Caramel pudding or caramel custard is a silky-smooth dessert made with milk, sugar, and eggs. It is light and delectable and tastes awesome when served chilled straight from the refrigerator. Comes together easily in the instant pot.
This recipe for caramel custard is for old times' sake. You know, one of those desserts that you've had more times than you care to remember since your mom was so fond of making it. Why? Because it was dead simple to make and satisfied everyone's sugar craving after a meal. Unlike other Indian desserts, it was not labor intensive (you didn't have to stand at the stove top for hours and bhuno it). Above all, it was satisfyingly smooth and milky. Is smilky a word?
To make it even simpler, I've adapted it to the instant pot (affiliate link), my favourite gadget in the kitchen. If you don't have an instant pot, you can make it in your regular stovetop pressure cooker which is how mum made it.
Wonder why I'm claiming this creme caramel, as it is also known, to be an Indian dessert? Strictly speaking, it's not, but it happens to be a crossover recipe of sorts that somehow found its way to Indian homes... and got adopted happily! When I was young, I was under the misconception that it was my mum's innovation. Turns out, most of my friends' mums also made it, and so did my mum-in-law, as I later discovered. My husband has his own set of memories associated with this particular dessert!
If you love the convenience of making desserts in your instant pot, here are two very easy recipes you might like: fruit custard (seasonal fruits dipped in vanilla sauce sweetened with honey) and bhapa doi (a cheesecake like dessert made with yogurt instead of cream cheese).
How to make caramel pudding
Step 1: Make the caramel
In a small frypan or saucepan, mix together one-fourth cup sugar and two tablespoons water. Cook the solution on medium heat without stirring. Shake it if you want but don't stir. After two minutes, the solution will start bubbling and as the water evaporates, the sugar will turn dark and caramelize. As soon as it turns brown, pour the caramel into a dry mould or pyrex dish and let it cool and set.
Note: the mould or pyrex dish that you choose should fit inside your instant pot easily. Make sure it's a good fit before starting with the recipe.
Step 2: Make the sauce for the pudding
Beat three eggs lightly. Pour two cups milk (room temperature or lukewarm but not hot) in a bowl and add the beaten eggs, one-fourth cup sugar and a few drops vanilla essence. Whisk with a fork. Pour this mixture carefully over the caramel that you prepared in the previous step.
Step 3: Pressure cook the pudding in the instant pot
Pour two cups water in the steel insert and place a trivet in it. Cover the pyrex dish with some aluminum foil and lower it into the instant pot. Alternatively, you can place the pyrex dish on the trivet first and then lower the trivet with the dish into the instant pot. Pressure cook the pudding on high for 15 minutes with natural pressure release after the timer beeps. Take it out, remove the foil and let it rest on the counter until it has cooled down completely. It's going to be quite jiggly at this stage, but don't worry. It will set perfectly after a few hours of refrigeration. Keep the dish in the fridge for 4-5 hours or more.
Step 4: Unmould the pudding and serve
Once the pudding has had a chance to chill in the fridge for a few hours, it's ready to be served. Take it out and place a plate on it (the same plate in which you want to serve it). Invert the plate along with the dish in one swift motion. The pudding will fall onto the plate. If you want to be sure that it does not stick to the dish after you invert it, release the sides of the pudding with a blunt knife before inverting it. Serve cold!
Some useful tips
- Do take care not to stir the caramel with a spoon. It will seize/coagulate immediately and you won't be able to use it!
- The color of the caramel is entirely up to you. I like mine a dark chocolate color but you can totally stop before it reaches this shade of brown for a truer caramel. Also remember, the darker the caramel, the more intense the flavor. In fact, the pudding acquires an almost smoky taste as you go darker. Just be careful not to go to the point of no return where it actually burns!
- Don't be tempted to whiz the pudding mixture in a blender to make it smoother. There will be a lot of froth and you will have to wait a while before the froth settles.
- Give the pudding ample time to set in the refrigerator. Warm caramel custard is still liquidy in the centre and does not taste as good as chilled. So be patient:)
- Take the pudding out of the refrigerator only when ready to serve. As it starts to come to room temperature, it loses its firmness and taste.
More Indian desserts made in the instant pot
- Sweet potato kheer - sweet potato pudding made easy in the instant pot
- Rice kheer - another instant pot Indian pudding, this time with rice as the main ingredient
- Coconut barfi - a fudge-like sweet with desiccated coconut, condensed milk, and ghee
- Moong dal halwa - mung dal mashed and roasted in ghee, sugar, and cardamom
- Rasmalai cake - a soft, spongy cake drenched in a creamy sauce
Caramel Pudding (Caramel Custard)
- Small frypan or saucepan
- 6-quart Instant Pot Duo
- Mould or heat-proof bowl to fit inside the Instant Pot
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs whisked
- 0.5 cup white sugar divided
- 3-4 drops vanilla essence
- Mix half the sugar in two tablespoons water in a small frypan or saucepan and heat until the sugar caramelizes. Do not stir the caramel or it will seize. Pour the caramel into a mould or pyrex dish that will fit in your instant pot. Let it cool down completely.
- In a bowl, add the milk, eggs, the remaining sugar and vanilla essence. Whisk the mixture with a fork.
- Pour this mixture into the mould with the caramel and cover with some aluminium foil. Keep this mould on a trivet.
- Pour 2 cups water into the steel insert of your instant pot and lower the trivet with the mould into the pot.
- Secure the lid, make sure the steam release handle is on 'sealing' and set the pressure on high for 15 minutes. Once the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally (NPR). Open the pot and carefully take out the mould. Remove the foil and let the pudding cool down completely.
- Keep the mould in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The pudding will set completely in this time.
- When ready to serve, take out the pudding from the refrigerator, loosen the sides with a knife and place a wide plate over it. Invert the mould swiftly so that the pudding falls on the plate. Serve immediately.
- You can control the color of the caramel. If you don't want it very dark, remove the sugar from the heat as soon as the desired color is achieved and pour it into the mould immediately.
- Let the pudding cool down completely before putting it in the fridge.
- Give the pudding 4-5 hours or more in the fridge for it to set and chill satisfactorily.
- I have not included the refrigeration time in the total time, just the prep and cooking times.