This gluten free banana pudding takes a classic Southern dessert to another level with banana puree cooked right into the smooth, creamy pudding. Make your own GF vanilla wafers, or use store bought for the perfect nostalgic dessert!
I’m not Southern, but I do know banana pudding. I’ve always found the idea of smooth vanilla pudding layered with vanilla wafers and topped with lightly-toasted meringue or fresh whipped cream to be both compelling—and disappointing all at once. If you’re a Southern belle, hear me out! If you’re going to make something called banana pudding, shouldn’t it have, well, bananas in the pudding? It should be more than just proximity to bananas that proves the pudding is, indeed, banana.
Now I’ve made banana pudding both ways—with banana puree in the pudding and with just a simple vanilla pudding layered with bananas and vanilla wafers. There’s just no comparison between the two. I realize that’s because I wasn’t raised on the stuff. If you simply cannot abide banana puree in your pudding, I’ve included instructions for how to eliminate the offending extra bananas.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t use cornstarch as a thickener in puddings and I don’t recommend you do, either. Cornstarch has a tendency to leak moisture when used as a thickener in a mixture, like pudding, that is then cooled. Essentially, the pudding separates. I favor my basic gum-free gluten free flour blend (link and details in recipe ingredients below), but superfine sweet white rice flour works well if you prefer a single-ingredient flour. It’s quite a versatile flour, actually.
One more detail! If you’re wondering what to do with the 5 egg whites you have after separating out the yolks, instead of topping your banana pudding with fresh whipped cream, use the whites to make a meringue like we did in our lemon meringue pie in jars. Or make an egg white omelet (that’s what I did and it was a Very Good Move).
*If you prefer your banana pudding without banana puree in the pudding itself, you will only need 3 ripe bananas, not 5. Eliminate the bananas from the blender stage of the recipe (step 1 below), increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (150 g) and add 2 tablespoons (28 g) of chopped unsalted butter to the pudding right after you remove it from the heat in step 2 below.
Place the sugar, egg yolks, 2 of the sliced bananas (200 g), 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) of the milk, the flour and the salt in a blender and blend until very smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size, heat-safe bowl and set it next to the stove. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining milk and vanilla bean (or vanilla extract) to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat. If using a vanilla bean, remove it from the milk and, using a sharp knife, slice it halfway through the length to expose the vanilla seeds. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk and whisk to combine.
In a slow trickle and while whisking the flour and yolk mixture constantly, pour about 2 cups of the warm milk mixture to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture. This tempers the egg yolks by warming them slowly, so they don’t clump and curdle. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-low heat. Continue to cook, still whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. The pudding will thicken as it cooks, and will thicken more as it cools. Pour the pudding into a separate, heat-safe bowl and cover immediately with a plastic wrap that rests right on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool until no longer hot to the touch. At this point, the pudding can be refrigerated for up to 4 days before assembling the banana pudding.
In 4 to 6 separate small containers, or one large container, place a thin layer of pudding, followed by a layer of wafers, then a layer of banana slices. Repeat the pudding-wafer-banana slices sequence until you reach the top of the container. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled, at least one hour. Top with whipped cream before serving.
First published on the blog in 2011. Recipe and photos updated in 2016.