This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy.
Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding is a southern, easy scratch-made layered trifle brimming with creamy vanilla pudding, Nilla Wafers, and Cool Whip! It’s make-ahead, no-bake, uses simple ingredients, and feeds a crowd! With just a few minutes of prep time, you can create this delicious dessert that is perfect for any occasion. 🙂
The homemade creamy pudding (no instant pudding here!) is layered with sweet bananas, crunchy vanilla wafers, and Cool Whip whipped cream making for a decadent and satisfying treat. Whether you’re serving it for a potluck, a birthday party, or just a weeknight dessert, this no bake banana dessert is sure to be a hit, and it’s even better the next day!
This pudding is among the most popular of the custardy desserts I feature here on Not Entirely Average. This sweet joins the likes of Lemon Pudding Cakes, this scrummy apple pudding cake, and Cream Puffs with Jasmine Custard.
Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding Trifle Ingredients
Making banana pudding with vanilla wafers for dessert is a snap and uses easy-to-find ingredients. While the following list is pretty basic, I’ve added some notes and pointers below that are worth a quick read.
- COLD Milk – use 2% milk to attain the best texture.
- Eggs – use the whole egg. These should be kept refrigerated until ready to use.
- Granulated sugar – use granulated which sugar contains sucrose, a complex carb that offers a richer flavor to finished dishes versus non-calorie and artificial sweeteners.
- All-purpose flour – thickens the pudding while helping to also stabilize it which is super important for layering.
- Unsalted butter – required for sheen and silkiness in the custard.
- Banana extract – use pure extract as it enhances the flavor profile of the fresh banana slices.
- Bananas – choose ripe but not too ripe bananas that display brown freckling. These are the perfect stage for this classic southern dessert!
- Fresh lemon juice, fresh pineapple juice, or fresh orange juice – using an acid keeps the bananas from turning brown and extends the life of the assembled layers.
- Nilla Wafers – I haven’t met a southern banana pudding that didn’t employ these little single-bite cookies, the Nabisco company having spurred the puddings popularity almost singlehandedly.
- Whipped topping – Cool Whip not only saves on time, but also stands up to the heavier layers that get piled on top of it.
Substitutions and Variations
- Whole milk – may be substituted in place of 2%.
- Cornstarch – 1/4-cup may be substituted in place of AP flour.
- Vanilla extract – may be substituted in place of banana extract however will not yield in same level of banana flavor as pure banana extract.
- Southern pound cake, super moist banana cake, homemade banana bread, Chess Men, shortbread cookies, ladyfingers, animal crackers, or graham crackers – any of these may be used in lieu of vanilla wafers.
- Fresh whipped cream – swap out the Cool Whip for freshly whipped that you whip yourself.
- Spiced Rum – be ‘island-inspired’ by replacing a few tablespoons of milk with spiced rum.
- Fresh strawberries, Flaked Coconut, or Pineapple Tidbits – hull and halve strawberries or scatter coconut or canned tidbits, alternating with fresh banana slices as you layer the creamy homemade banana pudding.
- Chocolate Shavings – grab for a semisweet baking bar and use a vegetable peeler to amass a pile of chocolate shavings for layering, garnishing, or both!
- Salted Caramel Sauce – a drizzle of this liquid elixir makes a BIG flavorful impact.
How Ripe Should Bananas Be?
Select bananas that are ripe without being overly ripe – I look for light spotting that is just beginning.
What Is the Best Milk for Banana Pudding?
Four types of milk were tested to determine the best consistency and thickening properties for banana pudding.
- Whole milk produced a pudding with a rich, creamy texture and a smooth, glossy finish.
- 2% milk was a close second, with a slightly thinner consistency but still a pleasant texture.
- Fat-free milk resulted in a pudding that was thin and watery, with a dull finish.
- Half heavy cream, half 2% milk produced a pudding that was similar to whole milk in terms of consistency and texture, but with a slightly richer flavor.
Based on these results, 2% milk is the best choice for banana pudding. Whole milk may be substituted if desired, but the pudding will be slightly thinner. Fat-free milk is not recommended, as it will result in a thin, watery pudding with a dull finish.
Step By Step Instructions
You’re about to dive into an easy recipe that is both prized and coveted in every southern state not to mention every southern state’s barbecue joints and smoke houses! I hope you allow yourself to enjoy the process.
Step 1. Fill a wide, shallow bowl or baking dish with equal parts ice and water. Place atop a kitchen towel to absorb any condensation and set aside. (Image 1)
Step 2. Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, and flour together in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for about 20 minutes. (Image 2)
Step 3. Cut in the butter and the banana extract. I like my pudding heavy on banana, so I add extra extract. (Image 3)
Step 4. Stir until the butter has melted then remove the saucepan from the heat. Move to the ice bath. (Image 4)
Step 5. Place the saucepan in the prepared ice bath and let it stand, whisking occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and thoroughly chilled. At this stage, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate at least 3 hours. (Image 5)
Step 6. About 1 hour prior to serving, assemble your trifle. Begin by cutting the bananas into 1/4-inch-thick slices and toss to coat with lemon juice. Just give half the lemon one good squeeze and stir. I specify 5 bananas; however, you may use more or less depending on taste and garnish. (Image 6)
Step 7. Line the bottom of a pedestaled trifle dish or glass serving bowl with wafers. Leave whole or crush. I do both! (Image 7)
Step 8. Cover with half the custard. Use a rubber spatula to ‘guide’ the custard to the sides of the bowl. The custard will be thick, but not too thick that it will not pour. (Image 8)
Step 9. Top the custard with whipped topping, then a layer of bananas. You can also reverse layers of you like. With each layer, consider ‘rimming’ the wall of the trifle bowl with vertical slices of fruit or cookies. (Image 9)
Step 10. Top with more cookies, then repeat the entire process one more time. When you are through layering, the contents will be just about as tall as the sides of the trifle dish. Add a whipped cream topping and garnish. (Image 10)
Step 11. A finished trifle will look something like this image above. All of the layers are visible, making the trifle very appetizing as well as visually appealing. (Above Image)
How to Serve a Banana Pudding Trifle
- Use a trifle dish or a wide and shallow glass serving bowl.
- Do not use an opaque serving vessel, as this will hide the layers.
- If you do not have a trifle dish, you can assemble the trifle in individual glass dessert bowls.
- Any time and for any occasion!
Prefer Individual Puddings Instead?
Once the custard has thoroughly chilled, load the pudding into individual dessert bowls along with Nilla’s, banana slices, and whipped cream for a grab and go handy in the fridge!
Jenny’s Recipe Pro Tips
- Tossing in lemon juice or brushing with club soda will slow the process of oxidation preventing the banana slices from turning brown.
- Layer slowly and spin your trifle dish around to eyeball your leveling of layers.
- It’s important to chill the banana pudding for at least 3 hours before assembling the trifle establishing an extra firm pudding that will be easier to layer.
Any bowl large and made of glass can be used to showcase a trifle, especially each delicious layer. Additional vessels that would work well include punch bowls, mixing bowls, glass ice buckets, or individual glass dessert bowls.
About 15 minutes both on the stove and in the ice bath. Further thickening will take place as the pudding is left to cool for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. A thick pudding is necessary to support the layers.
If you store the pudding in a trifle dish, place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent the pudding from absorbing any flavors from the fridge. DO NOT FREEZE. To store the pudding for more than 2 days, transfer it to an airtight container to keep the pudding fresh.
Easy Layered Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding Trifle
- Trifle bowl or other pretty glass serving bowl
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter diced
- 2 – 3 teaspoons banana extract
- 5 bananas medium sized, ripe but not overripe
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 11 ounce package Mini Nabisco Nilla Wafers
- 2 cups frozen whipped topping mostly thawed
- Before beginning, divide the banana slices in half BUT reserving a handful of slices for the end to garnish the dessert. Also set aside a handful of Nilla wafers, whole or crushed, to garnish the dessert.
- Fill a wide, shallow bowl or baking dish with equal parts ice and water. I find placing the bowl on top of a folded paper towel or dish cloth will help to absorb condensation as well as keep the bowl from sliding around. Set aside.
- Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, and flour together in a semi-deep sided saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for about 20 minutes. The mixture will start out watery and will end moderately thickened. Cut in the butter and the banana extract, stirring until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
- Place the saucepan in the prepared ice bath and let it stand, whisking occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and thoroughly chilled. NOTE: scrape the pudding into a bowl and apply plastic film directly to the surface of the pudding. This will prevent the mixture from developing a skin. Chill for at least 3 hours. Continue with assembly no more than 1 hour prior to serving.
- Cut the bananas into 1/4-inch-thick slices and toss to coat well with the lemon juice.
- Line the bottom of a pedestaled trifle dish or glass serving bowl with wafers. You may either crush them lightly or leave whole. Cover with half the custard. Use a rubber spatula to 'guide' the custard to the sides of the bowl. Make a decorative band using some of the Nilla Wafers and go around the bowl, tucking each cookie gently into the custard. Top with half the bananas. Repeat. Make an additional decorative band using some of the banana slices.
- Cover the final/top layer with whipped cream. Garnish with both reserved banana slices and reserved wafers. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.