Vegan Vanilla Pastry Cream

(with variations!)

My family and I go pretty much crazy for any type of pudding, mousse, and traditional custard like dessert. The great thing about being a pastry chef is that you get to try all the different types. When I was in culinary school, my mom’s favorite thing I ever made and brought home was a Triple Chocolate Mousse cake which incorporated 3 layers of chocolate cake with white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate mousse. I wish I still had a picture of what it looked like as just thinking about it my mouth waters. My dad’s favorite was a humongous batch of profiteroles (aka cream puffs) and eclairs filled with the most delicious vanilla pastry cream (or crème pâtissière). Bringing those delicious delectable desserts home was always a challenge as I commuted about an hour and a half to culinary school so I had to ride the “L” Train from school, to the Metra Train, drive my car from the train station home, and try to salvage the beautiful creations I made). Nevertheless, even if they got a little tossed around, most creations got home in one piece.

I always wanted to create a vegan version of all of those chocolate mousses and pastry cream so I can wow my parents once again. Vegan pastry cream was the “easier” of the two so I started with that one and added the flavors that I thought mocked the non-vegan version so I could get a similar texture, flavor and mouthfeel. This was quite a feat as there is the lack of lots of eggs or egg yolks or butter and uses plant milk vs cows milk. This is the vegan version & as is quick recipe. It has all the things you want in it and I have included variations of different things you can make with it. I hope you all enjoy!

Things to use pastry cream for:

The filling for fruit tarts

Donut, eclair, cream puff, cake, cupcake & pastry filling

Boston Cream Pie or cake or donut (did I mention donuts?)

Bavarian Cream base (lighten it up with some whipped cream and agar)

The Vanilla Bean Paste I use and highly suggest (some would say this is a luxury item, but I prefer it most cases to a plan ol’ vanilla extract):

Vegan Vanilla Pastry Cream

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Refrigerating Time4 hours
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baking, banana pudding, chocolate pudding, custard, pastry cream, pudding, vanilla pudding, vegan
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 500 g soy milk (preferably unsweetened or sub full fat coconut milk, see notes)
  • 80 g evaporated cane sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or split vanilla bean/banana peel/coconut flakes, see notes)
  • 50 g cornstarch (or sub half cocoa powder, see notes)
  • pinch turmeric or a couple drops of yellow food coloring (optional, for color)
  • ½ tsp himalayan pink sea salt
  • 120 g Earth Balance Buttery Spread

Instructions

  • Prep your ingredients as the steps will happen quickly. Have an empty glass bowl or glass Tupperware to pour finished pastry cream into (the more surface area the faster it will cool down). Have whisk, rubber spatula and strainer nearby. Combine milk & vanilla (and/or vanilla bean/banana peel) in a small saucepan. Prepare butter in a ramekin, set aside.
  • Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch (and/or cocoa powder), turmeric (if using) and salt in a medium glass bowl, set aside.
  • Heat the milk mixture over medium-low heat until a light simmer
  • When milk comes to a light simmer, strain the mixture so you can get the vanilla bean/banana peel out. Slowly pour 1/3 of the milk to the dry ingredients while whisking. Once 1/3 of the milk is incorporated into the dry, pour that mixture back into the saucepan, continuing to whisk.
  • Do not leave your pot at this stage. Continually whisk (do not miss the sides and bottom of the pan) until it starts to thicken (usually at this point you can see a light boil at the surface of the mixture).
  • Turn off the burner, take off heat and whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Pour into prepared pastry cream container, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto top of pudding (to prevent a film from forming). Refrigerate until set (3-4 hours).

Notes

*If using a vanilla bean, cut bean length ways with sharp knife and scrape the seeds out with the dull side of the knife and put both vanilla bean and seeds into the pot of milk.  Can alternatively use vanilla extract but I prefer the deeper flavor of the paste/bean/seeds.
*If after refrigerating pastry cream, you want the mixture to appear as more of a pudding texture, use a handheld mixer or stand mixer with a wire whip attachment to whisk for 30 seconds on high speed.  It will fluff up significantly!
Variations:
Chocolate Pudding: Using the above recipe, cut the cornstarch in half (25g) and replace the other 25g with cocoa powder or cacao powder.  Make the recipe as directed.
Banana Pudding: Like the vanilla bean tip above, you can use a ripe banana peel (remove the sticker & the plastic packaging on the stem!) to infuse banana flavor into your pastry cream (set aside the banana for later use).  No need for artificial flavorings as the banana peel imparts so much flavor!  Make the pastry cream as directed above but strain the vanilla bean and banana peel when it comes to a boil.  Slice up the bananas once the pastry cream has been refrigerated & fold them in!
Coconut Pudding: Same as banana pudding tip, use coconut flakes/chips to infuse flavor in milk.  Can also sub full fat canned coconut milk for soy milk (shake coconut milk can prior to using to distribute coconut cream + milk).
This recipe can be adjusted for various other flavors, use your imagination, maybe throw a spoon of creamy peanut butter into the finished product of the chocolate pudding, maybe strain some crushed pineapple and add it to the banana/coconut varieties (tip: get as much water out of it as possible!)
Pictured is some banana pudding I made for my wife’s birthday recently with a coconut milk whipped cream and homemade vanilla “Nilla” wafers (recipe coming soon!)

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