Custard is a perfect accompaniment to Christmas pudding – any pudding really – and an essential item for your grocery list in the lead up to Christmas.
At this time of year there's a range of festive flavours to choose from, brandy and rum included, in addition to the standard and premium vanilla custard offerings.
So which custard tastes best? Is low-fat custard worth buying? And which custards should you opt for if you prefer to drizzle rather than dollop?
We review 19 supermarket custards – 13 vanilla and 6 festive flavours – from brands including Pauls, Farmhouse Gold, Foster Clark's and more, to find out which one to dish up with dessert.
This season we're spoilt for choice when it comes to festive custards. In supermarkets we spotted gingerbread, apple pie, rocky road and butterscotch flavoured custard, to name just a few.
Brandy custard is an enduring favourite, however, so our experts blind-tasted six different brandy and other booze-flavoured custards to find the best.
Aldi's Brooklea Brandy Custard won over our judges, scoring a solid 80% overall. It easily beat the highly anticipated (by CHOICE staff at least) Baileys Original Custard, which is also triple the price.
It's worth noting that two of the booze-flavoured custards we tested – the Aldi custard and Pauls Brandy Custard – are alcohol-free (the brandy is just a flavour). If you're after the real deal the others we tested contain between 0.5% and 3% alcohol – or you can try our recipe and make your own.
Aldi Brooklea Brandy Flavoured Custard
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 80%
- Price: $3.49 ($0.35 per 100g)
- Good to know: It's alcohol-free (it's brandy flavoured) and one of the runniest custards we tested.
- Experts say: "Glossy, shiny appearance. Clean mouthfeel. Mild aroma. Reasonable balance of custard and sweet flavours. Subtle booze flavour. A light, pouring texture."
Pauls Vanilla Custard
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 83%
- Price: $4.20 ($0.42 per 100g)
- Good to know: It received the highest score in our taste test.
- Experts say: "A nice glossy cream-coloured appearance. Nice vanilla aroma and custard flavour. Very nice texture. A thinner, pouring-style custard."
Farmhouse Gold Extra Creamy Vanilla Custard
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 81%
- Price: $5.00 ($0.63 per 100g)
- Good to know: It contains cream, has twice as much calcium as most other products and is one of the most expensive of the vanilla custards reviewed.
- Experts say: "A very pale colour, glossy and bright. Light aroma of custard/vanilla essence. Distinctive custard flavour. Good aftertaste."
Woolworths Custard Vanilla Flavour
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 81%
- Price: $1.90 ($0.19 per 100g)
- Good to know: It's one of the cheapest custards we reviewed, and is long life so you can buy it ahead of time and store it in your cupboard.
- Experts say: "Medium yellow colour. Slight, sweet pleasant custard flavour. Weak body and thinner mouthfeel than expected."
Pauls Zymil Lactose Free Vanilla Custard
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 80%
- Price: $5.00 ($0.50 per 100g)
- Good to know: It's lactose-free and one of the runniest products we reviewed. Contains fructose and coconut oil.
- Experts say: "Glossy, nice yellow colour. Slight vanilla aroma. Clean flavour but dominated by sweetness. Thin, pouring custard."
Pauls Low-Fat Vanilla Custard has the lowest fat of the custards reviewed, with just 1g fat per 100g.
The only other product to make an explicit ‘lower fat’ claim is Woolworths 97% Fat Free Custard Vanilla Flavour (it has 2.7g fat per 100g). However, seven other products contain the same or less fat per 100g:
- Pauls Vanilla Custard
- Woolworths Custard Vanilla Flavour (long life)
- Aldi Brooklea Brandy Flavoured Custard
- Zymil (Pauls) Lactose Free Vanilla Custard
- Aldi Brooklea Vanilla Custard
- Pauls Brandy Custard
- Coles Custard Vanilla Flavour
CHOICE tip: It's best to check the nutrition information panel rather than rely wholly on product names and claims when looking for a lower fat product.
Do you like a neat dollop of thick custard on your pud? Or perhaps you prefer a pouring custard that you can gently drizzle?
We used a Bostwick Consistometer to measure the viscosity of all 19 custards, and ranked them in order from runniest to thickest.
Fancy making your own custard? This luscious recipe is from Fiona Mair, CHOICE home economist.
Recipe: Homemade custard
Fiona's homemade custard.
- 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
- 1 litre whole milk
- 8 large free-range egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornflour
- Pour milk into a saucepan, add both the pod and seeds to the milk and bring gently to the boil on a medium heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- In a large mixing bowl, use a hand-mixer to whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until a pale and ribbon-like texture.
- Gradually strain the milk over the egg mixture and stir well.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook gently on a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring continuously. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon, and stays separate when you run your finger down the centre of the spoon.
- Pour custard into a bowl and serve warm or cold.
Makes about 1 litre
Fiona's top tips
- Recipe can be halved for a smaller quantity.
- If you like a thicker custard add another tablespoon of cornflour.
- For a festive flavour, add 60mL brandy once the custard has thickened.
- Custard can be strained again if any lumps occur.
- If the custard starts to split place the bowl over ice cold water to cool it quickly and whisk madly until it comes back together.
- Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days. To prevent it from forming a skin place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface.
- Left over vanilla custard can be made into ice cream.
A selection of the custard products we tested.
We taste tested 19 custard products that are available nationally in major supermarket chains. The 13 vanilla-flavoured and 6 'festive' booze-flavoured (brandy, rum, Bailey's Irish Cream) products were tested separately. Price is based on cartons 1kg or closest bought in Sydney stores (not on special) in November/December 2019.
Our expert judges tasting custard.
Our experts tasted the custard samples 'blind' (without knowing the brands) in a randomised order, which was different for each expert.
Coded custard samples and survey forms.
Experts independently judged all custard products, scoring each sample for flavour and aroma, texture and appearance. The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of taste 90% (50% flavour and aroma, 30% texture and body and 20% appearance and presentation) and nutrition 10% (based on the Health Star Rating, calculated from the details in the nutrition information panel and converted to a percentage).
We recommend custard products with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 80% or more.
L-R Penny Lawson, Petra Sugiarto, Sonia Cousins
Penny Lawson is a self-diagnosed 'curd nerd', with 20 years' experience in the food industry, including dairy judging at RAS produce competitions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the Grand Dairy Awards. She's been at the forefront of the specialty cheese sector as a retailer and commentator, and is a passionate supporter and promoter of Australian producers. You can find her at Penny's Cheese Shop in Potts Point, Sydney. When younger, she used to drink custard straight from the carton (as it was intended to be served).
Petra Sugiarto has an academic background in food science and technology and food microbiology and has been working in the food industry for more than 20 years, in particular the dairy industry in various applications including yoghurt, cheese, ice cream/gelato and dairy desserts. For the past 15 years she's been on the judging panels for the Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA NSW and Vic), Sydney Royal Agricultural Society in the Cheese & Dairy Produce competitions and for the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.
Sonia Cousins has 15 years' experience as a cheesemonger and fine food retailer. She judges regularly at the Sydney Royal and Royal Queensland Cheese & Dairy Product Shows, and Australian Grand Dairy Awards, and has also judged cheese in the UK, Europe and New Zealand. Sonia runs a sideline business called Cheese the Day where she presents cheese appreciation classes for the public, and educational workshops for industry professionals.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.