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Southern Style Vegan Banana Pudding

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This vegan banana pudding is made with freshly sliced bananas, homemade vegan vanilla pudding, and crispy vanilla wafers! You’ll love the dairy-free and egg-free version of this classic Southern dessert. 

Close up of cookies and whipped cream in a white bowl

If this is your first time trying banana pudding, you’re in for a treat. Banana pudding isn’t just what you might expect it to be. Yes, it’s bananas and pudding.

But it’s also softened vanilla wafers and whipped topping, all together in one delicious scoop!

Recipe features

  • Takes under 30 minutes active time to make
  • Sweet yet refreshing
  • Filled with warming spices and a light coconut flavor
  • Perfect for summer get togethers
Overhead view of bowl of banana pudding next to orange and green plates on a pink background

History behind the pudding

Banana pudding, best known as a southern dessert, has been around since the 19th century. The version of vanilla wafer banana pudding didn’t come about until the 1920s, when Nabisco started marketing their ‘nilla wafers.

Previously, sponge cake or lady finger cookies were main ingredients in banana pudding. With vanilla wafers, a new way to make banana pudding was found.

The most important takeaway about banana pudding is that everyone has their own “right” way to make it. Whipped topping or meringue? Chilled or baked? Vanilla wafers or ladyfingers? I can promise you that all versions are delicious and each has its own story.

Did you know that Georgia has a banana pudding festival? (I’ll admit that I didn’t until writing this blog post). Another interesting tidbit about banana pudding is that one of the earliest documented recipes with vanilla wafers was published in my hometown of Bloomington, Illinois. How’s that for comfort food?

If you’re also a lover of Southern food history, check out this article on how banana pudding became a southern icon.

What you’ll need

Labeled ingredients used to make banana pudding

There are four main parts to banana pudding: bananas, vanilla pudding, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream. 

Vanilla wafers. These crispy cookies turn nice and soft after sitting with the vanilla pudding for a few hours. You can use my homemade vegan vanilla wafers recipe or find a dairy-free/egg-free version at the store. 

Truthfully, I made my own vanilla wafers because I was having trouble finding a vegan version at the store. Natural food stores (such as Whole Foods or a co-op) are more likely to have them. I have heard that inexpensive store-brand cookies will often be naturally vegan. When in doubt, check the nutrition label. 

Vanilla Pudding. We’ll be making homemade vanilla pudding for this recipe. It’s really simple to make on the stove using soy milk, coconut cream, white sugar, and a bit of corn starch for thickening. 

Bananas. The star of the show! Use ripe bananas for a naturally sweeter pudding. We’ll use 3-4 bananas in this recipe. 

Whipped cream. I use store-bought almond whipped cream for this recipe to cut down on prep time. Most major grocery stores should carry a dairy-free whipped cream. Do note that the banana pudding will look best if the whipped cream is added just before serving.

Step by step instructions

How to make the pudding

Steps 1 through 4 to make banana pudding
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together corn starch and white sugar.
  2. Add ¼ cup of the soy milk. Whisk into a thick paste. We do this to prevent the pudding from clumping up.
  3. Turn the stove to medium heat. Slowly whisk in the remaining soy milk and coconut cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, keeping the pudding at a simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent lumps and a skin from forming.
  4. Simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without sliding right off. It will continue to thicken as it cools. 

Turn off the heat and transfer to a heat-safe container. Let cool to room temp before transferring to the fridge to cool until completely chilled. This will take 3-4 hours.

Assembling the pudding

Choose your dish: I used to make this in an 8×8 baking dish but I prefer making it in a one quart baking dish (the one I’m using in the photos is antique but its my go-to dish). A trifle dish is the most traditional way to serve banana pudding.

Start by layering half of the pudding into your dish of choice. Top with enough banana slices to cover. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Top with enough vanilla wafers to cover. Repeat the process until you have two layers. Depending on the size of the dish you’re using you might be able to do 3 layers.

Top with brown sugar and dollops of whipped cream or cover the entire thing in whipped cream, it’s up to you!

Recipe FAQ and expert tips

  • Caramelizing the bananas: You can really take things to the next level if you lightly caramelize the banana slices. To do this, heat one teaspoon coconut oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the sliced bananas. Sprinkle with one tablespoon light brown sugar. Cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Pudding storage: The pudding might form a skin while its cooling. To prevent this, lay a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding.
  • Pudding color: I haven’t been able to find a method the keeps the pudding bright white. Your best bet is to use soy milk or oat milk which are a bit brighter than almond milk.
How long does this keep?

For best quality, enjoy within 2-3 days. It is still safe to eat after 4-5 days but the wafers will be really soft.

Can I make this in advance?

Yes! You can make the pudding and cookies 48 hours in advance. Assemble just before serving.

Can I use coconut milk instead of coconut cream?

Yes, you can but it won’t be as creamy. The original version of this recipe used coconut milk but I changed it to coconut cream because the cream makes the pudding thicker.

How do I make the pudding thicken?

Keep simmering over medium-low and the pudding will eventually thicken as it evaporates off liquid. You may need to bump the heat up a notch if it’s taking too long, but make sure to keep stirring occasionally.
If needed, you can add a cornstarch slurry of one tablespoon corn starch mixed with one tablespoon cold water.

Can I use a different milk?

Yes, you can use any non-dairy milk to make this.

Cloes up of spoon in vanilla pudding with sliced bananas and a cookie

Looking for more desserts?

If you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy my popular vegan pumpkin pudding or vegan chocolate pudding recipe.

Did you make this recipe? You can leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ in the recipe card or a review down in the comment section. I always appreciate your feedback! You can also follow along on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest or sign up for my newsletter!

Close up of cookies and whipped cream in a white bowl

Print Recipe

Southern Style Vegan Banana Pudding

This classic southern dessert is made with homemade vegan vanilla pudding and soft, crispy vanilla wafers. 

Prep Time20 mins

Chill Time4 hrs

Total Time20 mins

Servings: 8 servings

Author: Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LDN

Instructions

Vegan Vanilla Pudding

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together corn starch and white sugar. Add ¼ cup of the soy milk. Whisk into a thick paste.

  • Turn the stove to medium heat. Slowly whisk in the remaining soy milk and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, keeping the pudding at a simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. Simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without falling off.

  • Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Let cool to room temp before transferring to the fridge to cool until completely chilled. This will take 3-4 hours.

Banana Pudding

  • In a one quart dish, trifle dish or 8×8 baking dish: Layer half of the pudding into the dish. Top with enough banana slices to cover. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with enough vanilla wafers to cover.

  • Repeat the process one more time. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon light brown sugar.

  • Just before serving, top with non-dairy whipped cream, using as much as desired. Lightly sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon. Enjoy cold. Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days, though it looks best served the same day. 

Notes

  1. Vanilla wafers: Natural food stores (such as Whole Foods or a co-op) are more likely to have vegan vanilla wafers. Store-brand cookies are often “accidentally vegan”. 
  2. Whipped cream: I use store-bought almond whipped cream. Most major grocery stores should carry a dairy-free whipped cream. 
  3. Coconut cream: 1 cup canned coconut milk can be used in place of coconut cream  but the pudding will be a little less thick. 
  4. Can I make this in advance? Yes! You can make the pudding and cookies 48 hours in advance. Assemble just before serving.
  5. Caramelized bananas: You can really take things to the next level if you lightly caramelize the banana slices. To do this, heat one teaspoon coconut oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the sliced bananas. Sprinkle with one tablespoon light brown sugar. Cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serving: 1servingCalories: 195kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 6gSodium: 6mgPotassium: 342mgFiber: 2gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 45IUVitamin C: 7.3mgCalcium: 8mgIron: 0.7mg

Note: This recipe was originally shared April 2019. It was updated May 6th with new photos, tips and an improved recipe method. The base recipe remains the same.



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