July 16, 2024

For me, banana cream pie is all of the best parts of a Southern banana pudding but in pie form. It’s a great way to combine the cool, creamy silkiness of banana pudding with the irresistible crunch of a cookie crust, and it’s an elegant addition to any potluck or Thanksgiving dessert table.

There are many, many variations of this dish. Some use boxed pudding mixes (usually either vanilla or artificial banana flavored), some have fluffy whipped cream with or without coconut or bourbon mixed in, and some include a layer of fresh bananas on top of a graham cracker or traditional pastry crust to create a barrier between the shell of the pie and the creamy custard base, helping to ensure the crust doesn’t become soggy.

Using boxed pudding mix can be an easy fix if you’re in a hurry, but I find that pudding from a mix can often taste bland without some zhuzhing up, and its texture can be a little too loose for a firm but silky pie. For my banana cream pie recipe, I bypass this problem with a basic crème anglaise.

I designed this recipe for sliceable banana cream pie that’s full of flavor.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Micah Marie Morton

Crème anglaise is simply a custard, but with more of a heavy cream consistency (for example, eggnog is a crème anglaise). By mixing dairy, sugar, and spices into a white roux made with flour and milk and then gently mixing in some tempered egg yolks, you achieve a custard that is thickened and more stiff—the perfect pudding. This pudding base can be flavored by adding melted chocolate, fresh fruit, or spices before pouring it into a pie crust or scooping it into bowls to serve as it is. When you’re making banana cream pie, the simplest way to flavor the pudding is with a splash of vanilla extract.

I like to start my banana cream pie with a thick homemade or store-bought graham cracker crust. Making the crust from scratch is simple—just crush about a pack and a half of graham crackers or run them in a food processor or blender until they’re broken down into a coarse texture that’s a little like grits or cornmeal. Add melted butter, salt, and sugar (and if you’re so inclined, a few warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg) and gently mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated. It won’t form a dough, but the graham crackers should be moistened enough by the melted butter that when the mixture is pressed into a pie pan a crust will form.

Be sure to keep an eye on the thickness and evenness of the crust, especially around the bottoms and sides of the dish. Any cracks or spots that are too thinly covered by the cracker mix will cause the custard to drip out and make the crust soggy. Layering sliced bananas across the bottom of the pie before pouring in the pudding mixture not only keeps the crème in, it also adds the signature flavor and texture of real bananas, no artificial flavoring required.

The whipped cream topping is as simple as taking heavy whipping cream and whisking or beating with a mixer until it has soft but stiff peaks. Flavor with a bit of vanilla extract and powdered sugar, then gently whisk for another minute until the consistency is correct and all of the flavors are incorporated. Bourbon is optional to add, but a splash in the whipped cream or the pudding gives some extra depth to this classic banana cream pie.

A banana cream pie in a pie plate being cut into slices.
Banana Cream Pie With Bourbon Whipped Cream

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