Homemade banana pudding is a southern classic! This easy dessert recipe is perfect for potlucks, picnics, barbecues, during the holidays and so much more. Made with a vanilla-scented pudding, fresh banana slices, and vanilla wafers!

banana pudding in glass dish topped with whipped cream, wafer cookies, and banana slices

Would you look at all those flavors!

Creamy swoops of vanilla pudding mixture, freshly sliced bananas, and crunchy vanilla cookies tucked between layers of pudding. 

Do you remember the Magnolia Bakery’s Famous Banana Pudding recipe taking the internet by storm circa 2012? I couldn’t believe how simple the recipe was. And to be honest, it just never tasted the same after that. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was too easy?

My homemade version of the quick banana pudding uses a lot of the same ingredients but I’ve also tweaked it some to give it a little more southern charm. A no-fuss, completely straightforward recipe that’s loaded with all the classic southern flavors, and the best part is anyone can make this! One simple addition to the vanilla pudding keeps the guests on their toes! Is it made from scratch? What is that flavor? Why can I not stop eating it?’ 

showing inside texture of banana pudding

Ingredients in a Classic Homemade Banana Pudding:

  • Cream Cheese: I add just a bit of cream cheese to the vanilla pudding to help give it a bit more depth. The cream cheese also helps cut down on the sweetness just a tiny bit.
  • Condensed Milk: You’ll need sweetened condensed milk for this recipe. The condensed milk is combined with the cream cheese and other ingredients to make the vanilla pudding.
  • Flavorings: I like to amp up the vanilla flavor by adding my favorite vanilla extract to the recipe. I also like to add a small pinch of salt to cut some of the sweetness in the pudding.
  • Milk: I use 2% milk to make the pudding. Since we’re folding in heavy cream later anyway, I use lower fat milk here to make sure the pudding doesn’t become too rich by the end.
  • Instant Vanilla Pudding: you’ll need a larger size of the vanilla pudding mix. You could swap this for banana pudding if you like a lot of banana flavor!
  • Heavy Cream: We’ll whip the heavy cream and use most of it to mix into the pudding. The remaining bit of heavy cream will be used as a topping right before we serve this classic banana pudding. Some people like to use cool whip in place of the heavy cream, but I find that it makes the banana pudding overly sweet for my taste.
  • Fresh Bananas: Using bananas that are too ripe causes them to just fall apart in the pudding during serving. The perfect banana for this recipe is one that is completely yellow with just a few brown spots.
  • Nilla Wafers: these need no description at all! It’s as if the classic banana pudding keeps these relevant. Not traditional, but you could also use chessmen cookies instead if you’d like.
vanilla pudding and vanilla pudding being mixed with freshly whipped cream
swirled whipped cream mixed with vanilla pudding

Tips for making perfect banana pudding:

  1. Use an electric mixer to make the pudding mix. Make sure the cream cheese is softened to room temperature and really whip it well it well in your stand mixer or with hand beaters before adding the other ingredients. The first time I made this, I didn’t whip the cream cheese enough before adding the other ingredients and the pudding was slightly lumpy. Luckily, once I fold in the whipped cream, it was impossible to tell. But still, I learned my lesson!
  2. Chill the banana pudding for a few hours before serving. But not longer than 8-10 hours. I find after that point the banana pudding starts losing its luster because the wafers start to soften too much.
  3. Other cookies will work if you don’t have Nilla Wafers. I’ve had a tough time finding the classic wafer cookies you use in a banana pudding here a few times. If that happens to you too, you can swap them for butter cookies or even vanilla sandwich cookies.  
layering banana pudding with wafers, bananas, and adding vanilla pudding on top

FAQs about banana pudding:

Can I make this in advance?

If you’d like to start prepping this in advance, I suggest making the pudding portion the night before and then folding in the whipped cream and layering the pudding the day of for best results!

How do you keep bananas from browning?

You can drizzle or brush the banana slices with lemon juice. If the color and appearance is of importance, I suggest serving the pudding as soon as possible or possibly skipping the bananas used on top for garnish.

What kind of dish do I serve this in?

Typically a banana pudding is served in a clear trifle bowl or any glass dish so that you can see all the layers. Sometimes I’ll use 2-8×8 dishes or even personal sherbet bowls!

Can I use banana pudding instead of vanilla?

Yes, if you prefer the flavor of banana pudding over vanilla, you can certainly make that swap.

Can I use whipped topping instead?

You can, but keep in mind that whipped topping is already sweetened so when you use it in the pudding and then on top, the whole dessert will end up being significantly sweeter.

How long do leftovers last? Can I freeze this?

About 2 days covered in an airtight container and refrigerated. Best when consumed sooner rather than later, as the cookies do start to soften a bit as the pudding chills in the fridge. Unfortunately, the pudding doesn’t hold up to well when frozen. You can make a ½ batch or send any leftovers home with guests if you can’t finish leftovers!

dish with pudding on grey surface with towel, banana peel, and cookies

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banana pudding in plate with spoon
Yield: serves 12-14

Easy Classic Banana Pudding

Prep Time 20 minutes
Inactive Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Homemade banana pudding is a southern classic! This easy summer dessert recipe is perfect for potlucks, picnics, barbecues, and so much more. Made with a vanilla-scented pudding, fresh banana slices, and vanilla wafers!

Easy Classic Banana Pudding


  • ½ brick (4-ounce) cream cheese, softened to room temp
  • 1 (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ⅓ cup milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 (5.1-ounce) instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 5-6 bananas, thinly sliced
  • 1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafer cookies


    1. MAKE THE PUDDING: In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese using with a hand mixer until completely smooth, take your time here and really work the cream cheese. Add the condensed milk, vanilla, and salt and continue whipping until combined. Add milk and pudding mix and continue to mix on medium-low speed until you work out any lumps in the pudding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight.
    2. WHIP THE CREAM: In a large bowl, add heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Remove roughly 1¼ cup of the whipped cream to a bowl, and refrigerate. Add the remaining whipped cream to the pudding and fold until no streak of pudding remain.
    3. ASSEMBLE: Add ⅓ of the pudding mixture to the serving dish. Top with ½ the wafer cookies and ½ of the banana slices. Top with another ⅓ of the pudding, followed by the wafers and bananas (save a few of each for the top.) Add the remaining pudding on top and then top with the whipped cream. Top with a few slices of banana and cookies, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best when served within 8-10 hours.


  • Cream cheese: The first time i made this, my cream cheese wasn't mixed enough/at proper room temperature, which resulted it in a slightly grainy pudding. Once I combined it with the heavy cream, it wasn't noticeable at all! So don't worry if this happens to you!

Have you made this recipe?

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