While the back of the box directions say to not use milk substitutes…I’ve never been one to follow directions exactly. I’ll show you how to make Jell-O brand pudding using milk alternatives so it’s allergy-friendly and vegan.
This post contains affiliate links.
Many people need to go dairy free at some point, whether it’s for nursing, for a specific diet, while trying out veganism, or simply for a food allergy like us. But, just because you’re dairy-free doesn’t mean you still don’t crave treats. Chocolate can be especially tough, because unless you’re willing to pay for specialty chocolate, all the regular store-bought chocolate typically has milk in it.
Plus, while cooking from scratch and I are best friends, sometimes real life hits you.
Sometimes you want an easy dessert, or a quick and painless after school snack.
I used to longingly walk past the pudding section in my grocer and wish my son could have something easy like that. One day, I got sick of wishing and thought…I’m just going to keep experimenting until I figure it out!
The first batch was more like chocolate soup.
I then realized it HAS to be the cook and serve. The instant will never set up. This on the other hand is thick and creamy. Sooo good!
Yay for experimenting and not giving up. Now this is my in my pantry all the time just in case we get a chocolate craving and don’t have a lot of time.
Here’s a couple of frequently asked questions about how to make Jell-O pudding without milk:
Is Jell-O pudding gluten free?
If you’re like us and need gluten and dairy free treats, you’re in luck! Jell-O pudding (both the instant as well as the cook and serve varieties) does not have wheat or gluten in it, as the recipe currently stands. You can see the ingredients listed below.
What ingredients are in Jell-O instant pudding?
Here are the ingredients for Jell-O instant pudding in chocolate fudge (as shown in this recipe), as stated on their website as of November 2019:
- Modified cornstarch
- Cocoa processed with alkali
- Disodium phosphate (for thickening), contains less than 2% of natural & artificial flavor
- Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (for thickening)
- Mono-and Diglycerides (prevent foaming)
- Red 40
- Yellow 5
- Blue 1
- Artificial Color,
- BHA (preservative)
Be sure to check for yourself and to make sure the recipe hasn’t changed since this blog publication.
What ingredients are in Jell-O cook and serve pudding?
Not only does Jell-O cook and serve work better with milk alternatives, but it also doesn’t have artificial colors and has a simpler ingredient deck than Jell-O instant pudding. Here are the ingredients for Jell-O cook and serve pudding in the chocolate fudge flavor (as shown in this post) as stated on their website in November 2019:
- Cocoa (processed with Alkali)
- Modified cornstarch,
- Contains less than 2% of salt, calcium carrageenan, polysorbate 60, fumaric acid
Be sure to check for yourself and to make sure the recipe hasn’t changed since this blog publication.
Is Jell-O pudding vegan?
As you can see from the list of ingredients above, there are no eggs, milk or animal products in Jell-O instant pudding mix or in their cook and serve pudding mix. However, if you add milk, like the directions state, it will no longer be vegan. This is why I recipe tested to find out how to use a plant based milk to keep Jell-O pudding vegan and dairy free. See the recipe card below to see how I do it!
Does Jell-O pudding contain gelatin?
A lot of people get confused and think that Jell-O brand pudding cannot be vegan. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of people tell me this. They assume that because their jello (the jiggly stuff) has gelatin in it that their pudding does too. As you can see in the ingredients listed above, this is not the case. Gelatin (made from animal products, and therefore not vegan) is needed to have jello set up. To have Jell-O pudding set up, they use cornstarch instead.
Can you make Jell-O pudding with almond milk?
If you don’t have nut allergies, you can totally use almond milk, or even coconut milk or cashew milk. My favorite kind of non-dairy milk to use in Jell-O pudding is rice milk. I find it is the one with the least amount of after taste. Because nut milks have a strong flavor, you’ll notice a hint of them in the final product. THE IMPORTANT THING is that you use the cook and serve variety, and not the instant kind. Almond milk is a bit too thin to work with the instant kind. You’ll want to start with the ratio I mention in my recipe card, and work up from there until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
Can you make Jell-O pudding with soy milk?
If you don’t have soy allergies, you can totally use soy milk and we have several times. As mentioned in the recipe, I prefer rice milk since it doesn’t have an aftertaste like soy milk does. But, because my son can do both rice and soy milk, when we run out of rice milk, I’ll use soy milk in a pinch. THE IMPORTANT THING is that you use the cook and serve variety, and not the instant kind. Soy milk is a bit too thin to work with the instant kind. You’ll want to start with the ratio I mention in my recipe card, and work up from there until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
Do you want other recipes that use dairy free Jell-O pudding?
I’ve used my adapted recipe to make Jell-O pudding dairy free, and then put it into these other favorite recipes:
- Triple chocolate pie –that uses Jell-O pudding as the middle layer to make this no-bake treat a breeze!
- Lemon cream pie bars –see how to make lemon pudding without milk OR eggs!
- Strawberry jello pie–gluten and dairy free!
- Peach pie–uses Jell-O to really bring out the peach flavor, gluten free too!
Dairy Free Jello Pudding (Vegan, Top 8 Free, Too!)
How to make Jell-O brand chocolate pudding, without using dairy or milk!
- Mix together rice milk (or soy, or coconut, or cashew or almond--see post notes) and pudding mix in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and boil for one minute, constantly stirring.
- Pudding may be eaten immediately--be careful, it's hot! Or it can be eaten after being refrigerated. Pudding will set further as it cools.
- If you find it's set too much--especially if you refrigerate it (which rarely happens for us, we usually eat it in one sitting), you can add in 1 Tablespoon of milk alternative at a time to thin it back out to the consistency you prefer.
You'll notice no matter the milk alternative, I start with half of the liquid it calls for on the box since we're not using real milk. (So, you can use this ratio, if you buy a smaller box of Jell-O pudding mix.) It's easier to add in more if it's too thick for your preference, than try to salvage watery pudding.
My favorite milk alternative is rice, as it leaves no after taste, as the other milk alternatives do. But, use what works for your diet.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 69mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 2g
CHECK OUT MY PINTEREST BOARDS FOR OTHER ALLERGY-FRIENDLY IDEAS!
Here are my other top dairy-free posts you might find helpful:
Allergy-Friendly Rice Krispie Treats (Top 8 Free)
What in the World Do Your Kids Eat: Snacks
What in the World Do You Feed Your Kids: CANDY
Do you let it set in the bowl in the refrigerator then pour in the graham cracker pie or pour warm in the pie and then let it cook in the refrigerator? Making it today, thanks for a quick reply!
Hi Sandra, I would think it would be fine either way. Happy baking.
Used this recipe to make gingerbread pudding for Christmas! (Box vanilla and added gingerbread spice before boiling) It came out great! Thank you!
Sounds DELICIOUS. Wow. I’m going to have to try that. Thanks!
Can you use just “lactose free” milk in instant pudding mix. Rather than soy or rice or oat etc.
Hi Cam. Thanks for stopping by. I have never been able to try “lactose free” milk with my cook and serve recipe above. My son has a cow’s milk protein allergy, so lactose free milk would still cause anaphylaxis for him. (Whereas lactose is the sugar in the milk.) My recipe is for cook and serve, and I haven’t been able to test it with the milk you’re referring to, so I can’t say for certain. My suggestion is always to start with less, and then add more and see what it takes to get the consistency you want. Feel free to report back; I’d love to hear. My guess would be it should work fine, since it’s still very similar to actual milk much more than plant alternatives.
I want to make an easy dairy-free chocolate meringue pie. Can I make the Jello chocolate pie with rice milk and then add meringue and bake it?
Hi Vivian. I’ve never baked this pudding before. I would think so, but can’t say for certain. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Thanks so much for this detailed post. I appreciate the comments as well. (Ten years a vegan, but didn’t know that mono- and triglycerides could be derived from body parts, or that carrageenan causes health issues.)
Mono- and tri- glycerides are often derived from mammalian fat, so unless you contacted the manufacturer and they confirmed that the ones they used are derived from plants, it isn’t safe to call this pudding vegan and doing so puts people with alpha-gal allergy at risk.
Sharon, I’m not sure where you’re seeing mono and tri-glycerides, but on my packaging it has listed: “Sugar, cornstarch (dextrose, cocoa [processed with alkali] modified cornstarch, contains less than 2% of natural and artificial flavor, salt, polysorbate 60, calcium carrageenan, fumaric acid.” To be sure, I also called the number on the box (1-800-431-1001) and had them double check that there were no animal sources, and they said it was plant based. Hope that helps. I think you (and many people) get confused because you hear the brand “Jello” so you think all their products have gelatin, but their puddings do not.
I have the instant version that a friend brought over. Just a heads-up, the ingredients do include mono- and tri-glycerides unfortunately. I appreciate it if you can mention that in your post.
My 2 oz box of chocolate does not have those ….
addendum , mine is cook pudding,
She specifically says not to use the instant version, but the cook then serve box.
My daughter is DF GF, due to allergies. She really really wanted banana pudding dessert, the one with the vanilla wafers, so without batting an eye, I bought two boxes of banana instant pudding and used oat milk… Good thing I had her use only one box to start… After an overnight in the fridge it was still almost liquid. Came to your site because she LOVED your vegan pumpkin crumble pie. After reading your post and all the comments, decided to just try adding the second box to what we had already made. IT WORKED!!! 2C. Oat milk and two small boxes of banana instant pudding was perfect.
Yay! I’m so glad to hear that you were able to help her have some banana pudding! Enjoy every bite.
I’m not vegan, but I can’t handle lactose. In addition to my stomach just not being able to handle it, the taste of it just ruined a chocolate and coconut pie I tried to make. (The starch was able to counter the stomach issue, but the taste was a big problem for me.) So this recipe and some of the comments really help in finding alternatives.
So glad it was helpful to you. I’m very lucky to have such helpful readers.
Can I just buy vanilla jello cook and serve pudding and make it the same way? I’ve been eating avacodo mousse as chocolate pudding for the last 4-5 yrs d/t being anti inflammatory gf df sf(sugar free) (100% maple syrup Raw honey only) gerd egg grain free lifestyle.
Hi Becky–yes, this work for any flavor. I’ve done it with vanilla and lemon for these lemon cream pie bars: https://allergyawesomeness.com/gluten-free-vegan-lemon-cream-pie-bars/
Instant Jello pudding will set up with almond milk, you just have to use less of it. I learned this when I put 2 full cups of almond milk mixed with instant pudding mix, and it stayed very liquidy. I added another packet of pudding, and it set up and tasted just fine.
Try putting 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended measurement of almond milk to milk, and it should set up much better.
Hi, I was so excited about your post about making pudding with milk substitutes until I read the ingredient “ carrageenan.” Was in the cook and serve pudding mix. I’m surprised nobody had commented on this. If you aren’t concerned about this ingredient please read up on it. The information you find will, I’m sure change your mind about using it for yourself and especially your children☹️
W.J. McNabb, Ph,D.
I really have do disagree with this comment. Scientific American had a very excellent article examining the evidence. The evidence in favor of carrageenan far outweighs the evidence against it. The anti-argument is based on faulty science, misleading analysis and scare tactics. A good place to start (Sans hysteria) is :https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-carrageenan-controversy/
More discussion is found here:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12389870/
This is from the highly respected National Library of Medicine. The article is titiled;”A critical review of the toxicological effects of carrageenan and processed eucheuma seaweed on the gastrointestinal tract”
WOW! So yummy! Thank you for the detailed information!
You’re so welcome!
I can’t find vanilla rice milk near me but I did find regular rice milk. Can I just add vanilla in? Do you have a suggestion of how much vanilla to add?
Regular rice milk is just fine. I wouldn’t even worry about adding additional vanilla. No biggie!
I made this for my Daughter’s Birthday. She absolutely loved it and so did family members. They all want me to make it again and they are going to give making it themselves a go.
Thank you for a really delicious recipe
Dustin, I so appreciate you sharing that with me. Thanks!
For those whose pudding was fine and then later was very runny when taking out of the fridge, is there a possibility of someone taking a taste or two? Your saliva has an enzyme that breaks down starch. So, if someone took a taste and then stuck the same spoon back in for a second taste, an enzymatic reaction begins. I found this out when my children were sneaking tastes of dessert. ?
Interesting, I’ve never had that happen where it’s broken down, but that’s a good guess. My kids are sneaky too, so I totally have them sneaking things too.
Have you tried making it with oat milk? Thanks!
I haven’t. I imagine it would work–just might have a slight oat after taste. If you try it, please report back!
Hello, normally on the cook and serve boxes, the directions call for 3 cups of milk to be combined with the packet. Are you saying for the rice milk alternative, the milk needs to be lessened at 1 and 1/2 cups only?
Hi Sydney. If you use a 5-oz box, it calls for 3 cups like you said. So yes, I always start with 1 and 1/2 cups. Depending on how thick you like it, you can leave it at that, or thin it with a little additional milk if you like it thinner. Enjoy!
pst… if you cook your instant with a healthy spoon of cornstarch it works the same ?
Soy milk will thicken the instant. Coconut milk will
too but you have to use half the amount. Use only 1 cup vs 2. Soy milk you use the 2 cups and it works. Last I checked not all instant flavors was dairy free but a good
number of them are.
I have 3 boxes of instant pudding and have been trying to cut down on milk – I was thinking that coconut milk might be good since like you said, it’s pretty thick. Have you tried using instant and coconut milk and had good results?
I haven’t tried it. If you do, please report back. 🙂
W.J. McNabb, Ph,D.
Oh, do keep in mind that there is a difference between coconut milk and Coconut cream. The really thick stuff is “cream”. Coconut milk can be easily thinned with 20% almond or other nut milk. (or water. )
Just a thought as it’s girl scout cookie season where I live. Thin Mints are vegan cookies. Combining them with the pudding as prepared above will allow for some awesome desserts. I actually found your post while trying to find recipes for vegan pies I could bring to a pi day party. I’m excited to find that I can now bring both a vegan and a dairy version of a dessert I wanted to make! Thank you
You’re very welcome. Enjoy Pi Day!
Tried with oat milk (Pacific Brand) but it didn’t set up. Any suggestions? My daughter is sensitive to rice. Thanks!
Hi. I’ve never tested it with oat milk. But, I’ve had people have success with soy and almond. Did you heat it long enough? That would be my guess.
Thanks for this suggestion! I tried this but only had a 3.12oz box of My T Fine chocolate pudding. I used the same ratio, so 7.49oz of rice milk, to be precise. 🙂 I followed your instructions and it came out perfectly!
Yay! So glad to hear it still worked for you! 🙂
Can’t wait to try your recipe! I’m not sure if you are still wanting an allergy friendly way to do the instant pudding mix but I’ve had great success using coconut MILK from the cans in the baking aisle. I started the experiment using coconut CREAM but that came out like a ganach alternative (really good as a strawberry dip)….super rich and yummy but not what I was looking for in a pudding. I ended up liking the tast/texture of the coconut milk pudding more than my son with the allergies (dairy, egg, tree nut) did though! I bet the rice milk will be a smoother, more neutral flavor option for my family.
Good to know, Liz. I love coconut cream as well! Enjoy.
hi! was delish – but when i refrigerated it and took it out it was super thin like hershey syrup. any advice?
Hi Nancy! Glad you liked it. I’m glad you mentioned this, as I’ll make it more prominent in the post, but if you find it sets up too much (either from sitting out, or being refrigerated) simply add some more rice milk, one Tablespoon at a time, until it’s back to it’s desired consistency. The cornstarch in the jello mix can sometimes really, REALLY set up.
When I first made it it was perfect…was runny after being refrigerated…wouldn’t adding more rice milk make it even thinner?
Sorry Nancy, I thought you were saying it had thickened. Mine will thicken after being refrigerated. I’ve never had it become thinner. Sorry! My guess would be to try heating it again, but like I said, I’ve never run into this. Best of luck!
FYI The jello pudding cook and serve mixes are not vegan, only the instant pudding mixes.
Hey Teresa! Thanks for the comment. I just pulled a Chocolate Cook & Serve Jello Pudding from my pantry, and here are the ingredients: “sugar, dextrose, cornstarch, cocoa processed with alkali, modified cornstarch, contains less than 2% of Natural & Artificial flavor, salt, polysorbate 60 (prevents scorching), calcium carrageenan (thickener), cumaric acid (for thickening).” I don’t see anything on there that would discount it as vegan. Could you please explain?
The natural flavors can be suspect sometimes, I’m not sure if that’s what s/he was referring to, but mono and dyglycerides that are in your initial ingredients list are often not vegan. They can be sourced from animal or plant fats and it’s tough to say without a comment from the manufacturer or a label that specifically says “vegan.” I was actually just on your page searching if anyone had written whether the ones they use are vegan or not, so let me know if you ever find out! 🙂
I contacted the company and was told the mono/diglycerides used in Jello pudding are plant based.
Thanks for letting us know Nancy!
Brianna @Flippin' Delicious
Way to persevere! It is hard to make things allergy friendly, props to you for sticking with it and figuring out how to make it work. Who doesn’t love some chocolate pudding?
Thanks! Yes, my life is much better with chocolate pudding in it 🙂