Vanilla Wafers Banana Pudding

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My Banana Pudding recipe is layered with a rich, silkily smooth, creamy vanilla pudding packed with tons of banana flavor. You’ve been warned to make your own, so you don’t have to share.

Vanilla Wafers Banana Pudding

My grandpa Mark was very popular in my family for his cooking. He had a banana pudding in his recipe arsenal that would make any Southern grandmother proud!

He was the first to introduce me to banana pudding made from home with love. It’s the reason why I turn my nose up at any banana pudding recipe that calls for an instant vanilla pudding mix. Sure it’s faster, but who knows what chemicals they have in those puddings to make it instant?

When you make yours at home with love, you know what ingredients you’re putting in your food, which ultimately will end up in your family bellies. So let’s agree that we’re going to feed ourselves and our families the best food possible, using quality ingredients and cooking with lots of love!

Banana Pudding Overhead

What is Banana Pudding?

Banana pudding is one of those classic Southern comfort foods that never goes out of style. Traditionally it’s made with vanilla wafers, bananas, cornstarch, milk, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract.

The first time a banana pudding recipe was published is believed to be in 1888 in a Good Housekeeping magazine based in Massachusetts and Central Illinois. Where the recipe calls to “make and chill a pint of custard, the recipe instructs, then line ‘a pretty dish’ with alternating layers of sliced sponge cake and sliced bananas. Pour the custard over the layers and top with whipped cream.” I’m sure it was placed in a trifle dish.

Now, one thing I know from my New Orleans roots is that the British are responsible for introducing puddings to America. So I’m sure with them taking roots in the first 13 colonies, they had something to do with the Massachusetts origins.

The swap from sponge cake to vanilla wafers happened between 1920-1921 when Laura Kerley shared the first known printed recipe using cookies. It wasn’t long before the National Biscuits Company (who later became Nabisco’s in 1967) saw the opportunity to capitalize on the growing popularity of banana pudding and began printing a recipe on boxes of vanilla wafers in the 1940s.

Banana Pudding side shot

Now, how did the South fall in love with banana pudding? Well, allow me to rip the band-aid off. African Americans were always the cooks in the South for white families then, and I can see them being tasked with replicating this new popular dessert that was sweeping the country.

Today, just saying banana pudding in the black community will start up a conversation layered with fond memories of banana pudding served during the holidays, family reunions, or anytime the family gathered together. 

Every family makes it a little different, but the one thing that is not different is the nostalgia connected to this recipe.

This is why I’m sharing my recipe in case you are like me and couldn’t get your grandmother or grandfather’s recipe. Now, you will have a recipe to pass down to future generations creating new food memories for generations to come.

Close up banana pudding in bowl

Key Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this easy banana pudding.

Bananas

It’s not banana pudding without bananas. The best bananas to use are not fresh bananas but ripe bananas with black spots, which brings out their natural sweetness.

Egg Yolks

Egg yolks are the rich base of our creamy vanilla pudding.

Sugar

We only need a small amount of sugar because of the addition of sweetened condensed milk.

Cornstarch

This is the second base for our vanilla pudding. It’s going to thicken it right up!

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Using condensed milk adds sweetness, depth, and creaminess.

Heavy Whipping Cream

Using fresh homemade whipped cream adds tons of flavor and lightens the pudding.

Vanilla Wafers

Using nilla wafers is a classic. You can go through the trouble of making your own but store-brought works.

Banana pudding in a bowl

How to make the best banana pudding recipe

The key to cooking is technique, patience, and confidence. That’s how I will teach you to make my easy banana pudding recipe. There are several steps, but none of them are tedious.

Banana Pudding: Step 1 is to bring your milk to a simmer; I prefer to use half and half because it’s more flavorful than whole milk. You want the milk warm enough to touch, and at the same time, the milk is warming up. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolk, sugar, cornstarch and salt until smooth.

Stir half the milk into the eggs, then transfer back to the pot and cook for 8-10 minutes, constantly stirring until pudding thickens, over medium heat. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and butter until butter is melted.

I love using an ice bath to cool down the vanilla pudding mixture quickly; it saves me 2 hours. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice, then cover with water. Set the pot inside the bowl for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring to release steam.

While pudding is in the ice bath, in a medium bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream for 2-3 minutes with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk, then gently fold in fresh whipped cream. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and press the plastic wrap onto the pudding. Pop in the fridge for 4 hours minimum or overnight.

Homemade Whipped Cream: In a medium bowl, beat heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and salt for 2-3 minutes with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream should have a little point when you pull the beaters out.

To assemble: Crumble a handful of vanilla wafers in a small bowl. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, for the bottom layer, add 1/3 of vanilla pudding mixture, wafers, and sliced bananas; repeat, and finish the final layer with bananas, whipped cream and crumbled vanilla wafers. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Banana Pudding in baking dish

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are a few notes I had from making this outstanding banana pudding.

  • If you prepare in advance, I recommend tossing your banana slices in lemon juice so they won’t turn brown.
  • Keep the custard moving in the pot; I like to stir every 20-30 seconds.
  • You can use whole, evaporated, or any milk on hand instead of half and half.
  • If your milk gets too hot, let it cool before adding them to your eggs, hot milk + eggs=scrambled eggs.
  • Tempering is adding hot liquids to eggs to raise the temperature of the eggs so they do not curdle.
  • Cornstarch is gluten-free.
  • If you used salted butter, omit the salt from the recipe.
  • A whisk works better for keeping the custard from sticking to the bottom of the pot and getting in those tight corners in pots. If you don’t have a whisk, use a wooden spoon with an angle point.
  • You can make fresh whipped cream in a food processor in 15-20 seconds.
  • You can use butter cookies, shortbread or chess cookies instead of nilla wafers.
  • Try adding some banana extract to boost the banana flavor.
  • I highly don’t recommend using any cool whip or other whipped toppings. They don’t compare to whipped cream you will make at home.
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Close up of banana pudding in a bowl

FAQs

Here are the top questions readers have about banana pudding.

Does banana pudding have bananas in it?

Yes! I have no idea who started the rumor that banana pudding doesn’t have bananas. If no bananas are present, it’s just vanilla pudding.

How do you keep bananas from turning dark in the banana pudding?

There are two ways to keep bananas from turning brown (oxidating) in your banana pudding. First, is to toss your bananas in lemon juice before adding them. The second is to press the plastic wrap onto the bananas; this will keep oxygen from hitting the bananas, which causes them to turn dark.

What is the difference between Nilla wafers and vanilla wafers?

The only difference between nilla wafers and vanilla wafers is spelling. Nilla is just slang for vanilla.

What will thicken banana pudding?

A properly made custard is essential for a thick banana pudding. The bases of most custards are milk, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Egg yolks and cornstarch work together as thickening agents. My banana pudding recipe below will show you an uncomplicated way to make a delicious custard from scratch!

Does banana pudding need to be refrigerated?

Yes, the banana pudding should be refrigerated, and this will ensure that the custard sets and the pudding is cold and delicious. It would be best if you refrigerated it before assembling and after.

Does banana pudding freeze well?

Most sites will say, yes, you can freeze banana puddings. However, I don’t recommend freezing banana pudding. Too many layers of ingredients will not fair well after being thawed out. Your bananas may get frostbite, the whipped cream may turn into water, and your vanilla wafers will be soggy. That’s not good eating.

How to store Banana Pudding?

Banana pudding is best 2-3 days after it’s made. However, if you keep it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll last for 7 days or until someone eats it all in the middle of the night. Remember to use plastic wrap to press onto the pudding to keep the bananas from browning.

Banana Pudding close up shot

More Southern Desserts

If banana pudding is one of your favorite desserts, I recommend some of my favorite Southern desserts to add to your dessert spread.

Latest Recipe Video:

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Side shot of banana pudding

Before You Begin

Here are my steps for getting organized before I start anything.

Step 1: Get all ingredients for the banana pudding recipe on the counter.

Step 2: Measure everything out.

Step 3: Start following the recipe and get ready to enjoy some of the best banana pudding you’ve ever had.

So, what are you waiting for? Go make some banana pudding! I hope you’ll try this recipe, and when you do, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. I’d love to know how yours turns out.

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