World’s Best Banana Pudding

Tall Banana Pudding w watermarkThis is, hands down, the best Banana Pudding that ever was and ever will be. So easy to put together, this oddly comforting American-style trifle achieves greatness with six simple ingredients. Creamy, fruity, light and satisfying, this is one of my very favorite and most requested desserts.

I first tried this dessert at the source of it’s creation, The Buttercup Bake Shop in NYC. Buttercup Bake Shop is most famous for their cupcakes, but it was the banana pudding that stole my heart. After I had secured their cookbook, the banana pudding recipe page became dog-earred and sticky from use. Now, after making this crowd pleaser over 30 times, I know the recipe by heart.

World’s Best Banana Pudding
Adapted from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook

Print-Friendly Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup instant vanilla pudding powder (instant pudding in the box)
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 box Nilla wafers (or other vanilla wafer) [See Note]
  • 5-6 large ripe bananas, thinly sliced

Note:  Today I used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Wafers in place of Nilla Wafers.  Although still yummy, I think I like the Nilla Wafers better.  Perhaps because that’s what I’m used to.

The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to make the vanilla-pudding base for the dessert at least 4 hours before you want to assemble the dessert. I try to do it the day before so I don’t have to think too hard.

Using an electric mixer, combine the cold water, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla pudding powder. Mix until creamy and homogenous, about 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the pudding, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir a third of the whipped cream into the pudding base to lighten. Then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Using a trifle dish or other clear container, layer the dessert. Cookies, then sliced banana, then pudding, repeat. I usually make about 5 layers, but you may make more or less depending on the size of your container. To make it pretty, layer so that the outermost ring of the cookies and bananas presses right up against the side of the trifle dish so that you can see the layers in the completed dessert.

Wide Banana Pudding w watermark web

Crumble whatever leftover cookies you have on the top of the pudding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

STORAGE:  The longer the pudding sits, the softer the cookies become. The pudding will still be a little crunchy after three hours. The next day, the cookies resemble small pieces of cake. A whole different experience, but still delicious.

GENERAL VARIATION:  Over the years, I’ve made this dessert a number of different ways. I’ve added layers of toasted nuts (pictured in the first photo), toffee, caramel or chocolate sauce. Those are all good, but I come back again and again to the basic recipe because its that good.

PEANUT BUTTER VARIATION:  My favorite variation on this recipe is to substitute Nutter Butters in place of Nilla wafers.  If you do this, You MUST let the pudding sit for at least 8 hours before you serve (longer is even better).  The dessert is easier to eat after the waiting period (Nutter Butters are harder and thicker than Nilla wafers and therefore take longer to soften up) and the peanut butter flavor in the cookies is much more pronounced. Worth the wait.



  1. I can personally say it is the best!!! Heather made our favorite dessert while we were visiting them this past weekend and it was worth the journey! Thank you heather!!!

  2. whoever said this is the worlds best pudding has never been out of the state of new york, because the very finest pudding is created in the state of south carolina and louisianna, and if you don’t believe me, come on down and I’ll make it from scratch for you…
    ol’ man charlie

    • I’d love to try your pudding! But since I don’t have any plans to travel south in the near future. Perhaps you would be willing to share the recipe? :) — Heather

  3. this is not meant to cause a controversy, but if you cut corners on century old favorite, you will compromise the entire art of this southern delight. It is all made from scratch and we don’t cut any corners down here; no pudding from a box, its made from eggs, vanilla flavoring, real butter, sugar, a pint of heavy whippin cream, milk, spotted bannanas, and there’s a secret way to make just right… you can also use pineapple or peaches or strawberies, but folks in new york don’t know how to do all that, but rest assured, WE do and we don’t cut corners…

    • Sounds delish! I recently made a Banana Cream Pie which began with a vanilla pudding made from scratch. I believe you have inspired me to try it that way in my next Banana Pudding. But, do tell, what is the “secret” to making it just right. I want to make sure I do it justice next time. ;)

    • Using vanilla extract is cutting a corner. You could be using vanilla bean. Also, I’d be interested in knowing whether you make your vanilla wafers from scratch too. Because if not, that too is a cut corner.

  4. LOL..HeatherS you have the sweetest responses!

  5. How many servings does this make?

    • That depends on how much people want, but it does make a whole lot. I would say 10-14. – Heather

  6. if you add baileys irish creme to the pudding it makes it even better and it keeps better then regular banana pudding does. I use about 1/4 cup. AMAZING!!!!

    • I LOVE this suggestion. I’m going to try this soon. Thanks! – Heather

  7. I have a similar recipe for banana pudding trifle, but I also add cool whip in the layers…then top with toasted almonds (or pecans) and mini chocolate chips..

  8. I just saw this on Pinterest. I was just getting ready to Google a banana pudding recipe to copycat a delicious pudding I had at Pappadeaux Restaurant. It was layered just like this. Thanks for the recipe. Will try.

  9. Would you recommend adding powdered sugar and vanilla essence to the heavy whipping cream? Just to add some sweetness and flavor- or would it be too over the top? I am going to try your recipe Sunday when I have some friends over :)

    • Yes on the vanilla, no on the powdered sugar. Believe me, this dessert is already plenty sweet. :)

      • Thank you! Trying it out today- so excited :) also- would it be ok to do 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water to the pudding mix?

        • Sure. I’m sure you could. Let me know how it turns out. :)

  10. Hi

    Just stumbled upon this recipe for banana pudding. Sounds delish! When you say “pudding powder,” do you mean pudding mix in the box? Thanx for your response. I will be making this soon.

    BTW Allen, I’m a woman who has overdosed on making any and every thing from scratch and I know there are plenty of southerners who cut corners. Not to cause any controversy, but cutting corners doesn’t mean that people are lazy or that the dish isn’t darn delicious. It just means that alot of times, with folks being busy with life, there may not be enough time to make a dish from scratch. Cutting corners is something that southerners have always done til this very day. There are plenty of recipes posted online by men and women from the South that include store-bought, already prepared and/or precooked. I have made these recipes myself and I must say they are darn delicious in my humble opinion.

    • Hi Ginny,
      Yep. Pudding Powder is instant pudding in the box. Thanks for letting me know that could be clearer and that it’s OK to take a shortcut now and again. I totally agree. :) – Best, Heather



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