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Pudding vs. Dessert: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 26, 2024
Pudding is a specific type of sweet dish, often steamed or boiled, while dessert refers broadly to any sweet course eaten after a meal.

Key Differences

Pudding is traditionally a sweet dish with a specific method of preparation, such as steaming or boiling. It can be both a savory or sweet dish. Dessert, on the other hand, is a general term for any sweet course that concludes a meal, encompassing a wide range of items like cakes, pies, and ice cream.
The term pudding often implies a specific texture and consistency, usually soft and thick. Desserts, however, vary greatly in texture, from the creaminess of a mousse to the crunch of a biscuit.
Historically, puddings were often seen as hearty, home-cooked dishes, essential in traditional British cuisine. Desserts, by contrast, can be either simple, homemade treats or elaborate, professionally prepared creations.
In some regions, the word pudding has evolved to include a variety of dessert types, sometimes used interchangeably with the term dessert. However, in a traditional context, pudding represents a distinct category within the broader spectrum of desserts.
Cultural perceptions also differ; in North America, pudding typically refers to a creamy, custard-like dessert, whereas in the UK, it can denote a wide range of sweet and savory dishes, including the classic Christmas pudding.

Comparison Chart


A sweet or savory dish, often steamed/boiled
Any sweet course consumed after a meal


Generally soft and thick
Varies widely

Cultural Context

Hearty, traditional dish in British cuisine
Broad spectrum, from simple to elaborate


More limited scope, specific preparation
Encompasses a wide range of sweet dishes

Regional Differences

Creamy dessert in North America, broader in UK
Universally understood as final sweet course

Pudding and Dessert Definitions


A creamy, custard-like dessert.
For dessert, we had a rich, vanilla pudding.


A sweet course eaten at the end of a meal.
We had ice cream for dessert last night.


A confection made with milk, sugar, and a thickening agent.
Chocolate pudding is my favorite comfort food.


Often a baked or chilled confection.
She baked an apple pie for dessert.


A steamed or boiled dish, sweet or savory.
She prepared a savory bread pudding with cheese and herbs.


Can include cakes, pastries, or fruit.
For dessert, there's a choice of cheesecake or fresh fruit.


In British cuisine, a general term for dessert.
We'll have pudding after the roast, maybe some trifle.


A term encompassing a wide range of sweet treats.
The dessert menu featured everything from sorbet to chocolate cake.


A dense, moist dessert, often spiced.
Christmas isn't complete without a traditional plum pudding.


A course that contrasts with the savory main dish.
After the spicy curry, the mango dessert was a sweet relief.


A sweet, soft dessert, often with a base of milk or cream thickened by flour, cornstarch, or a cereal product, that has been boiled, steamed, or baked
Chocolate pudding.
Rice pudding.


A usually sweet course or dish, as of fruit, ice cream, or pastry, served at the end of a meal.


Chiefly British Fresh fruit, nuts, or sweetmeats served after the sweet course of a dinner.


The last course of a meal, consisting of fruit, sweet confections etc.
I ordered hummus for a starter, a steak as the main course, and chocolate cake for dessert.
Can I see the dessert menu, please?


A sweet dish or confection served as the last course of a meal.
Trifle is a favourite dessert of the English, but rivalled by pavlova in Australia and New Zealand.


A service of pastry, fruits, or sweetmeats, at the close of a feast or entertainment; pastry, fruits, etc., forming the last course at dinner.
"An 't please your honor," quoth the peasant,"This same dessert is not so pleasant."


A dish served as the last course of a meal


Is pudding a type of dessert?

Yes, pudding is a specific type of dessert.

Can desserts be healthy?

Yes, desserts can be healthy, especially those made with fruits and natural sweeteners.

What is pudding made of?

Pudding is typically made of milk, sugar, and a thickening agent like cornstarch or eggs.

Can dessert be savory?

Dessert is generally sweet, though some cultures have savory options.

Are puddings only sweet in the US?

In the US, pudding typically refers to sweet, creamy desserts.

Is pudding always sweet?

No, pudding can be savory, especially in traditional British cuisine.

Is ice cream considered a dessert?

Yes, ice cream is a popular type of dessert.

What's the difference between pudding and custard?

Pudding is thicker and often uses starch for thickening, while custard is egg-based.

Are all desserts high in calories?

Not necessarily; there are many low-calorie dessert options.

Are desserts only eaten after dinner?

Typically, but they can be enjoyed anytime.

Can desserts be vegan?

Yes, there are many vegan dessert options.

Can pudding be baked?

Yes, some puddings, like bread pudding, are baked.

Can pudding be frozen?

Yes, but freezing may alter its texture.

What makes a pudding dense?

The use of eggs, bread, or rice can make puddings dense.

Can pudding be a meal?

In some cultures, savory puddings can be a main dish.

Can desserts be part of a balanced diet?

Yes, when consumed in moderation, desserts can fit into a balanced diet.

Can desserts be frozen for later use?

Yes, many desserts can be frozen and enjoyed later.

Is chocolate pudding a popular choice?

Yes, it's a favorite in many parts of the world.

Are there gluten-free desserts?

Yes, there's a wide variety of gluten-free desserts.

Is fruit a common dessert?

Yes, fruit is a light and healthy dessert option.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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