Serves a Crowd

Gourmet Banana Pudding

March  7, 2011
6 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

In case you're unfamiliar with this Southern classic, it's basically a trifle made with pudding, vanilla wafers and bananas. Like most traditional dishes, there are as many versions of banana pudding as there are cooks who make it. While I'm not a huge fan of their cupcakes, which are too sweet for my taste, Magnolia Bakery has won a permanent place in my heart with their banana pudding. Less dense than most renditions, it's lightened with fresh whipped cream and studded with healthy chunks of banana. I like my banana pudding to have little pieces of fruit, to remind me that I'm eating something made from scratch rather than from a box. Last week, spurred on by our pudding contest, I attempted to recreate Magnolia's light, not-too-sweet banana pudding, using a simple vanilla pudding recipe from Martha Stewart as my jumping-off point. And I think I came pretty close to the original. —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 50 Nilla wafers (please, no substitutes here!)
  • 6 large, ripe bananas
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
  1. To make the pudding: prepare an ice bath and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until smooth and pale; gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
  2. Put the milk in a medium saucepan. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Split the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds and rub the seeds into the sugar with your fingertips (Shuna Lydon taught us that this helps distribute the seeds). Add the sugar and the vanilla pod to the milk and bring just to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking continuously, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Set the saucepan in the ice bath, whisking occasionally, until cold.
  4. Whip the cream to soft peaks and whisk 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into the chilled pudding. Gently fold in another 1/2 cup of the cream. Roughly chop 2 of the bananas (this should give you about 1 1/2 cups chopped banana) and mash them lightly with the back of a fork. Fold the bananas into the pudding. Gently fold in a little less than half of the remaining whipped cream. Cover and chill both the pudding and the whipped cream.
  5. Crumble the Nilla wafers by putting them in a zipper bag and whacking at them gently with a rolling pin or a mallet (you can use a food processor, but you'll get more even chunks this way). Set aside some of the finer crumbs in the bottom of the bag for garnish and stir the nutmeg into the larger chunks.
  6. Slice the remaining bananas thinly. To each of 8 pretty glasses, add a layer of Nilla wafer crumbles, then a couple of spoonfuls of pudding, then a layer of sliced bananas (use a 1/4 of a banana for each layer), and then a few dollops of whipped cream. Repeat, and top each glass with a sprinkling of fine Nilla crumbs and a dash of grated nutmeg. Cover the glasses and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

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32 Reviews

Jane E. August 11, 2023
Twelve years later, this is still the best. Rubbing the vanilla pod seeds into the mixture is brilliant. I use Trader Jie’s vanilla cookies because I think they taste better—also my regular grocery is always out of Nilla wafers. My friends really love this. They even ask when I am going to make it again!
Zoe August 7, 2018
Have you tried serving this in a large bowl or casserole for a crowd? I'm thinking about maybe doubling this and bringing it to a potluck...
Jane E. August 11, 2023
I just pile it into a standard size soufflé dish.
Lauren November 29, 2016
This is one of my favorite recipes. Sometimes I just make the pudding alone and sometimes I layer all the ingredients into a pie crust for a heavenly cream pie.
Loretta N. June 17, 2014
I was so excited to make this recipe as I LOVE banana pudding. Unfortunately, it didn't come out as I had anticipated. I think it had something to do with the heavy cream. I will definitely try again, though.
sarabclever May 1, 2014
I had this many times growing up but didn't realize it was a regional recipe. I haven't thought about it in a while, but I think I will be trying to make it soon...
Jbird May 21, 2013
This is insanely good. It's a Southern thing. I have an old recipe that includes a meringue. I make banana pudding when I want to really splurge. The ultimate comfort dessert.
Maria C. April 3, 2013
I am going to make this, I hate cooking and do not do it , but I may start by doing this, when I say I hate cooking it does not mean that I can't cook. I will do this for my daughter Beth .
tinaathena February 17, 2013
Holy bananas - This pudding was very good and much easier to make than I'd anticipated.
Russ2304 September 2, 2012
Final part of step 2 add tablespoon of real bourbon---not extract and get ready to go to heaven.
Merrill S. September 2, 2012
I like your style!
cate July 12, 2012
if i don't have any vanilla beans, how much more vanilla extract should i add?
Merrill S. July 12, 2012
Another teaspoon of extract would work.
RCReiner March 4, 2012
Oh my God! This sounds insanely delicious! Now, not to be sacreligious, but the low-cal version might include using a sugar free pudding base, or vanilla yogurt. Then you could use Cool Whip (I know, don't scream) instead of cream, put a couple of walnuts in with the bananas, and proceed with the lowest calorie vanilla wafers that could be found. It certainly won't measure up to the original, but neither will the calories.
hillarywith2ls November 26, 2011
I have to recommend Trader Joe's Vanilla wafers instead of Nilla. They are amazing and have a natural (vs artificial) vanilla flavor.... I have been using them for banana pudding for a while now, and could never go back to Nillas now!
Angela June 4, 2011
How long would the pudding keep, if making in advance? Pudding on Sunday, assemble on Wed. to eat Thursday?
Merrill S. June 4, 2011
That should work just fine.
Jane E. May 8, 2011
This is ridiculously good. My daughter made it yesterday for her all-southern recipe Derby Day party. She did substitute safeway vanilla wafers--she liked their ingredients better--and served it in a big dish. It was really, really, good. Really good. I might even go eat some of the leftovers. After all, it is Mother's Day.
Merrill S. May 8, 2011
Glad you enjoyed it! I'll have to try Safeway's vanilla wafers next time.
Knotashock March 14, 2011
I make five 24x12x6in deep puddings twice a year for my Fire Department's fundraisers in NC, the firefighters love helping, but yes we do the Jello recipe with some tweaks, we sell out usually before dinner. I look forward to making this for a special event
BlueKaleRoad March 13, 2011
Banana pudding is my favorite! My birthday is next week and I think I must have this for dessert...thanks for sharing your recipe. :)
ltsunny March 13, 2011
HI ccolbert. I have been to Bali many many times- I envy you! We used to go 2-3 times a year until the flights were cancelled. I always went grocery shopping. I'm not sure where you live on Bali. I would try the heavy wipping cream should work for this recipe. Have you tried any of the diary items in boxes in the milk isle?? I have brought many of these and they work great depending on what your cooking. Have you been to Gourmet Gargae?
ccolbert March 13, 2011
Hi there ... I've just relocated to Bali and have yet to source fresh cream and/or half and half. The only thing that's available is UHT heavy whipping cream. I've tried to substitute this before when making panna cotta, but wasn't really happy with the results. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated! :-)
Merrill S. March 13, 2011
I agree with ltsunny: UHT heavy whipping cream should work fine for this.
cookinupastorm March 12, 2011
Hi Merrill- great recipe, thanks so much. I made it a day before and it really improved with time. Delicious!
Merrill S. March 12, 2011
So glad you liked it!
cookinupastorm March 11, 2011
Hi Merrill, would this recipe be ok to make in advance by one day?
Merrill S. March 11, 2011
Yes, it would! It needs a little time for the pudding to soak into the wafers and soften them. I think it's probably at its best a day later -- two or three days, and you may start to think it's seeming soggy.
cookinupastorm March 11, 2011
thank you!