Caramelized banana pudding is a fun variation of the Southern classic. Made with layers of brown sugar caramelized bananas and real from-scratch pudding, you won’t be able to stop at just 1 taste. Layer with vanilla wafer cookies and top with extra fluffy cinnamon spiced whipped cream.
This Isn’t Traditional Banana Pudding
Let me show you a delicious variation of banana pudding. This isn’t traditional banana pudding– rather, it’s a version made with brown sugar caramelized bananas and fluffy cinnamon spiced whipped cream on top. Classic southern banana pudding is typically made with fresh bananas and a meringue topping. My favorite real homemade banana pudding is found on Grand Baby Cakes— have you tried Jocelyn’s version yet? It’s unreal.
But it’s fun to play around with different flavors and variations. If you love cinnamon, brown sugar, real homemade pudding, billowy whipped cream, and bananas (raises hand *so high*), this dessert is totally for you.
4 Parts to Caramelized Banana Pudding
- Caramelized Bananas: You need about 4 cups of banana slices, which is around 5 large bananas. Avoid brown spotty bananas that you would use for banana bread. Instead, start with completely yellow bananas. To caramelize the banana slices, cook butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon together on the stove. Add the bananas and cook them until softened and caramelized. They’ll become pretty soft, so if you prefer a little more texture in your banana pudding layers, reduce the banana cook time.
- Homemade Vanilla Pudding: This pudding is a variation of the pudding I use in my banana cream pie. It’s much thicker in the pie recipe since we need it to solidify into slices. I’ve thinned it out with more milk, a little more sugar, and extra butter. A little extra salt offsets the sweetness. Continue below to read how it’s made.
- Vanilla Wafer Cookies: A staple in banana pudding recipes! If you don’t have vanilla wafer cookies, use graham crackers.
- Cinnamon Whipped Cream: Extra creamy and perfectly spiced whipped cream adds a luscious layer on top of this dessert. The pudding and bananas are pretty sweet, so a lightly sweetened topping is a welcome addition. This recipe yields about 3 cups of whipped cream, so expect a generous layer.
Homemade Vanilla Pudding
If you ever need a vanilla pudding, use this one. It’s my favorite– perfectly creamy and sweet, extra soft and buttery, and easy to make ahead of time. I love using this pudding in a trifle, layering it with sliced strawberries, cubes of brown butter pound cake, and topped with whipped cream. The recipe yields 4 cups.
You need the 8 ingredients pictured above: whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt, egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and softened butter. Cook those 1st 4 ingredients together on the stove, mix the egg yolks and cornstarch together (below, left), then temper the egg yolks into the milk mixture. Whisk constantly, cook together, then remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and butter. The stovetop process is similar to butterscotch pudding.
If you know how to whisk, you know how to make homemade pudding. It’s simple.
Overview: How to Make & Assemble
This is the easiest part of the entire recipe– you can’t really mess it up. Line half of the vanilla wafers on the bottom of your dish. Evenly top with half of the caramelized bananas. Give the pudding a quick stir. If it has thickened considerably and isn’t pourable, whisk in a splash of milk to help thin out. Pour/spread half of the warm pudding on top. Top with remaining vanilla wafers, then the remaining caramelized bananas. Finish with the rest of the pudding, then spread whipped cream in a generous layer all over the top.
Chill the dessert for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. The pudding will thicken, the flavors will mingle, and the vanilla wafers will soften. After or close to 24 hours, the wafers may taste too soggy and the bananas will begin to release some liquid.
For best taste and texture, serve within 24 hours.
I usually assemble this no-bake dessert in 2.5 quart pan. The ceramic one I use in these photos is from Crate & Barrel, but– sadly– I can’t find it on the website anymore. If you’re making individual banana puddings or 1 large trifle, keep in mind that this recipe yields a lot of whipped cream, so feel free to reduce down.
- I love these French wine glasses for parfaits. (Pictured in my Butterscotch Pudding.)
- You can also make this banana pudding in a 3 quart (or slightly smaller/larger) trifle bowl. That one is my favorite. I used it in my lemon berry trifle photos.
This is a fun variation of the classic Southern dessert. Made with layers of brown sugar caramelized bananas and real from-scratch pudding, you won’t be able to stop at just 1 taste. Layer with vanilla wafer cookies and top with extra fluffy cinnamon spiced whipped cream.
- 1/4 cup (60g; 4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 large semi-ripe bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch slices (about 4 heaping cups)*
Pudding & Assembly
- 2 and 1/4 cups (540ml) whole milk*
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream*
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (30g) cornstarch
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- about 50 vanilla wafer cookies (such as Nilla Wafers; one 11 ounce box is enough)*
Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Optional Garnish
- 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) heavy cream*
- 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- optional garnish: quartered banana slices and/or crumbled vanilla wafer cookies
- Caramelized Bananas: Place the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a large skillet over medium heat. Constantly stir as the butter and sugar melt down. Add the bananas and cook until softened and slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. *If you prefer a little more texture in your banana pudding, only cook the bananas for about 1-2 minutes.* Remove from heat and set aside.
- Pudding: Combine the milk, heavy cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until all the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a gentle simmer, whisking occasionally. Working quickly as the milk mixture begins to simmer, whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together in a medium heatproof bowl until very thick and smooth. Very slowly stream in about 3/4 cup (180ml) of the simmering milk to slightly warm the egg yolk mixture. Then, in a very slow stream, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pan. While continuously whisking, cook until the mixture is thick and big bubbles begin bursting at the surface, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and butter. Makes about 4 cups of pudding.
- Assemble: Use an ungreased 9-inch or any 2.5 quart baking dish. Line half of the vanilla wafers on the bottom. Evenly top with half of the caramelized bananas. Give the pudding a quick stir. If it has thickened considerably and isn’t pourable, whisk in a splash of milk to help thin out. Pour half of the warm pudding on top. Use a spoon to evenly spread around. Evenly top with remaining vanilla wafers, then the remaining caramelized bananas. Pour the rest of the pudding on top and spread into an even layer. Set aside, covered or uncovered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator as you make the whipped cream.
- Whipped Cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks. Spread evenly on top of the pudding.
- Cover the pudding tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. The vanilla wafers will soften during this time. They may taste too soggy after 1 full day and the bananas will begin to release some liquid, so for best taste and texture, serve within 24 hours.
- To serve, spoon into individual bowls. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. I don’t recommend freezing this because of the high volume of liquid in the pudding, whipped cream, and bananas. The caramelized bananas won’t thaw very nicely either.
- Detailed Make Ahead Instructions: This is the perfect make ahead recipe because it needs to chill for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. You can also prepare the caramelized bananas and pudding in advance. Let the cooked bananas cool, cover tightly, then refrigerate for up to 1 day. If making the pudding in advance, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the warm pudding to prevent a “skin” from forming on top. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. Add a splash of milk to help thin the cold pudding out before layering in step 3. The whipped cream is best made and layered on fresh, but if needed, you can prepare it, cover tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before using.
- Ripeness of Bananas: Look for bananas that are completely yellow. Avoid green bananas or super ripe bananas that you would use for banana bread. The mushier the bananas, the mushier the caramelized bananas. You want the bananas to have a bit of texture against the creamy pudding.
- Whole Milk & Heavy Cream: These precise amounts of whole milk and heavy cream are ideal. Using all or some half-and-half wouldn’t yield the same milkfat needed. Lower fat or nondairy milks will produce a very thin pudding, so I don’t recommend either. You need heavy cream for the whipped cream anyway and this entire recipe conveniently uses 1 pint.
- Egg Yolks: Egg yolks are key in this homemade pudding. For your extra egg whites, here are recipes using egg whites.
- Vanilla Wafer Cookies: Nilla Wafers are commonly used in banana pudding. If you don’t have access to vanilla wafer cookies, use about 12 full sheets of graham crackers, breaking up 6 per layer to fit the pan.
- Individual Banana Puddings or 1 Large Trifle: This recipe yields enough for at least 8-10 6 ounce parfaits. You can also make this banana pudding in a 3 quart (or slightly smaller/slightly larger) trifle bowl. Using the exact ingredient amounts given above, you should have enough for 3 layers of wafers, bananas, and pudding. For either size/presentation, see note above about adjusting the whipped cream.
- What about a traditional meringue topping? Traditional Southern banana pudding uses meringue topping instead of whipped cream. This is simply a delicious variation! Feel free to use my marshmallow meringue frosting instead of whipped cream. (Which is convenient because it uses 4 egg whites.) You can torch it with a kitchen torch or, after layering on top, bake the entire assembled pudding on the top oven rack for 10 minutes at 325°F (163°C). Serve warm or cold.
Keywords: banana pudding, bananas, pudding