Gluten Free Chocolate Pudding Recipe

Last updated 8/3/13:

Pudding is one of those childhood guilty pleasures that makes everyone in our house smile.  My mother always used JELL-O pudding when I was a kid so that was what I always knew at home (Grandma, however, made cornstarch pudding… way different stuff.)

Well, when my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease I wondered if he could still eat pudding. We used to say on this website that JELL-O pudding is safe because that is what Kraft told us back in 2011, but apparently they have changed their tune since then and some folks are getting sick from it.  My hubby does not, or has not yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t at some point.  Better to not take the chance and make this pudding instead.

The recipe below is derived from a 1973 ad for Hershey’s cocoa.  It was for the “Snow Ghost Chocolate Pie.”  I just avoided the crust and made it into a pudding instead.  I did not use Hershey’s cocoa since I find it to be bitter so I substituted the Weis store brand cocoa instead.  It turned out fantastic and fudgey – and I can pronounce all the ingredients in it just fine. Plus this recipe makes 3 cups instead of 2 like JELLO.  More pudding is always better.

1970’s Gluten Free Chocolate Pudding

  • 1/2 Cup cocoa
  • 1 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/3 Cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Cups milk (1% or higher is better, but skim works)
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan stir cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch together.  Add milk slowly and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.  It might be frothy on top which is OK. When mixture comes to a boil, boil one minute.  Take off heat and add butter and vanilla.  Once butter is melted and mixed in put in bowl or individual dishes to cool.  Immediately press plastic wrap on top of pudding to keep skin from forming.  Chill 3-4 hours.

Cornstarch pudding can be a little tricky so here are some tips:

  1. If your cornstarch and/or cocoa are lumpy, sift them before using. (Make sure the sifter has not been used for wheat flour, it is impossible to fully clean a sifter – buy a new one.)
  2. A larger pan will allow the milk to heat quicker, but it will also burn faster so you need to keep watching it closely.
  3. A candy thermometer can help you see when you are getting close to the boiling point.
  4. The mixture will not begin to thicken until about 180 degrees.
  5. Soft butter will mix in quicker than cold, so get it out early if you can.
  6. Constant stirring is a must to prevent lumps.
  7. A film may form on the bottom of your pan while cooking – this is OK.  Don’t mix it in though.
  8. If you do get lumps, a strainer can be used to remove them but only while the pudding is very hot.

If you’ve only had JELLO pudding before, you will notice cornstarch pudding is a little different, more firm and less, um, plastic-y.

Incidentally, there are many kinds of premade puddings that are safe for folks with celiac.  Check your labels and you might be surprised.

Amelia’s Grocery Outlet sells Gluten Free Items – Keep your eyes open!

Here in Central PA we have a grocery chain called Amelia’s Grocery Outlet.  You can see their website here.  They are one of those stores that never stocks the same thing for more than a few days and many of the items are near or past their expiration date.  But in some cases they just have overstock items that still have months – or years – on the clock.

My last few trips to Amelia’s have landed me a wide range of Gluten Free items from snacks and canned goods to the prime purchases of baking mixes.  Yep, those overly expensive mixes that we wish we could bake up every day to keep cookies and cake in the house for our Gluten Free family but just can’t afford to.

Our Amelias has stocked both the Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes and Gluten Free Pantry mixes in the last few weeks.  Just Saturday I picked up a Gluten Free Pantry mix for 99 cents (yes, under a dollar) that you can see here is much more expensive at our Wegmans.  It was not expired, not even close.  So a couple of those went into my cart for baking days.  (I still have a few chocolate chip cookie mixes left and boy are those good even to me the non-celiac!)

If you don’t have an Amelia’s near you but you do have something similar, keep your eyes open for a bargain!

5 Best Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Tips

One of the biggest changes in our lives since my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease was how we shopped at the grocery store.  Before his diagnosis we were like most people who picked up whatever we saw at the store that looked interesting or tasty and we didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to food labels unless someone was dieting.

Well, times have changed.  As the primary shopper I now spend hours at the market and come home with fewer and fewer packaged things.  I’ve made some mistakes while shopping that have cost us money and also caused my husband to be sick. I hope by sharing these tips you can avoid both of those awful things and have a better shopping experience.

  1. Read every label, every time.  Yes this is absolutely necessary.  You can’t assume the ingredients of an item have not changed since the last time you bought it.  We had a famous incident of this in our family with a Gorton’s product.  Hubby was pleased to find a Gluten Free fish option on our shopping trip at Wegmans so we took one home to see if he’d like it.  He did.  On our trip the next week he picked up 3 more of that item only to notice when we got home that it was no longer Gluten Free.  In the space of a week a safe item had become unsafe.  It can work the other way too when a company now specifies what TYPE of food starch they are using.  We’ve seen that happen too.  Keep reading those labels!
  2. Even if the product is labeled Gluten Free, read the label completely.  If you’ve done any research you know that different parts of the world have different ingredients they consider off limits to those on a Gluten Free diet.  Depending on where the product is produced, even if it is for a US market, you may see something your doctor has advised you to avoid in the ingredients.  An even bigger problem for those with very strict restrictions you may find that the product is made on “shared equipment” with something you are not supposed to eat.  Some people can handle this level of contamination, others can’t.
  3. Don’t assume dairy products only contain dairy ingredients.  Early on we didn’t check labels on cream cheese or cottage cheese figuring that they were, well, cheese.  Guess what – some aren’t.  Cottage cheese is a huge offender with unlabeled food starch.  In our area there is only one store brand (Weis) cottage cheese that is Gluten Free.  Flavored milk, yogurt and American cheese are others you need to look at carefully.
  4. Bring your cell phone with you when you shop.  This is my husband’s number one tip.  If he sees a product he wants to buy and it has some ingredient that isn’t specified, he calls the customer service number on the package.  Bob’s Red Mill, Arrowhead Mills and Sweet Baby Rays have all gotten calls from him while he was at the market.  He’s always gotten a knowledgeable answer and while speaking to them asked them to consider labeling their products more specifically to help others.
  5. Make your shopping easier, stick to fresh meat and produce and skip the packaged stuff.  Yes, folks, this is what we mostly do here.  Even with meats you have to make sure they haven’t been injected with something, but produce is always a safe bet – with a good washing just to make sure.  We cook almost everything at home and limit our use of packaged items.  It is just less risky that way since we know what goes into it.  But for folks who don’t have that time, the first four tips should help you save time and money.