Ordinary “cook” pudding, such as Royal Pudding or Jello Pudding, has been around for decades. It is a starch product that, combined with milk, sets into semi-solid form through heating. However, “instant” pudding utilizes a different thickening mechanism. In fact, two thickening mechanisms. What are the mechanisms for instant pudding thickening?
A Concrete Thickening Model
It’s like making concrete from Portland cement! Really, like that? Think of what the Portland cement contains. It is largely a mixture of silicates. Among these are dicalcium silicate (CaO2)2•(SiO2) and tricalcium silicate (CaO2)3•(SiO₂2). Mixing the cement powder with water yields an inorganic polymer matrix.
We will introduce a model for the thickening process of instant pudding in just a moment. First, though, you may enjoy looking at this very early Jell-o Instant Pudding commercial from the 1950s…
An Instant Pudding Thickening Model
Instant pudding mix has several ingredients. Some are for food and flavor. Some are for anti-caking and other qualities. One ingredient thickens the pudding. It is tetrasodium pyrophosphate (TSPP). TSPP is transparent and colorless. Its chemical formula (Na4P2O7) is simple. But consider its molecular structure (see image).
TSPP contains no silicate. It has no calcium. How is instant pudding thickening similar to concrete thickening? Well, one molecule of TSPP can absorb 10 molecules of water to form a hydrate. The reaction is written,
Na4P2O7 + 10 H2O → Na4P2O7•10(H2O)
Since this hydrate is also a solid, much of the fluidity disappears. As we stir, the pudding stiffens.
In addition, molecules of TSPP react with the calcium in milk. This aids gelation. The two actions form a matrix that holds the food and flavor in a texture we find desirable for pudding.
Which Do YOU Prefer?
The world, some might say, has gone mad. Life is hectic. If we want pudding, we must either buy the stuff already made, or prepare the instant variety. They are convenient. Others insist cooked pudding is healthier and it tastes better. It is worth the sacrifice.
Which option do you choose?
Note: You might also enjoy Vanilla and Vanillin: What’s the Difference?
- USDA AMS: Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate Processing
- NCBI: Properties of milk protein gels formed by phosphates