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Dairy-free Vanilla Custard is a comfort food dessert that’s also nourishing, with plenty of omega-3-rich egg yolks and healthy cholesterol. This creamy treat is perfect for Paleo, GAPS, SCD, Keto and Low Carb diets, and you’ll never know the dairy is missing!
English Vanilla Custard
Comfort foods vary in texture, flavor and temperature: homemade fried chicken, chocolate cake, ice cream. I really prefer savory foods these days and eat a lot fewer desserts and treats. But in the world of healthy desserts, for me, the ultimate sweet comfort food is warm, thick vanilla custard, like the kind you find in England poured over “pudding” or apple crumble.
Surprisingly, most of these warm custards in England today are made from a powdered mix. But how heavenly to have the homemade version of that viscous goodness to cloak a steamed cake, cobbler or deep dish pie. Eat it with a spoon.
I used to enjoy a lovely homemade version of vanilla custard that I developed after a semester spent in London. But those were the days I spent blindly enjoying milk, sugar, and grains.
Dairy-free, Paleo, Keto
When dairy’s out in your diet, and flour for that matter, how to have that old craving satisfied? We can be very grateful for gelatin! I use it in so many of my recipes, and it often replaces ingredients I can no longer have.
In this recipe, gelatin replaces the flour or cornstarch that’s traditionally used. (While arrowroot and tapioca starch are allowed on a Paleo diet, they are not legal for GAPS or SCD and are too high in carbs for Keto or Low Carb recipes.)
To make it dairy-free as well, my favorite version of this recipe uses soaked pine nuts to make a beautiful homemade pine nut milk. 🙂 Macadamias are even lower in carbs and can be used for the Keto/Low Carb version, with the same creamy effect and mild flavor. Hemp also works.
And for non-Keto/Low Carb, cashews can be used.
(I give all these versions below, and they’re all easy and fast to make, but with longer soaking times for larger nuts.)
Coconut milk may also be used. If you can tolerate dairy, this recipe can be made not only with homemade seed or nut milk, but also with raw goat or cow’s milk. Or for Keto, cream can be used. (See Step 4 in the Recipe Instructions below for this variation.)
Thickener and sweeteners
Because this recipe thickens up mainly from the use of gelatin, it thickens as it cools. However, I have used a high ratio of gelatin both for its gut healing properties and also because it gets thicker that way when it isn’t entirely cold, getting back to the love of warm custard. (Find my favorite gelatin here, and use discount code BEAUTIFUL10 for 10% off your entire order.)
Warm, this custard is beverage-like, drinkable, nourishing, and comforting. Pourable. This drinkable version, like the solid refrigerated version, can be sweetened with stevia alone, for Keto or those with a fructose sensitivity who do well with stevia.
In the ingredients below, I list the various sweetener options that correspond to the different diets this recipe serves, obviously honey for GAPS etc.
If you plan to enjoy the custard as a warm beverage, it is lovely with cinnamon and nutmeg added, a true homemade eggnog.
GAPS and SCD
For those of you on healing diets, such as GAPS or SCD, why not substitute this treat occasionally for the mug or bowl of bone broth? The healing properties in gelatin are not as diverse as they are in a homemade bone broth, but they are gut-healing nonetheless, and the eggnog can be a welcome, occasional change, adding variety and refreshment to your food repertoire. (Fun right?!) As you’ll see, this recipe uses very little sweetener, so it’s truly nourishing.
Pasture-raised eggs are used in this recipe. So the custard, again, is not only a comfort food treat, but also a truly healthful food, full of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and needed cholesterol from the raw eggs yolks.
If you have the custard at room temperature and pour it over a baked good, or in my case most recently, some grain-free crepes, it will cloak the baked good, like crème anglaise. When refrigerated, the custard will be very solid, but still tender. Here are a few serving options that I’ve done and recommend:
- Stir it together with raspberries, and fill crepes. Top with more warm pourable custard, cinnamon and crispy walnuts.
- Make individual cup custards.
- Layer it to make parfaits.
- Use it to fill cake layers.
- Pour custard over crumble, cobbler, moist cake.
- Eat like shortcake with scones and macerated strawberries or fresh berries.
- Sauté apples or pears, or make chunky homemade applesauce to go with the custard.
- For Keto, Paleo and GAPS, make Beautiful Rhubarb Sauce; eat together.
Dairy-free Vanilla Custard
Dairy-free Vanilla Custard (Paleo, GAPS, SCD, Keto, Low Carb)
Homemade Nut/Seed Milk (the custard base)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 cup pine nuts or macadamia nuts for Keto for lowest carbs; or cashews are fine for GAPS and Paleo
- ⅛ teaspoon or less, to taste stevia powder or 10 drops liquid stevia, okay to omit for GAPS and SCD (optional)
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon gelatin (Use discount code BEAUTIFUL10 at check out for 10% off your order.)
- 8 egg yolks (See post under the recipe for suggestions on how to use the 8 egg whites!)
- 1 Tablespoon sweetener of choice: Keto and Low Carb: use your favorite liquid low carb sweetener; GAPS: use honey; Paleo: use maple syrup
- ½ of a whole vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon real vanilla extract
Soaking the Nuts or Seeds
- Although this recipe is made quickly, allow time for soaking (to create a super-smooth nut milk). Larger nuts need to soak overnight. So plan one day in advance if you're using larger nuts. Seeds like hemp, pine nuts or nuts like cashews only require a short soaking time. Other nuts, like macadamia nuts, need an overnight soaking or a minimum of 6 hours.
- See Recipe Notes below for How to Soak Nuts and Seeds.
Homemade Nut/Seed Milk (the custard base)
- Into a high-powered blender, add the following: water, soaked pine nuts or preferred nut/seed, (soaked as designated below in the Recipe Notes: How to Soak Nuts and Seeds), stevia and sea salt. Blend on medium-high speed for one full cycle, or about 50 seconds. This blend will create the best milk ever.
- Pour 1 cup fresh seed or nut milk into a small saucepan, reserving the rest in the blender. Sprinkle gelatin over the surface, and allow it to bloom 1 minute. Heat over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes, until steam forms and the gelatin dissolves, but do not allow the water to simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow to cool slightly, 10 minutes.
- Add it back into the blender with the following additional ingredients: egg yolks, sweetener of choice, the inside scrapings from ½ of a whole vanilla bean or the vanilla extract. Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds. Serve warm, or chill, either in individual serving dishes or one larger serving dish.
- To chill, allow the custard 3 hours to set up.
- Variation 1 — You can substitute 3 cups coconut milk, raw milk or cream for the homemade nut/seed milk. (Omit the water and seeds/nuts from the ingredients if you sub coconut or dairy milk/cream.)
- Variation 2 — To make the room temperature or warm custard even thicker, for scooping up wobbly bites on a muffin or cake, add 2 Tablespoons chia seeds, stirring the seeds in quickly and thoroughly. (This is delicious!) Allow the mixture to set up and thicken 10 to 15 full minutes before serving.
How to Soak Nuts and Seeds
- For every 2 cups of raw seeds or nuts, cover with room temperature, filtered water by two inches, and 1 teaspoon sea salt.
- Stir well to dissolve the salt. Leave out overnight at room temperature to soak, and ideally up to 18 hours for nuts like macadamia or hazelnuts. Smaller seeds and cashews only need 2 to 6 hours.
- Drain them in a colander; and rinse them well.
- The nuts or seeds are now soaked and ready for use in this recipe.
How to use leftover egg whites
- For those who eat dairy: Make a thin omelette in LOTS of butter, filled with LOTS of white cheddar cheese. This is delicious! Use sea salt to taste. I like to top mine with microgreens and fresh herbs. (Eight egg whites makes 2 omelettes or 1 large one.)
- For dairy-free: Make an omelette that's very thin in a large pan. Fill with avocado, freshly chopped garlic, Paleo hummus or pesto and microgreens. Drizzle the top with nut butter and fresh herbs.
- Make Meringue.
- Add extra whites to pancake batter.
How will you use your Dairy-free Vanilla Custard?
Rebecca Jaquette says
This sounds so yummy! I will have to try it! Thanks!
Megan Stevens says
Thanks, Rebecca!! 🙂 Hope you love it!
I love this custard! We made it last night, and it’s a winner!
Aw, thanks Tim for sharing! So glad to hear this, and I appreciate the feedback!
Allyssa S says
This looks so delish! Do you think this would be good in a dairy free tiramisu?
Megan Stevens says
YES! Great idea. It is really versatile and classic. 🙂 Yummy idea.
This looks lovely! Do you keep in the cashew pulp or do you strain it out? Thanks for the recipe!
Megan Stevens says
Hi Laura, I keep it in. 🙂 It isn’t noticeable, getting very creamy.
Lara C says
Can Coconut be used in place of pinenut?
Megan Stevens says
Yes, definitely! 🙂 If you wish to use coconut milk in place of the seeds/nuts + water, use 3 cups milk.
Ashley Thomas says
When substituting liquid (i.e. coconut milk, goats milk, etc) for the nuts is it still cup for cup?
Megan Stevens says
Hi Ashley, the original recipe is 2 cups water + 1 cup seeds/nuts. I have measured the seed milk, and the conversion is to use 3 cups coconut milk, goat’s milk etc.
Thanks for that tip. I’m going to make it for a Christmas Day berry trifle here in Oz. Thinking I’ll use 50/50 goat/coconut milk. Don’t want it to be too coconutty. Thoughts?
Hi Lynder, that sounds good. You can always taste it to make sure you like the ratio before making the custard, too.
That texture looks gorgeous. There’s something just so comforting about custard. And I love that you included ideas for leftover egg whites because I always have a few hanging out in my freezer!
Amy Sheree says
I LOVE vanilla custard! This one looks so creamy and delicious! Can’t wait to try it!
I’ve been really enjoying creamy treats lately. But not all of them are this healthy, so I am really excited to make this dessert that looks as delicious yet many times healthier! Yum!
Carol Little R.H. @studiobotanica says
WoW. I always learn so much from your creative recipes.
I am a custard fan!! Will try this one asap!
STACEY CRAWFORD says
Dairy free creamy Custard that is keto, that is magic!
Renee D Kohley says
Such a clever recipe! And easier than I was thinking – I’ll give it a try! It looks so creamy!
Tessa Simpson says
I adore custard…love this creative dairy free version!
My family is from the U.K so I grew up enjoying warm custard over desserts. It certainly brings up cosy memories for me. I love how you have made a nourishing version and genius idea to use pine nuts!
Thank you, Hope! How fun that you grew up enjoying this classic, so special!
This will be the perfect dessert after dinners! I l love custard!
I have been looking for the custard for so long. This is perfect even in our Low Carb Lifestyle
Ruth Haberkorn says
I am pregnant and have not been able to eat eggs very successfully. For some reason it just makes my stomach turn and I am in the second trimester. I am hoping the custard will go down more better for me than fried eggs or an omelette. I do want baby to get some nutrients from eggs.
Where are the cooking instructions? What temperature and for how long? Thanks.
Hi Leslie, look under Custard, Step 1.
recipes i’ve made previously always involved keeping on the heat after eggs are added. i just want to make sure i’m reading this correctly – it’s only heated at the beginning – then just blended with the eggs and it’s done? ty!
Yes, that’s right. We’re only adding egg yolks, and they “cook” in the blender stage. 🙂
Kari - Get Inspired Everyday! says
This looks so rich and luscious, and I love that it’s dairy free as well!
Can we use the whole egg
Hi Piya, no, the egg white will change the texture. Thanks for the question. You can save the egg white for other uses.
I’m concerned about trying this because it uses raw egg yolks.
Hi Julie, thanks for voicing that. Here are a few points to consider:
Dr. Mercola’s website says only 1 in 30,000 eggs has a salmonella problem, and these are mainly lesser quality eggs (!). Raw egg yolks from a quality source are less likely to contain salmonella. Healthy, pastured chickens with plenty of sun aren’t going have much salmonella to pass on to their eggs. A healthy body is equipped to fight bacteria on its own, & we encounter bad bacteria consistently. For those with a compromised immune system, you might want to be more careful. Lastly, fresh eggs are less likely to harbor salmonella. I use fresh pastured eggs. Hope that helps!
Perhaps it’s already been asked but I didn’t see it. Can I use store bought macadamia milk?
Hi Andrea, probably that would work fine, especially if it’s a creamy one. Enjoy!
The cream is very liquid. Like milk. What do I do now??
Hi Maryna, See the recipe for these instructions: Chill for 3 hours to set, or add chia seeds if you want to enjoy it sooner, which need to soak for 15 minutes to thicken the custard.
Question…when I added the one cup back with the egg yolks the combined mixture was barely warm…so the egg yolks not cooked correct?
Michelle Waters says
Thanks for the recipe Could I make this in advance and reheat it?
Yes, just warm gently. 🙂