Dessert

Texas banana pudding

Texas banana pudding | Homesick Texan

In the summer of 1923, Aza-Jean Jones of the Central Texas town of Sidney shared a recipe in a local newspaper. It was for banana pudding, and hers called for milk, eggs, vanilla, bananas, and 20 cents worth of a store-bought cookie known as Vanilla Wafers.

Banana pudding was not a new treat, as recipes had appeared in cookbooks and newspapers since the late 1800s. The earliest renditions, however, mixed a custard with said fruit, along with either bread crumbs or sponge cake. It wasn’t until 1921 that the thin vanilla cookie produced by the National Biscuit Company (soon to be known as Nabisco) became a key ingredient instead.

Vanilla Wafers were introduced by Nabisco in 1898. (The name was shortened to Nilla Wafers in 1967). Why it took 23 years for it to be combined with a custard enriched with bananas is a mystery, as is the name of the person who originated the idea, though the first published recipe with the cookies was in August of 1921 in the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph.

So, while Mrs. Jones may not have been the first to add boxed cookies to her banana custard, she was still one of the earliest. For Texans, Aza-Jean Jones was a banana-pudding pioneer.

Now, most people associate banana pudding with the South. While its origins are unknown, the initial recipes appeared in the New York media, which raises more questions than answers. That said, most appearances of banana pudding throughout the years have been in Southern publications, with one particular location reigning supreme.


Texas banana pudding | Homesick Texan

If you guessed Texas, you would be correct. In fact, it’s the odd Texas barbecue, backyard gathering, or church potluck that doesn’t have banana pudding on hand. And for the past 100 years, Texas is tops for the number of press mentions of banana pudding, with over 20,000 stories featuring this beloved dessert appearing in Texas publications. For comparison, the place with the next-highest number of references is North Carolina with around 3,700.

Clearly, Texas is banana-pudding country.

The earliest recipes, besides using cake, also blanketed the pudding with a baked meringue. Even after the cookies took the place of pastry, the meringue often remained. A friend from Tennessee recently showcased her family’s method and it was indeed topped with a layer of sweetened, beaten egg whites.

A meringue, of course, is a practical consideration, as the custard calls only for the yolk and it allows the whole egg to be used. But in Texas, the meringue is usually set aside and if there’s any topping at all, it’s whipped heavy cream along with perhaps more cookies and bananas. Texas banana pudding is typically meringue free.

Another difference from other regions is that while it can be served warm, in Texas it’s usually chilled. This not only benefits eaters during the hot summer days, but also it allows the cookies to soften and meld with the custard and bananas creating a cohesive dessert that’s easy and comforting.

There are many variations of basic banana pudding, with some going wild and smoking their bananas or splashing bourbon into the mix. As for myself, I’ve been known to prepare peanut butter cookies and use those instead of boxed, or even turn it into ice cream. But sometimes you just want the classic, and so here it is—a simple custard layered with sliced ripe bananas and boxed vanilla cookies.

Texas banana pudding | Homesick Texan

My banana pudding does not veer far from Mrs. Jones’ rendition, though I removed her meringue, as I’m not a fan, and replaced it with the more popular whipped cream. Though the basic chilled trifle has more in common with hers than not, a classic Texan dessert that’s been a favorite for almost 100 years. It may not be a native Texan, but like many, banana pudding arrived here as soon as it could.

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Texas banana pudding | Homesick Texan
4.82 from 11 votes
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Texas banana pudding

Course Dessert
Cuisine Southern, Texan
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

For the pudding:

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 medium bananas
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 60 vanilla wafer cookies

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Place a metal mixing bowl in the freezer.
  2. To make the custard, whisk together the half and half, sugar, flour, egg yolks, and salt in a medium pot, and then heat on medium-low heat, continuously stirring. After about 5-7 minutes, it will start to bubble and then thicken. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Turn off the heat.
  3. To make the whipped cream, take the bowl out of the freezer, add the cream and sugar, and then beat the ingredients until soft peaks form.
  4. Peel and slice the bananas into 1/4” rounds, and then sprinkle the slices with the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.
  5. To assemble the banana pudding, place a layer of 25 cookies and half the sliced bananas in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Evenly spread on top half of the custard. Add another layer of 25 cookies and the rest of the bananas, then top with the remaining custard.
  6. Evenly spread on top of the pudding the whipped cream. Crumble the remaining cookies then sprinkle the crumbs on top of the whipped cream.

  7. Alternatively, you can serve the pudding in 8 1/2-pint Mason jars or bowls. Evenly divide the cookies, sliced bananas, and pudding, and then proceed as above.

  8. Chill covered for at least 4 hours before serving, though if you prefer, you can eat it warm. It will keep refrigerated for 3 days.

  1. Yes! Summer and banana pudding go hand in hand!

    • Lisa Fain

      Jacob–Indeed they do! Have those awesome cooks of yours make y’all a batch!

  2. Great timing – I can’t wait to make this. As we forgo potlucks picnics and barbecues for The Duration, banana pudding is perhaps the ideal summer comfort food, a soothing consolation prize for staying IN.

    That said, your idea of making and using peanut butter cookies is definitely a side road we’ll want to take. before the summer ends. Any tips on how to sub in peanut butter cookies?

    • Lisa Fain

      Deb–The peanut butter cookie recipe is in my second cookbook (it has oatmeal in it, too) but any peanut butter cookie would do. Here’s another recipe that’s from my great-grandmother. They’re a bit larger usually than the boxed wafers so you could use fewer if you wanted but not necessary!

  3. Walter Hattox

    I crumble the vanilla wafers and mix in with bananas and pudding.

  4. My Mother always whipped up her egg whites and then folded them into the the custard making it lighter. That was her way of not wasting the egg whites and not having to bake the meringue.

    • Lisa Fain

      Lori–Now that’s a wonderful idea! I will have to try that!

  5. Janelle

    Hello from Brenham! This is precisely what I had in mind when I glanced at my fruit bowl this morning. You must be a mind-reader 😊

  6. Colleen

    If you have access to a HEB, the Slaton Bakery vanilla wafers are AMAZING. I think I’m going to have to make a batch with those!

    • Lisa Fain

      Colleen–I will keep my eyes out for those and give them a try. Thank you for the recommendation!

      • Debby R.

        I second the recommendation of using Slaton vanilla cookies. They are lovingly made in Lubbock.
        Slaton Bakery has been open since 1923!

        • Lisa Fain

          Debby–I will have to get some! And Lubbock is on my places to visit soon!

  7. Diane Gomez

    I’m going to try this version as my family are huge consumers of banana pudding. We have it year-round — but we use the cheater’s recipe:

    1 giant tub of Cool Whip
    4 vanilla instant pudding packs
    1 can of condensed milk
    1 box of Nilla Wafers
    4-5 medium bananas

    Use a hand mixer to blend the Cool Whip, pudding and condensed milk. Then slice bananas and layer with wafers.

    It’s quick and easy, but I definitely want to try your recipe and see which they prefer!

  8. “It will keep refrigerated for 3 days.”
    Surely you jest. In our family, if it lasts until the next day, it’s a surprise.

    With home made vanilla and chocolate puddings, if you make them three times, you’ll have enough egg whites to make an Angel Food cake. Twelve whites of large eggs will make a good sized Angel Food cake.

    • Lisa Fain

      Ann–Well, there’s always someone who wants to know how long it will last. But yes, it seldom goes past the first serving. Ha! And that is another excellent idea for the egg whites. It’s been too long since I made angel food cake! Thanks!

  9. Yum, yum. Need ‘nanner puddin’. Right NOW!!

    Was taught the Texas way of making banana pudding by Texans, It was strangely like what my Mother (from Illinois) made. But, the Texans claimed to not have the time to let the warm pudding cool, so they used instant instead of making the custard from scratch. And, they added just a touch of banana flavor (stressing not to overdo it).

    Mom always made hers in a glass bowl so that you could see the wafers, which she carefully arranged with the round side facing outward. Both versions were topped with whipped cream.

    Since having to give up dairy, I found that almond “milk” works just fine in making instant pudding. If the bananas are really ripe, they flavor the instant vanilla pudding mix just fine.

    Thanks for this – going down memory lane has been fun!

    • Lisa Fain

      Pete–Thank you for sharing your memories! It is especially pretty in a glass bowl, I agree. And glad to know it’s just as delicious with almond milk. I was thinking that coconut milk would be good, too.

  10. BJ Long

    5 stars
    Growing up out in West Texas (San Angelo) this was at all church functions and holidays and whenever else the mood struck. Now living in North Carolina it is also a pretty common dish to see. This is going on my 4th of July menu along! Can’t wait to make it up!

  11. Just wanted to say I’m a TN girl and my grandma’s recipe for ‘Nana puddin’ had meringue as well. I have always preferred the whipped-cream topped ‘nana puddin’ myself, though!

  12. Lisa..welcome home! Not sure when you moved, but I recently read about it. No place like home….hope you’re loving it! So many of your recipes and stories related food resonate with me. When I was about 8, I took a break from bike riding and horny toad capturing one hot summer afternoon to run into the house to grap a drink of water. What I discovered was a freshly made banana pudding in a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish on the bottom shelf of the fridge…yea! Of course, I had to pull the Saran wrap off to get a sneak peek. About that time, the dish slid right out of fridge and onto the floor….crudddddd!!! I quickly grabbed a bunch of paper towels, scooped up the spilled pudding, and dumped it all in the trash. I washed the Pyrex dish and put it away…Voila…never happened! My bicycle was waiting for me right outside the back door, so I hauled a$$ as fast as I could…unfortunately, my older sister busted me. 50 years later, she’s still calling me out!

    • Lisa Fain

      Laura–Thank you for the well wishes, it is indeed good to be back home and so close to my family and old friends. And what a great story! Only an 8-year-old would think they could wash the dish and nobody would be the wiser! Too funny! I do hope another pudding was made.

  13. Penny Luddecke

    Lisa, can I double the recipe or should I make two?

    • Lisa Fain

      Penny–Either way should work. You will most likely have to stir longer for the custard to set but other than that, I can’t see any issues.

  14. Nick Olson

    Lisa, any attempts with non-dairy milk for the pudding base? I’ve heard some thickeners don’t always get along with non-dairy but not sure. Thoughts?

    • Lisa Fain

      Nick–I have not tried any nondairy milks as the base but I believe cornstarch plays well with almond and coconut milk.

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