Grandma’s Banana Pudding

Homemade banana pudding with a made-from-scratch vanilla pudding is layered with vanilla wafers and bananas and topped with fresh whipped cream. This decadent southern dessert is a no-bake recipe perfect for any weeknight, potluck dinners, or a summer picnic. Serve it in a pie pan, a trifle bowl, or individual ramekins, you truly can’t go wrong!

A pie dish of banana pudding with a scoop missing and a sliver spoon in place of the pudding.

A few years ago, we took the kids to have lunch at my grandma’s; after we were done eating, she brought out little silver parfait cups filled with homemade banana pudding, along with Nilla wafers and whipped topping. The pudding was AMAZING and my husband and the kids couldn’t get enough.

I left with a copy of my grandma’s recipe and it has absolutely been a top-three dessert with my little crew ever since.

A Little More About Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding is a Southern dessert made of pudding, wafers, banana, and fresh whipped cream. Similar to a trifle, this layered dessert is often served cold after soaking a few hours to allow the vanilla wafers to soften from the vanilla pudding.

I have always been curious about what makes this a southern tradition (after all, it’s really just vanilla pudding, Nilla wafers, sliced bananas, and whipped cream), so I did some reading. It seems that bananas first began being marketed in the United States around the turn of the century, in the early 1900s. Cooks began using the fruit in all sorts of dishes, especially in recipes for puddings and custards with meringue toppings. The first banana pudding recipe came out of Kentucky in 1903 but didn’t include wafers.

The addition of the vanilla wafers in the banana pudding came later. I couldn’t find exactly why this picked up more in the southern states than in any other areas, but a great many thanks to the southerners who dreamed up this amazing dessert!

A banana pudding in a pie pan on a towel with spoons on the right a bowl of whipped cream in the top left and a bowl of eggs in the bottom left.

Banana Pudding vs. English Trifle

Banana pudding and English trifle have a few similarities. They are both layered desserts often served cold. Other similarities include fruit, custard, and whipped cream – yum!

The main difference between these two desserts seems to be the cookie layer. In a trifle, you might find a sponge cake or ladyfingers while banana pudding features vanilla wafers.

How To Make Banana Pudding From Scratch

If this is your first time making banana pudding from scratch you will be pleased to find it’s much easier than you may have been led to believe. For me, the hardest part is waiting for the wafer layers to absorb the creamy pudding!

Ingredients

  • Homemade Pudding: Similar to pastry cream, this pudding is made from a mixture of sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla.
  • Whipped Cream: Made with heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Vanilla Wafers: I typically stick with the Nilla Wafers by Nabisco – they’re classic!
  • Bananas: The riper the banana the sweeter they are so we are looking for very ripe bananas here. Yellow with little spots of brown should work perfectly.

Pudding + Wafers + Bananas + Whipped Cream

Make the Pudding

The main ingredient that will take a little time is the homemade pudding. This creamy, vanilla-flavored custard might just be the star of the show as far as I’m concerned. To make the pudding:

  • Lightly whisk egg yolks in a small bowl to combine.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the milk and cook over medium-low heat until slightly thickened.
  • Temper the eggs: Gradually whisk a small amount of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks.
  • Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thick and glossy, about 30 seconds.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.
  • Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming.

Side by side pictures of making pudding for banana pudding.

Assemble the Banana Pudding

  • Vanilla Wafer Layer: Line the bottom of a 1½-quart serving dish or pie plate with vanilla wafers.
  • Banana Layer: On top of the wafers, place a layer of sliced bananas.
  • Pudding Layer: Pour half of the pudding mixture over the bananas and spread to the edges of the dish.
  • Repeat the vanilla wafers, bananas, and pudding again.
  • Place plastic wrap against the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Side by side photos of the assembly of banana pudding.

Make the Whipped Cream

When you are ready to serve this dessert, make the homemade whipped cream.

  • Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
  • Spread on top of the pudding and top with crushed vanilla wafers.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

A pie pan with homemade banana pudding on a towel with a bowl of eggs in the front left.

A Few Notes About the Pudding

The key to perfect pudding is to just keep whisking once everything is on the stovetop. Then, once you get a few bubbles on the surface the mixture should get thick and shiny. Running it through the fine-mesh sieve will catch any bits of egg in case it was overcooked just a tad.

Worried about watery pudding or it not setting up in the fridge? One of the biggest culprits for runny pudding is taking it off of the heat before the cornstarch is fully activated and it is properly thickened. Every stove is different, so yours may take a little longer, but keep looking for those visual clues – you will see a few very large bubbles pop on the surface and the mixture will turn very shiny. At this point, it should look and feel noticeably thicker; make sure you get to this point!

Serving, Storage, and Shelf-Life

  • Serving: Some simple ways to serve homemade banana pudding are in a 9×13 baking dish or in a pie pan (as shown in the pictures). You could also serve it up in a trifle bowl or make individual banana puddings and serve them in ramekins or mason jars!
  • Storage: Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator.
  • Shelf-life: Covered properly, the banana pudding should last for about 2 days in the refrigerator. It will begin to get watery at that point, as the bananas break down and the whipped cream starts to weep.

More Decadent Desserts:

A spoon with a scoop of banana pudding in a pie pan with a small bowl of eggs in the bottom left.

Banana Pudding

Decadent layers of silky vanilla pudding, round vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and homemade whipped cream make this southern classic an absolute dream. Grab a spoon and come hungry because just one serving of this homemade banana pudding won’t be enough!

If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Grandma's Banana Pudding

Servings 6 servings
Prep 30 minutes
Chilling time 4 hours
Total 4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

Homemade banana pudding with made-from-scratch vanilla pudding layered with vanilla wafers, banana slices, and fresh whipped cream!

Ingredients:

For the Pudding

  • ½
    cup
    granulated sugar
  • 3
    tablespoons
    cornstarch
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • cups
    whole milk
  • 3
    egg yolks
  • 1
    tablespoon
    unsalted butter
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract

For the Whipped Cream

  • ¾
    cup
    heavy cream
    (chilled)
  • ¼
    cup
    powdered sugar
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract

For Serving

  • 30
    vanilla wafers
  • 3
    bananas
    (cut into ¼-inch slices)

Directions:

  1. Make the Pudding: Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk lightly to combine.

  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the milk and cook over medium-low heat until slightly thickened. Gradually whisk a small amount of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks.

  3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.

  4. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming.

  5. Line the bottom of a 1½-quart serving dish or pie plate with vanilla wafers. On top of the wafers, place a layer of the sliced bananas. Pour ½ of the pudding over the bananas, and spread to the edges of the dish. Repeat the vanilla wafers, bananas, and pudding again. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  6. Make the Whipped Cream: When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of the pudding and top with crushed vanilla wafers. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

Serving, Storage, and Shelf-Life

  • Serving: Some simple ways to serve homemade banana pudding are in a 9x13 baking dish or in a pie pan (as shown in the pictures). You could also serve it up in a trifle bowl or make individual banana pudding's and serve them in ramekins!
  • Storage: Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator.
  • Shelf-life: Covered properly, the banana pudding should last for about 3 days in the refrigerator.

Nutrition:

Calories: 505kcal
Fat: 24g
Saturated fat: 13g
Trans fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 154mg
Sodium: 375mg
Potassium: 406mg
Carbohydrates: 67g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 44g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A: 828%
Vitamin C: 5%
Calcium: 150%
Iron: 1%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Dee Frances