The pudding reminds me of the banana pudding my grandma used to make. It’s sweet, creamy, and thick with abundant vanilla. The pudding itself has no bananas in it, and they’re layered in the pan with Nilla wafers, making the pudding quite universal for non-banana desserts.
If you’ve never had pudding from scratch, it’s nothing like pudding mix from a box. I love the results of pudding mix in cookies or banana bread, but for eating as-is, scratch pudding is the promised land.
Making pudding is like making gravy. It’s easy, but you’ll become best friends with your whisk for about a half hour. Get everything you need out and ready before starting because you’ll be busy whisking. Mise en place.
It’s very similar to making ice cream. In a medium sauce pan combine sugar, flour, optional pinch of salt, and pour 2 cups of 2% milk over it. I have not tested using another type of milk. The pudding was wonderfully creamy and thick with 2% and I think whole milk, half-and-half or cream would make it too thick.
Heat the mixture until it begins to boil gently, whisking frequently. If you don’t whisk frequently, tan pudding skin will form on the bottom of the pan . When it breaks up, you’ll have tan chunks floating through your creamy mixture. No thanks.
Keep the heat at medium because cranking it up will likely cause the mixture to scorch so just take your time. It took a good 15 minutes of the pot appearing to do absolutely nothing for my pudding to finally begin to barely boil because I was compulsively whisking. I was staring into the proverbial pot that never boils, whisking it.
After the mixture boils, whisk continually for the next 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding has thickened. Take it off the heat and add vanilla.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together 3 eggs and add about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding mixture to the eggs, whisking the whole time. This is called tempering eggs and if you don’t do it, you’ll literally scramble them.
Slowly pour the contents of the measuring cup into the sauce pan, whisking the entire time. Return the pan to the heat for about 2 to 4 minutes, whisking the whole time. This cooks the eggs.
In the meantime, layer Nilla wafers, topped with bananas, in an 8×8 or similar sized pan. Mine was 10×7. Pour half the pudding over the wafers and bananas. Add another layer of wafers, bananas, and top with the remaining pudding.
I used ripe bananas, but not over-ripe, just like the one shown. Save those really freckled and speckled ones for banana bread. They will just disintegrate and biting into slightly firm banana slices is the goal.
I used Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers for two reason. First, the obvious to save calories and fat when possible so you can eat more dessert. Secondly, the Reduced Fat variety are firmer, crunchier, and don’t turn to mush as easily, an advantage here. If you don’t have Nilla Wafters in your area, try graham crackers.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 cups 2% milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
about 50 Nilla Wafers, divided (I prefer the Reduced Fat version; substitute with graham crackers if necessary)
3 to 4 large/XL ripe bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (use ripe bananas not over-ripe, they’re too mushy)
about 3/4 cup coarsely chopped Nilla Wafers, for sprinkling (about 20-25 wafers)
- Get everything you need out and ready before beginning because you’ll be busy whisking and read the recipe over, at least twice, in full.
- In a medium sauce pan combine the sugar, flour, optional pinch of salt, and pour the milk over it.
- Heat this together over medium heat until it begins to boil gently, whisking quite frequently so that pudding skin doesn’t form on the bottom of the pan. Keeping the heat at medium is advised because higher heat will likely cause the milky mixture to scorch. It took a good 15 minutes of the pot appearing to do absolutely nothing for my pudding to finally begin to barely boil because I was compulsively whisking.
- After you see the mixture boil, whisk continually for the next 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding has thickened. A transition comes when the pudding gets thicker by the stroke. Use your judgment and when you think the pudding has thickened up sufficiently, take it off the heat.
- Whisk in the vanilla; set aside.
- In a glass measuring cup, whisk together 3 eggs (using the same whisk is fine).
- Add about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding mixture to the eggs, whisking the whole time to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble.
- Slowly pour the contents of the measuring cup into the sauce pan, whisking the entire time so you don’t scramble the eggs.
- Return the pan to the stove, and cook over medium heat for about 2 to 4 minutes, whisking the whole time. This cooks the eggs. You’ll know when the pudding is done and you can take it off the heat. It will be thick, creamy, and will look like pudding. It thickens up as it cools so don’t over-cook it or it can get a little too firm. Take it off the heat; set aside, whisking every few minutes so skin doesn’t form.
- In an 8×8, 10×7, or similar sized pan (9×9 is too big) make one even flat layer of Nilla wafers, covering the entire base of the pan (about 24 wafers).
- Top with banana slices in an even flat layer, covering the wafers.
- Whisk pudding and pour half over the bananas, smoothing lightly with a spatula.
- Repeat the layers, making one flat layer of wafers, another layer of bananas, and top with remaining pudding, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
- Cover with plasticwrap and refrigerate the pudding for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Before serving, evenly sprinkle the chopped wafers over the pudding. Pudding will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The banana slices don’t turn brown, although the wafers do continue soften as time passes.