Let's do a three-way comparison for this one: Jell-O instant pudding mix, Jell-O pudding cups, and Martha Stewart's homemade chocolate pudding. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.
• Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding
Pudding Mix: $1.29
2 cups milk: $0.77
PER SERVING (4): $0.52
• Jell-O Chocolate Pudding Cups
PER SERVING (6): $0.58
• Homemade Chocolate Pudding
1/3 cup granulated sugar: $0.12
2 tablespoons cornstarch: $0.10
2 tablespoons cocoa powder: $0.16
1/4 teaspoon salt: $0.01
2 cups milk: $0.77
2 large egg yolks: $0.42
4 ounces semisweet chocolate: $1.16
1 tablespoon unsalted butter: $0.15
PER SERVING (4): $0.72
• Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding: 5 minutes
• Jell-O Chocolate Pudding Cups: 0 minutes
• Homemade Chocolate Pudding: 15 minutes active time; another 40 minutes to set
If you like to bake, you probably have all of these ingredients already stocked in your cupboard. At that point, the difference between whisking a powdered mix with some milk or whisking together a list of ingredients becomes less of a big deal.
There is some stove-top action that has to happen with homemade pudding, while instant pudding can be made in a single bowl with cold milk. The need to actually cook homemade pudding can be an inconvenience if, for instance, we want immediate pudding gratification.
And admittedly, homemade pudding can be rather fussy. There is the constant whisking. There are the eggs, which can curdle during cooking if we're being less than observant. There is Martha's recommendation to strain the pudding (probably a good idea if your eggs curdled) and then to cool it over an ice bath. There is also the potential that you didn't cook the pudding long enough and it ends up thin rather than thick and creamy.
I think if you make pudding frequently, it would get easier and the steps would become more intuitive. But if you only make it occasionally, it's probably going to feel less quick and easy than you'd like it to be.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
Homemade pudding can be chancy. If you get a good recipe, it's the best stuff on earth. I literally can't keep it in the house, it's so good. But I've also followed recipes that result in grainy, watery, overly-sweet, and bland puddings that aren't arguably much better than what you get from a mix.
At least with a box mix and with the snack packs, you get consistency. The flavor is usually pretty mild, but there's something comforting about its milky sweetness. And the texture is always perfect: thick, creamy, and silky smooth.
Of course, that perfection is because both the powdered mix and the snack packs are made with a bevy of thickeners, stabilizers, and enhancers. Our homemade pudding might not have quite that consistent texture, but at least it's made with ingredients that we know and recognize.
MAKE OR BUY?
Even considering the chanciness of making homemade pudding, I still make my own over buying it at the store. I get the craving rarely enough that I enjoy the whole process of standing over the stove and anticipating that first spoonful. Then again, if I made it more frequently, I'd probably zero in on the best recipes a lot more quickly and avoid the disappointment of a bad batch!
But between the powdered mix and the snack packs, I tend to favor the mix. It's made with fewer unpronounceable ingredients and I like being able to make it with fresh milk. Those snack packs are super convenient, especially if you're packing kid's lunches every day; but in the end, I feel like making the powdered mix and packing it straight into reusable containers is the better way to go.
VERDICT: First place goes to homemade. Runner up is the powdered mix.
What are your thoughts?