A Southern banana pudding is a good old-fashioned classic dessert, and for good reason! The combination of sweet bananas, creamy pudding, and sweet and crispy vanilla wafer cookies is comfort food at it’s best. However, make this Southern staple even better by adding cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk for an over-the-top dessert.
Banana Pudding with Condensed Milk and Cream Cheese is heavenly!
Banana pudding with cream cheese is a fresh take on the old standby recipe, using cream cheese to add a richness to the pudding. A homemade vanilla pudding has bananas blended into it, infusing bananas throughout the entire dish.
With traditional banana pudding, it is actually just vanilla pudding with a layer of bananas, delicious, but not much banana flavor. Here you actually have a banana pudding, similar to my coconut cream pie recipe.
In the South, banana pudding is one of those go-to desserts that is served at barbecues, brought to cookouts and potlucks and enjoyed at family get toghethers. While Atlantic beach pie, peach cobblers and sweet potato pie are Southern favorites, nothing beats out banana pudding.
This dessert begins by cooking the homemade pudding on the stove. It only takes a few minutes and is miles better than anything you could get out of a box. As it cools, you’ll add bananas and create the cream cheese mixture.
Everything chills in the refrigerator before folding in homemade whipped cream and layering the luscious pudding mixture with sliced bananas and vanilla wafer cookies. Once it’s all put together, it goes back into the refrigerator to chill before serving.
This heavenly dessert is rich and creamy. It makes a great centerpiece for your next cookout or family gathering and makes an elegant and delicious treat to finish off a fancy brunch. Whether it’s for a casual get-together or a dinner party, banana pudding with cream cheese is always a crowd favorite.
Why You’ll Love Banana Pudding Made with Cream Cheese (or Mascarpone!)
- This recipe is so creamy and has just the right amount of sweetness.
- It’s a homemade show-stopping dessert that looks impressive on a dinner table or potluck spread.
- It serves a crowd so it’s the perfect dessert to bring to a party.
- It has more banana flavor than a traditional banana pudding.
- While there are a few steps, it is hard to mess up and more forgiving than a traditional banana pudding.
- It’s great for all seasons and can be enjoyed at any time of the year!
Why add cream cheese to banana pudding?
Banana pudding is a sweet dessert. The bananas, silky pudding, and crispy wafers are all sweet in their own way. Cream cheese is rich and tangy, and adds complexity to the flavor of the pudding. The cream cheese adds texture and richness without overpowering any of the more delicate flavors, creating a balanced dessert.
Cream Cheese Banana Pudding Ingredients
- Cornstarch – This gives the pudding the right texture: thick, creamy, and luscious.
- Whole Milk – The fat in the whole milk adds richness and a silky mouthfeel to the pudding.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – This adds sweetness, but also adds a concentrated milky flavor that is just so good in this recipe.
- Egg – The addition of a single egg adds silkiness and thickening power to the pudding. It’s an essential ingredient for achieving the perfect pudding texture.
- Heavy Cream – The heavy cream is whipped and adds a beautiful lightness to the pudding and gives it an almost mousse-like texture.
- Cream Cheese or Mascarpone – The cream cheese adds a wonderful richness and is a seriously amazing addition to this pudding. You can use regular cream cheese or mascarpone (Italian cream cheese). Both will add additional creaminess to the final pudding.
- Bananas – Using perfectly ripe, sliced bananas is essential for a good banana pudding. They add both their banana flavor and texture to the pudding.
- Vanilla Wafers – Vanilla wafers are the traditional choice for southern banana pudding.
- Pantry staples – salt, sugar, butter, and vanilla.
Pro Tip: Make sure your bananas are ripe enough to eat but not too ripe. Learn some tips for how to ripen bananas.
Banana Pudding Recipe with Cream Cheese Variations
- You can use mascarpone instead of cream cheese which is not quite as tangy and adds the same richness.
- Try switching out the vanilla wafers for a shortbread cookie like Pepperidge Farm Chessmen or Bordeaux cookies.
How to make Banana Pudding with Cream Cheese
Step 1: Make the pudding.
Whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the milk and egg, then place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly so that no lumps form.
The pudding will thicken significantly and continue to thicken even more as it cools down. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Transfer the pudding mixture to a bowl and place it into the refrigerator while you make the banana mixture.
Step 2: Make the banana mixture.
Whisk together the cream cheese (or mascarpone) and condensed milk. Add one banana that’s been chopped into small pieces. Fold this mixture into the pudding once it has cooled down a bit – warm pudding is fine, but the mixture should not be hot when you stir in the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate the pudding for at least one hour.
Step 3: Make the whipped cream.
Combine the cream with a little cornstarch and whip with an electric mixer until very stiff peaks form – it should not fall off of the beater when held upside down.
Once the pudding has fully chilled, gently fold in ⅔ of the whipped cream. Reserve the last third of the cream to top the finished pudding.
Step 4: Layer the pudding.
Spread ⅓ of the pudding mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 casserole dish. Top with a layer of vanilla wafers, leaving a bit of space between each cookie. Add half of the sliced bananas and add another ⅓ of the pudding. Top with another layer of wafers, add the rest of the bananas, and top with the rest of the pudding.
Finish with a layer of whipped cream and top with crushed vanilla wafers. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator for six hours before serving.
Right before serving, crush some vanilla wafers and sprinkle on top.
Tips for Perfect Banana Pudding
- Be sure to let the pudding chill for the prescribed time. Combining the cream cheese with a pudding mixture that is too hot will cause it to melt, which will negatively affect the texture of the final pudding.
- Similarly, the pudding must be refrigerated for a minimum of six hours before serving to allow the vanilla wafers to soften and take on an almost cake-like consistency. If you prefer crunchy layers then you can eat it right away.
How to Store Banana Pudding
You can store banana pudding in its original serving container covered in plastic wrap for up to three days in the refrigerator. After that the vanilla wafers will become mushy.
Banana pudding is not one of those desserts that you can freeze. The bananas will turn brown, the vanilla wafers will turn mushy and the whipped cream will not have the same texture. You will just have to find friends to share any leftovers with.
How to keep bananas from turning brown in banana pudding?
Bananas are known to turn brown quickly once they’re peeled or cut due to enzymes in the banana interacting with oxygen in the air. While the bananas in your pudding will inevitably brown, you can delay this process by cutting the bananas just before you need them. Another good way to slow the browning is by making sure they are fully enveloped in the pudding mixture and keeping air from them.
Why is banana pudding popular in the South?
Banana pudding is historically popular in the southern United States when a recipe that was published by Nabisco, the manufacturer of Nilla Wafers was printed on the side of the box. No one really knows why it became so popular in the South. My theory is because it’s inexpensive to make and will feed a crowd so it became a popular dish to bring to potlucks, church dinners and funerals.
It could also be that it’s the perfect dessert to serve with barbecue.
More Creamy Dessert Recipes to Love
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Banana Pudding with Cream Cheese Recipe
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 bananas medium
- ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk not an entire 14 oz can
- 4 ounces cream cheese (or mascarpone)
- 1 ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 cups Nilla Wafers about ½ box
- In a medium saucepan, add sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and salt. Whisk in milk and egg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes. It should be pretty thick. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla, whisk until combined and place in a large bowl. Refrigerate while making the banana mixture.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese or mascarpone cheese. Add 1 banana chopped into small pieces. Fold this into the warm (but not hot) pudding mixture and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Once the pudding has cooled, in a separate bowl, beat heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until very stiff peaks form. You do not want it to be watery.
- Slice remaining bananas into thin slices, about ¼ inch thick.
- Gently fold ⅔’s of the whipped cream into the pudding. Reserve the rest of the whipped cream for the top.
- Spread ⅓ of the pudding into the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Top with a layer of vanilla wafers, with a little space between them. Add a layer of ½ of the sliced bananas. Top with ⅓ of the pudding, another layer of vanilla wafers, a layer of bananas, and end with a layer of pudding. Cover with the reserved whipped cream.
- Crumble about ½ cup of vanilla wafers by placing them in a ziplock bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. Sprinkle them over the top of the whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Be sure to let the pudding chill before adding the banana mixture or it will cook the bananas and have a fermented taste.
- The pudding should be refrigerated for a minimum of six hours before serving to allow the vanilla wafers to soften and take on an almost cake-like consistency.
- Beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks but has not turned to butter. The cornstarch in the cream will keep it from becoming watering when layered in the pan.