Creamy (but sometimes dairy-free) and cool, puddings are great for showcasing the best fruit of the season.

By Kristin Donnelly
Updated May 23, 2017
Cherry Pudding Cups

A little bit retro? Maybe. But puddings still make perfect summer desserts. Creamy (but sometimes dairy-free) and cool, they are great for showcasing the best fruit of the season.

1. Chocolate. Skip the flavorless pudding mix: If you want real chocolate pudding, you need to use real chocolate (and some cocoa powder). To create a more complex pudding, infuse your cream base with spices, like fennel seed, cinnamon or star anise.

2. Chia. How do you make pudding healthy (along with no-cook)? You got it: Add these protein-and-fiber-rich itty-bitty seeds, which expand to naturally thicken the milk (or in this case, almond milk).

3. Tapioca. Make the pudding with coconut milk and layer it in a parfait with mango compote for a fantastic tropical-inspired dessert.

4. Caramel. Instead of using the burnt sugar as a sauce, make it the dessert itself by adding milk and cornstarch to the caramel and chilling it down.

5. Popcorn. Yep—for an alluring salty-sweet pudding, steep popped corn kernels in a vanilla pudding base, then garnish with more popcorn.

6. Goat cheese. Turn a sweet goat cheese custard into a cool pudding (a.k.a. a gluten-free cheesecake).

7. Dairy-free rice pudding. For a lighter take on the classic, make rice pudding with almond milk. Sushi rice gives it a pleasant chew.

8. Banana pudding. This is the pudding to bring to a Southern-style cookout. Just as is done in the South, make it in a large baking dish and top it with a billowy meringue. And yes, use Nilla Wafers.

9. Buttermilk. Make a light and tangy pudding set with gelatin using whole milk and buttermilk. It’s perfect served with summer fruit.

10. Lemon. Mix lemon syrup with heavy cream and wait for the magic to happen. (Spoiler alert: It thickens overnight.) If you were British, you’d likely call this rich but refreshing pudding a posset.

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.