Banana pudding is a captivating, creamy dessert that has been enjoyed for generations. Besides tiramisu, it is one of my favorite desserts, and it can be customized to fit perfectly for vegans, lactose-intolerant individuals, and gluten-sensitive individuals. But is this luxurious treat dairy-free? Here is all we know about banana pudding and its dairy content.
What Is Banana Pudding?
Banana pudding, also known as banana cream pudding, consists of layers of ladyfingers or nilla wafers, vanilla-flavored custard or pudding mix, sliced bananas, and waffles, topped and served with meringue or whipped cream in a dish.
While now common in most areas of the U.S., it is more of a southern US delicacy. This delicacy looks like the English trifle, and it is assembled in layers just like tiramisu.
There are two main variations of this dish. The 1888s version featured layers of custard, sponge cake, and bananas, with a whipped cream finish. We also have the 1920s more popular version, Laura Kerley’s recipe, which features bananas, custard, and Nabisco Nilla wafers finished with whipped cream or meringue.
What’s In Banana Pudding?
- Nilla wafers: Nilla wafers have that versatile vanilla flavor that could be paired with lots of flavors like coffee, chocolate, and strawberries, and they are studier when compared with lady fingers, which means they hold together even better when soaked. They also have that uniform shape and compact size that make them a great choice for layering.
- Whipped Cream: Whipped cream contributes to the light and creamy texture of our banana pudding while also offering a slightly sweet taste. The flavor is dependent on the milk or cream used to make it, but it is usually mild.
- Meringue: Just like whipped cream, meringue also provides a light, fluffy, and mildly sweet finish to the banana pudding dessert. Meringue is the by-product of whipped egg whites and sugar. Meringue also aids in sealing in the moisture of the pudding and preventing it from becoming soggy.
- Cooked vanilla pudding or custard: This is usually the base of this delicious dessert, and it is made from sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and thickening agents like instant pudding mix or cornstarch.
- Sliced bananas: Although some recipes call for other fruits, this is the primary fruit ingredient in banana puddings. They are layered between the pudding and wafers, or as the chef deems fit.
Other optional ingredients may include chocolate or caramel sauce, fruits, nuts, condensed milk, lady fingers, or their alternatives.
Does Banana Pudding Have Dairy?
Banana pudding contains dairy. The pudding mix and custard contain milk, the butter added in some recipes is a product of dairy, while the whipped cream also contains dairy, making traditional banana pudding not safe for lactose-intolerant individuals.
Wafers such as Nabisco nilla are free from dairy, but ladyfingers contain milk. So, if you want to have a dairy-free experience, you have to substitute the whipped cream for meringue or convert your almond milk and coconut milk into whipped cream. Also, use dairy-free butter, vegetable shortening, or coconut oil, substitute lady fingers with nilla or crushed graham crackers, and you can go for a dairy-free custard or pudding mix.
To be honest with you, when you make all these substitutions, you should understand that you will be sacrificing flavor and texture, but not to worry; the nuttiness of almond milk and the creaminess of coconut usher in a unique, complex burst of flavor that you’ll enjoy.
The Role of Dairy in Banana Pudding
Dairy enriches the taste and texture of our desserts and foods, making them indulgent and delectable. However, most of us are lactose intolerant, making dairy appear like a villain.
The thick and smooth consistency of our banana pudding is a result of the fat content of the cream and milk used. Further, while the pudding cooks, the fats blend and bind with other ingredients, creating that velvety feeling in our mouths.
The dairy’s protein content upholds the stability of the pudding, ensuring it sets properly. While these proteins coagulate, a network that prevents the dessert from becoming watery is formed, retaining its structure. Overall, the characteristic tastes of puddings can’t be distant from the natural sweetness of lactose, which elates the pudding in its entirety.
Non-dairy Whipped Toppings Available For Banana Pudding
Here is my favorite non-dairy topping for banana puddings:
Coconut Whipped Cream
Coconut whipped cream is derived from letting full-fat coconut milk chill overnight, then scooping out the solid coconut cream before whipping it with an electric mixer until it becomes fluffy.
However, if you do not want to go through that stress, you could get Cocowhip from So Delicious, tastes great, and can be used for just about anything that goes with whipped cream.
Soy or Almond Whipped Cream
Just like with coconut whipped cream, you should chill the soy or almond milk overnight, whip it with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy, and then use it as a base or topping for your banana pudding.
You can get Reddiwip from grocery stores around you; however, you should be ready to press and shake the hell out of the can, as that is the only downside to this lovely-tasting whipping cream.
Aquafaba Whipped Toppings
This is made from the liquid from garbanzo beans whipped with a few other ingredients until it becomes fluffy, then you can add sugar to taste.
Is Banana Pudding Good For You?
Banana pudding can be good for you, depending on the ingredients used. It has low sugar and can promote a healthy gut and improve the health of your digestive system.
However, a traditional banana pudding recipe is not good for you if you are lactose and gluten intolerant, intend to lose weight, or if you’re on a keto diet, as it has a high carb, dairy, calorie, fat, and gluten content (as a result of the wafers or cookies used).
To make this dish healthy, you will have to substitute the full cream milk with skim or low-fat milk, or you can go the coconut way. Also, you can use stevia or honey instead of adding sugar. For the cookies, you could use Savoiardi sponge fingers (vegan ladyfingers). Finally, you could add nuts to replenish the fiber lost during processing.
How Many Calories Are In A Banana Pudding?
A standard 190-gram cup of banana pudding supplies 296 calories, which is about 14.8% of your daily value if you’re on a 2000-calorie diet. When compared with most other desserts, like panna cotta, banana pudding has a slightly higher calorie content.
How Can I Make Banana Pudding Without Using Heavy Cream?
To make banana pudding without heavy cream, you need to use coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, blended cashew soaked in water, or silken tofu. Each brings a unique taste to your dessert; you will have to experiment to find which works for you better.
Is Banana Pudding Dairy Free? Final Thoughts
Banana pudding is not dairy-free as its base, which consists of cooked pudding and custard, it’s topping, which consists of cream, and sometimes its cookies, which are ladyfingers, all contain dairy and are considered not safe for lactose-intolerant individuals.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy this luxurious-tasting dessert. You can substitute the diary-containing ingredients for other non-diary-containing ingredients. If you’re opting for store-bought banana pudding, check the label for sources of dairy.
Can You Make Banana Pudding With Almond Milk?
Yes, banana pudding can be made with almond milk. To get it ready, all you have to do is whip unsweetened almond milk that has been chilled for 5 hours or more, and then you can thicken it with arrowroot if you choose to. However, the resulting taste is quite different from the traditional recipe, which uses milk.
Can You Make Banana Pudding With Coconut Milk?
Full-fat canned coconut milk can be used to make banana pudding. It is a great whipped cream alternative and has a rich coconut taste. All you need to do is whisk with an electronic mixer, and you’re good to go.
Can You Freeze Banana Pudding?
Yes, you can freeze banana pudding for up to 6 months. However, it is essential to note that the texture and flavor may change after freezing and thawing. Also, I noticed that the longer you freeze, the creaminess and fluffiness of the whipped cream wears off.
How Long Can Banana Pudding Last in the Fridge?
Banana pudding can retain its taste and texture in the fridge for up to 3 days( this is dependent on the ingredients used; it can be shorter or longer).
Is Jello Banana Pudding Dairy-Free?
No, Jello Banana Pudding is not dairy-free. It contains milk ingredients such as modified milk ingredients and milk solids.