If you want to make a sweet treat, Southern cooking is a great place to look. From sweet tea to chess pie, Southerners are known for having a serious sweet tooth. And one of our favorite Southern sweets is banana pudding. Not only is banana pudding a tasty treat with its light, delicate layers, it also looks lovely on the table.
This recipe gets its sweetness from the sugar and bananas, but what makes the flavor so good is the real vanilla bean, which lends such wonderful flavor that we don’t need to add too much sugar. Nilla wafers are traditional with banana pudding, but our dinner guest says she has a friend who uses chess men (the cookies, not actual chess pieces). This is a variation we’d like to try sometime, but tried-and-true Nilla wafers seem pretty hard to beat.
Classic Southern Banana Pudding (adapted from Food 52)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 4″ section of vanilla pod
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
50 Nilla Wafers, crushed
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the salt. Whisk the eggs into the mixture one at a time.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Meanwhile, pour the remaining sugar into a small bowl. Split the vanilla pod, and scrape the seeds into the sugar. Rub the seeds into the sugar (this will help to avoid clumping). Whisk the sugar and the scraped vanilla pod into the milk and heat until the milk is steamy and small bubbles form on the sides of the saucepan.
Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the eggs. Continue to slowly add the hot milk mixture until the eggs and milk are fully combined. Then pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook, stirring almost constantly, over medium heat for 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken considerably. Remove the pan from heat and add in the vanilla extract.
Chill the mixture thoroughly, either over an ice bath, or covered in the fridge for several hours.
Beat the heavy cream to soft peaks, and fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the chilled pudding. Mash up 2 of the bananas with a fork and fold those into the pudding as well. Fold in another cup of the whipped cream.
To assemble the banana pudding, slice the remaining bananas. Then, in a nice serving glass, add layers of the crushed Nilla wafers, 3 spoonfuls of pudding, sliced bananas, and a dollop of whipped cream in layers until each glass is full. Cover the glasses and chill for a few hours until you are ready to serve. Note that any bananas that are exposed to air will brown very quickly, so you may want to add a fresh banana garnish just before serving.
Serve each pudding cup with a dollop of whipped cream, a few banana slices, and a whole Nilla wafer.
Swing over to Gone Bananas Chocolate Chip Cake!