Probably one of the most iconic southern desserts has to be banana pudding. Once you’ve had it your life will never be the same. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But this is the number one request among my friends and colleagues. In fact, a few weeks ago at a pool party two of my friends were literally eating out of the trifle dish with the serving spoon and fighting over the last wafer. My version is served chilled, so it’s rich and creamy yet delightfully refreshing on a hot summer day. It also looks super elegant in a fancy trifle dish (like my $7 one from Target). Let’s face it, we eat with our eyes first!
Here’s the scoop about banana pudding. There’s a ton of variations for both chilled and hot versions. Growing up, Mama always made the hot version. This requires making the “pudding” part over a double-boiler usually with sugar, vanilla, whole milk, an egg yolk, and all-purpose flour. This delicious concoction is poured over sliced bananas and vanilla wafers. Yes, it tastes every bit as good as it sounds.
All banana pudding recipes involve sliced bananas and vanilla (“Nilla” wafers). The pudding part varies depending on the recipe. Some hot versions even put a meringue on top.
I almost always make the chilled version. Perhaps it’s because I live in the scorching Phoenix heat. As silly as it sounds, this makes Mama’s hot banana pudding more of a novelty for me when I’m home for visits (which isn’t often enough, sadly). My recipe requires no cooking, which is great since a typical summer day in Phoenix involves 110+ degree heat. I’ll be honest… this recipe is also ridiculously easy. Game-changer, right? I mean, how often can you get away with a delicious, easy-to-make, no-bake dessert??
Because this is served cold, try to make the banana pudding ahead of time so it has at least four hours to chill in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This gives the pudding enough time to actually “set” and fully chill. The colder the pudding, the better it tastes. So if I’m taking banana pudding to a pool party on a Saturday afternoon, I try to make it Friday night to chill overnight.
Here’s the deal with ‘Nanna Puddin’: this is NOT the time to try and cut calories. You want to use full-fat or else your pudding will be thin and runny without setting. Be sure and get the full-fat versions of cream cheese, cool whip, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. I have even tried it using 2% milk and the consistency is not the same. Go big or go home.
With that said, dig out that pretty trifle bowl from your cabinet and let’s get crackin’. 🙂
1 – 8 oz. package full-fat cream cheese
1 – 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 – 5oz. package instant vanilla pudding
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 – 12oz. container of cool whip (extra creamy, if available)
3 large bananas
1 box Nilla wafers
- In an electric mixer beat together room temperature cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until fully mixed.
- Pour in the box of instant vanilla pudding to the cream cheese mixture and slowly add your whole milk, cup by cup until combined. (Add the milk slowly in batches to reduce splashing everywhere).
- Add teaspoon of vanilla and then put mixture in the fridge for at least 10 minutes until the pudding thickens.
- Slice your bananas relatively thin. In a trifle bowl or clear pyrex dish, make a layer with the vanilla wafers covering the bottom of the dish. Cover the wafers with a layer of bananas.
- Once your mixture thickens, remove from fridge and gently fold in the container of thawed cool whip.
- Gently spoon about 1/3 of your pudding mixture over the first layer of wafers and sliced bananas. Smooth the layer with a rubber spatula then add another layer of wafers and sliced bananas. Spoon another 1/3 of your pudding over and then continue with another layer of wafers and bananas.
- Put the remaining 1/3 of pudding over the final banana and wafer layer. For the topping, I usually put a layer of wafers around the edges (as pictured) but you can also do crumbled wafers or add extra cool whip.