Being from the South, banana pudding is a dish that comes up often at family gatherings. It’s almost always present. However, there are two schools of thought when it comes to making it: one has vanilla wafers, and the other has Nilla wafers. There’s no in-between. Either you have a sweet, creamy vanilla pudding with a hint of cinnamon (the Southern way) or you have a Nilla-based banana pudding (the Northern way). In this blog post, we’re going to explore why Southerners make banana pudding with vanilla wafers and how they make theirs so much better than everyone else. Trust us – once you read our blog post you won’t ever want to eat another bland version again!
How To Make Banana Pudding The Black Way?
1. Make a vanilla pudding
Your quest to find good egg-free banana pudding starts with making a great vanilla pudding — it’s the main dessert for this recipe, after all!
2. Make Nilla wafers
I’ll start by saying that I am a Nilla lover, but if you hate Nilla wafers, feel free to swap them out for any flavor of your choosing. It will still taste delicious!
3. Frost the whole thing with chocolate buttercream frosting
After the pudding is made and set, pour in some chocolate frosting and then top it off with more chocolate frosting. Sounds like a good way to end Thanksgiving dinner, no? It is! And then there’s the look on everyone’s face when they get to sink their teeth into an egg-free banana cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting – priceless! If you’re looking for other ways to use up your leftover eggnog, check out this recipe we posted last year, or these recipes using egg whites You can find additional cheesecake recipes here. Read more about our favorite holiday desserts here. And follow us on Pinterest, here, for more great holiday recipes and DIY tips.
4. And finally, leave it alone for at least two days to set
Once the chocolate frosting has cooled, you’re ready to serve your egg-free banana pudding. You may want to leave it in the fridge overnight to get that decadent, delicious taste and texture. We’ve been known to leave it for a couple of days, as well.
5. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream
These Southern-made banana pudding wafers have such a great taste, you might think it’s made with real eggs – we promise we don’t mind if you think that! It tastes divine, even without extra ingredients like eggs. And if the extra ingredients aren’t enough to sway you into giving it a try, did we mention that when you order the ice cream at your local coffee shop or diner, they will usually put homemade whipped cream on top so that many customers get their ice cream with a nice “pudding” topping? Talk about an egg-free Kool-Aid moment. We wouldn’t dare tell the ice cream man that we don’t have any eggs in our homemade pudding, but it’s close!
Why Do Southerners Love Vanilla Wafers In Their Banana Pudding?
1. The history behind vanilla wafers
No one knows the original provenance of this recipe, but the version we used in our banana pudding is thought to be similar to the German “Vanillabrote” that Victorian-era Southern cooks would bake. These paper-thin wafers (which are a lot like a tortilla) are soaked in vanilla extract, rolled out flat, and then sliced into triangles. There is also a variation of banana pudding that uses vanilla wafers that remained round after soaking – this particular type was created in Tennessee by cooks at the Johnson’s House Hotel who wanted to make the custard thicker. You can read more about how these little “tortillas” came to be here or here
2. The use of frozen bananas in baking
There are many, many uses for frozen bananas – including banana ice cream, quick bread, and cookies. There’s even a magazine dedicated to the subject! But I’ve found another surprising use…frozen bananas in baking! http://www.eattheseasons.com/frozen-bananas-in-cookies/ It turns out (according to this website) that you can beat the living daylights out of frozen bananas till they’re very yellow and the starch solidifies…and then you can throw them in your recipes for added moisture and thickness. So if your banana pudding is too dry, try adding a few frozen ones – like this:
3. Custard pralines
I recently developed my version of this recipe (with goat cheese instead of cream cheese – it was divine!) but I have also seen it done with cream cheese, white chocolate, and caramel (they were delicious!)
This stuff is made by dropping equal portions of pralines and chopped nuts into a saucepan, then gently stirring until melted together over low heat: Then spoon into an 8×8″ pan to cool before serving:
4. Shaker Lemon Pudding Sauce
I found this recipe in “The Shaker Lemon Cooking Guide” and it is very popular in the early 1900s. It seems that the inspiration for it comes from a recipe for Shaker Lemon Ice Cream – which consists of lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and cream – melted together. This recipe calls for some of that – but with a pudding added. The original recipe also calls for vanilla essence – which I recommend (it’s an essential flavor in the pudding sauce!). Finally, you add gelatin, cornstarch, and salt to thicken the mixture: Then fill a large pan with your pudding mixture…next comes topping: Crushed Graham crackers (I like mine golden because they’re truly delicious) Or chopped nuts; dried fruit like cherries or raisins; chocolate chips; lemon wedges; orange slices…or anything else you like!
The Secret To A Great Southern Banana Pudding
1. Uses fresh bananas
The original recipe called for ripe bananas – but that doesn’t work for me. I like to use my over-ripe ones (after all…they’re the best bananas) and I find that they don’t get too mushy or turn brown in the middle. They have a very nice, thick, yellow color, instead:
2. Creamy pudding base
I mix my pudding with cornstarch (that’s flour + cornstarch…or a combination of both). It thins out the pudding a bit and keeps it from being too heavy on the stomach (the real secret to a good banana pudding is to avoid any type of heavy ingredients, like cream or milk). You’ll also see in later recipes that I will show you how to make your cornstarch for baking: http://www.foodandwine.com/cooking/recipes/how-to-make-corn starch This is optional but it makes the texture even creamier and more custard-like:
3. Adding gelatin and vanilla to thicken it up
I use gelatin as a thickening agent because it adds more body than flour does – so you’ll need about 1 envelope of dry gelatin for every cup of cornstarch in the recipe (you can also use agar powder which is not quite as dense) However, if you want your dish to be less “jiggly” than completely smooth – add 1/2 packet of gelatin (1/2 oz: 1 package) and the vanilla essence to your cornstarch. Then mix well together with a whisk:
4. Cook in boiling water
Next up is to cook the pudding slowly in about 3-4 cups of hot water for at least 45 minutes. The gelatin will set…then you’ll need to add another cup or two of hot water and cook it again for 30-45 minutes more (maybe even an hour) until it’s completely set (like a jelly). I find that if I mix my ingredients too aggressively – it causes a lot of lumps in my pudding which won’t jive with the smooth, creamy texture that’s desired:
5. Cool, chill & serve
After cooking, you can either leave the dish in the refrigerator overnight to cool down or you can prepare and assemble it right away. If you prefer, cut slices of your pudding and drizzle them with a bit of sweetened citrus juice (lemon or orange) and serve it as is. However, I prefer to also add a layer of sweetened whipped cream on top which makes it taste even better! So after baking, let your pudding cool for at least 20 minutes so that it’s cool enough for the cream to set but not so cold that it’s too hard to spread on top (if you set them in the fridge overnight – don’t leave them for more than 1 week)
Now that you know the difference between banana pudding made with vanilla wafers as opposed to Nilla wafers, you can’t go back to eating bland banana pudding. The best banana pudding is made with vanilla wafers, and it’s a recipe that everyone needs in their life. If you’ve never eaten banana pudding, you’re missing out. It’s creamy and sweet with a hint of banana. It’s very similar to a baked banana Foster. If you’re ever at a Southern party and banana pudding is on the dessert table, you have to get some. The best banana pudding is made with vanilla wafers and it’s a recipe that everyone needs in their lives.