Eggnog vs. Custard: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie

Most popular during the holidays, eggnog and custard are delightful to have any time of the year. These treats bring warmth to our bodies and hearts, especially when enjoyed with family and dear friends.

Some get confused about whether what they’re having is eggnog or custard. These two seem identical in many ways. Both eggnog and custard can be served warm or chilled. And they use the same base ingredients: egg, sugar, vanilla, and cream or milk.

So some tend to mistake one for the other or feel that they’re just the same. But they are not exactly alike.

So what’s the difference between eggnog and custard? The main difference between eggnog and custard is the taste. They each deliver distinct flavor profiles. Eggnogs feature a warm and rich flavor with tones of nutmeg and cinnamon. Custard, however, is light and creamy and primarily features the rich flavor of vanilla.

We should also mention that classic eggnog has to have the taste of alcohol in it. This traditional holiday drink is made differently worldwide, but one thing is common. There is alcohol in most servings of eggnog.

What are Other Differences Between Eggnog and Custard?

There are other differences between eggnog and custard (or drinking custard). Firstly, they differ in the method of preparation. True eggnog is not heated while custard is heated. Secondly, they differ in consistency. Eggnog is thin and creamy, while custard is thicker. And the more you heat custard, the more it thickens. Thirdly, they differ in alcohol content. Eggnog can have alcohol in it, while classic drinking custard (or boiled custard) has no alcohol. If any at all, then it’s usually minimal.

In old times, classic eggnog used ale. Hence, the name eggnog, since nog means ale. Today’s eggnog uses different types of alcohol. It depends on what the person likes. Some put brandy, rum, cognac, whiskey, or bourbon. 

Classic boiled custard is kid-friendly. But eggnog is more of an adult treat. It can make someone drunk. Today though, some recipes put liqueur or alcohol in custard for the pleasure of adult guests in the room.

Does Eggnog Taste Like Custard?

Yes, eggnog can taste very much like custard. It depends on what the person fancies in their mug of eggnog. And it depends on what ingredients are omitted. If one wants to cut the volume of alcohol in their serve of eggnog, then it can easily pass as a custard.

It is also common for people to put nutmeg and cinnamon in their custard, making it taste like eggnog. 

Do You Boil Custard?

No, you don’t boil custard. Although some call custard boiled custard, the method of preparation is not really by boiling. You make custard by gently heating your mixed ingredients in a pot. You can also make boiled custard by simmering it gently in a double broiler.

Which is Healthier Eggnog or Custard?

Today, many people use almost the same ingredients in their eggnog and custard, so it’s quite hard to determine which is healthier between the two. The amount of sugar and the amount of fat in milk are pretty much your determining factors.

Moreover, with fears of salmonella, people are no longer using raw eggs to make eggnog. Like with custard, many heat or temper their egg yolks to kill any trace of salmonella that could cause food poisoning.

What are Ways to Enjoy Eggnog and Custard?

You can enjoy eggnog and custard in many of the same ways. They both taste great served warm or chilled. You can drink them straight up or add them to your coffee. Try making an eggnog or custard slush! You can also enjoy them with a serving of fruit or even a fudgy chocolate cake.

Some use eggnog or custard as a base for homemade ice cream or pudding. Others make cakes, flans, tarts, and pies with thickened custard or eggnog.

How Do You Make Eggnog and Custard?

It’s easy to satisfy a craving for eggnog or custard. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Heat half a cup of milk and half a cup of thickened cream in a saucepan. Use medium-low heat. Stir regularly to keep it from burning or sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Turn the heat off once it is mixed well and heated through. Don’t forget to take the saucepan off of the hot burner.
  2. Separate 1 egg yolk into a bowl and add about 2 or 3 tbs. of sugar.
  3. Get1 tablespoon of your heated milk and cream and whisk it into the bowl. Make sure you mix your liquid in and whisk slowly so that you don’t curdle the egg. Repeat this step until you’ve mixed in half of the liquid from the saucepan.
  4. Stop halfway, then this time, slowly pour the bowl’s contents into the saucepan.
  5. Place the saucepan back on the burner. Heat it low and whisk gently. Do this for about 10 minutes.
  6. Enjoy some eggnog by giving it a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon. Add some vanilla, then finish the recipe off with a shot of your chosen alcohol.
  7. If you want some custard, add more vanilla and omit the nutmeg and cinnamon. (But feel free to add them in if you want to.) Heat it low and whisk gently. Heat the mixture until it thickens. Some put in a little flour or cornstarch to thicken the custard. You can add the flour at step number 2. You can also mix some flour and cold water, then add this as you’re reheating the mixture.

Serve your eggnog or custard warm or chill it for 30 minutes before serving.

Tempering the egg is the recommendation nowadays. If you don’t want to heat your eggnog recipe, you can choose to use pasteurized eggs instead. These are treated with heat so they are safe to use raw.

Final Thoughts

  • Both eggnog and custard contain eggs, vanilla, sugar, and cream or milk.
  • Classic eggnog has ale or alcohol in it, while classic custard does not have any alcohol.
  • You can enjoy both your eggnog and boiled custard warm or chilled.
  • Traditional eggnog is not heated but drinking custard is always heated or double-broiled.
  • Eggnog is thin and creamy, while custard is thick.

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