Recipe By Chef John
Published Dec 7th
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
Prep 10m Cook 20m Additional 2h Ready In 2h 30m
Servings 3 cups Calories 120.1

The key to a great pastry cream is using the minimum of starch. You need enough so the cream holds a shape, but not so much it interferes with the flavor. This version uses cornstarch; just be careful not to keep cooking it once it has thickened. This is perfect in Napoleons, pies, tarts, or cakes.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 large whole egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

Cooking Directions

  1. 1 Place whole egg and 2 egg yolks into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, corn starch, and salt. Whisk together completely until mixture turns from yellow to a very page creamy color and is slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. 2 Place milk in a saucepan. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the cut side with a paring knife to extract the seeds (paste). Add the seeds to the milk. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until milk just barely starts to simmer and a few small bubbles appear on the surface. Remove from heat. Whisk hot milk into egg mixture, starting with a small splash then incorporating the rest. Pour mixture back into saucepan.
  3. 3 Place pan over medium-low heat and continue to whisk until mixture begin to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool 5 minutes. Add chunks of butter and whisk until butter melts into the warm milk mixture. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove and chunks of cooked egg or vanilla seeds. Cover surface with plastic to keep it from discoloring; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled 2 to 3 hours.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories 120.1
  • Carbohydrate 13.9 g
  • Cholesterol 63.9 mg
  • Fat 6.3 g
  • Protein 2.3 g
  • Saturated Fat 3.6 g
  • Sodium 210.9 mg
  • Sugar 11.4 g

Chef's Notes

Tip: Save the scraped pods, and stick them in your sugar container for lovely, vanilla-scented sugar!; To use this cream as Napoleon filling, here's Chef John's recipe for Mille Feuille, or Napoleon Pastry Sheets; To use it in cream puffs, you can lighten it by folding in whipped cream. Whip about 3/4 cup of heavy cream until medium peaks form. Fold it into cooled pastry cream. Get the recipe for Cream Puff "Crack Buns" (Choux au Craquelin).


  1. I followed the recipe exactly. The 1 teaspoon of kosher salt was way too much. Half a teaspoon would have been plenty. If I make it again I will also add a few drops of vanilla for a bit more flavor.
  2. IN REGARDS TO SALT AND BUTTER: This recipe uses *COARSE* salt and *UNSALTED* butter, meaning you should use 1/4 TSP REGULAR TABLE/FINE SALT if you don't have coarse salt and make sure to NOT use salted butter. If you only have salted butter, then use even less salt!! Very delicious! I was extremely skeptical of - Read more ...
  3. Way too much salt. Next time I'll try 1/4 tsp.
  4. Chef John is the best. Let's just get that right out of the way. But unfortunately 1 tsp kosher salt in this recipe completely destroys the pastry cream. 1/2 tsp at the very most, perhaps even less.
  5. I only did a pinch of salt BUT this turned out really well. I ended up whisking step 1 much longer than it states. It was easy enough to make too, just show no fear like Chef John says!
  6. I followed exactly but I, too, felt it's too salty. I will no doubt make it again but reduce the salt.
  7. First time making pastry cream and it was delicious! I chose this recipe because the instructions were clearest and easiest to follow. If you don't have all the ingredients on hand, substitutions are fine since that's the situation I found myself in. I don't carry kosher salt at home and only table salt; used 1/4 - Read more ...
  8. This recipe really is easier than others. To anyone who is not a big fan of stirring for what seems like an eternity over a hot stove, this recipe is for you. It comes together literally in just a few minutes. I plan to make this again and again. Thanks.
  9. I don't know what I did wrong. Are you sure the recipe needs one whole teaspoon of kosher salt? I followed the recipe EXACTLY with fresh ingredients and it seems too salty.