Banana pudding — that classic Southern trifle of vanilla wafers, pudding, and whipped cream — is my ideal no-bake dessert. It's sweet, but not cloyingly so, with just the right crunchy-to-creamy ratio. But I also consider a full batch of banana pudding to only be brought out for a crowd.
Enter: the creamy banana pudding bar. A humble ode to its namesake, these bars are the kind of everyday treat you can whip up on a whim. This recipe harnesses banana flavor from banana chips rather than fresh bananas so that you can make this recipe ahead without the vanilla pudding discoloring.
Putting the Banana in Banana Pudding
For these banana pudding bars, we are making a banana-flavored vanilla pudding by infusing whole milk with banana chips. Once strained, this banana milk is turned into pudding with sugar, cornstarch, and a few egg yolks.
Pouring the still-warm pudding onto the chilled crust keeps the crust from getting soggy and creates a more homogenous bar once the pudding chills and sets.
I like to garnish these with more banana chips, as they hold up better in the fridge than fresh bananas, but feel free to use fresh banana slices instead.
Banana Pudding Bars
- For the crust:
vanilla wafer cookies
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- For the pudding:
banana chips (such as Naturally Bare brand baked banana chips), plus more for garnish
large egg yolks
- For the whipped cream:
unflavored powdered gelatin
very cold heavy cream
Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with a parchment paper sling that hangs off of two sides. Pulse the cookies, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse into even crumbs, about 10 pulses. Drizzle in the butter and pulse to incorporate. The mixture should hold together in your hand when you squeeze it. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press very firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Freeze until ready to fill.
Place the milk and banana chips in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium saucepan to remove any lumps. Add the egg yolks and stir until smooth.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the banana chips from the milk; discard the banana chips. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract; set aside.
Mix the gelatin and water in a microwave-safe small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Microwave the gelatin mixture until melted, 7 to 10 seconds.
Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer or hand whisk and large bowl.) Beat to soft peaks on medium speed. With the mixer running, pour in the gelatin mixture and whip to stiff peaks.
Remove the crust from the freezer. Pour the warm pudding over the crust and spread to an even thickness. Pile the whipped cream on top of the pudding and spread to the edges of the dish. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
Using the parchment paper sling, remove the slab from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 bars and garnish with additional banana chips.
Make ahead: The crust can be made 3 days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.
Storage: Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days, although crust will soften over time.