Generally speaking, I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of pudding. On the hierarchy of desserts, pudding generally falls far down the list, below cake, cookies, ice cream, and pie. Pudding is generally just sort of ok. Unless it’s bread pudding, which can be pretty fabulous, when done well. The other exception is Southern-style banana pudding.
I have very fond memories of eating banana pudding at diabetes summer camp. Back in those darker ages of diabetes management, before insulin to carb ratios allowed us to dose based on carbohydrate count, “sweets” were an infrequent treat, and most camp desserts consisted of fruit. Today, I appreciate fruit far more than I did as a kid. Summer fruits, those ripe, succulent berries and juicy stone fruits, are one of the things I love most about summer. I forever long for the unadulterated pleasure of biting into a perfectly ripened peach on a hot summer day. However, as a kid with type 1 diabetes, fruit could be disappointing, and in some circumstances, kind of felt like a punishment: “We’re going to eat cookies, but your pancreas sucks, so have an apple.” At diabetes camp, where the entire experience was to help us feel as normal as possible, banana pudding, with it’s gorgeous layers of fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers, represented normalcy.
As much I loved my diabetes camp banana pudding, I never made a sincere effort to replicate it at home. Until last night, the only pudding I had ever made was from a Jello instant boxed mix with cow’s milk, and that was an eternity ago, with decidedly meh results as I recall. I had certainly never attempted homemade pudding, so only had vague notions about the ingredients of traditional dairy-based pudding. As I contemplated making vegan pudding, I looked at dairy-based pudding recipes, and immediately discovered Paula Deen’s recipe. Eggs, milk and butter. Not surprising, and being relatively new to vegan cooking, it made me uncertain about creating a plant-based version.
I has happy to find quite a few vegan banana pudding recipes though. All used non-dairy milk, canned coconut milk, tofu, or some combination thereof. After studying how others have made it, I created the one below. Compared to Paula’s recipe, mine is presumably healthier. Unlike hers, mine is deliciously compassionate with lovely coconut undertones.
Southern-Style Banana Pudding
1 can coconut milk (full fat, not lite)
1 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 mashed banana (1/3-1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, sliced
1 box vegan vanilla wafers (I used Back to Nature)
1 can non-dairy whipped cream
1. Whisk coconut milk, non-dairy milk, sugar, and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan until combined.
2. On medium heat, continuously whisk until mixture starts to bubble and become noticeably thicker, about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low, continue whisking, and cook an additional minute.
3. Remove from heat. Add mashed banana, and whisk to combine. Add vanilla, and whisk to combine.
4. Line glass bowl or comparable dish(es) with layers of sliced banana, vanilla wafers and pudding.
5. Chill for at least 2 hours.
6. Serve with non-dairy whipped cream.
* My glass serving bowl broke recently, and I haven’t replaced it, so I used four individual glass ramekins, and a glass loaf pan. Depending on the volume of servings from the loaf pan, this recipe makes 8-10 servings.
** Don’t leave exposed banana slices as a top layer. If you desire, add fresh banana slices to top, prior to serving.