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Indian Pudding | Classic New England Dessert

Indian Pudding | Classic New England Dessert
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Topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon, Indian Pudding is a traditional New England recipe embodies the flavors of fall. Learn more about the origins of this classic recipe.

Indian pudding might not be pretty, but few New England desserts can rival its claim to fame as the most comprehensive of our regional sweet dishes.  It evolved out of an initial British culinary tradition, which was then enhanced by Native American influenced necessity, and finally, flavored with the fruits of New England commerce.

Indian Pudding
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Indian Pudding

Confused?  Here’s how the pieces fit together.

Early colonists brought with them to America a fondness for British “hasty pudding” – a dish made by boiling wheat flour in water or milk until it thickened into porridge.

Since wheat flour was scarce in the new world, hasty-pudding-deprived settlers adapted by using native corn meal, dubbed “Indian flour,” and flavoring the resulting mush to be either sweet (with maple syrup or molasses) or savory (with drippings or salted meat).

In time, the dish evolved into one that was resoundingly sweet, with lots of molasses and additional ingredients like butter, cinnamon, ginger, eggs, and sometimes even raisins or nuts.  Because New England was a stop in the “Triangle Trade” route of the 18th century (see Note below), New Englanders found themselves with an abundance of molasses on their hands.  Never a wasteful group, they used it to sweeten everything from Anadama Bread to Baked Beans.

Indian pudding began officially appearing in American cook books in the late 1700’s.  Early methods called for the dish to be cooked in a “slow” oven, meaning at a low temperature, for a long period of time.  The pudding dish was placed in a large, shallow pan, into which a shallow amount of water was added.  The water insulated the dish so it would cook very gently during its long cook time.

I confess I tried a recipe that called for the low temperature, long cook time, water bath method…and it was a disaster.  I would have to repeat the experiment to know for sure if I went wrong somewhere, or if the recipe needs clarification, but even after three hours in the oven my pudding looked more like soup.

For my second attempt, I used a recipe  originally printed in a 1978 installment of Yankee’s “Best Cook in Town” feature.  The recipe was recently included in Yankee’s cookbook, Best New England Recipes: Classic and Inspired Fare, so I knew I would be in good hands.

This version omits the traditional water bath and cooks faster at a higher temperature, however, when I removed it from the oven and saw that it had set into an actual semi-firm pudding, I embraced the update.

Topped with some whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon, Indian pudding embodies the flavors of fall, and reminds us of how a dish can evolve with its surroundings.

Did you grow up eating Indian pudding?  Do you make it today?  I’d love to know if you have a water-bath cooking method that works for you!

new england indian pudding

Click to view and print the recipe for Indian Pudding.

Note: The “Triangle Trade” was when slaves were brought from Africa to the Caribbean/South America, then sugar from the Caribbean/South America was shipped up to New England to be distilled into rum, and finally, the rum and other goods were sent back to Africa.  Molasses is a by-product of distilling sugar into rum. 

Aimee Seavey


Aimee Seavey


As Yankee's Digital Editor, Aimee manages, produces, and promotes content for Yankee's digital and social media initiatives. A lifelong New Englander, she loves history and a good Massachusetts South Shore bar pizza.
Updated Thursday, October 1st, 2015

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36 Responses to Indian Pudding | Classic New England Dessert

  1. Jen @ November 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Confession: I’ve never had Indian Pudding. I guess it’s because I grew up in the Midwest or something…

    • Aimee Seavey November 14, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      Hi Jen! You get a pass for that one (we can’t all grow up in New England…) but you should definitely try it sometime. I know how much you love pumpkin, and the flavors and spices are similar.

      • Tyson May 30, 2016 at 2:03 am #

        You accidentally got the “Triangle Trade” wrong. You left out England and instead blamed the US twice

        • Aimee Seavey June 6, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

          Hi Tyson! Thanks for your comment! In the New England version of triangle trade, New England replaces Europe as one of the triangle points. The other two are Africa and the Caribbean. You can see maps of both “triangles” (traditional and New England) on the Wikipedia page on Triangle Trade

  2. Bryan November 24, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    A nice addition would be a cup of pre-soaked golden raisins.

  3. Rosalyn Lintner November 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    I made it today…My Dad use to eat it all the time at Durgin Park Restaurant in Boston…so its a dessert surprise for him today.

    • Will Roberts November 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      Ah — Indian pudding at Durgin-Park. Shortly after we were married, my wife and I took her parents, who were not from New England, for a traditional dinner at Durgin-Park. After a great meal, when we were ordering desert, I said to the waitress, “I’ll have the Indian pudding — that’s what I always come here for!” And, in true Durgin-Park style, she replied, “Then why did you eat all that other stuff?”

    • Linda March 27, 2016 at 11:55 pm #

      I went to Durgin Park with my grandfather as a child. I miss New England and the food
      Love Indian pudding

  4. Betty Cordoza November 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    I grew up in New England, eating Indian Pudding; although I confess it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really appreciated it! I remember warm Indian Pudding with Ginger Ice Cream from Newport Creamery. As an adult, now living in California’s Gold Country, it’s a rarity in my diet. However, whenever I get to the Colonial House Inn, on Rte. 6-A, in Yarmouth Port, I always order the Indian Pudding.

    • Martha June 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Betty, I grew up on Indian pudding, too, and this recipe is the same one I found stuck in on e of my mom’s cookbooks. She (and my grandmother) never used the water bath, and NEVER would they add raisins or nuts!
      Love your mentions of the Newport Creamery and the Colonial House Inn in Yarmouth Port – we’ve stayed there, too.

      • Amy O' April 1, 2014 at 9:35 am #

        Martha – agreed! I grew up with my mom making it – with a water bath – and never, ever add raisins or nuts – it just wouldn’t be the same. I can’t wait for later this month when I can get a nice warm bowl of it with vanilla ice cream at the Gore Place Sheepshearing Festival in Waltham, MA.

  5. Bruce Murray November 25, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    Like Betty, I was in my 20’s when I first had Indian Pudding. I loved it but I I left Connecticut and now live in the Midwest so if I want it I have to make it myself. My wife, raised in Indiana, had never heard of it before she met me. I think the flavor is too strange and not sugary enough for modern kids who eat a lot of sugary foods with little taste.

  6. Linda LeFebvre Ford November 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    WOW… I haven’t thought of Indian pudding in Years.. when on Facebook Come a flash fro9m the past from Clair LeFebvre Jones( No relation!!) My recipe is from the original Fanny Farmer cook Book… 4 cups Milk, 1/2 cupellow cornmeal, 1/3 cup Dark Broun sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar… 1/3 cup molasses, 1 teasp, salt , 4 tbls. Butter, 1/2 teas powdered ginger, 1/2 teas cinnamon…..Preheat oven to 275… Heat 2 cups milk until very hot.. Pour slowly over cornmeal, stir or whisk constantly….. Cook in double boiler until mixture is creamy about 10 minutes… add remaining ingreadients mix well… Spoon into buttered 1and 1/2 quart baking dish… Pour the remainig 2cups of milk over the top… Set into another pan of hot water… Bake for 2and 1/2 hrs to 3… until set.. Pudding will become firmer as it cools… Serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream!!! Delicious!! and very different!! Wow thanks so much for sharing… I loved this desert as a child in New England

  7. Debi Lionetti November 26, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Does anyone else out there remember when Howard Johnsons restaurants used to have Indian Pudding on their menus? My Mom and I would go there and enjoy it for dessert with vanilla ice cream on top. I have made it several times over the years and the old-fashioned flavor always brings me back to those dinners at “HoJo’s” with Mom!

    • Beverly Shutica September 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      I do remember Howard Johnson’s Indian Pudding and was very sad when I couldn’t buy it any longer. Over the years I’ve been looking for a recipe that would taste like their pudding. Did your recipe taste like theirs and would you be willing to share it with me?

  8. June from Ct. November 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    I love Indian Pudding! A meal in itself at Durgin Park. Thanks for the recipe, I’m putting it on my Christmas menu. Yes, I do remember it at “HoJo,s” with their great ice cream. My mouth is watering.

  9. Mary Koss April 19, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I remember the Indian Pudding at the Hearth and Kettle in Hyannis,MA.

    Does anyone have that recipe?

    • Sheila November 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

      That’s where I get my pudding “fix.” My daughter is trying her hand at this as I type.!

  10. Michele Desmarais November 27, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    I do make Indian Pudding every year. I do use a water bath and watch for it to set up. I have a recipe from my mom’s cookbook. It is a warm comfort food!

  11. Baldur Makepeace Bear October 2, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    I have been making Indian Pudding for years here at home and when I cooked professionally at a rather old nursing homes in Rhode Island.
    This was a favourite dish among the older generation.
    We have it here at home a couple of times a year.
    My recipe is not measured but done by eye and taste.
    Heat up milk and a knob of butter in a double boiler.Add a little salt. Whisk in cornmeal and cook until you have a thick porridge.
    Whisk in molasses and brown sugar to taste. Using straight molasses was probably the original method but it makes a more bitter end product, Try using a 50/50 ratio of molasses and brown sugar.
    Whisk in ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and freshly grated nutmeg, again to taste.
    I myself make it so the ginger and cloves are a bit more pronounced, so light on the cinnamon, very light on the nutmeg.
    Transfer the porridge to an ample sized, greased baking dish (pottery is best, though heavy glass is fine too).
    Pour 1/2′ layer of milk on top.
    Carefully transfer the baking dish to a 350F oven and bake for about 45 minutes.
    Remove it from the oven, stir the pudding and then top it with another 1/2″ layer of milk.
    Bake for another 45 minutes. Stir the pudding again.
    I usually stop at this point but if you’ve got the oven going all day, you can repeat the process a few more times.
    Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or with heavy cream poured on top.
    The image posted of the slice of pudding above looks delicious but is firmer than any version I’ve made. The final product is spooned into a small serving dish.
    Also I would never add eggs, raisins or nuts.


    • Al Mc Allister November 28, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      I was just reading your post, I wish I had seen this a few days ago. I grew up eating my grandma’s
      Indian pudding…in Northern Me and I guess like many others I did not care that much for it but now
      I have had a craving for it for a while but I did not know what she used in it or how it was made.
      I just married a Vietnamese woman and want to give her the experience of an American Thanksgiving
      so I made Indian pudding for the first time…it came out pretty good but for Christmas I am going to
      try your ideas.

  12. Rebecca March 30, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    Plimouth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for thanksgiving, serves a very very traditional, delicious Indian Bread Pudding. I had it last thanksgiving… it was the same menu as the first official thanksgiving in Lincoln’s time.

  13. Staci October 1, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    I loved in New Hampshire for 8 years and never heard of it but I would try it! I fondly remember whoopie pies and pork pies though :)

    • Donna P October 4, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

      I still make my Memmieres pork pies for christmas dinner every year.
      Indian pudding….not so much

  14. melissa October 1, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    I have recently made it from corn meal that was milled at the Jenny Grist Mill in Plymouth, MA. I used their recipe that they had recovered from a cookbook from the 1700’s. It call for 300 degrees for 2 hours, then add more milk and continue cooking for another hour. I loved it! Also you might be from New England if you have had grapenut pudding. :)

  15. Charene October 1, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    My grandmother made it every Thanksgiving. She used the same big ceramic bowl and baked it in the oven for hours.

  16. June October 1, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    There was a restaurant attached to the Colonial Motel out on Rt 5 in Brattleboro, VT. it had the best Indian pudding I’ve ever had. Warm and spicy with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream melting down over it. God’s gift to New England cuisine!

  17. sandra-anne October 1, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

    Always have just baked Indian pudding in a ceramic casserole type dish, with or without raisins, never with a water bath, and always served with french vanilla ice cream . Always had it between Thanksgiving and Christmas, budget dependent on pie as alternative. I will say, it must be a New England/Canadian acquired taste, my southern hubby did not care much for it.

  18. Maggie Sabovich October 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    This is the recipe I use and it’s great, from Yankee magazine in 2002. I grew up in far northwestern Pennsylvania and we used to come to New Hampshire to vacation when I was a child. Still look at your webcam weekly, but live in the San Francisco Bay area now…just had my 79th birthday, and still cooking good recipes from your magazine!
    Indian Pudding
    Total Time: 30 min.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings
    Early colonists brought with them to America a fondness for British “hasty pudding,” a dish made by boiling wheat flour in water or milk until it thickened into porridge. Since wheat flour was scarce in the New World, settlers adapted by using native cornmeal, dubbed “Indian flour,” and flavoring the resulting mush to be either sweet (with maple syrup or molasses) or savory (with drippings or salted meat). In time, Indian pudding evolved into a dish that was resoundingly sweet, with lots of molasses and additional ingredients such as butter, cinnamon, ginger, eggs, and sometimes even raisins or nuts. Recipes for Indian pudding began appearing in cookery books in the late 1700s.
    • 4 cups whole milk
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup molasses
    • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking dish
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    Preheat the oven to 300° and grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. I use an old dark brown bean pot looking casserole dish.
    Bring milk to a simmer in a double boiler over high heat. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking to combine. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 15 minutes.
    Slowly add molasses, then remove from heat. Add maple syrup and the rest of the ingredients and stir until smooth.
    Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake until the pudding is set and the top is browned…takes awhile.

  19. Maggie Sabovich October 4, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    The Yankee magazine 2002 recipe takes about 2 hours…looked further for the cooking time…then vanilla ice cream!

  20. Connie Johnson November 24, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    I’m making our family recipe for Indian pudding right now, and was just poking around online looking for the origins of the recipe, correctly guessing that the “Indian” name was from the corn meal, not from actual native Americans making this pudding! My recipe was in my family as a child and every year since, a MUST for Thanksgiving AND Christmas. I wonder how long it was being made as a traditional dessert before I came along, but there’s not one alive to ask. We DO add raisins, but never nuts or eggs. I notice that my recipe uses a higher proportion of molasses. Whenever I’ve had this in a restaurant (rarely), it never has raisins, and it’s a much lighter color (less molasses).

    It does require being home attending to it for several hours. And we serve it warm with whipped cream, in little pressed glass small bowls. I would love to find more of these small, clear bowls, but have never seen them in any antique, GoodWill, or consignment stores. Here’s the recipe:

    ! qt. scalded milk
    1/3 cup cornmeal
    2 TB flour
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 tsp. ginger
    1 cup water
    3/4 cup molasses
    1/3 cup sugar
    3 TB butter
    1 cup raisins

    Mix cornmeal, flour, spices, molasses, and sugar together. Add to milk and pour into a stoneware pot (Corningware cooks it too fast and hot). Add the butter and raisins. Bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours, stirring for the first hour every 15 minutes, then every 30 minutes for the remaining 2 hours. It will still look too thin at the end of the cooking time, but it will set more as it cools. I make it a few days before serving, when I’m not so busy with other food prep, and refrigerate until the serving day. Take it out in the morning and let it come to room temp and put it in the oven on warm after the turkey comes out. If you have extra pudding it freezes perfectly.

  21. Connie Johnson November 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    I meant to say stoneware crock, not pot. Mine is about the size of a 2 1/2 – 3 qt. Corningware casserole dish.

    One more point, I am amazed how many New Englanders have never heard of Indian pudding!! Invariably when folks are discussing Thanksgiving menus, and I mention Indian pudding, I have to tell them all about it because they have no idea what it is!

  22. Annie November 26, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Just made it today for our dinner with friends who had never heard of it. It was a hit! Served it with french vanilla ice cream. No eggs, flour or raisins! Cook at 300° for one hour, pull out and pour 1 cup of milk on top, then cook for 2 hours. Comes out bubbly hot and cools to a smooth texture. Need to scald the milk before adding the other ingredients…

  23. Dawna, Windham NH April 3, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    I love old fashioned Indian Pudding, takes a long time to cook but that’s what makes it creamy and not grainy. Being from New England this has been a family favorite for years. This recipe has been around forever and it does use a water bath.

    Preheat oven to 275

    3 Cups whole milk
    1 Cup heavy cream
    ½ Cup yellow cornmeal
    ½ Cup light brown sugar
    ½ Cup molasses
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp cinnamon
    ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
    ¼ tsp ground cloves
    ¼ tsp ground ginger
    4 Large eggs
    4 Tbl unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

    Lightly grease a 6 – 8 cup souffle’ or casserole dish with butter. Do not use a cooking spray.

    In a medium sauce pan scald milk. Pour cream into a large mixing bowl, add cornmeal, sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir to combine and add to the scalded milk. Cook, stirring constantly over medium low heat until thickened to the consistency of syrup, approximately 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

    In a bowl beat eggs with a whisk. Temper eggs by adding ½ cup of hot cornmeal whisking rapidly to incorporate the milk without cooking the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the cornmeal vigorously whisking together as you pour. Stir in butter one piece at a time until melted. Pour mixture into prepared soufflé dish. Place on a shallow baking pan on center oven rack. Pour HOT water into baking pan 2/3 way up soufflé. Bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours. Test by inserting a tester NEAR the center, tester should come out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Also good served with heavy cream.

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