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Classic homemade Banana Pudding with toasted meringue
Although popular throughout America, Banana Pudding has deep roots in the South.
Banana pudding is serious business in the south and I’ve met many men that claim this as their all-time favorite dessert. Perhaps it reminds them of home, and their mom, and that’s kind of sweet.
As with most popular recipes you’ll find many opinions as to how it’s best served.
Should Banana Pudding be served warm or cold? Is it best served after melding a few hours so the wafer cookies soften?
What about meringue? Can it be topped with whipped cream instead? Yes, yes, absolutely and yes.
Let’s explore what makes the BEST Banana Pudding recipe!
No matter how you serve it, Banana Pudding starts with a few basic ingredients.
For the pudding:
- egg yolks – reserve egg whites for the meringue
- whole milk – 2% will also work
- sweetened condensed milk
- vanilla extract
- unsalted butter
For the meringue:
- water – for making a simple syrup
- granulated sugar – for the simple syrup
- egg whites – room temperature egg whites make loftier meringues!
- cream of tartar
- vanilla extract
For the layers:
- sliced bananas – you’ll need 3 to 4 firm, ripe bananas
- Nilla Wafer cookies
How to make Banana Pudding
1. First, make the custard pudding:
Tempering Eggs: For this recipe we temper the egg yolks. All that means is we warm the beaten egg yolks slowly with a little hot milk. Slowly is the name of the game, not too fast or you’ll get lumps. Just a slow drizzle while whisking constantly will do the trick.
Whisk the egg yolks with a little milk and set aside. Put the remaining milk, cornstarch, salt and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Heat until almost boiling. Temper the eggs by drizzling about a third of the hot milk into the eggs while whisking.
Pour the tempered eggs into the saucepan and return to the heat. Cook over medium heat until the pudding boils and thickens. Off-heat whisk in the vanilla and butter. Set aside.
TIP: If storing the pudding mixture for later use and assembly, transfer to a large bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the entire pudding surface to prevent a film from forming.
Cool and refrigerate until needed. If chilled before using, add a few tablespoons of milk to the pudding to loosen slightly, if desired.
2. Next, prepare the meringue:
Make a simple syrup: Combine water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Boil the syrup for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating until soft peaks form. With the mixer running on medium-low, carefully drizzle the hot syrup in a slow, steady stream down the inside wall of the mixing bowl into the egg whites.
Add the vanilla and beat until the meringue has cooled a bit and stiff, glossy peaks form.
3. Finally, assemble the Banana Pudding:
Layer the bottom of the dish with bananas. Top the bananas with a layer of pudding, then a layer of wafer cookies. Repeat the layers two or three times depending on the size of your dish. Dollop meringue on top and swirl in a decorative pattern.
Brown under the broiler set on low, or use a kitchen culinary cooking torch to toast the meringue.
TIPS for using a kitchen culinary cooking torch
If you’ve never tried using a kitchen torch, it’s really pretty easy. I recommend practicing first, by browning a dollop of meringue on a heat-proof plate or baking sheet before toasting the entire dish.
Be sure to protect your countertops and other non-heat proof items that may be around the area.
Start by swirling the flame over the meringue about 6 to 8 inches away. If the meringue doesn’t start to brown after a few passes, move in a little closer. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for using the torch and enjoy!
You’ll find many uses for a cooking torch.
Sprinkle a little sugar on top of your morning grapefruit. Lightly brûlée the sugar to create a beautiful sweet caramelized crust.
This easy to use tool is perfect for glazing baked ham, searing steaks, roasting peppers, toasting marshmallows, melting cheese and browning bread crumbs.
Crème Brûlée is a wonderful dessert you’ll want to try next time you have company. So simple and stunning, and easily made ahead.
Master the torch and serve incredible meringues and desserts!
My husband adores toasted meringues. I often create a double layer just to give him a thrill.
Dollop meringue on top of your dessert or pie, and brown with a kitchen torch. Add another layer of meringue and toast again. Double the toasted meringue flavor = happy husband.
Do you have to top your Banana Pudding with meringue?
There’s no right or wrong way to make Banana Pudding. It can be served warm or cold, with meringue or without. However, some people are very passionate about how it’s best served.
- My family loves the toasted meringue top. If you’re a lover of roasted marshmallows, then meringue is for you.
- If you’re not a fan of meringues, serve your Banana Pudding topped with whipped cream (or extra-creamy Cool Whip) and a few crushed Nilla Wafer cookies. Easy and fast!
- Banana pudding can be served immediately after it’s assembled while the pudding and meringue are still warm and the cookies are crisp.
- If allowed to rest for a few hours, the crispy thin little cookies will soften and turn into a cake-like layer. Yum!
Banana Pudding keeps well for up to three days in the refrigerator and leftovers are terrific. This dessert is easily made ahead and served the next day, making it perfect for entertaining.
The banana slices may turn brown a bit after sitting for a while, but this is not a bad thing. They still taste delicious and add a soft, sweet pillowy bite.
To prevent browning toss the banana slices in a little lemon juice, if desired. However, we don’t mind if the bananas darken, and don’t think you will either.
How to serve Banana Pudding
Again, there’s no right or wrong way to serve Banana Pudding. Assemble the pudding in a 13×9-inch baking dish, a mixing bowl, casserole, individual dessert glasses or a trifle bowl. It’s all good!
If you’re browning the meringue in the oven or under the broiler, make sure your dish is oven or broiler-proof. If using a kitchen torch, any decorative dish will do.
Banana Pudding recipes have been around since the early 1900’s.
It may have been created as an American version of the English Trifle but the early versions did not include wafer cookies. Whoever added cookies to the layers was absolutely brilliant. If you’ve never tried homemade Banana Pudding before, you’re in for a treat!
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For the pudding:
- 3 egg yolks
(reserve egg whites for meringue below)
- 2 3/4 cups whole milk (22oz)
- ¼ cup cornstarch (35g)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For the meringue:
- ½ cup water (4oz)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (222g)
- 4 egg whites room temperature (125g)
- pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the layers:
- 3 cups sliced bananas about 1/2-inch thick (3 to 4 bananas)
- 7 ounces Nilla Wafer cookies
To prepare the pudding:
- In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks and about ½ cup (4-ounces) of milk. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan whisk together the cornstarch and salt. Add all remaining milk and the sweetened condensed milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is hot, steaming and just starts to boil.
- While whisking constantly, carefully and slowly drizzle a third of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, to temper. Once combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Return the pan to the stove-top and cook over medium heat until the pudding is thick, about 5 minutes. Off-heat add the vanilla and butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted. See NOTE *
To prepare the meringue:
- Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. Allow the simple syrup to boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating on medium-high until soft peaks form.
- With the mixer running on medium-low, carefully drizzle the hot syrup in a slow, stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg whites. Add the vanilla and beat on medium-high until the meringue has cooled a bit and stiff, glossy peaks form, about 8 to 10 minutes.
To layer the pudding:
- See NOTE ** Layer the bottom of the dish with sliced bananas. Top with a dollop of pudding enough to just cover the bananas. Layer Nilla wafers over the pudding. Repeat the layers starting with bananas, then pudding, then vanilla wafers. Depending on how deep your dish is, you may need to repeat with a third layer. Top with any remaining banana slices.
- Spread dollops of meringue over the pudding. Spread in a decorative manner with peaks and swirls. Brown the meringue using a kitchen or culinary torch, or in the oven with the broiler set on low. Watch the meringue carefully to prevent burning. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until needed.
- Eggs are easier to separate while cold. However, egg whites should be room temperature before making the meringue for loftier volume.
- This recipe for meringue makes enough for a big lofty topping. If you don't want a lot of meringue, cut the recipe in half.
- Make sure there’s no egg yolk in your whites. This can cause the meringue to fail. Also, use a clean bowl and clean whisk to achieve a fluffy meringue.
- Meringues are best made on sunny days.
- The pudding can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed. If storing for later use and assembly, transfer to a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the entire surface of the pudding to prevent a film from forming. Cool and refrigerate until needed. If chilled before using add a few tablespoons of milk to the pudding to loosen slightly, if desired.
- Banana pudding can be served warm or cold and will keep well for up to 3 days when refrigerated.
- Meringue recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Originally published April 2014, updated January 2021