Recipe: Chocolate Pudding from Extra Helping by Janet Reich Elsbach

In Extra Helping: Recipes for Caring, Connecting, and Building Community One Dish at a Time, Janet Reich Elsbach offers over 70 recipes for making delicious dishes and practical advice for packaging and sharing meals with your community.

This recipe for chocolate pudding is sure to be a crowd pleaser. In her introduction to the instructions, Janet writes: "After my friend Kari tasted the second draft of this recipe, she thoughtfully gave me a set of eight pudding cups with snap-on lids to make it easier for me to keep bringing her pudding on the regular. Jam jars make a fine substitute if you live too far from Kari to get the same deal. You can use regular condensed milk in place of the condensed coconut milk called for here, but if aversion and not availability is the obstacle, even extremely coconut-averse people say this pudding does not taste remotely like coconut. All it brings is a super-silky, creamy texture. This recipe makes a lot of pudding, but I have never found that “made too much pudding” really amounts to a problem."

Makes a generous 6 cups of pudding, serving 8 to 10 depending on portion size


½ cup natural or Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
¹⁄3 cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups cow’s milk or carton-type coconut milk
One 15-ounce can sweetened condensed coconut milk
4–6 ounces (170g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Whipped cream, to serve (optional)


1. Have ready eight to ten small dishes or mason jars.

2. Combine the cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy, medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the fresh milk, then add the condensed milk and whisk together thoroughly.

3. Heat over a medium flame, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and being sure to reach into all corners of the pot so no area scorches or remains unstirred. Bring it all the way to a low boil (only evident if you stop stirring, which you shouldn’t do for long), and continue to cook for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is nicely thick and the waves from stirring stay visible on the surface. You’ll also notice that a darker skin starts to form on the surface if an area stays undisturbed; that’s another signal that it’s done. Rest assured that the pudding will thicken considerably as it cools.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until it is melted. Add the vanilla. At this point, you can ladle it into the waiting dishes, or continue whisking until the pudding has cooled, which yields a creamier texture and the ability to mound it up attractively in the dish. This can take some time; either put on a podcast or transfer the pudding to a stand mixer and set it to low.

5. Churned or not, let the dishes come to room temperature before covering and chilling them, or condensation will spoil their tidy tops.

6. Whipped cream makes a totally unnecessary but welcome embellishment. The pudding will keep for up to 1 week, refrigerated.

Other ways to do it:
You may be as surprised as I was to discover that the addition of ⅓ cup of canned pure pumpkin makes for an astonishingly silky texture, along with the extra nourishment it supplies. It is entirely undetectable in flavor terms.

The beautiful paper cut images in the book are by Anna Brones.

Photos by Kenzie Fields.