Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

In the South we called this banana puddin’. It was served at EVERY family reunion I ever attended, EVERY church event where food was involved, and EVERY Easter as one of the desserts.

At family reunions, the banana puddings would line the table; rows of banana puddings. Can you imagine such a thing? I remember that I would only eat my mother’s version of banana pudding. It would have been a clear deviation from family loyalties to have eaten any other banana pudding than my mom’s. Besides, her’s was the prettiest and I had personally already sampled some of it before it ever left the house. Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies about how that all came about.

For clarification, when I am talking about banana pudding, I am referring to the beloved layered dessert comprised of vanilla wafers, bananas, pudding, and whipped cream. The phrase “banana pudding” can be confusing because in reality it refers to two completely different desserts. There’s banana pudding which is simply banana flavored pudding. Then there is BANANANANANANANA PUDDING which is the incredibly delicious, wondrous, heady, layered dessert.

Banana Pudding

I haven’t had banana pudding in many, many years. Suddenly one day last week I got the urge. It evolved into a need, which quickly became a gotta have it right now! Clearly there was something in my body that needed to have the nutrients from banana pudding. Yes, I said nutrients because there really are some nutrients in banana pudding. I know it, I just know it. There’s potassium, for one. Potassium is majorly important to muscle function, especially the most important muscle in your body–your heart. Ask a nurse, she’ll give you the low down on potassium and heart function. Ask me, I’m a nurse. Oh, and there’s calcium and vitamin D, too. Calcium and vitamin D = strong bones and teeth. Carbs and protein are in there. The carbs provide quick energy and the protein provides sustained energy and are the building blocks for EVERYTHING in your body. See, there’s lots of nutrition in this dessert.

Now, there is something important that I need to tell you, however. My mom always used the “cook-n-serve” pudding from a box for the pudding layer of the…pudding. I wanted to put on my big girl panties and make my own pudding for this beloved dish. Consequently, I turned to the Titans of Southern cooking for direction: Paula Deen and Alton Brown. I also did a fly by on Tyler Florence, but sadly his banana pudding recipe was too unapproachable, even for me wearing my big girl panties. I love Tyler’s recipes, but he navigated too far into the world of haute cuisine on this one.

So, Paula and Alton got my business this time around. And, since I was wearing my big girl panties, I adapted their recipes. It was almost sacrilegious. I mean, who does that to a Paula Deen recipe? Alton–one could do that to Alton without too much consequence. His recipes are built for that. But Paula? The Southern cooking queen? Scary. Big girl panties…big girl panties…big girl panties. Whew. I have nerves of steel.

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

Recipe inspired by Paula Deen and Alton Brown


  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 cups 1/2 & 1/2
  • 1 cup milk (whole, 2%, or 1%)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 48-55 vanilla wafers, crumbled (not crushed)
  • 4 bananas, peeled and sliced into scant 1/4" slices
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup coconut, (optional)


  1. In a 2 quart pot, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Make sure that there are no lumps in the cornstarch.
  2. Stir in the 4 beaten egg yolks until evenly distributed. The mixture may be stiff.
  3. Add the half and half and the milk. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium low heat, whisking or stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring until melted before adding the next piece.
  5. Stir in the vanilla.
  6. Pour pudding into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic wrap evenly against the top of the pudding. This will keep the pudding from developing a "skin" as it cools. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until pudding has chilled thoroughly.
  7. Toast the coconut in a 325 degree F oven until golden. Watch carefully, browning happens quickly. Set aside to cool.
  8. Whip the cream together with the 1 tablespoon sugar until it reaches preferred consistency. I like my whipped cream with a little body, not too soft, but definitely not to the butter stage.
  9. To Assemble:
  10. For 8 Individual Servings: In 8 small, individual serving dishes, layer the following--coarsely crumbled vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, pudding, crumbled vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, pudding. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted coconut. Cover and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours or up to overnight.
  11. For Single Dish: DO NOT crumble the vanilla wafers. Leave them whole. Place a layer of whole vanilla wafers on the bottom of a 9- x 9-inch dish. Add a layer of 1/2 of the sliced bananas. Cover with half of the pudding. Repeat layers: vanilla wafers, bananas, pudding. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Cover and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours or up to overnight.


For Smooth Pudding: Blending the ingredients together prior to starting the cooking process will help insure a smoother end product. Stirring constantly is important. Don't leave the pudding unattended or else it will burn and/or be lumpy. The cooking process won't take more than about 10-15 minutes. The time actually goes quite quickly. My pudding only took 11 well spent minutes. About Cooling the Pudding: As pudding cools it forms a "skin" on top. This skin cannot be mixed back into the pudding with good results. The pudding will be lumpy and will have rubbery particles from the skin. To avoid a skin forming, place the plastic wrap right against the warm pudding and up the inside of the bowl. Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator.

Banana PuddingAdd the sugar to a sauce pot.

Banana PuddingAnd the cornstarch…and I ought to have added the salt at this point, too, but I forgot. So, I added it later, as you will see.

Banana PuddingNow stir them well. Make sure that there are no cornstarch lumps. This flat type of whisk worked best for me.

Banana PuddingWhisk together the four egg yolks.

Banana PuddingAdd the egg yolks to the sugar/cornstarch/salt mixture.

Banana PuddingStir or whisk the egg yolks into the dry mixture.

Banana PuddingPour in the half & half and the milk.

Banana PuddingOh, and don’t forget the pinch of salt. It ought to have been added with the dry ingredients. Oh well.

Banana PuddingWhisk everything together. It looks lumpy at first, but keep whisking and pretty soon…..

Banana Pudding…..It will be smooth and, well, smooth. No lumpies, okay?

Banana PuddingCook over medium low heat and STIR or WHISK continously. You don’t have to do this fast; just use a nice steady rhythm to keep things moving. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom as you stir. As the mixture heats, it will start to thicken; stir a little faster so that nothing will stick to the bottom or sides and scorch or burn. Just as bubbles appear around the edges of the mixture, there will be a definite change in the viscosity of the pudding. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.

Banana PuddingThe butter should be cold. I cut each tablespoon into four pieces. I don’t know why. It seemed like a convenient number.

Banana PuddingAdd the butter, one piece at a time, stirring after each piece until it is melted.

Banana PuddingAfter all of the butter has been added and stirred into the pudding, add the vanilla extract.

Banana PuddingStir until the vanilla is well incorporated.

Banana PuddingYou are going to want to taste the warm pudding. Go right ahead. However, hang on to your tasting spoon or else you may find yourself fishing it out of the bottom of the pot. YUM!

Banana PuddingPour the pudding into a bowl. Put a piece of plastic wrap right down on top of the pudding. The wrap should be touching the surface of the pudding; this will keep a thick skin from forming on top of the pudding while the pudding cools. Put the pudding in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or until it is completely cool.

Banana PuddingFor single servings, assemble in layers: crumbled vanilla wafers, bananas, pudding, more crumbled vanilla wafers, more banana slices, and another layer of pudding. Finish with some whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. If you want to assemble the pudding in a single 9 – x 9-inch dish, use whole vanilla wafers and layer everything in the same order as above.


Banana Pudding

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