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What’s the difference between Southern style custard and eggnog?

Southern style custard and eggnog are two classic holiday drinks that are often confused with each other. While they share some similarities, there are some key differences in ingredients and preparation that distinguish these rich, eggy beverages.


Custard is a traditional dessert dating back centuries in European cuisine. Early custards were puddings made from a mixture of cream, milk, eggs, sugar and flavorings baked in the oven or cooked on the stovetop. In the American South, custard evolved into a chilled beverage made with eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Southern style custard is served cold, sometimes over fresh fruit or crumbled cookies.

Eggnog has origins dating back to medieval Britain. British possets were hot drinks made with eggs, milk, wine or ale, spices and sugar. Over time, eggs and cream came to dominate the eggnog recipes we know today. Colonial Americans added rum or brandy, turning eggnog into a Christmas party punch. Now, eggnog is a blended holiday drink made with milk, cream, eggs, sugar and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.


The primary ingredients in both custard and eggnog are milk, cream, eggs and sugar. However, the specific proportions differ significantly.

Ingredient Southern Custard Eggnog
Milk 2 cups 3-4 cups
Cream 1 cup 1-2 cups
Eggs 5 large egg yolks 3-6 whole eggs
Sugar 1/2 cup 1/2 to 1 cup
Vanilla 1-2 tsp 1-2 tsp
Nutmeg Pinch to taste
Cinnamon Pinch to taste

The main differences are that custard uses only egg yolks while eggnog uses whole eggs, and eggnog incorporates spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Custard also has a higher ratio of milk to cream compared to eggnog, which uses more heavy cream.


Custard and eggnog require very different cooking techniques due to their ingredient differences.

To make Southern style custard, milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks are gently heated together on the stovetop, stirring frequently until thickened. Vanilla is added at the end. The custard does not come to a boil, as high heat will curdle the yolks. Chilling completes the recipe.

For eggnog, milk, cream, sugar and spices are combined in a pot and heated until just before a boil. Beaten eggs are gradually tempered into the hot mixture before returning to a simmer for a few minutes. The eggnog is chilled thoroughly before serving. The added whole eggs gives eggnog a thicker, creamier texture than custard.


The flavor profiles of custard and eggnog differ due to the impact of their varying recipes.

Custard has a delicate vanilla flavor accented by sweet creaminess. Since custard only uses egg yolks rather than whole eggs, it has a lighter, milkier flavor. The higher proportion of milk also contributes to the lighter body.

Eggnog has a richer, denser consistency thanks to using whole eggs. The eggs lend a distinctive eggy taste. Warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon add fragrant flavor notes. The higher amount of cream gives eggnog a velvety mouthfeel.

Alcoholic Versions

While traditional custard and eggnog are non-alcoholic, boozy versions are also popular, especially for adults.

Alcoholic custard may have rum, brandy, bourbon or liqueurs added. Since custard has a delicate flavor, only a small amount of spirit is needed.

For eggnog, a variety of spirits can be added, including brandy, rum, bourbon or whiskey. Boozy eggnog often contains a higher proportion of alcohol to complement the richer egg and cream flavors.

Serving Suggestions

Custard and eggnog lend themselves to different serving styles based on their consistency.

Southern custard is often served chilled in cups or glasses, sometimes with fresh berries, chopped fruit or crumbled cookies on top. It can also be used as a sauce over cakes or other desserts.

Eggnog’s thick, creamy texture makes it perfect for serving in a punch bowl at holiday parties. It’s typically served cold in small cups for sipping. Eggnog can be topped with ground nutmeg or cinnamon for extra spice.


Both custard and eggnog are high in calories and fat due to their heavy use of whole milk, cream and eggs. However, eggnog tends to be higher in calories and fat content.

Nutrition Facts Southern Custard (1 cup) Eggnog (1 cup)
Calories 345 400-500
Total Fat 19g 25-35g
Carbs 33g 35-45g
Protein 8g 8-10g

The egg yolks in custard and whole eggs in eggnog also provide some protein. Both beverages can provide a significant portion of the recommended daily value for vitamins A and D.


While eggnog and Southern style custard appear quite similar, they have distinct differences in origins, ingredients, preparation methods, texture, flavor and nutritional value. Custard is a delicate, milk-based vanilla drink made with egg yolks. Eggnog is richer and spiced, made with whole eggs and more cream. Both make for delicious holiday treats but offer unique culinary experiences.