Christmas Drinking Custard

Like a heady vanilla eggnog (but no raw eggs), drinking custard is a delicious and easy southern Christmas tradition that is perfect with or without alcohol.

I’ve been watching the photographs for years.  Thick liquid custard, dressed up and poured into a mug.  Can you look and not be tempted?  This special drink is known by many names: boiled custard, drinking custard, crème anglaise–and bears a strong resemblance to egg nog.  But in lieu of eggnog’s nutmeg and cinnamon, you get a heady dose of fragrant vanilla–and the eggs aren’t raw!

Christmas Drinking Custard

Christmas Drinking Custard

Sign me up! 

Although most likely of European origin, drinking custard is probably best known in the southern U.S. Here it is a special drink served at Christmas or a soothing and nourishing beverage for someone who is feeling under the weather. 

Drinking custard for Christmas

Drinking custard for Christmas

The recipe is based on one from A Southern Grace, my first introduction to this beverage and the healthiest version I found (e.g. uses whole milk vs part cream).  I added one extra egg yolk to make it divide evenly (on the odd chance I someday want a smaller batch), used vanilla beans instead of extract and simplified the preparation (In full America’s Test Kitchen mode, I did try the original instructions which came out exactly the same as my easier version.)  

And it isn’t at all difficult to make!  Just blend, cook, strain and cool.

Flavor with vanilla bean or vanilla extract

Flavor with vanilla bean or vanilla extract

Rich with egg yolks

Add rich egg yolks, sugar and milk

Cook drinking custard

Cook drinking custard

Strain cooked drinking custard

Strain cooked drinking custard

And the family was just as excited as I was.  My oldest daughter came home for a party this weekend, and in her best starving young person impression, rummaged through the refrigerator.  “How can you not have egg nog?” she said, incensed. 

“Wait until you see what we have instead,” I replied.  After she and my youngest got their first taste of drinking custard, I realized I would probably never make a half batch. 

Drinking Custard Serving

Drinking Custard Serving

There is actually a special reason I started making boiled custard this year.  You see, we are participating in a rarely mentioned holiday ritual: winter break impacted wisdom teeth removal.  Times two kids.  One before Christmas, one after.  Yup, there’s going to be a lot of creamed soup going around.  But also some sweet drinking custard.  A spoonful of sugar, you know!  drinking-custard-pitcher

Of course, just like with eggnog, you can add something a little more potent. So, if the cooking and nursing start to get hard, Mom is going to get her own special Christmas drinking custard. 

Fire up the stove! 

Drinking Custard

Like a heady vanilla eggnog (but no raw eggs), drinking custard is a delicious and easy southern Christmas tradition that is perfect with or without alcohol
Author: Inger
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Beverage
Cuisine Southern
Servings 8
Calories 299 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 quarts whole milk (8 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 2 vanilla beans

Instructions
 

  • In a heavy saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks and sugar. Split vanilla beans, if using, then scrape out seeds. Add seeds and vanilla pod to the saucepan. (If using vanilla extract this will be added later.)
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until custard coats the back of a spoon--about 185 F. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
  • Strain to remove vanilla bits and any thickened egg, then refrigerate until cool.
  • Serve with or without a shot of alcohol.

Nutrition

Calories: 299kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 11gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 223mgSodium: 99mgPotassium: 376mgSugar: 37gVitamin A: 643IUCalcium: 315mgIron: 1mg
I am not a health professional and nutrition data is calculated programatically. Accuracy may vary with product selection, calculator accuracy, etc. Consult a professional for the best information.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

66 thoughts on “Christmas Drinking Custard

  1. Anita

    My mother, from Kentucky, made a version of this “Liquid Custard,” yearly. Her variation was a little flour stirred in with egg yolk, sugar mixture, and then cooked with milk. One egg to one cup of milk. She used both vanilla and used orange peels from 1-2 oranges in the cooked milk. She whipped the leftover egg whites and whipped them in once the hot mixture was ready. I had a large family, she made a gallon of this liquid lusciousness, and we drank it in small punch cups with never a drop left!

    1. Inger Post author

      What a lovely memory Anita! Thank you for sharing! I love hearing all the family variations in classic recipes!

    2. Claire Wood

      #OldKentuckyWoman here I grew up on boiled custard; every refrigerator in my little town would have at least one quart of custard. Traditionally we served it with coconut cake and ambrosia (our ambrosia was fresh fruit and coconut, no marshmallows, whipped cream or mayo! Tangerines or mandarin oranges, grapefruit, bananas, pineapple chunks, & regular oranges all cut up and sprinkled with a small amount of sugar.) DIVINE.

      And yes, the ‘flavoring’ was essential. LOL my tee-totaling Baptist old lady relatives just had to have that little bit of “flavoring” (which of course was Ky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)

      I am going to whip up a batch here in Texas to take to a friend who is getting a coconut cake from us. In keeping with tradition it will be in a quart jar. It will be fun to get his response

  2. Angela

    I have a daughter who can only get her medication down by drinking Southern Comfort’s Vanilla Spice Eggnog. We can only find it around Christmas time. I’m going to make some of this to see if she can keep her medication down with this…because the rest of the year is a trial with her meds.

    1. Inger Post author

      I hope this works for you. If you need to adjust the thickness you can add or subtract eggs. You could actually stir in some spices too if that helps. Best of luck.

    2. Chase

      It is a violation of Southern sensibility to consume this drink without bourbon (preferably a jiggerful of sourmash). Such warms the heart on holidays.

  3. Debbie Barker

    I just made this. It was irresistible so I had to taste it while still warm and it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing this recipe. Custard style eggnog can be hard to find at the grocery. I will always make it from scratch from now on!

      1. Claire Wood

        #OldKentuckyWoman here I grew up on boiled custard; every refrigerator in my little town would have at least one quart of custard. Traditionally we served it with coconut cake and ambrosia (our ambrosia was fresh fruit and coconut, no marshmallows, whipped cream or mayo! Tangerines or mandarin oranges, grapefruit, bananas, pineapple chunks, & regular oranges all cut up and sprinkled with a small amount of sugar.) DIVINE.

        And yes, the ‘flavoring’ was essential. LOL my tee-totaling Baptist old lady relatives just had to have that little bit of “flavoring” (which of course was Ky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)

        I am going to whip up a batch here in Texas to take to a friend who is getting a coconut cake from us. In keeping with tradition it will be in a quart jar. It will be fun to get his response

        1. Inger Post author

          Sorry for the late approval, this went to spam.

          I love the old lady relatives adding “flavoring.” I think my grandmother was one of those! I just put some of my latest boiled custard in a quart jar to share with my oldest even before reading this. Thanks for sharing!

  4. E Jan Fetters

    My Grandmother would make an angel food cake which uses egg whites only then she would use the yolks to make custard. Two of my favorite childhood memories.

    1. Inger Post author

      What a nice reminiscence! I love childhood food memories! Not sure if I mention it in this post, but I freeze the egg whites when I make this–and sometimes make angel food cake when I have enough!

    2. Claire Wood

      also a regular white layer cake will use those egg whites up.
      Or divinity candy
      or meringue for any use.

  5. Rosemary Paul

    I hope we can drink it cold? I try to serve for my warm beverage, a mulled wine with a lightly Spiced apple juice w/those cinnamon candies you decorate cakes with turns the juice a bit pink/red) for the kids. I call it Rudy’s Rosy Nosey. Cold Egg Nog served with or without rum or cognac gets boring.
    I’d like to try the custard this year…if I can refrigerate it.

    1. Inger Post author

      Yes, this is a cold beverage–and it works with or without added alcohol. I think it would be great alongside your mulled wine! If you make it I’d love to hear what you think!

  6. Janice Baker

    I grew up in the country in south Georgia. Everyone made Boiled Custard and during the holidays we also had Eggnog. Children and our Baptist friends did not have theirs spiked. Later my dad was transferred to a town about 60 miles away. M friend of my moms was our local Custard aficionado. Hers was the best ever. Sadly I never asked for her recipe. If anyone was sick or recovering from anything from surgery to a broken heart you could count on her to bring you a quart of cold Boiled Custard. Ahhh, such sweet memories.

    1. Inger Post author

      What a kind friend and great memories. I love when a food can bring back the past. Good luck finding a boiled custard like you remember. If you try mine I’d love to know how it compares if you get the chance

    2. Claire Wood

      You need to read “Being Dead Is No Excuse” which is about food traditions surrounding funerals in the South. It is hilarious, contains some great recipes and will make you smile remembering your family friends.

  7. Alice Tisthammer

    I moved to Tennessee from Florida this past November and found this (Holiday Custard), as you said, in Walmart. Curiosity made me buy it, and now I’m hooked! I love eggnog, but think I love this even more!!

    I sometimes have stomach problems, and eggy foods/drinks soothe it almost immediately. I’ll be making this throughout the year! Thank you for publishing the recipe!!

    1. Inger Post author

      Isn’t it wonderful! I usually just have it around the holidays, but maybe I need to rethink that!

    2. Claire Wood

      Storebought egg nog and custard are mediocre at best. Make this easy stuff yourself and you will enter a whole new world. This is a really easy recipe too

  8. Deborah Taylor

    My granny made this every year for Christmas, delicious. Now my aunt and family count on me making it including using Splenda for the diabetics in our family. This is very time consuming but worth it.

    1. Inger Post author

      I am so glad this worked for you Deborah! I tried it myself with an erythritol/monkfruit sweetener when I did the keto diet and thought it was delicious that way too!

  9. Elizabeth

    I came to this site because my daughter just had her impacted wisdom teeth removed! Not a very fun way for her to spend Christmas break. My mother made her a boiled custard almost just like this one (my grandmother’s recipe) but it didn’t set. After a night in the fridge, it’s still completely liquid. I hoping to find a way to salvage it. Maybe bread pudding?

    1. Inger Post author

      The custard is supposed to stay liquid so that you can drink it, just thicker than the milk alone. If it is still completely thin like milk, you may not have gotten it hot enough to set the egg. You could still drink it thinner, though the FDA would say if it didn’t get hot enough it is more likely to be unsafe (though I think the odds are small–how many times have we all eaten raw cookie dough with egg). You could also try heating it again until it’s thicker–beat in an additional couple egg yolks, or even a whole egg first, if you’d like. If you have an instant read thermometer that is helpful since you can test that it gets to 180-185. I always get nervous it’s going to boil on me and curdle the eggs and that’s when I know it’s hot enough.

      If you would prefer more of a baked custard, I do have a recipe for creme caramel which would be a wonderful wisdom teeth recovery treat as well at https://artofnaturalliving.com/2018/03/22/you-can-make-creme-caramel-a-giveaway/

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your daughter!

    2. Claire Wood

      It is supposed to be drinkable. To make it more like pudding, just cook it longer . You can dissolve some cornstarch in the could milk to help out with that.

  10. Danny Moore

    You did not list how long the boiling time is. Seems like it is taking forever to thicken.

    1. Inger Post author

      I am thinking about 15 minutes Danny. I’ll try making it again to double check and update the recipe. I know it seems not to thicken much at first, then it changes pretty quickly. Also it will thicken a bit more as it cools. If you have an instant read or candy thermometer that is helpful too. I hope this helps and thanks for the update suggestion.

    2. Claire Wood

      do not boil it. Cook on a medium heat. Also you can make a “double boiler” by placing your pan into a skillet with about an inch of water in it. Keeps it from sticking.

  11. Kathy McIntyre

    I believe my grandma made this when we were very young. And she sprinkled raisins into the cup as well. My cousin remembers grandma whipping the egg whites up and dropping a dollop or two onto the top with a sprinkle of cinnamon as well.

  12. Vickie

    Just before I also remember, the color was yellow. And also it was tinted not tended. Sorry…

  13. Vickie

    Another note, I failed to mention, she made meringue cookies out of the egg whites and they were served with the custard … hence no waste.

    I believe the only ingredients in them were stiffly beaten egg whites, sugar, and vanilla. They were baked and when they came out of the oven she sprinkled various colors on them. Some were red, some were green, some were blue, and some were. I also remember that sometimes she tended the egg whites with a couple drops of food coloring added into the vanilla.

    1. CLAIRE WOOD

      Here’s how it went at our house:
      1. Make German’s Chocolate Cake. that decadent frosting uses egg yolks
      2. Make white cake for coconut cake which uses those egg whites
      3. Make custard. save THOSE egg whites to make divinity candy and/or frosting for the coconut cake. (the frosting is made of whipped egg whites, with a hot simple sugar syrup poured in while the mixer is running on HIGH!) If you overbeat it you end up with divinity anyway.

  14. Vickie

    65 years ago my grandmother used to make this. It was made several times between Halloween and Christmas. It was a favorite among all of my cousins and siblings. It was a great tradition she had at her house and I have many many fond memories of that. I have been looking for this recipe for many years, and this is the recipe she used to use. Thank you so much for sharing and allowing me to find this. Be blessed.

  15. Sharon

    I always remember my mother making boiled custard when I was a young kid. Now as I am a mother and had my kids try store bought boiled custard knowing it’s not the same as homemade and the holidays have came to a end one of my twin boys is in love with boiled custard so I am going to try this recipe out and see what he thinks. Thank you so very much for the recipe. I will try to let you know how it turns out after surprising him.

    1. Inger Post author

      I’d love to hear what you think Sharon! I think it’s so much fun introducing a new generation to things we remember!

  16. Barbara May

    This recipe has been handed down from my great-grandma and I am now a great-grandma. My kids – all now grown – generally like this better than eggnog (I don’t like nutmeg). Grandma always used a double boiler (a large pan over water in a canning kettle). I have tasted eggnog just once and didn’t enjoy it, but I certainly have always loved drinking custard. This year I will be using a combination of almond and coconut milks and now I won’t have to worry about my reactions to chemically treated dairy products. We have never added alcohol as we are not drinkers. Thank you for memory lane.

    1. Inger Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the article Barbara May! Once in awhile I will find a commercial eggnog that doesn’t have nutmeg, but not often. My kids laugh at me for not liking nutmeg, and now I can tell them I’m not alone! Thanks for commenting!

  17. Fred

    If you grew up in Jackson TN, you would have had this every Christmas (Walmart now carries it as early as Halloween. If you were diagnosed with type 2 this year, you would be going through your first Christmas without boiled custard. Does anyone have a good recipe using almond milk and swerve?

    1. Inger Post author

      My condolences Fred. Traditions help make holidays special! I would suggest that you try my recipe substituting almond milk for the dairy milk. The swerve website says you can use it in cooking just like sugar, so that should be easy–or it might also work to add it to taste at the end, while the custard is still hot enough for it to dissolve. If it seems to need some extra thickening you can use an additional egg yolk (or a whole egg in place of one of the egg yolks). Good luck–I believe this is possible with some experimentation! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas.

    2. Carla

      I grew up in Union City TN & had boiled custard every Christmas. Most places only have eggnog which is not the same. Floridians & other places I’ve lived have never heard of it either.

      1. Inger Post author

        I have had eggnog for ages, Carla, but now I prefer the boiled custard. It isn’t very common in Wisconsin, so I’m glad I was following a southern blogger!

  18. Pingback: Hot drinking custard recipe – Kriya Gangiah

    1. Inger Post author

      Sorry to be replying so late–just saw this. But yes, you should be able to use an egg substitute. That should thicken it similarly to an egg, though it would be a little less rich.

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks Thao! The first one had her pre-appointment yesterday and the oral surgeon was very reassuring. That was good for her to hear after all the scary stories her friends were telling!

  19. grace

    this is our holiday treat every year! SO rich and delicious. the touch of vanilla beans makes it extra special and lovely, and your glasses are cool!

    1. Inger Post author

      The glasses were a second hand store find–wasn’t that lucky! Thank you so much for introducing me to this!

  20. Lynn

    This looks good! I always find Eggnog too ‘nutmegy’ – I’m glad to learn there is an alternative, similar style drink.

    I hope both your daughters have speedy recoveries from their wisdom teeth removal!

    1. Inger Post author

      Your kids would probably like this too Lynn–I may even try reducing the sugar a smidge to make it a little healthier! And thanks for the good wishes on the recovery!

  21. Beth

    If I’d had some of this when I was recuperating from my own wisdom teeth surgery, I might have been a little less unhappy! Sounds like it was a big hit in your house.

    1. Inger Post author

      Yes, I remember gumming Chinese takeout after mine. I am now on a quest to use up egg whites!

      1. Solomon

        Use the Egg whites to mix in with fried rice, or you can make an eggwhite omelet. There is also a different type of egg nog made with eggwhite and sugar and brandy or rum. Not as good, but when you are stuck with family and need to get drunk to get through the holidays, it’ll do.

        1. Inger Post author

          Some good ideas for the egg whites, Solomon! Thanks for commenting and enjoy your holidays!

        2. CLAIRE WOOD

          Use extra egg whites for:

          Divinity candy, Italian or Swiss meringue frosting, pure white cake, angel food cake, meringue cookies, combine with whole eggs and make your own Egg Beaters.

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