If you’re looking for the BEST Southern banana pudding recipe, look no further. Forget the boxed pudding mixes because you’re about to fall in love with homemade custard—and once you learn how easy it is to make, you’ll never want to use the boxed mix again!

This recipe takes simple ingredients and turns them into something spectacular! Banana pudding is a classic dessert that’s always a crowd-pleaser.

Oh my! This banana pudding is to die for! The best part is that homemade vanilla pudding. I couldn’t stop licking the spoon. I’ll never make banana pudding any other way. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. 

jenni (FACEBOOK)
A glass bowl of banana pudding topped with whipped cream and cookie crumbles placed on a wooden table.

We’ll walk you through the easy process of making this delicious homemade pudding, which only takes 10-15 minutes. Then you layer with fresh bananas and classic vanilla wafers. We top the pudding with homemade whipped cream, but you can certainly bake it with meringue if you prefer. Either way, this is going to be your new favorite Southern banana pudding recipe!

If you grew up in the South, you know banana pudding is as ubiquitous as it gets. Every roadside diner, every church potluck, every funeral gathering, every bridal shower…you’re going to have Southern banana pudding on the table. And pimento cheese, of course. 

Old-fashioned Southern banana pudding

As a fourth-generation Southern cook, I’ve eaten and made a LOT of banana puddings. I’ve tried the recipes with the instant pudding mix, and I’ve tried the recipes with three or four eggs to make homemade custard. I’ve also created a different banana pudding recipe with a surprise ingredient.

This recipe is hands down the best I’ve ever tasted. It comes from one of my favorite Southern cookbooks, The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, who also happen to be two of my favorite Southern chefs.

I’ve adapted the recipe to include traditional vanilla wafers instead of angel food cake, and I detest meringue, so I top mine with homemade whipped cream instead. But I didn’t touch that custard recipe because it’s absolutely perfect. 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe:

TASTE – Homemade custard is amazing in almost any form, but this recipe takes it to a new level. The vanilla flavor is layered by steeping the milk and including vanilla beans. It’s subtle and just enough. Heavy cream gives richness to the custard, along with more egg yolks—12!—than you’ve ever put in banana pudding before. Don’t be scared away by that–give it a try just as is, and you’ll see how amazing this recipe is!

EASINESS – Yes, you’re making homemade pudding, and yes, that’s more time-consuming than opening a box of pudding mix. But it only takes about fifteen minutes from cracking the eggs to cooking the pudding. The rest of the time is going to be the same regardless of how you make the pudding. 

NOSTALGIA – When you serve this banana pudding to your family and friends, someone will say, “Oh my gosh, this tastes just like my Grandma’s banana pudding!” Back before pudding mix was invented, cooks made homemade pudding. This is that recipe. 

I hope you’ll try this wonderful banana pudding recipe. I think you’ll love it, and your people will request it over and over!

Southern banana pudding recipe from scratch

There’s a reason why this recipe is always a big hit at family gatherings. It has banana flavor from the fresh banana slices, layers of vanilla custard, and layers of vanilla wafers, topped with fresh whipped cream or fluffy meringue, giving you the perfect Southern Banana Pudding. It does take a little time to pull together, but not much more than if you made instant pudding. 

To make it a little easier, you can make the custard one day in advance and then layer the banana pudding just before serving. If not serving warm, I like to serve at room temperature.

But the best is when you layer with the warm pudding mixture, top with whipped cream, and serve immediately. I promise your guests will think they’ve died and gone to Heaven!

Custard banana pudding ingredients

Whole milk – Adds to the richness of this custard.

Heavy cream – Gives your pudding its classic taste.

Vanilla bean – Don’t skip this part. You’ll steep the vanilla bean in milk and then scrape out the seeds. No vanilla extract can replicate this flavor.

Egg yolks – There are 12, yes, 12 egg yolks in this custard. Trust me. This is why it’s the best!

Sugar – A fairly small amount of sugar is used in this recipe, and it’s just enough.

All-purpose flour – This thickens your custard.

Salt – Just a pinch.

Vanilla extract – We layer the vanilla flavor by steeping the vanilla bean and adding quality vanilla extract. I’ve been loving this Tahitian Vanilla Extract.

Vanilla wafers – These are the perfect complement to our vanilla pudding and fresh bananas.

Bananas – You want ripe bananas that are still somewhat firm, not as ripe as those used for homemade banana bread.

That’s right—12 egg yolks and heavy cream are the secret and what sets this Southern Banana Pudding recipe apart from all the rest. You can’t make a to-die-for custard with a measly 3 or 4 egg yolks and regular milk. You gotta have the good stuff and lots of it!

How to make Southern banana pudding

Step 1. Prepare the milk. You’re going to start by steeping the vanilla bean in milk and cream. Twist the vanilla bean, but don’t scrape it, and then add it to a medium pot with milk and 1 cup of cream. Heat slowly until almost simmering, then cover, remove from heat, and allow to steep.

A single vanilla bean pod is steeping in a pot of milk on a stove, visible steam rising from the warm surface.

Step 2. Slice bananas. While the milk is steeping, slice your bananas so they are ready to layer and prepare your vanilla wafers. Making the custard only takes a few minutes, so don’t worry about the bananas getting too brown.

A peeled banana sliced into pieces on a wooden cutting board, with a whole banana in the background.

Step 3. Prepare the eggs. Next, put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the sugar, then the flour and salt.

A stainless steel mixing bowl containing eggs, flour, and sugar, with a whisk and two bananas beside it on a floral cloth-covered table.

Step 4. Cook the custard. Whisk until completely smooth, making sure there are no lumps. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk and whisk a little of the warm milk into the eggs to temper the eggs.

Two metal bowls on a wooden surface, one with whisked eggs and the other with milk, beside a floral cloth and a whisk.

Slowly whisk the rest of the milk into the egg yolks. Then, put all the goodness back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the custard thickens, whisking constantly. Be sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the pan while whisking. This should take about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a whisk with a large, heat-proof handle, then you’ll probably want to use an oven mitt to hold the whisk since it can get pretty warm.

After the custard begins to boil, cook for one minute longer and then remove it from the heat. At this point, the custard should be very thick.

A whisk in a pot of creamy sauce cooking on a stove.

​Step 6. Strain the custard. Strain the banana pudding custard through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl. This ensures that any cooked egg bits won’t be in your pudding.

Custard strained in a metal sieve over a white bowl.

Step 7. Finish the custard. Immediately whisk in the remaining 1 cup of cream and the three teaspoons of vanilla.

A metal whisk in a bowl with remnants of a pale yellow eggs, suggesting a recently mixed ingredient for baking or cooking.

Continue whisking until the cream is completely mixed in.

And that’s another secret to this amazing Southern Banana Pudding: whisking in the cream after cooking will make your custard smooth, silky, and utterly delicious.

How to layer this banana pudding with homemade custard

Now start layering: Spoon a thin layer of warm custard on the bottom of the dish and cover it with a layer of vanilla wafers. I like to crush some of the wafers and leave some whole.

Add a layer of sliced bananas, and then start over with the custard. Continue until you run out of wafers and bananas, finish with a layer of custard, then crumble a few vanilla wafers over the top.

A bowl of banana pudding topped with vanilla wafers and crushed cookies, viewed from above on a light tablecloth.

Banana pudding Southern-style toppings

At this point, you can set the banana pudding aside and make your homemade whipped cream. Pour heavy cream into your stand mixer, add a little sugar and vanilla, and beat for 3-5 minutes until stiff peaks form. 

Spread the whipped cream over the top of your custard, and you will have the best banana pudding ever!

Tips for banana pudding

  • Allow the milk to steep with the vanilla bean for 20-30 minutes for maximum flavor.
  • Up the vanilla flavor by making your own vanilla sugar: put some sugar in a container with a vanilla bean and let it sit for a few weeks. It’s so subtle but a nice touch. 
  • Don’t try to skip out on the whisking constantly step, or you’ll end up with scorched custard, and you will cry.
A trifle dessert with layers of custard, bananas, and vanilla wafers in a glass bowl.

How to store homemade Southern banana pudding

Southern Banana Pudding with homemade custard is best eaten the day you make it. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but the texture will start to break down and become a little watery, and the wafers and bananas start to get mushy. We still eat it, though. 

Can You Freeze Banana Pudding?

Short answer: NO. The custard would separate and become watery, and the bananas would get mushy.

Just eat it now!

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4.55 from 24 votes

Banana Pudding (Southern Style!)

Creamy, luscious, homemade custard makes all the difference in this Southern Banana Pudding.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Save This Recipe

Ingredients 

Custard:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 12 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Other ingredients:

  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 4-5 bananas, peeled and sliced ¼ – ½ inch thick

Whipped cream topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar, (or less)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions 

Custard:

  • Twist the vanilla bean but don’t scrape it and then add it to a medium pot with the milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat slowly until almost simmering and then cover, remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
  • Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the sugar, then the flour and salt. Whisk until completely smooth and make sure there are no lumps hiding in there.
  • Remove the vanilla bean from the milk and add a little of the milk to the egg yolks to temper the yolks. Stir slowly. Slowly add the rest of the milk to the egg yolks, stirring gently.
  • Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the custard thickens, whisking constantly. This should take 3-5 minutes. The custard should be very thick and will start to boil. Be sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • After the custard begins to boil, cook for one minute longer and then remove it from the heat. The custard will be very thick.
  • Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl.
  • Immediately whisk in the remaining 1 cup of cream and the three teaspoons of vanilla.

Putting it all together:

  • Spoon a thin layer of warm custard on the bottom of the dish, and cover with a layer of vanilla wafers. I like to crush some of the wafers and leave some whole.
  • Add a layer of sliced bananas and then start over with the custard.
  • Continue until you run out of wafers and bananas, and finish with a layer of custard, then crumble a few vanilla wafers over the top.
  • I like to serve the banana pudding while it’s still warm, and usually don’t even bother to add a topping. However, if you like you can add a meringue or a whipped cream topping.

Whipped Cream:

  • To make the whipped cream topping, have your bowl and beaters in the fridge for a bit and then take them out and add the cream. Beat with electric mixer until cream starts to get a little stiff, then add the sugar and vanilla.
  • Continue beating at high speed until cream holds peaks. Do not over-mix or it will curdle.
  • You can make this a little bit ahead of time. Serve a dollop of cream on top of each serving of the banana pudding or spread across the top before crumbling the wafers.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 10servings, Calories: 569kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 8g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Cholesterol: 337mg, Sodium: 189mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 34g
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American
Calories: 569
Keyword: banana pudding
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Southern banana pudding FAQs

Can I make banana pudding in advance?

Banana pudding is best served the day you make it, however, you can make the pudding in advance and just don’t layer the components until you’re ready to serve. Cover your pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a film from developing, and the next day, layer room-temperature pudding with vanilla wafers and banana slices. Don’t slice the bananas in advance. 

How ripe should bananas be for banana pudding?

Bananas should be ripe but not brown for banana pudding. You want them less ripe than if you were making homemade banana bread.

Why do my bananas turn brown in banana pudding?

​Bananas turn brown due to oxidation (exposure to the air.) When making this banana pudding recipe, wait until the last minute to peel and slice your bananas. Once you have them layered in the dish, they’ll be covered by the pudding and won’t brown as badly. 

How do you thicken homemade banana pudding?

Southern banana pudding is thickened by adding a little flour when cooking the custard. Other recipes may call for cornstarch to thicken the pudding.

What can I use in banana pudding instead of vanilla wafers?

You can use any type of sweet cookies that you like. Lots of people use ladyfingers or shortbread cookies. You could also use cubed angel food cake or pound cake. 

Update Notes: This post for Southern Banana Pudding was originally published on February 14, 2011, and was updated on April 23, 2024, with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, or new tips.

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About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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Recipe Rating




9 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I definitely reccomend trying!

    I recently lost my banana pudding recipe and was looking for a similar recipe. I almost didn’t try this recipe because the method was so different from how I’m used to making pudding. I’m used to cooking sugar, milk and cornstarch together, the tempering eggs, let it thicken, add vanilla and butter and put in ice bath. This recipe is better because it gets very thick and you can get it to desired consistency by adjusting the milk you add at the end.

    As written, I give recipe 4 stars. It was way too thick and creamy for my taste but the flavor is amazing. I adjusted recipe to 8 or 9 egg yolks, and add mixture of half and half and heavy cream at the end. I also decrease the vanilla since it already has a great vanilla flavor from steeping. This gives a better consistency for my taste and absorbs better into the wafers.