Chocolate pudding has always been my comfort food—and, contrary to what the title of this post might suggest, my momma makes a great one. That hot, creamy Cook N’Serve of my childhood was pure heaven to the both of us more nights than I can count. We’d pull out the tiny cardboard box, rip open a paper envelope, combine the contents with milk on the stove and whisk and heat that mixture until it grew into a thick, creamy, throat-coating dessert. I liked it best when it was hot, almost steaming. But we’d both also eat it cold, having been covered with wrap in the fridge. It was milky. It was rich. It was the first thing I’d reach for when I’d had a rough day. But lately, I’ve been learning there’s more than one kind of creamy, chocolate comfort.
Exhibit #1: Sweet potato chocolate pudding. I first heard about this on a friend’s Instagram feed, where she’d said the recipe came from Whole Foods. Since it seemed like she liked it so much, I figured I’d give it a try. You start by sticking two whole sweet potatoes in a baking dish and sliding that dish into a 350-degree oven for an hour or so. Take them out when they’re fork tender, and let them cool (or, don’t, if you’re like me). Take off the skins that peel off as easily as jackets by this point, and slip the insides in a food processor or blender. Then combine the sweet potato with cocoa powder, honey, a little bit of your favorite milk and some cinnamon (I stopped using ginger the second and third rounds) and, woah, the texture is uncannily pudding. We’re talking thick, sturdy, the kind of stuff that holds up on its own on a spoon. If you don’t mind traces of autumn in your chocolate pudding, trust me when I say, make this one, now. (Recipe source: Whole Foods Market)
Next up is chocolate chia pudding, a.k.a., the version voted Most Likely Not to Be Confused with Real Pudding. Chia pudding is different from traditional chocolate pudding in color, in texture and in taste. It’s thinner and lighter and filled with tiny plumped-up, softened chia seeds. You could say it’s a little like tapioca, but, to be honest, I think tapioca’s more of a treat. I like chocolate chia pudding best for breakfast, mostly because it’s not overly sweet and because soaked chia seeds (i.e., “chia gel”) have been shown to be have a variety of health benefits, including aiding digestion.
The recipe: You simply measure out 1/3 cup of chia seeds into 1 cup of coconut milk (for a rich, ice creamy version) or almond milk (for a thinner, slightly nutty version). (I also tried it with regular milk and am not a fan). Stir this together in a bowl or shake it up in a closed mason jar; add a little vanilla and some cocoa powder and a generous helping of honey or maple syrup; stir again; and put the mixture in the fridge. In the morning, shake or stir again and enjoy! (Also, should the idea of tiny gelatinous seeds turn your stomach, I have also read you can throw the mixture in the food processor in the morning to change the texture to smooth, if you like.)
Then, of course, there is cashew pudding. My first experience with a chocolate cashew pudding was in a grocery store demo. I went back for seconds at that grocery store demo. I wanted to go back for thirds at that grocery store demo. But instead, I nabbed a recipe card. And while it’s taken me over a year to get to actually try making cashew pudding myself and while I no longer have that original recipe, I have to say: Cashew pudding is something.
The recipe: You soak the nuts in water the night before; then strain them in the morning and stick them in the blender or food processor. Add cocoa powder, vanilla extract, a sweetener like honey or maple syrup and a little water to thin things out. Blend. Adjust by adding more cocoa or sweetener or water as you like. My latest version ended up more like a mousse, sort of airy, light and thin. But like both of the other puddings, it firmed up nicely in the fridge.
The Final Verdict
Tim casts a strong vote for the sweet potato pudding, whose texture was just right. I lean a little more towards a vote for all three, treating them like my children and finding something lovable about each one. But as I post this, I’m also thinking of my go-to backup chocolate pudding recipe, which is sort of like the frosting in this post, as simple as avocado + cocoa powder + sweetener + a little liquid + some vanilla blended together well. So maybe that’s my favorite, even if it’s not pictured here. What do you think? Have you tried any alternative chocolate puddings? Which one(s) do you like best? Is there another one I should know about—if so, you know I’m in.