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How Long Does Pudding Last? – The Ultimate Guide

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Who doesn’t enjoy a delicious creamy bite of pudding?! Whether you are using instant pudding sachets or trying your hand at making pudding from scratch, there is no such thing as bad pudding. 

But unfortunately, like all ingredients and desserts, pudding doesn’t last forever, despite looking like it does.

So, how long does pudding last? Instant pudding powder, when unopened and stored properly, can keep up to 3-4 weeks after the best by date. Once the pudding has been made, regardless of whether it is instant or homemade, the shelf life decreases dramatically to roughly 5-7 days in the fridge and only 1 day on a counter.

Today, will we look at everything you need to know about pudding! We will discuss what it is, why it expires, the different expiry dates, how to extend the shelf life, and much, much more!

What Is Pudding?

Before we even start discussing the different shelf lives of different puddings, let’s first look at what pudding is.

Different countries and areas around the world have different definitions of what pudding is. The extremely broad definition of the pudding is a cooked or steamed, sweet or savory dish—as you can see, that doesn’t help define it.

Originally pudding referred to only savory dishes like black blood pudding or haggis. Today, the term is mostly used to describe sweet dishes with a few exceptions here and there.

In many European countries, they usually specify when a pudding is savory. Popular savory puddings include Yorkshire pudding, suet pudding, or steak and kidney pudding.

Some extremely popular sweet puddings include treacle sponge pudding, bread and butter pudding, or rice pudding.

In the United States and most parts of Canada, the term “pudding” refers to either a sweet custard-based dessert, many different types of instant puddings, or a type of mousse. These are the types of puddings we will be discussing today.

In many Commonwealth countries, egg-thickened puddings are also known as custards or curds. If the pudding has been starch-thickened, they are called blancmange, and if they are gelatin-thickened they are called jellies.

Ingredients In Puddings

So, just to recap, we will be discussing the custard-based desserts that are also referred to as blancmange, jellies, or custards.

It is important to understand the ingredients you have in puddings. This way it will be easier to determine the shelf life.

For example, eggs have a shorter shelf life than sugar. So if you have puddings without eggs (or a type of egg substitute) they might last longer.

The same goes for commercial-type puddings or instant puddings – these contain stabilizers that will drastically increase the shelf life compared to freshly homemade puddings.

So, let’s get to it!

Homemade Pudding Ingredients

The basic ingredients that you will almost always find in puddings include sugar, milk, or cream, and a thickening agent such as corn starch, eggs, tapioca, or gelatin.

Very often, if not always, a flavoring is added; something like an essence or an extract. You will also see some puddings are made using fruit purees, but these aren’t as common and difficult to make.

The most common flavorings you will find include vanilla, chocolate, banana, and strawberry. Other popular flavors are caramel or a citrus-based flavor.

Homemade puddings don’t contain any commercial stabilizers. 

There are two methods that are used to create these homemade custard puddings.

The first is by simmering and essentially thickening the mixture over a double boiler on top of the stove. The second method used involves baking the base in a bain-marie inside the oven. 

Instant Pudding Ingredients

Instant pudding, or at least from what we have seen, is the more popular and common form of pudding you can find. This is because it is extremely easy to make and saves you a ton of time.

Usually, all you have to do is combine the powder sachet with milk, mix the two together, and chill in the fridge.

These puddings consist of sugar, flavoring agents, and thickeners – a lot of them! The thickener is the key ingredient in instant puddings, as they have to set very quickly.

The most common thickener used for instant pudding is gelatinized starch. This type of starch forms a gel when it is combined with a liquid such as milk. Sometimes gums like alginate are included to help the thickening process.

For most varieties of instant pudding, food colorings are added as well as artificial flavorings (in a powdered form). For chocolate pudding usually, cocoa powder is added for the chocolate flavor and color instead of artificial ones.

What Affects The Shelf Life?

So, now that we have looked at the different types of puddings and what their ingredients are, let’s have a look at what affects the shelf life of these puddings.


First of all, naturally, homemade or freshly made puddings won’t have the same shelf life as instant pudding powder. This is because homemade pudding uses fresh ingredients like milk or cream, and most often eggs.

These are highly perishable ingredients and once they have been cooked, their shelf life decreased even further.

When looking at the ingredients used in instant pudding, the dried powder form has a very long shelf life. This is because it has an extremely low moisture content, and as you may already know, moisture causes ingredients to spoil.

So, this also means that once the pudding powder has been mixed with milk or cream (all highly perishable ingredients) the shelf life instantly decreases.

Preparation Method

As we have already mentioned, homemade puddings usually use heat to help thicken the mixture, whereas instant pudding doesn’t require any heat.

However, the differences in preparation methods don’t affect the shelf life of the pudding.

Although the perishable ingredients’ do perish quicker once cooked, this doesn’t have a significant effect on the shelf life compared to other factors.

Storage Method

The storage method you use has the biggest effect on the shelf life of your puddings, regardless of whether they are made fresh or instant pudding.

The main factors that affect the shelf life (in terms of storage) include a food source, moisture, temperature, and oxygen.

Bacteria and mold need only one of these elements to thrive. The food source for bacteria is the sugar inside the pudding, and all puddings contain sugar. Sugar provides them with energy and nutrients.

Next, we look at moisture. You need to reduce the amount of moisture that your pudding is exposed to. There are a couple of ways you can do this which we will discuss in more detail later.

Then we have temperature. So temperature ranges from extremely hot, room temperature, fridge temperature, and then finally freezing temperatures.

There is a temperature danger zone in which bacteria thrive. It ranges between roughly 46.5-140°F. Below this temperature the bacteria becomes inhibited by the cold, and above they are killed.

Lastly, we have oxygen. Because bacteria and mold are living organisms, like us they need oxygen to survive. Remove the oxygen and they will die, or at least their multiplication will slow down.

So, How Long Does Pudding Last?

Now, finally, after looking at every element that could possibly affect the shelf life and why, let’s see how long pudding lasts.

At Room Temperature

Room temperature is considered to be between 68-72°F. This is usually the average temperature of the room, or when storing food items in a cupboard, or on a counter.

You can and should store instant pudding powder at room temperature, either on a counter or in a cupboard.

This is because fridges and freezers have high moisture percentages. If you can remember, the thickening agents used in most instant puddings only require a drop of moisture to start forming a gel, thus reducing the shelf life.

When stored in a pantry or counter in the ultimate conditions, your dry unopened instant pudding can last almost 3-4 weeks past the best by date.

This best-by date can be anywhere between 9-18 months after the manufacturing date.

For instant pudding that has been made and set, it will only last about a day on a counter or in a pantry. This is because milk is highly perishable and is exposed to the temperature danger zone, oxygen, and moisture that build up.

The same goes for homemade pudding at room temperature, although to be completely honest, we wouldn’t even risk storing it at room temperature for one day, especially if you used eggs as a thickening agent!

Cooked eggs are extremely dangerous if left at room temperature. Then combined with the cream or milk used, and the fact that there aren’t any commercial stabilizers or preservatives added—no thank you!

In The Refrigerator

You can also store dry instant pudding in the refrigerator as long as the packet remains unopened.

We have already explained the whole instant pudding gelling scenario, so if you introduce any moisture inside that packet, the texture of the powder will change.

Always store only closed instant pudding packets in the fridge, or make sure to tightly wrap the opened packet. They should last roughly 3-4 weeks in the fridge if stored properly.

As for made instant pudding as well as homemade instant pudding, both contain perishable products (like milk or cream and eggs) so the best place to store them is in the refrigerator. 

A fridge should be at or below 40°F. At this temperature, bacteria and mold cannot grow or at the very least, grow very slow. Changes are that the ingredients will deteriorate before you see any signs of the mold.

A fridge also helps protect the pudding from any light (and thus heat) that could cause condensation, which adds more moisture and makes the pudding more vulnerable.

When storing made instant pudding or homemade pudding in the refrigerator it will last between 4-7 days.

Specifically looking at homemade puddings; when there are eggs involved in the recipe, the shelf life will automatically be shortened as eggs have a shorter shelf life than milk.

In The Freezer

We have never heard of anybody freezing instant pudding powder—it’s kind of like freezing canned goods.

A bit pointless considering it already has a very long shelf life. However, we don’t see why you can’t freeze the powder, but again, as long as the package remains unopened.

A freezer still has moisture inside and can trigger the thickeners in the powder and start forming a gel.

For extra protection, store the unopened packet inside an airtight container. It should last anywhere between 3-4 weeks past the best by date.

In terms of made pudding, we wouldn’t recommend freezing it—you can, but it isn’t recommended. Have you ever had a year-old-thawed-custard? It isn’t fun let us tell you that!

Freezing changes the molecular structure of foods and ingredients. When thawed, that structure changes again and not always for the good.

There are many articles on how to properly defrost or thaw pudding, but it will never be as delicious as freshly made ones.

Frozen pudding (regardless of it being instant or homemade) will still be relatively good for up to two weeks. Many people claim theirs are fine for up to 6 weeks, but again, from personal experience, we wouldn’t recommend it.

Instant Pudding Powder (Unopened)3-4 weeks past best by date3-4 weeks past the best by date (only if unopened)3-4 weeks past the best by date (only if unopened)
Instant Pudding Powder (Made)1 Day4-7 days2 weeks
Homemade Pudding1 Day (but we wouldn't risk it)4-7 days2 weeks

Shelf Life Of Different Flavored Puddings

With instant pudding, the flavor is added with either an artificial flavoring powder or in the form of cocoa powder for chocolate-flavored pudding. 

Because all the flavorings are essentially the same and have a very low moisture content, their shelf life is pretty much the same amount of time regardless of whether or not they have been made.

However, when it comes to homemade pudding, the flavorings used might affect the shelf life.

If you are using artificial flavorings like essences and extracts, all the flavors will have the same shelf life. Even cocoa powder won’t necessarily have a longer or shorter shelf life compared to them.

However, if you are using fruit purees to help add flavor, they will have a much shorter shelf life compared to the extracts.

Pudding TypeShelf Life (in the refrigerator)
Instant Dry Pudding (Unopened) – all flavors3-4 weeks after best by date
Instant Dry Pudding (Made) – all flavors5-7 days
Homemade pudding – made with essence or extract5-7 days
Homemade pudding – chocolate made with cocoa powder5-7 days
Homemade pudding – made with fruit puree3-4 days

How To Tell If Pudding Has Gone Bad

Even though we have provided a general guideline for pudding shelf life, it is still important to know what the signs are for spoilt pudding. This will enable you to prevent getting food poisoning.

Your senses are the most reliable tool you can use to tell if something has gone off.

Looking at instant pudding powder first, always check the expiry date first. Remember, the powder should still be fine roughly 3-4 weeks after this date; however, better to be safe than sorry if you are unsure.

If the texture of the powder has changed in any way, for example, if it has a crumbly or coarse appearance, moisture has entered the package and bacteria has started growing.

When looking at the prepared pudding, regardless of it being from instant pudding powder or homemade, there are a bunch of very obvious signs.

When looking at the pudding itself or even the texture of it, once you see liquid floating around in your ramekin or container, it means that the bonds between the ingredients have deteriorated.

This only happens once the pudding is past its due date, so rather don’t risk it.

Another visible sign of bad pudding is mold growing on its surface. Remember, mold thrives on sugar, so once it begins showing it is already too late.

In less than 24 hours your pudding can go from a spot of mold to being completely covered in it!

You can also sometimes smell that your pudding has gone bad, especially those homemade ones that have fruit puree in them. You will smell an almost acidic, sour odor.

Then of course the taste, but please don’t taste pudding that already visibly looks off. You will have a very rancid, acidic, tart, and bitter taste because of the dairy that has gone off.

How To Extend The Shelf Life Of Pudding

The only way to extend the shelf life of pudding is by proper storage techniques. The time frames we have provided are best-case scenarios under the best-case storage conditions. Anything less than perfect will affect the shelf life.

Instant pudding powder should be kept in a cupboard or in the pantry away from any sunlight. Sunlight will create heat to build up inside the packet, create moisture that condenses and ultimately affects the powder.

For made pudding, place a sheet of plastic or saran wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. This will reduce the amount of oxygen the pudding comes into contact with, as well as prevent the top from drying out.

Then, wrap the entire container with plastic wrap to prevent any elements from contaminating the pudding. You can also store the pudding in an airtight container. Keep the pudding inside a refrigerator with stable temperatures.

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