I Tried 4 Famous Ways of Making Banana Pudding, and the Winner Swept Them All

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Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

In nan world of desserts, banana pudding earns nan congeniality award. It’s a friends benignant of look — bully to nan cook, because it’s a awesome make-ahead action that’s ever well-received, and awesome for those who eat it, because it’s simply delicious. Banana pudding is awesome immoderate clip of year, excessively — conscionable arsenic invited astatine a backyard barbecue arsenic it is connected a vacation sideboard — and it tin consciousness homey aliases fancy depending connected nan presentation. 

As a lifelong Southerner (I grew up successful Mississippi and now unrecorded successful Birmingham, Alabama), I person enjoyed my adjacent stock of banana pudding. I’ve typically had it arsenic a acold layered dessert made pinch vanilla custard, sliced bananas, and Nilla Wafers that soften successful nan aforesaid measurement that graham crackers aliases cookies do successful an icebox cake. Recently, I moreover had my world rocked by a lukewarm type (amazing!) made pinch crisp pecan sandies (also incredible!) astatine a section restaurant. 

But what makes for a winning banana pudding recipe? To find out, I pitted 4 celebrated recipes against each different successful a side-by-side test. I was amazed by really different each look tasted, contempt being composed of fundamentally nan aforesaid elements: bananas, vanilla custard, cookies, and a creamy topping. The victor was 1 I’ll beryllium dreaming astir (and making) a lot!

So, What’s nan Best Banana Pudding Recipe?

Rodney Scott’s banana pudding is nan very champion look we tested. The rich | and creamy custard is worthy making from scratch, and nan store-bought wafer cookies makes it comparatively easy to whip together.

Meet Our 4 Banana Pudding Contenders

The banana pudding recipes I tested do stick, roughly, to nan aforesaid look — caller bananas, vanilla custard, creamy component, and cookies — but there’s a batch of variety among them. Two of nan recipes apical nan dessert pinch meringue — 1 an airy French meringue, and nan different a dense Swiss meringue — while different uses sweetened whipped pick arsenic nan topping. Three usage a homemade vanilla custard, while 1 uses a supermarket shortcut. Three of nan 4 instrumentality pinch classical vanilla wafer cookies, while 1 uses a homemade cookie. Each look was unsocial and amazingly different from nan rest.

Carla Hall: The look from this celebrated cook originates pinch homemade vanilla shortbread successful spot of packaged vanilla wafers. It besides blends banana (as in, successful a blender) for a fruit-infused pastry pick that besides incorporates whipped dense pick and chopped bananas. Finally, it layers nan cookies and pastry pick successful a trifle crockery and tops everything disconnected pinch a banana-flavored Swiss meringue.

Dolly Parton: The beloved vocalist shares her mother’s recipe, a elemental old-fashioned return that layers homemade vanilla custard pinch store-bought vanilla wafers and sliced bananas. The finishing touch is simply a basal French meringue that’s toasted by placing nan banana pudding successful nan oven agelong capable to springiness nan meringue immoderate color.

Rodney Scott: This recipe, shared by nan acclaimed southeastern barbecue chain, is akin to Parton’s recipe, successful that it uses a classical vanilla custard, sliced bananas, and store-bought vanilla wafers, but alternatively of meringue it tops nan pudding pinch chantilly pick (sweetened, vanilla-flavored whipped cream).

Magnolia Bakery: Promising to beryllium nan easiest look of nan bunch, this best-seller uses conscionable six ingredients (one of which is water), leans connected instant pudding mix, and requires nary cooking. It’s worthy noting besides that galore celebrated blogs guidelines their recipes connected Magnolia Bakery’s celebrated banana pudding. 

How I Tested nan Banana Pudding Recipes

  • I made each of nan banana pudding recipes connected nan aforesaid day. I prepared and assembled each of nan recipes successful nan morning, past chilled them for respective hours. (One exception: I made nan shortbread cooky mixed for Carla Hall’s look nan nighttime before, but I baked nan cookies nan adjacent morning.) I was capable to measure each of nan recipes side-by-side.
  • I utilized nan aforesaid marque of communal ingredients. Aside from making judge to usage nan aforesaid marque of cream, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar, I astir notably utilized Nabisco Nilla Wafers for nan 3 recipes that called for vanilla wafer cookies.
  • I tasted each banana pudding twice. I tried each look a fewer hours aft assembling and chilling, lining them up side-by-side for comparison. I besides tried them again nan adjacent morning.

Why You Should Trust Me arsenic a Tester

In my 25 years successful nutrient media (20 arsenic a mag editor, 5 arsenic a freelance look developer and nutrient writer), I person written, tested, and developed virtually thousands of recipes. I cognize really to measure a look for flavor, texture, and clarity and occurrence (or failure) of nan process.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

1.  The Easiest Version: Magnolia Bakery’s Magnolia’s Famous Banana Pudding 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

2.  The Ambitious Cooking Project: Carla Hall’s Banana Pudding pinch Vanilla Shortbread

Overall rating: 7.5/10
Get nan recipe: Banana Pudding pinch Vanilla Shortbread

Set speech immoderate clip if you scheme to make this recipe, and make room successful your descend for tons of soiled dishes. You’ll commencement by making vanilla shortbread cookies, a measurement that you tin do good successful advance.

As for nan custard, first, you’ll whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and ovum yolks successful a bowl. Next, you’ll blend mashed bananas pinch beverage and half-and-half successful a blender. At that point, you’ll power nan blended mixture, operation it pinch nan cornstarch mixture, and navigator nan combo until you get a heavy pastry cream. As that substance chills, you’ll make a Swiss meringue by whisking ovum whites and sweetener successful a double boiler until it reaches 165°F, past whipping nan whites to stiff peaks. You’ll past spirit nan meringue pinch vinegar, vanilla extract, and banana extract. Next, you’ll whip immoderate dense pick to soft peaks and fold it into nan pastry pick on pinch chopped bananas. Then comes assembly — building layers of cookies and pastry pick successful a trifle dish, past topping pinch nan meringue. Finally, you’ll garnish pinch cookies and banana slices.

As you tin astir apt tell, this look is a lot of work. It does move retired stunning, and it’s rather tasty. But I cannot get complete nan spirit of nan banana extract successful nan meringue. It simply overwhelmed everything other and gave what would person different been a beautiful dessert an artificial aftertaste. The cookies are delicious and crisp, nan custard is tasty and rich, and nan meringue’s texture is dense and swoon-worthy. Although nan spirit rumor would beryllium elemental to set (I would either omit nan banana extract aliases alteration nan magnitude from 1/2 spoon to possibly 1/8), wide this look seems a small excessively labor-intensive.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

3. A Comforting, Old-Fashioned Take: Dolly Parton’s Mother’s Banana Pudding

Overall rating: 8.5/10
Get nan recipe: Mother’s Banana Pudding

This look feels for illustration a homey, unassuming classic. It originates pinch a homemade vanilla pudding that you make by combining sugar, flour, milk, ovum yolks, and brackish successful a saucepan and cooking (stirring constantly) until thickened. At that point, you operation successful half a instrumentality of food and a scatter of vanilla extract. You let nan pudding to cool slightly, past furniture vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding doubly successful a baking dish. 

Next, you’ll make a elemental French meringue by beating ovum whites, sugar, and vanilla to stiff peaks and past dispersed it atop nan banana pudding. You’ll cook nan substance for astir 15 minutes to brownish and navigator nan meringue, past chill nan vanished banana pudding. 

I loved nan vanilla custard, which was creamy and extra-rich, acknowledgment to that butter. The vanilla wafers softened nicely aft nan substance was chilled truthful that nan dessert had a pleasing, almost homogenous texture; hearty pudding pinch softened (but not mushy) cookies and soft banana slices. The 1 rumor I had pinch nan dessert was nan meringue, which shrunk a spot and seeped syrupy droplets connected its surface. I cognize that this type of meringue is accepted for a batch of folks, but it felt acold excessively airy and foamy for nan awesome dessert below, a textural miscue that was wholly incongruous pinch nan rich | pudding. A denser Swiss aliases Italian meringue would person been overmuch better. And if I make this again, that’s what I would usage instead.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

4. The Most Balanced Recipe pinch an Emphasis connected nan Pudding: Rodney Scott’s Banana Pudding

Overall rating: 10/10
Get nan recipe: Banana Pudding

As nan recipe’s headnote states, Rodney Scott’s time-pressed mother sometimes leaned connected instant pudding operation for her banana pudding. So erstwhile creating a banana pudding look for his barbecue restaurants, he asked for thief from his friend Lisa Marie Donovan, famed pastry cook and author.

The look starts pinch a straightforward vanilla pudding made by whisking together sugar, flour, salt, ovum yolks, a full egg, and immoderate cream; you past adhd basking beverage and vanilla to temper this substance and past navigator it until thickened. As that substance cools to room temperature, you’ll make a chantilly pick by beating together dense cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Assembly calls for a azygous furniture of purchased vanilla wafers, each of nan pudding, nan sliced bananas, and nan chantilly cream.

What you get erstwhile you furniture nan dessert this measurement is simply a thicker pudding area betwixt 1 furniture of cookies and 1 furniture of bananas — placing much accent connected nan deliciously smooth, rich, creamy custard. While Parton’s pudding is enriched pinch butter, this 1 is made richer pinch pick for a silkier effect. The lightly sweetened chantilly pick is simply a beautiful finishing touch, making nan dessert consciousness much balanced and little cloyingly saccharine than immoderate of nan different versions. There’s a statement astatine nan extremity of nan look explaining that this layering strategy is what they usage astatine nan restaurant, but you could adhd different furniture of cookies and bananas if you’d like. To me, though, nan measurement it is is perfect, rewarding you pinch a much pronounced pudding beingness successful each delicious bite.