Recipe Review

I Tried Dolly Parton’s Banana Pudding and I’m Still Thinking About It

published Jul 27, 2023
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Plated slice of Dolly Parton's banana pudding.
Credit: Lena Abraham

To me, banana pudding never gets old. And as it’s one of America’s most beloved desserts, I’ve made more than a few iterations in my time as a recipe developer. Whether in cake, cookie, or ice cream form, the combination of creamy vanilla pudding and ripe bananas never disappoints. 

But even with all my forays into the banana pudding-verse, I had never tried what some would consider the most “classic” version of the dish —  baked, with a fluffy meringue topping. So when I came across the esteemed baked banana pudding recipe from singer, songwriter, actress, author, and all-around icon Dolly Parton, I knew I needed to give it a shot.    

Credit: Lena Abraham

How to Make Dolly Parton’s Banana Pudding

To start, preheat your oven to 350°. In a deep, 2-quart baking dish, combine one 12-ounce box of vanilla wafer cookies and 4 sliced ripe bananas. Gently toss to combine the bananas and cookies, then spread them in an even layer in your baking dish.

Next, combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk 3 cups of milk into the sugar mixture until blended and smooth. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, then cook for one minute, stirring constantly. After one minute, remove the pan from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 large egg and 3 large egg yolks (save the whites!). Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture until completely combined with the eggs. Slowly whisk egg mixture into the saucepan before returning it to low heat. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is hot but not boiling. Stir 1/4 cup of butter into the pudding until melted, then remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Pour the pudding over the cookies and bananas in your baking dish.

Next, make the meringue topping: In a large bowl using a hand mixer on high speed, beat the reserved 3 egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar until stiff peaks form.

Spoon meringue on top of pudding, spreading into an even layer all the way to the edges of the baking dish. Bake until the meringue is golden on top, about 15 minutes.

Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Opinion of Dolly Parton’s Banana Pudding

This banana pudding was so incredibly good that it converted me from team no-bake banana pudding to team baked banana pudding. The custard was the star: velvety, rich, and sweet, its texture and flavor was miles better than the boxed alternative, and tasted particularly indulgent when eaten warm. Together with the cookies and bananas, each bite was pleasantly dense and saturated with banana and vanilla flavor.

Though I did enjoy the meringue topping, it was the one area of this dessert that I think could use some improvement. The main issue was the amount of sugar: this meringue called for just 1/2 a teaspoon for 3 large egg whites. Typically this amount would be closer to 1/4 to 1/2 a cup for a meringue topping. Though this dessert didn’t necessarily need more sweetness, sugar plays an important role in meringue, giving it stability (so it doesn’t “fall” once removed from the oven) and a smoother, shinier texture like in this Lemon Meringue Pie. If I made this again, I’d definitely up the amount of sugar in the meringue.

2 Tips for Making Dolly Parton’s Banana Pudding

  1. Don’t walk away from your saucepan. Things happen quickly in this recipe, so it’s best to keep a watchful eye on your custard to avoid any lumps or burnt flavors.
  2. Serve at room temperature. I think this pudding tasted best just slightly warm, so I’d give it at least 30 minutes to cool before diving in.