My banana pudding recipe is made completely from scratch and is way better than any boxed pudding! If you’re intimidated by the thought of making this classic show-stopper 100% homemade, don’t be! I’ll walk you through all the steps and I’ve included a step-by-step video!
Banana Pudding from Scratch
I hope you bookmarked last week’s vanilla wafers recipe because you’re going to need it today. As promised, here is my 100% from-scratch, homemade banana pudding recipe.
While you can substitute store-bought cookies (and I even had to use some in these pictures because someone ate all of my from-scratch ones… Zach), there is nothing like a truly from-scratch banana pudding.
And this one is the real deal. We’re making our own rich and creamy vanilla pudding base, folding in homemade whipped cream, and layering homemade (preferably) vanilla wafers throughout. No boxed Jello mixes, no Cool Whip, just the good stuff.
Let’s get to it.
What You Need
Let’s talk about our ingredients briefly before we begin…
- Cornstarch. This thickens the pudding and helps keep it from becoming runny. An equal amount of arrowroot or potato starch could successfully be substituted. Flour may also be used but you’d have to use a bit more (I’d use ⅓-1/2 cup) and I don’t care for the texture as much as I do when using cornstarch.
- Milk. I prefer whole milk, but 2% will work. See the recipe notes for notes on substituting the milk or cream…
- Heavy cream. Heavy cream is used in two parts: the pudding and the whipped cream topping. In the pudding it adds a richness, making the end result creamy and lush. Double cream or heavy cream could be used to make the topping, but no other substitute will whip as needed for the whipped cream. See the recipe notes for substitution options in the pudding.
- Egg Yolks. We’re using just the egg yolks for a rich, creamy, and thick pudding. Save the whites to make angel food cake, white cake, or meringues!
- Bananas. All of the banana flavor in the banana pudding comes from these. Use ripe but not over-ripe or mushy bananas.
- Lemon or lime juice. Brush your bananas slices with lemon juice. The acidity inhibits browning (and adds a lovely, subtle tartness that accents the sweetness of the pudding beautifully). I’ve used this trick before in my banana cream pie.
- Vanilla wafers. Use store-bought or make your own using the link in my recipe!
- Dark chocolate. Optional (well, not in my house). A generous sprinkling of dark chocolate shavings over the top takes this dessert to the next level. To make chocolate shavings, just grab a dark chocolate bar and a potato peeler and “peel” the edge of the chocolate over the banana pudding. I demonstrate this in the video in the recipe.
How to Make Pudding for Banana Pudding
Your first step is to make the pudding. This is very similar to the pastry cream that I use in my eclairs and cream puffs. It will need to be allowed to cool completely before you can serve the banana pudding, so plan ahead!
- Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Separately, whisk together milk, cream, and egg yolks (get them nicely whisked so the yolks are well beaten). Pour wet ingredients into dry. Whisk constantly as you do this to prevent any lumps.
- Whisk the pudding constantly over medium heat until it thickens. This will take a while so have patience! It’s important that the mixture is heated slowly enough that the sugar has time to melt. If it cooks too fast, you could end up with a runny pudding (this could also leave you with bits of cooked egg in your pudding… no thank you!).
- Pour the pudding through a fine mesh strainer. This will catch any lumps or tiny bits of cooked egg that might’ve accidentally happened and guarantees a smooth banana pudding.
- Whisk in butter and vanilla until combined. The butter adds a silky mouthfeel and of course the vanilla adds excellent flavor.
The pudding will need to cool completely before you can use it to make banana pudding. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming and pop it in your fridge for a few hours (this can be made 1-2 days in advance of assembly).
SAM’S TIP: The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools, but you still want it to be thick enough that it coats the back of a spoon before you remove it from the heat.
Preparing Whipped Cream & Bananas
- Use an electric mixer to whip together remaining cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until you have a thick, billowy cream.
- Fold approximately half of your whipped cream into the pudding mixture (no need to measure, this recipe is forgiving!). This thickens the pudding and adds a lovely, more stable consistency.
- Slice 2-3 ripe but still firm bananas into thin slices.
- Brush each banana slice on both sides with lemon or lime juice to inhibit browning (the browning is harmless, but it’s unappealing and one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to banana pudding)!
SAM’S TIP: The riper your bananas are, the more banana flavor will be infused into your pudding. However, don’t choose bananas that are so (over-) ripe that they’re mushy or they’ll be difficult to handle and prone to browning quickly.
How to Assemble Banana Pudding
- Spread a bit of pudding in a baking dish then top with vanilla wafers and top each of those with a banana slice (or two, if the slices are small!).
- Layer half the pudding over the banana slices. Gently smooth it over the banana layer.
- Add another layer of vanilla wafers, gently nestling them into the pudding, then top with sliced (lemon-juice-brushed) bananas.
- Spread the remaining pudding evenly over the top. You can top with the remaining whipped cream now or add it just before serving.
Just before serving, crush additional vanilla wafers over the top (don’t do this in advance or they’ll lose their crispness and you want some crunch) and use a potato peeler to “peel” chocolate curls off of a chocolate bar.
SAM’S TIP: Toasted coconut is another great addition to the top of banana pudding! Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
Usually this is a result of 1) heating the mixture too fast (which doesn’t give the sugar the chance to melt properly) or 2) simply not cooking for long enough. It takes time, but make sure the pudding is thickened before you remove it from the heat. It may be helpful to watch the video before beginning.
Yes. You can make this dessert in a 9×13 pan, just use a thin layer of pudding on the bottom and you will have just a single layer of vanilla wafers and bananas topped with the remaining pudding and then whipped cream.
You may also make this in a large trifle dish or in individual serving dishes (mason jars work well!).
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- 3 cups (710 ml) heavy cream cold
- 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-3 ripe bananas
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice lime juice may be substituted
- 45 vanilla wafers divided (click the link to make your own homemade vanilla wafers)
- 2 oz dark chocolate bar optional
- Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan.¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar, ¼ cup (32 g) cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a large measuring cup or separate bowl, whisk together milk, 1 ½ cups heavy cream, and egg yolks until yolks are beaten and ingredients are well-combined.1 ½ cups (354 ml) whole milk¹, 1 ½ cup (354 ml) heavy cream¹, 4 large egg yolks²
- While whisking the dry ingredients, drizzle milk mixture into saucepan and whisk until completely combined.
- Transfer saucepan to stovetop over medium heat and whisk constantly until mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency. The whisk should leave trails in the pudding and if you dip the back of a spoon into the pudding it should be entirely coated with pudding. Note that this will take some time, typically around 10-15 minutes or possibly even longer. Do not turn up the heat to high or you’ll burn the mixture, cook the eggs, and ruin the pudding. Just be patient!
- Once pudding has thickened, remove from heat and pour through fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl. Whisk in butter, one piece at a time until melted and then whisk in vanilla.2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Let pudding sit cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then cover by pressing a piece of plastic wrap or parchment directly against the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cooled before proceeding (pudding may be prepared up to 48 hours in advance). When pudding has cooled, prepare whipped cream.
- Combine 3 cups heavy cream, powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and use an electric mixer or stand mixer to beat until stiff peaks have formed.3 cups (710 ml) heavy cream, 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Remove chilled pudding from the fridge and stir. Add half of the whipped cream mixture to the pudding and stir together using a spatula until completely combined.
- Slice two bananas into ⅛” thick slices and brush lightly with lemon juice on both sides (this keeps the bananas from browning too quickly).2-3 ripe bananas, 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Spread a thin layer of pudding over the bottom of a 2.5qt baking dish (or see note 3) and then top with an even layer of vanilla wafers (about 20 cookies for me).45 vanilla wafers
- Top each vanilla wafer with a brushed banana slice (if slices are small, use two per cookie).
- Top the banana/cookie layer with half of your pudding mixture, gently spreading in an even layer.
- Nestle another layer of vanilla wafers into the pudding and top with banana slices (if needed, slice and brush your last banana).
- Top with remaining pudding. Dollop remaining whipped cream on top. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (pudding should be served with 24-48 hours of being assembled). Before serving, crumble 5-6 vanilla wafer cookies over the whipped cream and use a potato peeler to add chocolate curls/shavings overtop. Serve and enjoy!2 oz dark chocolate bar
¹Milk and cream substitutesYou may substitute 2% milk for the whole milk. This recipe also works if you substitute the heavy cream for additional milk or if you substitute both the milk and cream for half-and-half. Cream (heavy cream, whipping cream, or double cream) must be used for the whipped cream, however.
²Egg whitesSeparate the egg whites into a clean dry container and save them to make meringue cookies or angel food cake!
³Using different sized dishesThis recipe may be made in a 9×13 pan (do one bottom layer of cookies and bananas topped with the pudding mixture and then whipped cream) or in a trifle dish. It may also be portioned into individual trifle dishes or mason jars.
Make ahead instructionsBanana pudding should ideally be assembled several hours before serving to let the flavors develop, but preferably no more than 48 hours before serving, as the bananas will eventually begin to brown and break down. However, the pudding can be prepared 2-3 days in advance of assembling, and the cookies (if making homemade) can be prepared up to 5 days in advance. I recommend making the whipped cream and preparing the bananas immediately before assembly.
FreezingI do not recommend freezing as the pudding does not hold up well to being frozen and then thawed.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Well we had a wonderful week+ of Breha following me around outdoors and happily returning to me every time I called her name, but now she’s discovered that her new backyard is full of STICKS. Sticks are wonderful and much more interesting than I am, so guess we have more training to do! PS: Thank you to everyone who left such kind comments on my post about her, I’m still working on answering them all! 💜