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Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding

January 6, 2024
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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This Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding is fun twist on a true classic! Velvety, comforting, packed full of caramelized bananas and a nice crunch------you won't be able to stop at one single bite! The ultimate dessert for any occasion---the Southern way!

Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding

The epitome of non-traditional, this Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding is one for the books! A recipe that features layers of silky homemade vanilla pudding, caramelized sliced bananas, crispy vanilla wafers tucked in between, all topped off with a generous serving of homemade whipped cream or meringue and a beautiful cookie crunch topping. The combination of flavors and textures creates a truly irresistible dessert that's perfect for any occasion. Whether you're hosting a dinner party or simply looking for a comforting treat, this fun twist on banana pudding is sure to impress. Banana-free + Vegan options.

Trifles of banana pudding with vanilla wafers.

Seriously, kicking off the New Year with this Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding is so special. If you've been an avid follower of my site, then you know how I feel about banana pudding----it's a staple. Haha. And while I've had my fair share of variations, the caramelized bananas in this recipe truly elevates the entire eating experience. Plus, that crunchy topping adds such great depth. I promise that this one is a keeper like the rest!

And if you're into luscious desserts, then I recommend trying My Grandma's Baked Southern Banana Pudding, Easy Southern Peach Cobbler [with Canned Peaches]or my Classic Southern Banana Pudding ---- where I share how to make an easy instant vanilla pudding, as well as your pudding form scratch like my Grandma used to make it. Oh and I have this Delicious Peanut Butter Banana Pudding, which is a nice twist + spin for all the peanut butter lovers out there! They're seriously the best! Plus, this Biscoff Banana Pudding with Caramel----an unbelievable upgrade to it's classic counterpart!

Need some food inspiration? Look no further than our lineup of 21 Soul-Satisfying Southern Comfort Food Recipes.

Let's talk about the topping----shall we? Like I've mentioned, one of my favorite things to use as a topping is whipped cream. Of course, you can keep things traditional by using meringue instead of whipped cream and you'll only need a few things to achieve this: 4 egg whites¼ cup of cane sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Simply remove the egg whites (still chilled) and add it to an electric stand-mixer bowl (or using a hand mixer). Whip the egg whites until smooth and glossy and then slowly add the sugar (1 tablespoon at a time) to the mixture, beating until stiff peaks form. Then continue recipe for assembly.

Jump to:

What is Banana Pudding?

Basically, banana pudding is an old-fashioned Southern dessert that comes layered like a trifle. The layering includes: vanilla custard, vanilla cookies, and slices of bananas---sometimes topped with meringue or whipped cream.

This recipe is very authentic to the traditional Southern recipe of banana pudding with a great, fun twist and you can feel free to make substitutions as listed in the ingredients list based on your preference.

Ingredients on a brown wood table.

Main Parts to Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding:

Caramelized bananas. You'll want to ensure that your bananas are nice and yellow and ripe and not "very" ripe like the bananas used for banana bread. This avoids them from getting too soft + soggy during the caramelized process as well as while they chill after being assembled. They hold up better when not too ripe.

Vanilla Pudding. Now, this is one of much debate, however, in this recipe I make a homemade version of pudding like my Grandma used to make it. Granted, you can use boxed vanilla pudding mix (see further below), but I promise that there's nothing like homemade! Oh and you'll definitely want to ensure that everything cools completely so that assembly is seamless and you're able to refrigerate right after.

Nilla Wafer Cookies. These are by far my faves to use and they're what I grew up eating in my banana pudding. But if you're looking to use Chessmen cookies, feel free!

Whipped Cream. You can use store-bought or homemade for your whipped cream to create an extra layer of velvet-iness. To keep things ole' school Southern, feel free to whip together egg whites for a beautiful meringue.

Crunch Cookie Topping. This is a fun, must have addition to this dessert---I promise! I used crushed Nilla wafers (to tie things together) along with brown sugar, flour, spices, and butter which gets baked and adds a beautiful layer of crunch. Once you try this, you'll never go back!

Cookie crumble topping on a baking sheet with a spoon.

Caramelized Banana Pudding Ingredients

Here’s what you need to throw together this easy delicious Caramelized Banana Pudding dessert:

  • Bananas. You’ll need 5-6, depending on the size. Make sure they’re soft, yellow, and ripe for the sweetest flavor but not "too" ripe.
  • Almond milk. I like to use unsweetened almond milk, however, you can use regular whole milk as well.
  • Sweetened condensed milk. I use low-fat for the vanilla pudding. It adds plenty of richness and sweetness with a wonderfully thick texture. But full-fat condensed milk is fine! You can also substitute with cane sugar in the pudding instead as well.
  • Egg yolks. You'll need 4 egg yolks for the homemade vanilla pudding. If using meringue, save the egg whites!
  • Cornstarch. I love using arrowroot starch, all-purpose flour, or regular cornstarch as the thickening agent. Be sure to mix it together with warm water until it becomes a smooth "milky-like" consistency.
  • Spices. I always add spices to everything. A bit of cinnamon and nutmeg changes things!
  • Whipped cream. I love whipped cream more than meringue, however, either toppings will do!
  • Vanilla wafers. My favorite cookies to use, but Gingersnap or Chessmen cookies are a great Southern twist also.
  • Vanilla extract. Make sure you’re using the real stuff, not imitation!
  • Crunch Topping. For an extra layer of goodness, you'll need flour, brown sugar, a handful of Nilla wafers, spices, and butter.

If for any reason you feel like your cookie crumble topping is a bit too dry or crumbly, just add additional melted butter (about 1 tablespoon at a time) until moist. If it's too wet by any chance, just add additional flour (about 1 tablespoon at a time).

Caramelized bananas in a black skillet with a spatula.

Making Caramelized Bananas + How to Use Them

The best part about this banana pudding recipe is the inclusion of caramelized bananas. The bananas get slightly gooey and caramelized on the stove so your banana pudding has a depth of flavor and heightened sweetness that works!

You'll simply add the sliced bananas, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together and cook until the bananas are slightly tender and gooey in consistency.

The best part is that you can serve these caramelized bananas atop oatmeal, as a topping on toast with a nice base, or as a nice topping for desserts like Homemade Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls or Banana Pudding Cheesecake Bites. They're also delicious spooned over ice cream, especially my No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream (minus the sprinkles if desired).

Baked Banana Pudding vs. No-Bake Banana Pudding

OK, so maybe you didn't know that there are two types of banana pudding recipes. A true classic Southern traditional banana pudding is baked with a beautiful meringue and everything is married together well! And then there's a no-bake EASY version (as I've mentioned earlier in the post), which uses vanilla pudding mix and is closest to Magnolia Bakery.

For the baked version of banana pudding, you'll make your homemade pudding per usual, layer everything, and then whip together an easy meringue using egg whites which will be fluffy and cloudy and is used as the "topping" of your banana pudding.

Then you bake everything for a few minutes until the meringue is browned and remove it, let it cool, and then serve. If using whipped cream, you'll just bake until the tops (cookies and all) are golden brown and the pudding is bubbling.

Homemade vanilla pudding a bowl being stirred with a wooden spoon.

Tips To Make THE BEST Banana Pudding

  • Use ripe bananas for the best flavor and texture. Make sure they're yellow and not "too" ripe with any black spots.
  • Pour the warm homemade vanilla pudding into a bowl so that it cools COMPLETELY before assembling for greater ease.
  • If you want a crunchier texture, sprinkle additional crumbled Nilla wafer cookies on top of the whipped cream or meringue if you decide not to use the cookie "crunch" topping in this recipe.
  • Anything that requires "heating", cooking or baking, be sure to cool COMPLETELY for best results prior to assembly.
  • Get creative and experiment with different flavor variations, such as adding chocolate or caramel sauce, or using different types of cookies AKA try Best Biscoff Banana Pudding with Caramel or PB Banana Pudding.
  • Have fun and enjoy the process! Making banana pudding is a great activity to do with friends and family, and the end result is a delicious dessert that everyone will love
  • Use a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the whipped cream or meringue evenly over the top layer of the pudding. You can use homemade whipped cream or store-bought. Cool Whip will work fine, just use it at fridge temperature, not frozen. 
Banana pudding in trifle bowls with a box of vanilla wafers and spoons.

How To Make Homemade Whipped Cream

If you're thinking about keeping things from scratch instead of using Cool Whip for this banana pudding, no problem! Whipping together homemade whipped cream is super easy and only requires a mixer to achieve the perfect peeks! Here's what you'll need:

  • 4-3 cups organic heavy cream, VERY COLD
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip the heavy cream, using the whisk attachment for 4-5 minutes, until fluffy peaks begin to form. NOTE: When it begins to thicken after the first 2-3 minutes, gradually add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt. Once fully fluffy, remove from mixer bowl and continue recipe.

Common Q+A's for this Caramelized Banana Pudding

How long does banana pudding last?

Store leftover banana pudding in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. The cookies will continue to get softened + a bit soggy, so the texture of the entire dish will change the longer it's left in the fridge past those amount of days.

What is a substitute for Nilla wafers?

OK, so if you aren't into Nilla wafers, don't currently have them on hand, or just want to switch things up-----don't worry! They can easily be substituted with Chessman cookies or Graham crackers, if preferred. In addition, you can use: shortbread cookies, animal crackers, or ladyfingers. If you'd like to switch things up a bit, I totally recommend Biscoff cookies like within my Best Biscoff Banana Pudding with Caramel recipe.

What keeps bananas from turning brown in banana pudding?

One of the biggest challenges for some people is the idea that the bananas will turn brown in their banana pudding after awhile, which is often the natural process of bananas once removed from their skin and sliced.

However, there is a trick that you can do to slow this process down completely----which is adding a bit of lemon juice to your banana slices prior to adding them to your banana pudding. This helps to keep the bananas fresh for at least 3-4 days. Wallah!

Can I make a single-serving pudding?

Yes! If you prefer to make individual servings of dessert, you can layer the cookies, caramelized banana slices, and vanilla pudding in small cocottes or ramekins for a cute and portable dessert. Because who doesn't love an easy dessert on the go?

Can I omit bananas from this banana pudding?

Absolutely! You can totally omit the bananas if you aren't a banana fan and add extra cookies, if you want more of a "bite". It's really SO good, either way!

Can I make this banana pudding vegan?

Of course! To make this banana pudding vegan, simply ensure that you use plant-based milk, vegan butter, and 1 Tablespoon of flour with the cornstarch to replace the egg yolks for your vanilla pudding. Also, use organic vanilla wafer cookies and top everything with coconut whipped cream for a nice finish. Wallah!

Banana pudding in trifle bowls with vanilla wafer cookies.

More Delicious Comforting Banana Recipes

Now that you've fallen in love with the bananas in this recipe, put them to good use with these other sweet banana recipes:

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you tried this Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you.

Up close shot of banana pudding in a trifle bowl.
Up close shot of banana pudding in a trifle bowl.

Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding

January 6, 2024
5 from 2 votes
This Caramelized "Crunch" Banana Pudding is fun twist on a true classic! Velvety, comforting, packed full of caramelized bananas and a nice crunch------you won't be able to stop at one single bite! The ultimate dessert for any occasion---the Southern way!
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (11 oz.) boxes Nilla wafer cookies (Set aside ¾ cup for to crush for the topping)
  • 4 cups whipped cream, store-bought or homemade (You can also make meringue; See Post for details)

CRUNCHY COOKIE TOPPING:

  • ½ cup organic brown sugar
  • ¾ cup Nilla wafer cookies, crushed
  • ¼ cup organic all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsps unsalted butter, partially melted
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

HOMEMADE VANILLA PUDDING:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cups Almond milk, unsweetened (You can also use whole milk, if preferred)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 (8 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (You can sub with ½ cup of cane sugar instead)
  • 4 Tbsps arrowroot or cornstarch (Mix with ½ cup of warm water to create a "milky" consistency)
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon + nutmeg

CARAMELIZED BANANAS:

  • 6 organic bananas, sliced
  • 4 Tbsps unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsps organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

TO MAKE THE CRUNCHY COOKIE TOPPING:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment or non-stick foil paper.
  • In a bowl, add the flour, crushed cookies, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, stirring until combined. Add the partially melted butter and using a spatula, mix until combined and 'crumbly-like'. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden in color and crunchy in texture. Remove form oven and let cool completely.

TO MAKE THE HOMEMADE VANILLA PUDDING:

  • In a medium sauce pan over medium high-heat, add the butter until melted. Once fully melted, add in the milk, stirring them together until combined, reducing the heat to medium-low.
  • Before adding in the egg yolks, scoop a few spoonsfuls of the warm milk mixture into a bowl with your egg yolks and whisk until smooth. NOTE: This prevents the eggs from getting too hot and "curdling".
  • Add the egg yolk mixture to the sauce pan with the milk and whisk to combine. Add in the vanilla, condensed milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg, continuing to whisk to combine. Lastly, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and continue to whisk until the pudding begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Once thickened and smooth, remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

TO CARAMELIZE THE BANANAS:

  • In a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and heat until melted. Add the brown sugar, and cinnamon and stir until combined and everything begins to bubble a bit, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the sliced bananas and vanilla and toss until well coated and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until tender and the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely.

ASSEMBLY:

  • In a trifle bowl (or your favorite dish), layer cookies, sliced bananas, and pudding mixture; repeat layering until all ingredients have been used.
  • Garnish top with a few dollops of whipped cream and the crunchy cookie topping and Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Best if chilled overnight.
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Store leftover banana pudding in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. The cookies will continue to get soggy, so the texture of the entire dish will change the longer it's left in the fridge past those amount of days. 
  • HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM: See post for deets!
  • MERINGUE: If you'd like to make meringue instead of using whipped cream, see post for recipe option!
  • BOX OF VANILLA PUDDING: If you choose to use boxed pudding, you'll need 3 (1 oz) boxes of vanilla instant pudding mix. See my Classic Southern Banana Pudding for deets! I HIGHLY recommend using an electric stand-mixer for making the pudding, however, if you're using a hand-mixer, be sure that the water is EXTREMELY COLD + You may need to add an EXTRA BOX of vanilla pudding so that it forms to a creamy consistency and not 'watery'.

Nutrition

Calories: 507kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 159mg | Sodium: 205mg | Potassium: 406mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 39g | Vitamin A: 920IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 219mg | Iron: 1mg

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