Food Food Fight

Food Fight: Cooked vs. Instant Chocolate Pudding

Let's compare and contrast, shall we? Cooked vs. Instant Chocolate Pudding! Fight, fight, fight!

When I was a kid, cooked chocolate pudding was the norm. The process of cooking then cooling was all we knew, with dibs being called over who got – or avoided – the pudding skin that formed on the top as it set.

Then instant pudding came along, and it rocked our schoolyard world. I distinctly remember kids having shake-your-own pudding containers, where they’d combine the milk they got for lunch with a small sachet of pudding powder, then shake it until it turned into pudding. Participatory food, I learned, is a hit with the kids.

It’s been years since I last made cooked pudding, mostly because instant is just so much easier to make. When I spotted a small selection of cooked pudding flavours at a local Save-On Foods, I figured I’d whip up a batch of cooked chocolate pudding and a batch of instant chocolate pudding, then compare the two side by side. Here’s what I found.


The fundamental difference between cooked and instant pudding is the preparation. With cooked pudding, you must apply heat to the cold milk and pudding powder mixture on a stovetop or in a microwave. It must be brought to a boil (with constant stirring along the way), then cooled to set. This takes time (about 20 minutes of work, plus waiting for it to chill) and energy. If you like hot pudding, great. If you don’t, be prepared to wait. (In my fridge, split into 3 cups, it was cool enough for my liking in about 2 and a half hours.)

With instant pudding, all you have to do is whisk it for 2 minutes, let it set for 5 minutes, then serve. There’s no question which one is easier, and less time-intensive. Advantage: Instant.


Here’s where the waiting pays off. The taste of the cooked pudding is much richer and more complex than the instant. It’s got a structure to the texture that isn’t limp or watery. It feels as though a much more substantial transformation has occurred in the cooked pudding than in the instant. It’s thick and slightly lumpy. It tastes like the real deal.

The instant has more of a smooth, granular texture, like the powder never entirely dissolved. It tastes like the sum of its parts, not anything greater than that. There’s an artificial twang that I can’t quite place. The colour is deeper brown than the cooked, and it looks velvety instead of lumpy — but looks don’t make up for taste.


If ease and convenience matter more than anything else, go with the instant. You just got home from evening soccer practice with the kids, and you want to whip up a quick snack? Instant. You want a simple kitchen lesson for a child that doesn’t involve boiling anything on the stove? Instant.

But when it comes to flavour, cooked just tastes better. WAY better. Simple as that. If you have time, it’s worth the inconvenience.

Instant chocolate pudding with a whisk, just about the only kitchen tool needed to make it.


Cost: The same for each. $2.49 per 170-gram box at Save-On foods.

Value for cash money: Good.

Availability: Instant seems to be far more readily available these days.

Nutrition?: Almost the same, either way. Each 1/2 cup serving (about 1/6 of the package), prepared with 2% milk, contains 160 calories. There’s quite a bit more sodium in the instant. Each serving has 15% of the daily value of calcium, thanks to all the milk involved.

Serving suggestions: My childhood favourite was to stir in some chocolate chips when serving. For a yummy banana-chocolate combo, cut a ripe banana into discs, and stir it in. Better yet, combine both to make banana-chocolate-chip chocolate pudding.

Cooked pudding, cooling on the stovetop. See that shine to the surface? That's the famous cooked-pudding skin forming.


  1. If your instant pudding tastes granular, like it never dissolved, that’s because it didn’t because you didn’t stir well enough.

    • No you dont actually taste the powder, its completely dissolved, but there is still a granular taste that isn’t there with the cook and serve

    • I totally agree with Jacob. I stirred and stirred. It still was a grainy texture that I could not get rid of.
      My problem is I accidentally bought the instant instead of the cook & serve. I want to make vanilla-rice pudding and you need to bring it to a boil with the rice, raisins etc. Can I just substitute the Instant in this recipe????

  2. I love to bake. Every time I make Nanimo bars I knock out alot of time by pre heating my whole milk before adding instant mix to get the same consistency of cooked pudding and I temper in cold milk as if I was prepping custard.

  3. I VASTLY prefer cooked because I LOVE hot pudding…butterscotch soup!!!

    My only wish was that some company would make cooked pudding with Stevia instead of sugar, like you can get instant with aspartame.

    • Most grocery stores stopped selling the FF SF cook and serve pudding, but you can still find it online In a few flavors (mainly choc & vanilla but I’ve seen butterscotch and banana before). I bought my chocolate cook & serve FF SF mix on Hope that helps!

  4. It’s almost silly to buy packaged cooked pudding mix when it takes seconds to mix it yourself with the stuff in your pantry. Sugar, cornstarch, a dash of salt and whatever flavoring you like. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa is my favorite.


    • I’m making an exception to my shouty all-caps rule because this comment is demonstrably true.

  6. Thanks! I’ve never made cooked pudding before but my husband accidentally bought it after my son got his wisdom teeth pulled. So here I stand stirring and stirring and stirring while I read this… Now less frustrated and a little more optimistic!

  7. I will only use cooked pudding to make my deserts, especially Banana Pudding. That may be why friends ask for me to make it. My grocery store (Large Supermarket) told me yesterday -“We just do not stock the cook and serve”. dang, they did 2 weeks ago!

  8. Homemade pudding has a different texture than cooked boxed pudding. Can I add anything to the boxed cooked pudding to make it taste more homemade-have more body?

  9. Instant is not even in the same ballpark as cooked

  10. This article must be before the microwave. I start out with 2 min to get started, then in 1 min increments stirring well each time and it’s done in 5 min give or take. The lum’s come from having heat too high on the stovetop and the higher heat thickens the bottom and makes the lumps. As an impatient person, I know from experience. I’ve never liked instant because of the grainy texture you point out, along with the flat, off flavor so it’s worth it to me to find the Cook and Serve box, which is worth looking for. Thank you

  11. Ha! When instant pudding first came out I never thought it would never last as it was just so unpalatable compared to cooked pudding. Sadly I was wrong; apparently quick and easy was more important than taste and texture.

  12. The lumpiness comment for ‘cook and serve’ seemed strange to me as well. It is so much better and smoother than instant that I trash accidental purchases of the inferior instant. (The boxes look so similar that shelve stocks constantly get mixed up.)

    When I use the microwave, it is only necessary to whisk the mixture 4 times… before & after the 1 to 2 minute intervals of microwaving. (Depends on the efficiency of your microwave. That poweris a factor of rated wattage and how worn-out the oven.) And the skin can be controlled be how soon you cover the cooling cups of pudding.
    Also, a few drops of almond extract at the beginning of cooking chocolate or vanilla is a nice tweak. (Particularly, if you’re making a Boston creme pie filling.) Alternatively, a dash of vanilla extract after cooking kicks it up a notch too.

  13. I grew up eating those little tin cans of Del Monte chocolate pudding, and to me instant takes more like those. It has never tasted gritty to me, but I can’t stand pudding skin or lumps so I’ve never cared much for the cooked kind.