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Comfort Food Friday: Banana Pudding with Salted Praline Pecans

A Classic Southern Dessert



Every summer when I was growing up, my family would drive from Minnesota to Tennessee. My mom grew up there, so we returned each year to visit aunts, uncles, and my grandma and grandpa. We would inevitably stuff ourselves with our favorite Southern dishes, from biscuits and gravy to something called a Brown Cow. A Brown Cow is simply vanilla ice cream covered with a chocolate shell and served on a popsicle stick—an undeniable sign that summer was in full swing.

Then there was banana pudding. After sitting in the fridge for a day or two, it became the most wonderful snack to indulge in on a hot, humid afternoon between climbing trees and chasing kittens around my great grandparents' farm. The cold, creamy vanilla pudding layered with vanilla wafers and banana slices comes together to create a lovely combination of textures and flavors. I recommend finding the largest spoon you own and taking a big scoop directly from the refrigerator. No shame.

I stayed true to my Grandma Smith's recipe here by using boxed vanilla pudding. Her trick was adding two egg yolks to the pudding as it cooked. This adds a little more richness and results in a slightly thicker pudding. Many traditional recipes call for a meringue topping, but I chose to use whipped cream. I used a small amount of sugar in the whipped cream, since the dessert is quite sweet already.

To add a little more crunch (the vanilla wafers become soft as the pudding sits, so they lose their texture), I sprinkled the top with chopped salted praline pecans. This was an excellent move, if I do say so myself. The salty, sweet pecans add yet another level of Southern comfort to this banana pudding.

I don't make it back to Tennessee very often anymore, but tasting this banana pudding reminded me of those sweet days spent outside in the heavy Southern heat and humidity. That place will always be magical in its own way, and I'm happy to have recipes like this that take me back there.

An overhead view of ingredients for banana pudding with salted praline pecans

Rachael White

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BANANA PUDDING:

  • 1 large (4.6 oz) box vanilla pudding (not instant)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 4 large bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup praline pecans (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Homemade banana pudding

Rachael White

Combine the vanilla pudding mix with the whole milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until steam just starts to rise from the liquid. Temper the eggs by taking 1/4 cup of the warm pudding and, stirring constantly, adding it to the egg yolks. Add the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan, again, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture has just started to bubble and thicken. Transfer to a glass bowl and let cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the pecans (recipe below).

When you are ready to assemble your pudding, put 2 cups of whipping cream in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat at medium-high speed until it just starts to thicken. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Set aside with the vanilla wafers and chilled vanilla pudding.

In a trifle dish, punchbowl, mixing bowl, or jars, begin with a layer of vanilla wafers. Spoon an even layer of the pudding over the wafers. Add another layer of wafers, then a layer of sliced bananas. Cover the banana layer with another layer of pudding then a layer of whipped cream. Continue layering: wafers, bananas, pudding, whipped cream. You should end with a layer of whipped cream.

Sprinkle the top layer with the salted praline pecans.

Chill the pudding in the refrigerator for another hour or two. Chilling it for an entire day is even better.

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SALTED PRALINE PECANS:

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Homemade salted praline pecans

Rachael White

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the pecans, brown sugar, heavy cream, and coarse salt together in a medium bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once to ensure even cooking. Place the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack and let the pecans cool completely before using.

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Banana pudding with salted praline pecans in jars

Rachael White

What are your favorite summer desserts to shamelessly enjoy straight from the fridge or freezer? Let us know in the comments below!




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