Comfort Food: A Perfect Banana Pudding

I know, I know. You're thinking: boring, old fashioned and it uses Vanilla Wafers, for heaven's sake! Wrong. When done right, it's comfort food at it's finest.

There's a lot of debate about its origins. Which came first: 'Nilla wafers or the pudding? (This is not the recipe on the 'Nilla Wafers box, which uses cornstarch and not flour.) And why is it considered a southern dish?

The first recipe for banana pudding was found in Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book, by Sarah Tyson Rorer (1902) in a section labeled "Hawaiian Recipes".

Then, in 1903, the following recipe from "The Kentucky Receipt Book," by Mary Harris Frazer, was published:

Banana Pudding.
Take ½ dozen bananas , peel and cut in pieces an inch thick, put in baking dish and pour over custard made in the following manner: Custard-One pint of milk, 3 eggs, beat the yolks light, add milk, also 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Have the milk boiling, add the eggs and let it cook until it thickens; when cool pour over the bananas. Make a meringue with whites of the eggs and granulated sugar, put on top of custard, set in oven a few minutes to brown. Serve at once.

So, by about 1900, we have the custard, bananas and meringue parts of banana pudding in place. Nabisco began selling the final piece of the puzzle, vanilla wafers, in about 1901. No one seems to know who thought of lining the banana pudding dish or layering the pudding with vanilla wafers.

Have you ever had banana pudding at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah? They're famous for it. Why, I can't imagine. Her recipe is typical and also why gourmands turns their noses up when you mention banana pudding: Mrs. Wilkes uses instant vanilla pudding, very few bananas, and a 'Nilla wafer. No wonder it has a bad name!

But this recipe is the real McCoy. Is it trendy? No. Is it glamorous? No.
Is it the perfect comfort food? YES.

It's a snap to make. Not as simple as instant pudding on top of bananas with a 'Nilla wafer stuck in the top but the little extra effort is the difference between a Mrs. Wilkes' type banana pudding and a pudding that will make you roll your eyes and moan. I'm serious here, people. You have no idea.

There are a couple basic rules to follow: you must use a 9" by 9" baking pan and you must have ripe bananas. The kind with some black speckles on them. Not mushy, ripe.

Ready? Here we go!

Perfect Banana Pudding
From Texas Cooking Online


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
4 egg yolks
1 box of Vanilla Wafers
5 large ripe bananas

For the meringue:
4 egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375°.

Line the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking dish with a layer of vanilla wafers. (This recipe will not use the whole box, so you may snack along the way, but don't get carried away.)

Peel the bananas and slice into 3/8-inch rounds; use a ruler (I'm kidding!). Cover the banana slices with plastic wrap to keep them from darkening, and quickly make your pudding.

Note: I didn't do it this way. I made the pudding first, covered it with plastic wrap and then sliced the bananas.

Combine the sugar, flour and salt in bowl, mix well, and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks well (just use a fork or a whisk, but beat well). Over medium heat, add the flour mixture to the egg yolks alternately with the milk and vanilla, stirring constantly.

Bring to a gentle boil and, when mixture begins to thicken, add butter, continuing to stir to prevent scorching. When the mixture reaches pudding consistency, remove from heat.  

Place a layer of banana slices in the baking dish on top of the vanilla wafers. Don't stint and put one slice of banana per wafer. Line those banana slices up edge-to-edge.

Pour, spreading as necessary, half of the pudding over the banana layer. Put down another layer of vanilla wafers, another layer of banana slices, and cover with the remaining pudding.

For the meringue, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar.  Beat and then add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the vanilla into the meringue, and spread the meringue over the pudding, sealing it at the sides of the dish.
Place in a preheated 375° oven and bake until browned, 12 to 15 minutes, depending upon your oven.

This recipe makes 6 or 8 servings. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated.
And, yes, it's hard to cover anything with a meringue top and although banana pudding is not attractive after it's been refrigerated, it's still just as delicious.


  1. Now that's a banana pudding I would actually try! Never seen it with meringue before, how pretty!

  2. What a delicious dessert! Yummy!

  3. I am admitting here and now, I have never eaten banana pudding. Banana pie, yes, but not pudding with the vanilla wafers.

  4. Yum. You make me miss my mom!
    This is similar to how she made banana cream pie. She crushed up the Nills wafers to make the crust.

  5. Hungry: "Real" banana pudding recipes always use a meringue; the thing is, some of them cheat and use instant pudding.

    Talita: Thank you and it was nice of you to visit my blog.

    Susan: Give it a try..you will love it.

    Mimi: Oddly enough, even though my mother was a super cook, never once did she make a banana pudding or a banana cream pie. I remember my grandmother, when she had extra piecrust dough, would make tiny little banana pies with sugar sprinkled on top.

  6. Oh you are bringing back fond memories, my Mom used to make Banana Pudding for every family gathering and I can't wait to try your recipe...I'm hungry now!!

    Love and hugs,

  7. This is enough to make me go off the 'salad' wagon! It looks delightful, Barbara.

  8. To me, its the simple foods like this, the ones that remind us of being carefree kiddies, that are the most delicious dishes ever.
    Plus, it looks really fattening, so i know its good.
    *kisses* HH

  9. Whew. Glad I didn't see this while the Knight was in the office. The man is a 'nanner puddin' freak. Me? If it isn't bread pudding, I don't eat it, so... ;)

  10. You know that I never had a banana pudding in my life but these pictures are pulling it in for me!!

    Now, I know what I will be making in the following days!! This pudding looks stunning!!!

  11. Be still my heart...you totally nailed this, it is beyond perfect!

  12. I've got bananas and nilla wafers. I forsee banana pudding in my future.

    Did you know there's a banana pudding pie I've been dying to make?

  13. I love a real pudding. This looks wonderful! My daughter and son are crazy for a meringue topping too - they would love it.

  14. Oh my goodness, this banana pudding sounds just heavenly! I would so love a little bit ... or the whole thing!

  15. Banana pudding is one of my favorite desserts! We encounter it frequently at bbq joints here in Austin, and it's always topped with whipped cream. I made a version last year with meringue and loved that too. Yours looks fantastic!

  16. There is nothing boring about banana pudding. Round here, it is pretty much sacred.

  17. I would commit crimes to get at some of that! Best food I've seen in a week!

  18. Karyn: Nice this reminded you of your mom. Hope this recipe comes close!

    Susan: I must be honest. I took one bite (I've made it before so I know it's good) and gave the rest away! Ah, temptation!

    HH: See above comment to Susan. ;)

    Channon: Bread pudding is #1 with me too! I make mine with a ton of eggs and condensed milk.

    Sophie: Thanks! Coming from you that is quite a compliment. Let me know how you like it.

    Katherine: Tell me about it!

    Duck: Keep me posted...love your pies!

    Natashya: The meringue makes it special.

    Natasha: Therein lies the problem! One bite or all of it?

    Lisa: No, no to the whipped cream. Yes to meringue!

  19. Pam: I'm in complete agreement!

    BD: Nicest compliment I've ever had from you! And you're pretty complimentary, too. Thank you!

  20. LOL I thought you were serious about the bananas. But if I had to actually cut them a specific length to make them taste as good as the picture looks I totally would have done it!

  21. Your photo with that steaming piece of pudding has me drooling. I love the way that your recipes are always so inspiring and personal and learning about the history of puddings makes for some great reading! Thanks so much for the info; now all I need are some ripe bananas and some willing testers to share with.

  22. I agree with you about Miss Wilkes Banana Pudding. Simply not worth the calories. But this, Madame it looks sublime! I intend to make this for the Saturday Blog Showcase. I just know my family will finish this off in no time flat! Thanks for sharing!

  23. What great comfort food... yum!!!!

  24. this looks so creamy and rich, it would not last long in our house! fantastic!

  25. My husband and I both love banana pudding! I tried one about a year ago out of the joy of cooking cookbook, but I think it's time to try another one. this sounds wonderful. bookmarking it :)

  26. Looks perfect to me! Pure comfort food, doesn't get any better than that!

  27. Beautiful! My mother loves banana pudding, I'll be making this for her sometime very soon. Thanks for the recipe!

  28. Oh my goodness! This lovely dish of comfort in a bowl looks better than ANY banana pudding I've ever had! The meringue top is gorgeous, Barbara!

  29. Barbara this recipe makes my heart sing. It's everything wonderful and nostalgic all wrapped up under that gorgeous fluffy meringue. You gave me something to dream about tonight. Hope you are well and having a lovely week thus far? xx deb

  30. Wow Barbara, are you sure you didn't uase a ruler to measure your bananas? They look perfect! This is a dish I'd never heard of actually. I love banofee pie but this sounds really good too.

  31. Ive never seen banana pudding with meringue on top. It looks divine and so NOT boring. I may have to try this, great change up to a lovely recipe.

  32. The saddest part about this is that I've never ever had banana pudding. A fact that needs to be fixed, especially after seeing how delicious this is. Thanks for all of the history about the banana pudding! It's so hard to piece apart the origins of recipes sometimes. It seems that they just appear out of nowhere!

  33. Trissa: I actually looked at a ruler to get some idea of what width that was!

    Vanessa: Thanks so much!

    Pam: Someone told me they went to Mrs. Wilkes and there were NO bananas in her pudding!

    Long Past: It makes you feel warm and cozy! It's also addictive.

    Teresa: Nor in mine!

    Megan: It's the best one I have ever tasted.

    Dishes: Thanks! I don't know about perfect, but it's close!

    Foodie: If she likes banana pudding, she'll love this one.

    Faith: I agree. The meringue makes it perfect.

    Deborah: It makes my tummy sing! Week going well...finally warming up down here.

    Shaz: Well, I thought about it....

    Donna: I don't think comfort desserts are boring, but so many people do.. their loss, right? More for us!

    Joanne: Please try it when you have time. So simple and you med students need comfort!

  34. Barbara, comfort has never been so sweet. There is nothing old fashion about a delicious dessert like Banana Pudding. Somethings like a classic like this should never go out of style.

    I think I will have to make one soon, if only for its memories that it will bring while eating... Many thanks

  35. WOW!! This look heavenly to me!!! Barbara, xx gloria

  36. This looks delicious! Thanks for sharing Barbara.

  37. I just saw you got this from Texas cooking online...I have to check it out!

    I could eat banana pudding every day...

  38. Sorry, I'm Marvin. I was under my photographer's e-mai!

  39. That is Southern Comfort, right there! A thing of beauty!

  40. I'M not marvin, but I was under his name. I have to put his photo assignments into his g-mail calender, and I didn't know I was signed in.

  41. What a terrific pudding! Really mouthwatering!



  42. Ok - that looks like the most PERFECT banana pudding ever!!

  43. Yes it is the perfect banana pudding comfort food! It's beautiful!

  44. Vanilla Wafers?? Hell YEAH!

  45. Barbara, I love this time of year, just perfect for cozy comfort food. No need for me to worry about prancing around in a bathing suit...yet, so this is just calling my name. I love the meringue topping!!
    ps, that is so funny about the strip teas class, I hadn't heard that one!! But I do hear it is a hard workout..:) I plan to stick to the treadmill!! I'm way too accident prone for that intimating pole.

  46. Oh Barbara thankyou SO much for this recipe! I had banana pudding at an American restaurant and thought I had died and gone to heaven and wanted to recreate it. I just need to get a hold of some Nilla wafers and I'm ready! :D

  47. Wow, that is one banana pudding I think my husband would kill for!!! It looks delicious...Great blog!

  48. Hi Barbara, This sounds heavenly. I think I remember something like this from my childhood. In the days when food was different and better.
    Thanks for the heads up on the jeans.

  49. mmm...i can almost taste it...

  50. I am sure my kids would inhale this pudding~ it looks so good!
    by the way, i hav a raffle going on till the end of the month if interested; you leave a message on the post Kamal Mouzawak to win. I brought back organic spices from Lebanon.

  51. ^^ 謝謝你的分享,祝你生活永遠多彩多姿!........................................

  52. I am so going to make this one..yum. Your images always make everything look so so good. I will thank you a head of time from family..they will love this one!

  53. Your banana pudding look really perfect indeed Barbara. Very tempting.

  54. This Looks Great... Banana Pudding comes up a lot on catering menus here in Chicago. It has that Southern/Soul background.

  55. George: I agree. It brings back lots of memories.

    Gloria: Definitely heavenly!

    Kitten: Thanks and thank you for visiting my blog!

    Duck and Marvin: I saw Marvin on someone else's comment list yesterday!

    TKW: It was gorgeous all right and tasted just as good as it looked!

    Rosa, Deborah and Lyndsey: I think it's the best banana pudding recipe I have ever seen.

    Phoenix: Do you like them all alone? I never was that crazy about nilla wafers, but they sure make this dish.

    Bunny: Nothing like a warm pudding to take your mind off the cold outside!

    Lorraine: Hope you find the nilla wafers- although I think any neutral vanilla cookie might work.

    Debbie: Surprising the number of husbands who love this dish!

    June: Funny how we all remember food from our childhood as being better!

    Brian: Believe it or not, I think this is a guy's dish. Men love it.

    Taste: Sounds good, I'll check it out.

    Jimmie: 访问我的博客谢谢各位!

    Koralee: Hope they all love it!

    Elra: Too tempting when you're watching what you're eating...I gave the rest of it away!

    Bryan: I always wondered why, but when I researched, the main recipe came from Kentucky.

  56. This is the same recipe that I use with my students! I love the way that you put it in a 9 x 13 in. pan. The servings come out beautiful!!! Tell me how you get the cute little notes of congratulations on the side and also I am interested in the post this on your twitter site. I have not seen that used before. E-mail me. I love your site. Am using you in #FF today!

  57. Gosh Barbara, this is such a fantastic dessert! Awesome recipe. I'm saving it up for later use. Thank you so much!

  58. I've never had banana pudding before. I love the way your meringue looks. Just beautiful!

  59. Teacher: Left a comment on your blog.

    Kristy: Glad you liked it! Was fun making it.

    El: Meringues are really easy and look so beautiful! The trick is to cut them with a knife dipped in cold water.

  60. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but for the sake of that gorgeous Banana Pudding Pie of yours, I will.

    On my last visit to Idaho, my daughter "baked" up almost this exact recipe. (hers has a whipped cream topping) When I tell you, we ate the whole pie in one sitting, I'm not kidding. NOTHING like what I imagine the instant pudding variety pretends to be. It's simply heavenly.

    I'm going to save this post for National Pie Day, January 23. We all need a reminder of "real" comfort food and your timeless recipe is just perfect. Thanks for sharing Barbara.

    P.S. Just a note about crumb crusts. It seems Nabsico doesn't claim the "invention" of either Graham Cracker crust or Nilla Wafer crust. Some think the notion of using a cookie crust stems from Eastern Europe's use of zwieback cookie crust for cheesecakes. Jean Anderson; The American Century Cookbook

  61. No, no. I am thinking OMG banana pudding. I love it!!! Perfect with vanilla wafers and meringue-DELICIOUS!!! Another American classic comfort food.

  62. I am huge fan of banana pudding and yours sounds and looks FANTASTIC!

  63. Hello there daaaaaaahling! I've left an award for you on my blog, come check it out.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  64. Ok, you've convinced me. I never had it, but I know now that I've been deprived all this time of just the perfect comfort food. And I love the historical introduction to the recipe. One problem: I can't make meringue:(

  65. i admit it--i go for the instant pudding, cool whip, and sour cream method of perfect pudding. kudos to you for going the extra mile for this magnificent comfort food!

  66. Simply: Thanks!

    Louise: Love that you ate the entire pie! I must admit I really don't care for banana cream pie much and I've only had it with a regular crust, never a nilla wafer crust. But I do love this pudding!

    Velva: Well perhaps an American classic. I find it interesting the first recipe ever found was listed under "Hawaiian" recipes. We'll have to ask our Hawaiian blogger friends.

    Erica: It is!

    Mohan: Thank you for your kind comments!

    Francesca: Yes, you CAN make meringue! It's easy. If you can use a mixer, you can make meringue. Try it!

    Grace: Well, it takes a tad longer than instant pudding, but really not that much. Especially since everyone loves to eat it warm!

  67. Barbara, I love banana pudding. I used to have a friend who had a banana pudding recipe she kept closely guarded. She said it was dangerous--every time she made it for a man he proposed to her!

    This one looks like the real mccoy!

  68. Kate: After reading through some of the comments and, from personal experience (although nobody has proposed recently ;) )it appears this is definitely a man's dish.

  69. Ok, WOW!! This is awesome!! It looks so good. I want some so bad now, I'm drooling!! :)

  70. another reason to use my blowtorch!
    thank you! :)

  71. I think it looks very pretty! I had never even heard of it before :)

  72. That meringue topping is a WINNER

  73. My mom LOVES banana pudding so I think I may just whip some of this up for her sometime soon. It looks absolutely delicious!

  74. this looks so amazing! Thanks for the recipe.

  75. I posted a link from my blog to yours. I am using yours in my class today as we are making banana pudding. Thanks so much, Wanda



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