Sunday, July 26, 2009

Homemade Southern Banana Pudding

Banana pudding, layered with vanilla wafer cookies, bananas, and a made from scratch egg custard, topped with a homemade meringue.

Homemade Banana Pudding

Woohoo, it's homemade banana pudding y'all! And let me tell you - we southerners love our banana pudding, but we really love it, homemade, from scratch, with real custard, layered and meringue topped. Now that's southern banana pudding - the way banana pudding was meant to be eaten y'all.

So, yesterday y'all might have seen my tweet where I mentioned I was piddling about in the garage with the garage door wipe open, when I noticed there were a couple of birds sitting on my car in the driveway. One glance at their fuzzy little heads and I realized that it was the baby finches that had been birthed in one of my hanging plants on the front porch, finally flying the coup. Unfortunately, when I inadvertently walked up on them, I also frightened them, and they flew straight into the open garage.

Now, like many of you {c'mon now, I know I'm not in this alone}, I don't use my garage to park cars in. Rather, I use my garage to store stuff in.  There are boxes in there from heaven knows when, some I think from when I first moved into this house. Every once in awhile I go out and pick through and purge them and straighten up the garage. When those birds flew in there, well let's just say that I hadn't done that in awhile.

I had to shift and move around a lot of boxes and I finally found one of the babies fluttering about in an open box, so I carefully took what was in there out and then brought the box out to the driveway where he apparently found his way to his mama. The other baby I never found despite rearranging and digging through many open boxes, but I left the garage open all day and hoped that he would manage to find his way out too.

My Mama has been passed on for about 12 years now, and when we finally sold her house in 2002, since my brother and my sister live elsewhere, I was left with the chore of emptying out the house. Many things went to charity, some things I kept. And much of what is out there are boxes of some of my Mama's kitchen things. In all that digging and moving boxes around, I found something that I had been looking for, for a long time and frankly thought was lost. {You might have also seen me tweet about finding a ThighMaster in one of those boxes, but no ... we ain't goin' there!} I found a vintage Pyrex baking bowl.

Not just any bowl you see... a 1950s vintage Pyrex Thumbnail Pattern ovenware baking dish and the very bowl that my Mama used to make her banana pudding in! Now I have a lot of vintage dishes - not ebay indulgences {though there's nothin' wrong with that!}, but things that I've had since I was a young bride - so, I knew I had some old dishes, but this one is as old, or even older, than me! I was so excited, I decided that in honor of finding the official banana pudding makin' bowl, that I absolutely must immediately make banana pudding!

As if I really needed a reason. Mama always used the original Nilla Banana Pudding recipe, as many of our mothers did, and so that's the one I still use.

I know that some folks don't layer their banana pudding like this. They just sort of dump everything in a bowl, give it a good stir and then let it soak for a bit. Well, I layer mine, because Mama layered hers. It just looks nicer in a pretty clear bowl that way anyway, though there's not a thing wrong with a dump and stir either.

I also know that some folks are a bit intimidated by the process of making meringue, or they just flat out don't like it, but I do a meringue topping on my banana pudding, because that's how Mama did hers. You don't have to, and you can even top your banana pudding with whipped cream if you like, but in my humble opinion, meringue is decidedly southern and it's not at all hard to do with a mixer. Click right here for a step by step tutorial on making meringue that includes a few helpful tips too.

But y'all know what I always say about cookin'. Don't let anybody tell you - no, not even a southern cook - that there is only one way to make something, because even in The South we tend to do things a bit different from one another, depending on what area of The South that we grew up in. Nothing gets me madder than a wet hornet for somebody to tell me a "real southerner" wouldn't prepare something a certain way. So you go right ahead and make this fabulous southern dessert your own and do it the way your mama did, because we all know for each of us, Mama's way is our right way.

The one thing that I do hope you will do however, is make up the custard from scratch. While using the shortcut pudding version makes for a fine banana pudding, I am totally serious when I say there is a world of difference with the homemade custard. Very. Big. Difference. And, truly, it is just not that much more work than making up a pudding from a box, I swear, so go ahead and give it try. You will love it! Be sure to let the hot custard cool just a bit before layering the dessert, otherwise you'll have the cookie wafers turn to mush, instead of just softening up. If you like your cookies with more of a crunch to them, prepare the custard in advance but layer into individual parfait dishes instead.
So here's to you Mama... and I promise. I will treat this bowl with the respect it deserves from now on. Miss ya bunches!
For a step by step tutorial with more complete directions on how to make a homemade custard banana pudding with meringue, go here for my original post.

Recipe: Homemade Southern Banana Pudding

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min |Inactive time: 1 hour | Yield: About 12 servings

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided to 1/2 and 1/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 overflowing teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box of Nilla Vanilla Wafers, you won't use every one them
  • 4 to 6 ripe bananas, sliced (as many as you want)
  • Pinch cream of tartar

Separate the eggs and set aside the whites to come to room temperature for meringue.

In the top of a double boiler, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour, salt, and milk. Whisk in the yolks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and mixture reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and set aside, to cool slightly.

In a 1-1/2 quart baking dish begin layering. Spoon a small amount of the custard on the bottom of your dish; add a layer of the wafers on top of the custard and also around the outside of bowl with the rounded tops facing out, if desired. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard for a total of 2 to 3 layers, ending with custard on top. Set aside.

Prepare meringue by whipping the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar and add to top of the pudding, spreading to the edges. Place into a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the peaks of the meringue brown. Remove and let sit for about at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving.
Garnish with a sprinkling of crushed wafers just before serving, if desired.

NOTE: If you have never made a homemade egg custard before, I recommend reviewing my step by step tutorial recipe first and then also, understand that it takes time for an egg custard to thicken, but eventually it will get thick. Just keep cooking it! I always recommend preparing it with a double boiler method which is slow, but prevents curdling the eggs and burning the custard, which happens easily with a direct stovetop method. As long as you follow the recipe and continue to cook it, it will thicken, but you must practice patience.

Cook's Notes: Double for a potluck or larger baker. I like to double the custard portion of this recipe. Can also place meringue under a broiler with the door cracked until peaks brown but only for mere seconds - so keep an eye on it.


Shortcut "Custard"
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Watkins vanilla extract
  • 2 (3.4 ounce) packages of Jello vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) container of sour cream
To a mixer bowl combine the milk and vanilla extract. Add the vanilla instant pudding mix and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until thickened. Let stand for 5 minutes and then stir in the sour cream. Use this mixture in place of the homemade custard, eliminating the 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, milk and egg yolks. Layer the shortcut custard with the wafers and bananas, and prepare the meringue as directed above to top it off. Can also substitute whipped cream or Cool Whip for the meringue, if desired.

Cook's Note: Also excellent with a cream cheese, condensed milk and vanilla pudding filling found here.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on July 26, 2009
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  1. This is awsome looking banana pudding- of course it's even better in your mothers bowl!I like meringue or whipped cream, either one is yummy!
    My mother passed away 2 1/2 yrs. ago and I have so much stuff you, I've gotten rid of a lot, but I have a good share of boxes I can't let go of.

  2. That looks good! It is such a delight to find something that holds wonderful memories. Continue to enjoy your mother's bowl.

  3. As you know I've made your recipe minus the merengue and girl it was soooo good!

    We don't park Lucille in the garage either...there's no room...teehee!!

  4. As northern transplants to SC, we just devour banana pudding WHEN it is good....your recipe and photo looks like a winner! Thank you for giving your recipe to your readers cuz this one I know we will enjoy! Roz

  5. So glad you found your Mama's bowl and made this pudding to tempt all of us. I had to get my banana fix over the weekend too. I ended up with a banana chocolate cream pie. I almost made my own pudding, but then ran short on time and cooked it out of the box. I agree, the homemade kind is so much better!

    That meringue on top looks divine!

  6. Your banana pudding looks out of this world!! And how awesome that you found your mama's bowl...great day :D

  7. The pudding looks amazing. Thanks for sharing your Mom's recipe with us.

  8. Your southern banana puddding is the same exact pudding my mom always made (as I do now), even the merengue topping. I put the merengue on my pudding but just like when I was a kid, I scrape it off before I start eating that delish pudding. We always layer ours too.

  9. I just happen to fine this by accident and was totally blowed away.What a great looking banana pudding. I wish i was near you to enjoy some but I live in Michigan I would love to get more great recipes. Thanks for sharing and keeping the memory of your Mothers bowl alive take care lynette

  10. I have fond memories of fitting a car in my garage, and I did actually go through some boxes this weekend.

    I envy your vintage pyrex bowl and your banana pudding!!

  11. Yumalicious!!! Just found you and I love your blog! Looks amazing~
    All Things Heart and HOme

  12. I love that you posted that, because it's my list of things to make this week :)

    I'm so glad you were able to find your mom's bowl!

  13. What a great looking banana pudding! I love that you found your moms bowl. It's always a joy to find things that you thought might have been lost.

  14. WOW, i have never had this and now i really want to try it. I just want to reach inside the screen......

  15. Our family Secret is that we add 1/2 tsp coconut extract to everything listed.

  16. Sounds good to me JeansandTs - thanks!

  17. My grandma was from Texas and she loved making this! The tastes of memories from Texas, can't get any better than this!

  18. Yum! I really enjoyed reading this. I just posted about my mama's banana pudding recipe -- very similar but she used cornstarch instead of flour. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us Southern cooks!

  19. I've never seen a Banana Pudding that wasn't layered.

  20. Me either San! I grew up with it layered and topped with meringue. There are folks who do though, guess that's the way they grew up with it.

  21. This sounds like what my mom made. I don't know for sure but I am gonna make this! Can't wait to get my hands on some bananas so I can get started.
    Originally I am from South Carolina but have been in Wisconsin for the past 48.5 years. I married a sailor over 50 years ago and he took me away. Love every minute of it!!

  22. Believe it or not, I have actually BEEN to Wisconsin! Okay, it was only once. :) It was Christmas & it was Sheboygan & it was nice & peaceful. I had a hard time sleeping that first night & I was looking out the window of an upstairs bedroom. I remember thinking it was like stepping into a Normal Rockwell painting! I sure hope that this is like the banana pudding of your memories. It sure is good - enjoy & Happy New Year!

  23. I've been looking for a classic southern banana pudding recipe for a while. My grandmother used to make banana pudding for my mom. Now that she's passed, my mom has been trying to find one that reminds her of home. I can't wait to try this. It's always hard to find one that doesn't use a box mix (which is a no no for my mom) so I think this will be perfect!

    1. Oh Layla, I sure hope this is "the one!" Please let me know.

  24. Hi Mary! I tried this recipe two days ago and my husband and I absolutely love it! Thanks for sharing!! I chose to make it once before debuting it with friends for the Fourth of July! I do have a question... I'm not sure if I didn't allow the custard to cook long enough (about 10-15mins) or if I needed to add additional flour, but my custard did not achieve the desired thickness like yours did. Should I have cooked it longer and/or added additional flour? I wasn't sure if adding flour would've altered the taste and therefore ruin the recipe. So needless to say, mine came out a little mushier than desired, as you warned us would happen if we didn't allow the custard to thicken enough but the two of us didn't mind :-) It was sooooo good!!! :-) Thanks thanks thanks and God bless you!!!

    1. You probably just needed to take it a little bit longer I'm guessing. Did you see the more detailed pics on this post? I do use a double boiler, or a bowl on top of a pot will work, and that method thickens it up faster. If you cook it right over the eye, it takes a bit longer. It just takes a little practice to see when it's ready - which means more banana pudding!! :)

  25. I am about to make one tonight for my daughter's birthday! She always wants this instead of cake. Homemade custard is a must! And also brand name vanilla wafers only. I can almost make this with my eyes closed!

    1. I think banana pudding is a great birthday "cake!"

  26. Great! I make it every year for my daughter's. Birthday! Must be homemade pudding and always NILLA WAFERS ONLY! No cheap wafers;).

  27. ~ Loved hearing your story. Baby birds, garage's keeping our stuff safe, memories of baking and cooking with Grandma and Mom; I can relate. These are the things that make me happy in life. Filed this in the recipe box and plan to make it this week and I will also find that special dish to make it in. ~ thank you... here's to our Mom's who took the time and love to let us help in the kitchen.

    1. Thanks! It was a crazy experience but at least it led me to the banana pudding bowl!!

  28. ~ Loved hearing your story. Baby birds, garage's keeping our stuff safe, memories of baking and cooking with Grandma and Mom; I can relate. These are the things that make me happy in life. Filed this in the recipe box and plan to make it this week and I will also find that special dish to make it in. ~ thank you... here's to our Mom's who took the time and love to let us help in the kitchen.

  29. My mixture wont thicken fallowed recipie help!l

    1. Hey Kelley! As long as you didn't omit anything (sugar, flour, salt, milk & egg yolks) it will thicken, just let it keep cooking!! Using a double boiler or a bowl over boiling water takes a little longer but ensures that you do not scorch the custard or curdle the eggs. Just keep cooking and stirring and it will eventually thicken. The water underneath should be at a low to medium boil though, that will speed it up. If its only at a simmer it could take a long time to thicken. You can also prepare the custard in a saucepan right on the burner for a faster result, but you risk burning the custard & curdling the eggs, so you really have to be careful with that. Don't want burned pudding!!

  30. I see some ppl using evaporated milk... Is that a good or bad thing...

    1. The ones you'll see using evaporated milk probably are the ones using a packaged pudding. For an egg custard I have always used whole milk.

    2. Ok... And thank you SOOOO much for replying... I can't wait to make this banana pudding... My sister in law use to make her banana pudding every holiday at least 2 big pans. And i miss that but we no longer live near one another..

    3. You're welcome & I really think you'll love the homemade custard. Let me know!


  32. Horrible. . Was so watery never thickened followed exactly as instructed. Such a waste.

    1. I just hate anonymous comments that stop by and say things like this, but I'm publishing it anyway to say that I'm sorry but there is no way you followed the recipe and ended up with a watery custard. Impossible!! I have made this exact recipe all of my life & as you can see from the step by step pictures in the post, there is nothing watery about this custard. I'm guessing that you are inexperienced with custards and that you simply gave up before it thickened & you cannot blame the recipe for impatience!!


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