This Southern-style vegan banana pudding is made with freshly sliced bananas, homemade vegan vanilla pudding, and crisp vanilla wafers! You'll love the dairy-free and egg-free version of this classic Southern dessert.
If this is your first time trying any kind of banana pudding, then 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! This vegan version of banana pudding is inspired by classic Southern banana pudding.
It's made without cool whip or instant pudding mix, but it still features all of the traditional components.
- Four components: Features vegan vanilla pudding, sliced bananas, homemade (or store-bought) vegan vanilla wafer cookies, and dairy-free whipped cream.
- Fruit-filled dessert: Banana pudding is sweet yet refreshing, thanks to chilled vanilla pudding balanced out with warming spices, a light coconut flavor, and bananas.
- Great for a crowd: Perfect for summer get togethers. Can be served in a casserole dish or in individual jars.
About banana 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 ladyfinger cookies were the 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.
Ingredients and substitutions
There are four main components to this vegan banana pudding: bananas, vanilla pudding, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream.
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.
We are making homemade vegan vanilla pudding for this recipe. It's really simple to make on the stove using:
- Soy milk: Feel free to use any kind of non-dairy milk like almond, oat, or almond milk. Choose unsweetened, unflavored for a neutral palette or vanilla for extra vanilla flavor.
- Coconut cream: This adds a lot of creaminess to the pudding and also acts as a thickener.
- White sugar: An equal amount of liquid sweetener, like maple or agave syrup, also works.
- Corn starch: An equal amount of arrowroot starch also works.
The star of the show! Use ripe bananas for a naturally sweeter pudding. We'll use 3-4 bananas in this recipe.
Ripe bananas have yellow skins. If they have brown speckles they are super-ripe. If the skins are on the green side they won't be very ripe or very sweet.
Whipped (vegan) cream
I use store-bought almond whipped cream for this recipe to cut down on prep time.
Most major grocery stores should carry 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 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. We do this to prevent the pudding from clumping up.
- 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.
- 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 banana pudding
Choose your dish: I used to make this in an 8x8 baking dish but I prefer making it in a one-quart baking dish (the one I'm using in the photos is antique but it's my go-to dish). A trifle dish is the most traditional way to serve banana pudding. You can also assemble individual servings in pint-sized glass jars.
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!
Expert tips and customization
- 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.
- Add extra crunch: Try adding crushed pecans for some extra Georgia flare and texture. Crushed walnuts also work well on banana pudding.
- Pudding temperature: Banana pudding can be eaten warm but I recommend chilling it before serving. This makes it more refreshing and allows the pudding to settle and thicken.
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.
Yes! You can make the pudding and cookies 48 hours in advance. Assemble just before serving.
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.
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.
Yes, you can use any non-dairy milk to make banana pudding.
Yes, you can add mashed banana like the kind used in banana muffins. I recommend adding banana to the pudding just before serving because banana oxidizes and becomes gray over time, similar to how avocado browns when exposed to air.
Looking for more vegan desserts?
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Vegan Banana Pudding (Southern-Style)
- 1 recipe vegan vanilla pudding see below
- 3-4 large ripe bananas sliced into coins
- 2 dozen vegan vanilla wafers see note #1
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 container non-dairy whipped cream to taste, see note #2
- ground cinnamon for topping
Vegan Vanilla Pudding
- 1 and ½ cups soy milk I like sweetened vanilla
- 13 ounce can of coconut cream see note #3
- ½ cup organic white sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
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 cream. 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.
- In a one quart dish, trifle dish or 8x8 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.
- 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".
- Whipped cream: I use store-bought almond whipped cream. Most major grocery stores should carry a dairy-free whipped cream.
- Coconut cream: 1 cup canned coconut milk can be used in place of coconut cream but the pudding will be a little less thick.
- Can I make this in advance? Yes! You can make the pudding and cookies 48 hours in advance. Assemble just before serving.
- 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.
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.