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 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. The homemade pudding really does make a difference. 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

Making banana pudding from scratch is actually very simple, so ditch the packet and reach for these ingredients:

  • Whole milk
  • Half and half
  • Sugar
  • 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)
  • Butter
  • 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 into 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 Whip 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 bowl, or individual bowls. Start with an even layer of Nilla Wafers, followed by a banana slice on top of each cookie (or use more bananas and overlap slices if you like). Add 1/3 of the pudding mixture, spread into an even layer, and repeat with the cookies and bananas. 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. Tthis 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

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