Ditch the pudding packet for this banana pudding recipe from scratch featuring the creamiest homemade vanilla pudding layered with sweetened whipped cream layered with bananas and Nilla Wafers.
Banana pudding is easily in my top 3 favorite summer desserts. Along with peach cobbler and berry pie, this nostalgic classic instantly transports me back to my childhood. Some banana pudding recipes are topped with meringue and served warm, while others feature a fluffy cloud of whipped cream and are eaten cold. Some even call for sour cream. Not here. My take on banana pudding is a slightly gussied-up version of the classic I craved as a kid. Smooth and creamy but with a little cookie crunch.
In this recipe, I swap boxed pudding for a quick and easy homemade recipe with sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream, a la the ever-famous Magnolia Bakery version. In my version though, we’re ditching the instant pudding mix and making the real stuff, because the homemade pudding really does make a difference. Same with whipped cream (only the homemade stuff will do—see ya Cool Whip). I draw the line at making my own cookies though. I happen to think Nilla Wafers are pretty perfect—especially for dunking in milk as I did as a kid! As they say, the proof is in the pudding.
What’s in This Banana Pudding Recipe
Making banana pudding from scratch is actually very simple, so ditch the packet and reach for these ingredients:
- Whole milk
- Half and half
- Cornstarch—this is the thickening agent for the pudding. Some recipes call for flour, but I prefer the lighter texture of cornstarch. It’s less obtrusive and thickens the pudding without making it gummy.
- Kosher salt
- Egg yolks (I like using yolks vs. a whole egg for the richness they bring to the pudding)
- Vanilla extract—or use 1 whole vanilla bean instead (scrape the caviar from the pod and add both to the milk as it heats up)
- Sweetened condensed milk—this is a key ingredient in this recipe and its richness is one of the things that makes this banana pudding really stand out
- Heavy cream
- Nilla Wafers
- Bananas—reach for yellow bananas (some spots are fine)
How to Make the Banana Pudding
First, make the from-scratch vanilla pudding. Heat the milk and half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, ½ teaspoon of salt, egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons of whole milk together until smooth. Slowly add half of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly to prevent the yolks from cooking. Then, while continuing to whisk, gradually add the remaining milk and return the whole thing to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, while whisking constantly until the pudding becomes thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes or so.
Make the Whipped Cream
Next, prep the whipped cream. Add the heavy cream, the rest of the half can of sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and some salt (the salt enhances the sweetness—trust me, it’s a game-changer!) to the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip your cream until it has stiff peaks.
How to Assemble the Pudding
I use a 9×13-inch glass baking dish for my banana pudding, but you could always use a large bowl, a trifle dish, or individual bowls. Start with an even layer of pudding (⅓ of the mixture), followed by Nilla Wafers, and then banana slices on top of each cookie (or use more bananas and overlap slices if you like). Then add ⅓ of the whipped cream, spreading evenly. Repeat this layering process and when you’re finished, you’ll have three layers.
If you don’t follow the layering process exactly and end up pouring a layer of pudding over the cookies instead of the bananas (like I did below) don’t worry about it! It will all come out in the pudding :)>.
Give the Pudding Time to Chill
Finally, chill the assembled banana pudding for at least 4 hours. This allows the cookies to soften and get cakey, and all of the flavors to marry well.
Make the pudding ahead of time. I suggest making it in the morning (for serving after dinner) so you can give it ample time to chill and the nilla wafers to slightly soften. Or, you can make it the night before, if serving earlier in the day.
How to Choose the Best Bananas for Banana Pudding
Avoid underripe, green bananas, and go for bright yellow ones without any brown spots. We aren’t making my favorite banana bread here, so you don’t want bananas that are too ripe, spotty, or fragrant. Those will brown and get mushy faster and won’t hold up well in the pudding.
How to Keep Bananas from Turning Brown In Banana Pudding
Like apples, bananas will eventually oxidize after they’ve been cut and exposed to air for a while. In some recipes, you can slow this process down by squeezing lemon juice over the fruit, but I don’t recommend that here because lemon will clash with the other flavors.
TIP: Use club soda to keep bananas from browning. You could try giving the bananas a quick dunk in some club soda to help preserve them without interfering with the flavor. I never do anything to my bananas, but it is worth noting this banana pudding is best eaten the first day it’s made.
More Banana Recipes to Try
- How to Make Classic Banana Bread
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- The Best Banana Bread Pancakes
- Banana and Chocolate Chip French Toast with Oatmeal Crumble
- Slow Cooker Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Nuts
- German Chocolate Banana Bread
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 1 ½ cups whole milk + 2 Tablespoons
- 1 ½ cups half and half
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt , divided
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons butter , cut in small cubes
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract* , divided
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 ½ cups heavy cream
- 4 yellow bananas , (a few brown spots are fine, but not too ripe)
- 2 11-ounce boxes of Nilla Wafers
- To make the pudding: Heat the milk and half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, use a hand blender to mix the sugar, cornstarch, ¼ teaspoon of salt, egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons of whole milk together until smooth. Slowly add ½ of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and quickly mix to prevent the yolks from cooking and gradually add the remaining milk, mixing until smooth. Return the pudding to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the pudding becomes thick and bubbly (and is not runny), about 5 minutes or so.
- Use the hand mixer to blend in the cubes of butter until the butter is incorporated and the pudding is smooth. Mix in ½ can of sweetened condensed milk (just eyeball it) and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla. Transfer back to the bowl and cover the surface of the pudding with a layer of plastic wrap, directly touching the pudding (this prevents a skin from forming). Let the pudding come to room temperature then refrigerate until fully chilled and ready to use (at least 4 hours and up to overnight).
- In a large bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, remaining ½ can of sweetened condensed milk, remaining 1 tablespoon of vanilla, and remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and whip on medium-high speed for about 2-3 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Store in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the banana pudding.
- To assemble banana pudding: Slice your bananas. Spread ⅓ of the pudding mixture on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of Nilla Wafer cookies, followed by a layer of banana slices, and ⅓ of the whipped cream, spreading evenly. Repeat this layering process (you'll have 3 layers) ending with the whipped cream. Add a few bananas to the top with some crushed Nilla Wafer cookies. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Banana pudding will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days.
- Try 1 whole vanilla bean instead of the vanilla extract if you like (scrape the caviar from the pod and add both to the milk as it heats up).
- Use a 9×13-inch baking dish, a large bowl, trifle bowl, or individual glasses or small mason jars for assembling.
- If you want more bananas, use 6 bananas and overlap the slices.
- You will have some Nilla Wafer cookies leftover. You’re welcome. ;)
More Fruity Desserts You’ll Love
- Key Lime Pie
- Blueberry Buckle Recipe with Lemon Glaze
- Four Berry Pie Recipe
- Dreamy Creamy Mango Pops
- The Best Classic Lemon Bars
- Skillet Cherry Pie
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