to be pretty forgiving. You can adjust the consistency slightly (see above) and add more flavorful ingredients depending on how you want to serve it.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Vegan chocolate pastry cream: add about 2-3 tablespoons of cacao powder to the saucepan and an extra 1-2 tablespoons of sweetener. If the cacao makes your custard too thick, then thin it out with a little extra milk.
- Lemony: you can flavor the custard with a hint of lemon zest to lift up the sweetness and give it more brightness.
- Ultra-rich: feel free to add some vegan butter for a silky-rich sauce. In that case, I recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons once the custard is done but still warm so that it can melt. If you want to avoid using vegan butter, then a coconut cream would add more fats too.
- Coconut custard: you can also use full-fat coconut milk to make it!
- Coffee custard: add 2 tablespoons of Instant coffee to the saucepan when making the custard.
Storage tips and how to use leftovers
Custard-type creams keep very well in the fridge, making it a perfect make-ahead dessert recipe.
If you want to use this custard as a filling cream that holds better for cakes, donuts or mille-feuilles, then be sure to make the custard ahead and keep it in the fridge overnight before using, the texture will thicken while storing.
To store it, transfer the warm custard to an airtight container and place a plastic film right over its surface (touching the custard). This will prevent the formation of a film that develops while cooling down. Place in the fridge once it has cooled down for a little bit.
When ready to use, then give it a good whisk and check on consistency. Sometimes, mini lumps can develop while storing (the same thing happens for non-vegan custard too), but you can easily restore the smooth texture by vigorously whisking the custard or blending it.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, this recipe is naturally gluten-free!
How can I make it using a real vanilla bean?
Scrape the inside of the vanilla pod and add to the milk with the other ingredients.
Can I freeze it?
I do not recommend freezing this recipe. The custard is made primarily with plant milk, which usually does not freeze well (it creates separation).
Can I use other starches to make it?
Usually, you can use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch in recipes. In that case, I would use a little more, maybe 1-2 tablespoons extra, as I find arrowroot powder to be less efficient at thickening sauces.
Similar recipes to try
- Vegan mascarpone cheese
- Cashew vanilla icing
- Vegan coconut whipped cream
- Mango coulis
- Cranberry coulis
- Tahini caramel sauce
I hope you like this vegan pastry cream recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Pastry Cream (Custard)
- 2 cups plant-based milk - I used oat milk
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup sweetener - I used maple syrup (sugar works too)
- ½ tbsp vanilla extract
- pinch of turmeric - optional, for color
- To a small saucepan, add all the ingredients and use a whisk to combine (while the milk is still cold). You want to make sure to break all the lumps before heating up, which can take 30 seconds.
- Then, turn the heat to medium and warm up the custard while stirring often (almost constantly to prevent lumps). Once it starts to bubble, keep warming and whisking for another 30 seconds and then remove from the heat.
- You can serve the warm custard right away or cool it down first. Setting it aside for 1-2 hours before serving will help thicken the custard a little more. To prevent the formation of lumps while cooling down, place a plastic wrap right over the custard touching its surface.
- Storage tips: the custard keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Whisk well before serving and if you notice some lumps or want to recreate a smooth texture after storing it, then you can give it a quick blend.
- For a thicker pastry cream to stuff in donuts or layer in a cake-like trifle, then you can make the custard the day before so it has time to cool down and thicken further.
- Whisking vigorously to break all lumps before warming up the custard mixture is essential to avoid lumps in your cream.
- See the blog post for more cooking tips and ideas on how to serve it!