The Very Best Southern Banana Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream

The very best “from scratch” southern banana pudding with step by step instructions

Why this southern banana pudding recipe is “The Very Best”:

  • This custard is a true vanilla bean custard made with eggs, butter, milk and fresh vanilla beans. Don’t bother with that gluey powdered “pudding” mix. This dreamy custard takes just about the same amount of time and has NO chemicals or artificial colorings.
  • Only 1/2 cup of sugar is used in this custard recipe so you taste the vanilla and the bananas and it is not too sweet.
  • I load tons of banana into the layers sandwiched in between incredible custard.
  • Layer with fresh whipped cream for a pillowy addition to the filling.
  • Crumble with extra cookies and banana slices on top for a posh, picture-perfect dessert

Ingredients you need to make this Southern Banana Pudding Recipe:

fresh ingredients-

  • whole milk
  • heavy whipping cream
  • eggs
  • butter
  • ripe bananas

pantry ingredients-

  • whole vanilla beans OR vanilla paste
  • shortbread cookies- Lorna Dunes, ‘Nilla wafers, Chessmen etc.
  • cornstarch
  • salt, nutmeg
  • sugar
  • vanilla sugar
  • A baking bowl filled with a baked meringue
    The recipe by Add A Pinch ranked high in our testing
  • A large dish filled with whipped cream and cookies
    The recipe by Meatloaf and Melodrama ranked high but we didn’t like the boxed pudding mix and cool whip
  • A Glass bowl filled with banana pudding
    Magnolia Bakery has legendary banana pudding for a reason.
  • A large ceramic bowl with layer of pudding, cookies, bananas and whipped cream
    My classic banana pudding with layers of custard, cookies, bananas and pillowy whipped cream

We tested the top 3 ranked recipes on Google:

  • 5 testers tried the recipes by Add A Pinch (Robyn Stone), Magnolia Bakery and Meatloaf and Melodrama.
  • A Google search for “Southern Banana Pudding” resulted in these three recipes.
  • I made all four recipes- the top 3 and mine in one day and enlisted the help of 5 testers.
  • Two recipes had classic milk, egg and sugar custards, except my recipe uses corn starch and tempered egg yolks. Add a Pinch combines flour, sugar, salt and only 3 egg yolks plus milk in her classic custard with no tempering required.
  • The other two recipes used boxed vanilla pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and /or whipped topping. While these recipes were very good, our testers didn’t like the gummy profiles of the boxed mixes

What my testers said about the top rated banana puddings:

  • Magnolia Bakery- “good flavor, lots of banana, foamy- very sweet”
  • Add a Pinch- “Custard is a bit tight, Classic banana flavor, Meringue too sweet”
  • Meatloaf & Melodrama- “Tastes artificial, Topping tastes off, Light and creamy, great flavor”
  • Pine & Palm Kitchen – Love the whipped cream topping, perfect balance of bananas, could be sweeter, best vanilla flavor, tastes like classic banana pudding”
a saucepan with custard next to a bunch of bananas and a bowl of cookies

How to Make the very best “From Scratch” Southern Banana Pudding:

  • Mix dry ingredients – sugar, nutmeg, cornstarch, salt in a bowl. Whisk in 6 egg yolks.
  • Heat milk and vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste to a simmer in a medium size sauce pan.
  • Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding in the hot milk mixture one ladle at a time.
  • Let milk mixture come to a boil until thick. Remove the vanilla bean pods.
  • Stir in butter. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic until cool.
  • Layer pudding, cookies and banana in a glass dish.
  • Cover with freshly whipped cream just before serving.
a bowl filled with beaten eggs

Equipment you need to make Banana Pudding:

  • heavy bottomed saucepan. This is my favorite brand.
  • whisk
  • sharp knife
  • plastic wrap
  • glass dish for serving
  • mixer for whipping heavy cream
a small blue and white fluted edged plate with small squares of butter being spooned into a saucepan of vanilla custard

Common Questions:

Does this recipe freeze this? No, the custard base does not freeze well.

How long can this stay in the fridge? Keep this recipe, covered, in the fridge up to 3 days. The cookies and bananas begin to deteriorate after 3 days. Do not add the whipping cream until serving.

Would a vegan version with coconut milk work? This recipe not only has whole milk, but whipping cream and butter. I have not tried a non dairy option, but I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it.

I do not have whole milk? You need the fat content and protein from the whole milk for the custard to set up properly. I would not recommend a substitute.

Does Vanilla Extract work? Yes, but there is nothing like the intensity of flavor from adding whole vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste. If you use extract, use the highest quality (double fold recipe) you can find.

A large ceramic bowl with layer of pudding, cookies, bananas and whipped cream

A few more tips:

The custard recipe in my banana pudding is similar to a creme anglaise base with fresh vanilla beans (or Pine & Palm Vanilla Bean paste) stirred into the milk rather than heavy cream . Sounds pretty fancy pants, but hey- only the best for your family and friends.

Nilla Wafers are perfectly fine, but I like to also use Lorna Dunes or Chessman for a bit more of a grown up twist. I also love Spanish Maria cookies- they are light in sugar and make a delicate base for the custard without being overly sweet.

Try adding 1-2 TBSP of Bailey’s Irish Cream to the whipping cream topping for an adult version.

a white stand mixer, a bottle of bailey's Irish cream , a jug of cream next to a box of vanilla sugar

Other wonderful Southern Desserts to try:

a large white soufflé dish filled with banana pudding next to a large scooped silver spoon
A white dish filled with banana pudding and whipped cream

The Very Best Southern Banana Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream

A from scratch recipe for the very best banana pudding . This recipe doe not use a boxed pudding mixture.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Florida Kitchen, MOST POPULAR RECIPES, Sweet Tooth
Cuisine: dessert
Keyword: southern banana pudding
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 502kcal


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 large whole vanilla beans – split in half, seeds scraped out OR
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ TBSP corn starch
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP butter , cut into pieces
  • 12 oz. shortbread cookies , like Lorna Dune, Chessman or "Nilla Wafers
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 TBSP vanilla sugar
  • 5-6 large bananas , ripe and sliced into rounds


  • Bring milk and scraped vanilla seeds and empty vanilla pods to a simmer over medium low heat in a heavy bottomed medium size sauce pan. After 2 minutes, Using tongs, remove the pods from the warm milk. If using vanilla paste- just add to warm milk-omit the whole beans.
  • Thoroughly combine the sugar, nutmeg, cornstarch and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add in yolks and whisk well until thick paste is formed.
  • Add a ladle (about 1/4-1/2 cup) of the hot milk to the sugar/egg mixture to temper*. Whisk the milk in gently to incorporate. Add 3-4 more ladles of hot milk, (whisking in between) until yolks are warmed. Turn the saucepan of remaining milk to down to low heat. Gently pour the now tempered egg mixture into the saucepan of remaining hot milk and whisk constantly until pudding comes to a slow boil and thickens. Small bubbles will form as it thickens. Keep whisking.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in butter.
  • Transfer the pudding mixture to a bowl, cover the surface of pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. With the tip of a knife, poke a few tiny holes in the plastic, to allow steam to escape. Let rest for 30 minutes until just tepid.
  • In a decorative glass bowl or trifle dish, ladle one cup of the pudding on the bottom of the dish. Add one layer of cookies, then pudding, then 2 large sliced bananas etc. repeating each layer and ending with pudding. I slide sliced bananas around the inside the bowl so you can see them as well. You can also use small mason jars for individual servings.
  • Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic so a skin does not form and chill at least 4 hours up to overnight.
  • Before serving: Whip the heavy cream and vanilla sugar until stiff peaks form- about 2 minutes. Remove plastic from chilled pudding. Spread whipped sweetened cream over pudding mixture.
  • Crumble additional cookies & banana slices on top of pudding.


  • * Tempering- tempering is slowly adding a hot liquid to eggs to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If your eggs curdle, you may need to strain the mixture with a sieve to remove any large egg chunks.
  • Nutrition

    Calories: 502kcal | Carbohydrates: 58.5g | Protein: 5.8g | Fat: 28.4g | Saturated Fat: 15.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6.8g | Cholesterol: 80.7mg | Sodium: 244mg | Potassium: 433.3mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 37.4g | Vitamin A: 11.2IU | Vitamin C: 10.7mg | Calcium: 11.9mg | Iron: 6.4mg

    Back in the day, all of our girls were on the rowing team at their high school. The Friday prior to the regattas, the parents would prepare amazing food for the rowers. Lots of protein, pasta, a tray or two of chick fil a nuggets and my specialty, banana pudding. This was probably the most requested recipe of my kids and their friends. We often hosted the rowing team kids at our home for the Potlucks. Fifty hungry rowers on a Friday night was nothing short of fun.

    This recipe is based on Art Smith’s banana pudding recipe. Chef Smith has an incredible restaurant at Disney Springs in Orlando. If you are in the area visiting, be sure to stop by Homecomin’ and sample his fried chicken, craft cocktails and southern goodies. All the ingredients are locally sourced including local spirits such as Winter Park Distilling Company Genius Drive Vodka.

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    Recipe Rating


    1. Sharon Biglow says:

      5 stars
      This recipe is so incredible. At first, I was was very intimidated to use a whole vanilla bean- but it is so worth it. My family asks for this all the time.

      1. Hi Shannon,
        I LOVE that you made your own Nilla Wafers. You are a girl after my own heart. So glad you loved the banana pudding.