Dairy Products

A baking tray full of freshly baked custard tarts


Custard is a great snack or dessert for the whole family. Not only does custard taste great, but it’s packed with the goodness of milk including calcium and protein.

Traditional custard mixture is thickened by either starch or egg proteins. The consistency of custard will depend on the quantity of eggs or starch, the type of milk or cream and the cooking method.

Types of custard


Generally based on milk solids and starch, there are three main varieties of refrigerated custard: premium, regular and low-fat. Rich and creamy, premium custard has a fat content of approximately 6%, regular custard is 1–3% fat and low-fat custard has a fat content of 0–1%. 


Made from full-fat milk (around 90%), sugar, thickener, flavourings, vegetable gum and colours. Long-life custard is convenient as it can be stored at ambient temperatures for long periods (always check the use-by date). After opening, the custard should be refrigerated and consumed within two to three days.


Popular either as a savoury custard such as in quiche, with its numerous choices of fillings, or as a sweet custard such as in créme caramel or bread and butter pudding.

Baked custards are usually cooked in a ‘bain marie’ or water bath. A water bath helps slow the transfer of the heat from the oven to the custard mixture and helps prevent curdling.


Usually sweet, stirred custards are either cooked on the stovetop or in a double boiler (bowl over a saucepan of boiling water). The custard is then stirred until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Great care needs to be taken to ensure the mixture does not overheat, causing a curdled appearance. 

Powdered custard

Made from maize and wheat starches, sugar, salt, flavours and colours, powdered custard is combined with sugar and milk and stirred over heat until thickened. Unlike egg custards that thicken from the coagulation of egg proteins, powdered custard thickens as the starch particles expand when moistened and heated. 

Egg custard (Creme Anglaise)

Usually consists of 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. If more eggs are added (usually just the yolks) or if cream is substituted for the milk, the custard will become thicker and richer.

Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere)

Pastry cream is made from eggs, sugar, milk and flour. The quantities vary depending on whether it’s being used as a filling for tarts, flans or éclairs. Adding flour to the custard gives it a firmer consistency and prevents curdling.

Making custard

While there are a variety of ready-made custards available, it is easy to make custard at home and the ingredients probably already in your pantry or fridge! The basic ingredients you'll need to get started on your homemade custard are:

  • Milk or fresh pouring cream
  • Eggs (just the yolks)
  • Sugar

Now you're all set, watch the How to video demonstration by the team in The Dairy Kitchen.

Nutrition Information

Proximate nutrient content of some Australian custards

Type per 100 g
Standard Vanilla
Premium Vanilla

Source: NUTTAB 2010 – Australian Food Composition Tables: Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra

For more information on the health and nutrition benefits of dairy foods visit our Health pages.

Using custard

Custard made with custard powder or starch is a luscious, yet low-in-fat treat when made with low-fat milk.

Serve stirred custard over fruit, dessert or pudding.

No trifle is complete without a creamy layer of custard. Try using flavoured milk, such as chocolate, in your favourite baked custard or heat the milk with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or a split vanilla pod before using in a recipe.

For added variety, swirl crunchy crushed praline, finely chopped, strong espresso coffee or fruit into thick custard. Flavour pastry cream with various liqueurs such as hazelnut, coffee, chocolate and peppermint or fold through finely chopped nuts or dried fruits for a delicious bite.

Great to include in these recipes from The Dairy Kitchen: