Banana Pudding is a classic Southern dessert that has stood the test of modern times with vanilla wafers, homemade vanilla custard, and delicious ripe bananas that is great for any occasion.
I think banana pudding is about is a dessert that's as Southern as it gets; although as quiet as it's kept, the dessert really isn't that old as bananas and other exotic fruits weren't around until late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While the original Southern banana pudding recipe was created by a woman in Atlanta, the way we love and know it now is a stolen, bootlegged version made by the National Biscuit Company up north, aka Nabisco, to push their new Vanilla Wafers product in the 1920's.
Just a little history for ya!
Banana pudding is a dish for anytime of the year, you may see it in all its glory on the Thanksgiving table, at Christmas dinner, on the counter during a BBQ, or in pretty trifles during a spring brunch in a black household. I don't think you could ever go wrong with a sweet serving of banana pudding, especially with some fluffy meringue on top.
Once every blue moon, I'd come home from school to the smell of banana pudding in the oven and then told not to touch the oven ("or slam the front door!") for a while. You know. But by time we were done with dinner, it was on.
Can Banana Pudding be made ahead?
Yes! You can make banana pudding ahead, overnight or even the day before. And I think it's even better next day.
Can I use instant pudding instead of homemade?
Absolutely, use instant vanilla pudding in exchange for the homemade pudding.
What if I don't want meringue?
The meringue is optional, but it's so delicious and fluffy and so pretty when baked up. You can't tell me those meringue peaks aren't looking scrumptious.
You can substitute the meringue for whipped cream. Don't bake the whipped cream though! Just top the pudding with a generous amount of whipped cream and serve.
Can I serve banana pudding as a trifle?
Yes, but because you aren't going to bake it, I suggest you make it at least an hour ahead so the ingredients can get to know each other.
The way the custard softens the wafers and kind of mixes with the flavor of the bananas, it's like a dream dessert. It's soft and smooth and creamy and everyone can have a piece. Everyone, even the six month old can eat it. And they will eat the whole pan. You don't want to leave me alone with the leftovers of a banana pudding, it will be gone. Can't help myself.
Looking for more Southern desserts? Check out:
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- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ⅓ cup sugar, more if you like sweeter pudding
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 2 ¼ cups half and half
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 box vanilla wafers
- 3 ripe bananas, sliced into ½ inch coins
- ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- In a medium saucepan, whisk cornstarch, sugar, and salt together. In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg yolks together until they are a pale yellow color, about 2-3 minutes. Add half and half to the eggs and whisk together well. Pour mixture slowly into the saucepan while whisking quickly.
- Cook the pudding over medium flame, whisking constantly, until the pudding is thickened and bubbling slightly.
- Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent pudding skin (unless you like pudding skin).
- Using a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl, strain the pudding into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the pudding. Refrigerate until cool.
- In an oven-safe dish (or a trifle bowl if you aren't making meringue) layer the vanilla wafers at the bottom, then a layer of bananas, then a layer of custard. Repeat until the dish is full or you run out of layering ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a large, clean bowl use a hand mixer to whip up the egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, then whip until the whites are no longer foamy, but smooth looking.
- Add powered sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, then vanilla extract and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
- Spread meringue over the baking dish, reaching from edge to edge. Use a spatula or spoon to create peaks on the meringue for browning and decoration.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the meringue has browned. Let cool slightly before serving.
Store covered in fridge for up to 2 days.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 164mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 5g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.