What's the Difference Between Pudding and Mousse?

What's the Difference Between Pudding and Mousse?

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Kelli Foster
Mar 23, 2015
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

When I think of smooth and creamy desserts, the first two things that come to mind are pudding and mousse. While they share similar characteristics, these creamy, no-bake desserts have a few differences. Do you know what sets pudding and mousse apart?

Pudding

Did you know that pudding wasn't originally served as a dessert? Far from it, actually. Pudding was originally a savory dish, made by mixing processed meat with a binder, like eggs, grains, or butter, then steamed, baked, or boiled.

Thankfully, the pudding we've come to know and love is quite different. While pudding can be sweet or savory, we're most familiar with the sweet version. Sweet pudding is a semisolid, creamy, sometimes dense dessert that can be served warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

How Pudding is Made

There are a lot of variations, but at its most basic, pudding is traditionally made with a mixture of milk and sugar, that's cooked and thickened with cornstarch. Less traditionally, rice, tapioca, chia seeds, and even gelatin are used as thickeners in some recipes.

Mousse

Mousse is the lighter, fluffier cousin of pudding. Its lighter texture comes from whipping air into the mixture. It gets its airy consistency by folding whipped egg whites or whipped cream into the base mixture.

Like pudding, mousse can be savory or sweet. Savory versions commonly include meat, salmon, or vegetables. Sweet mousse is typically flavored with chocolate, coffee, or fruit.

Unlike pudding, mousse doesn't contain any add-ins, like nuts, grains, or fruit, and is typically served chilled or frozen.

How Mousse is Made

At its most basic, traditional mousse starts with a base similar to pudding, minus the cornstarch, to which beaten cream or beaten egg whites are folded in.

There are also a variety of non-traditional versions of mousse that are vegan, dairy-free, and have swapped the traditional ingredients to be healthier. These variations are made airy (though not as much as the traditional version) by using ingredients like whipped avocado.

What Sets Pudding and Mousse Apart

The primary characteristics that set these things apart is their consistency, and how each is thickened.

  • How they are thickened: While pudding uses cornstarch as a thickener, mousse skips this ingredient and instead relies on whipped cream and/or whipped eggs whites as a thickener. Traditionally, pudding gets its thick consistency from being cooked (which activates the cornstarch), while mousse is not cooked.
  • Texture: Because these two creamy desserts use different methods of thickening, the texture also varies. Pudding is semisolid and more dense, while mousse has a lighter, airier texture.
  • Add-ins: Mousse tends to be slightly richer, and enjoyed as is. It's not uncommon, however, for pudding to contain add-ins, like grains (rice), seeds (chia seeds), fruit, or nuts.

Do you have a favorite pudding or mousse recipe that you love making?

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