Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding

3.3
(8)

Think the store-bought stuff stands a chance against homemade banana pudding? One bite and you'll be singing a different tune.

Hands On Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
40 mins
Yield:
8 to 10 servings

Step away from the packaged stuff; it's time to whip up an old-fashioned banana pudding from scratch.

At backyard barbecues or polished dinner parties, there's never a bad time to bring out this comforting Southern treat. Smooth, creamy, and oh-so-decadent, there are few better ways to finish any meal.

"Some like it warm. Others prefer it as I do: nice and cold," says cookbook author and recipe developer Rebecca Lang. "The hardest part is waiting for it to fully chill."

The special ingredient that helps homemade banana pudding stand out from store-bought varieties? Old-fashioned meringue. This extra step elevates the simple dessert to Grandmother's sideboard status. Bring this recipe to one family gathering, and we think you'll agree.

a square pan of banana pudding on a yellow linen
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

What Are the Components of Real Banana Pudding?

This recipe consists of multiple delicious layers of vanilla wafer cookies, slices of fresh banana, and smooth vanilla custard, all topped with freshly whipped meringue.

What Are the Ingredients to Make Banana Pudding?

Making a banana pudding combines many ingredients you likely already have at home. Some common ingredients used in this recipe are granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract. You will need to have more unique ingredients on hand: vanilla wafers and bananas.

Make sure the bananas are ripe before starting this project. Look for bananas with a prominent yellow color with small brown spots and try to stay away from the yellow-green bananas.

banana, vanilla wafers, sugar, and other ingredients for banana pudding overhead
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How Do You Make Banana Pudding?

This recipe involves a classic method of toasting the meringue at the end of assembling the banana pudding, so be sure to preset your oven to 375 degrees F to begin.

1. Start the Pudding

Take four eggs and separate the whites and yolks. Reserve the whites for the meringue later but keep the yolks close to create the pudding. Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt together until well blended. Add the milk, four egg yolks, and sugar mixture in a medium-sized saucepan until well combined.

whisking eggs into milk mixture for pudding
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Cook this mixture over medium heat, stirring for up to 8 minutes or until thickened.

bubbling pudding in a saucepan with a whisk
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Once the mixture has become thick, remove it from heat, and stir in the unsalted butter and vanilla extract.

adding butter and vanilla extract to custard for a pudding
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

2. Build the Pudding

For assembly, layer the vanilla wafers at the base of an 8" x 8" baking dish.

Add a layer of sliced bananas (cut about ½" thickness) on top of the vanilla wafers, followed by half of the pudding mixture.

vanilla wafers and banana slices in a casserole dish
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Repeat this process with the remaining vanilla wafers, slices of banana, and pudding.

filled casserole dish with banana pudding
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

3. Make the meringue

Take the egg whites and whip with an electric mixer until foamy, then gradually add the second portion of the sugar until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form.

adding sugar to frothy egg whites for meringe
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Using a low-medium speed, whisking could take up to 5 minutes. But be patient. That pillowy topper is worth it!

meringue is at stiff peak stage
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

4. Finish the pudding and bake

Spread the meringue completely on top of the pudding.

meringue is spread over banana pudding
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Place the banana pudding in the oven until the meringue topping is golden brown, about 7-10 minutes. Allow this to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

baked banana pudding with browned meringue
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Do I Need to Bake the Banana Pudding?

Since the pudding has already been cooked on the stove, the banana pudding doesn't need to be baked. However, this recipe follows a tradition of classic banana pudding recipes—baking the assembled banana pudding to toast the meringue topping.

If you are one for tradition, follow this recipe as is, and you will savor every delicious bite. If you are strapped for time, consider other options such as a low broil in the oven or, if you own one, a quick pass on top with a pastry torch. Leaving the top untoasted is also a delicious option.

What Is the Best Way to Serve Banana Pudding?

This dessert is up to personal preference and can be served warm or cool. Keep in mind that the pudding with thicken as it cools, so serving it warm will result in a softer dessert, and serving it chilled will result in a thicker consistency.

Either way, this dish is served best in bowls or dessert dishes to help keep the dessert neat and presentable.

Helpful Tips and Insights

The addition of salt in this recipe helps balance the sweetness of the overall dish, though some reviewers mentioned that they would have preferred less salt. If you feel this dish might have too much salt for your preference, consider reducing the salt to ½ teaspoon. Also, make sure you are using unsalted butter for the recipe, so there isn't any additional salt than what is listed for the recipe.

When using milk in dessert recipes, a higher percentage of fat helps with the rich flavor in the pudding. If possible, use whole milk for this recipe for the best results.

Editorial contributions by Nik Pugmire.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk

  • 4 large eggs, separated

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 1/3 cups vanilla wafers

  • 4 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2" slices

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together sugar mixture, milk, and 4 egg yolks in a medium-size heavy saucepan until well blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

  2. Layer half of vanilla wafers in an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with half of banana slices and half of pudding. Repeat procedure with remaining wafers, banana slices, and pudding.

  3. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add 3 Tbsp. sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Spread meringue over pudding, sealing to edge of dish.

  4. Bake at 375°F for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden. Let cool 30 minutes, and serve warm; or chill an additional hour, and serve cold.

    a square dish of banana pudding with baked meringue
    Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Tips

This pudding gets thicker as it cools. When it's warm, it may be a bit looser.

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