Hawaii expat living abroad in Australia, food and family blog

Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Substitute

Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Substitute

Looking for that classic banana pudding but don’t have vanilla wafers? This Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Substitute recipe has got you covered! I tried three different vanilla wafer substitutes (ladyfingers, sponge fingers, and Marie biscuits) with my findings below.

In Australia, and most parts of the world outside of the USA, vanilla wafers are not always readily available. For this recipe, I drew inspiration from the renowned Magnolia Bakery’s recipe. I adapted the ingredients and measurements to suit Australia’s availability, reduced the sugar content, and tested three substitutes for vanilla wafers in the process.

This is such a simple recipe with only six ingredients needed. Your family will thank you for making this, trust me on this one.

Whats so great about banana pudding?

You’ll be asking yourself why you have not put these ingredients together before. Banana pudding, with its layers of velvety custard, slices of sweet bananas, and a generous topping of vanilla wafers, holds a special place in the hearts of many. What makes this classic treat so beloved is its comforting simplicity combined with indulgent flavours. The smooth, creamy pudding is a delight with every spoonful, offering a rich yet light texture that melts in your mouth. The bananas add a natural sweetness and a refreshing contrast, while the vanilla wafers provide a satisfying crunch that completes each bite.

Now along with the melt in your mouth goodness, the simplicity and easiness of this recipe make this a winner in my book! The recipe takes about 20 minutes of active time. The hardest part of this recipe is the chill time and maintaining your patience while you try your best to not peek into the refrigerator and sneak a spoonful.

The Vanilla Wafer Substitute Trial

So, if your like me I do not have nilla wafers available where I live. My options are order it online from a USA store (if you are lucky to find it available) or order it from the USA and incur a $70 shipping fee. No. Thank. You. Let’s work with what we have available in our local shops and find the perfect nilla wafer substitute for banana pudding.

Songe fingers

In the grocery stores in Australia, I can easily find ladyfingers, sponge fingers and Marie biscuits. So I took these three options and tested them for this recipe.

  1. Ladyfingers: These are airy crisp sponge cakes in the shape of a large finger. These are often used in tiramisu and other dessert recipes.
  2. Sponge fingers: If you’re like me I was wondering, what’s the difference between a sponge and lady finger, so I tried both! The sponge finger was not crisp like the lady finger, it was dry, soft and crumbly. The shape was also quite different and much wider and shorter.
  3. Marie Biscuits: Marie biscuits are a crisp vanilla biscuit, similar in texture and flavour to an animal cracker.

For my trial I assembled three different bowls with each of the three different biscuits. Here are the results.

Vanilla Wafer Substitute Results

Marie Biscuits: I left the Marie biscuits whole when assembling. The biscuit is very hard and dense and did not soak up the pudding well. If you would like to use this biscuit for this recipe I would recommend crushing up the biscuits before assembly. The flavour was nice, but because you want the pudding to soak into your biscuits for this recipe, this was my least favourite option.

Sponge Fingers: Again, I assembled these as whole biscuits for this trial. These biscuits are a lot thicker then the other options. It has a more dry crumbly texture. It worked ok for this recipe, but i think that the thickness of the biscuit restricts how much pudding and flavour can soak into this biscuit.

Ladyfingers: I assembled these as whole biscuits as well. These worked so well as a nilla wafer substitute in this recipe! They soaked up the pudding and turned into that lovely cake-like texture. Ladyfingers were really easy for me to find in the supermarket, so hopefully they will be available in your area as well.

Banana pudding with nilla wafer substitute

The Banana Pudding Ingredients

Only six ingredients are needed in this Banana pudding with nilla wafer substitute recipe!

Banana pudding ingredients
  • Evaporated milk – I first tried this recipe with sweetened condensed milk and it was delicious, but after about bite number three it just got too sweet for my liking. I adapted my recipe to use evaporated milk so it has the same flavours as a typical banana pudding but less overall sugar. If you decide to use condensed milk, then increase the cold water from 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups.
  • Cold water – Many recipes also use milk but I found that this is already a rich and creamy recipe just using water.
  • Instant vanilla pudding powder – You do not make the pudding as per the package, you just need to add it to the recipe in its dry powder form.
  • Heavy cream / Thickened cream
  • Bananas – Try to get the bananas that still have a touch of green on the ends. This helps to keep them from over browning too quickly.
  • Nilla Wafer Substitute – Outside of the USA it can be quite difficult to find vanilla wafers. In this banana pudding recipe I use ladyfingers as a Nilla wafer substitute. I have also tried sponge fingers and Marie biscuits for this, but prefer the texture and taste of the ladyfingers. I have also tried making homemade vanilla wafers, and while it is simple to do, it adds extra steps to this recipe and I prefer to keep it simple.

How to make the Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Substitute

It is so easy to make this Banana Pudding with a Nilla wafer substitute (ladyfingers) recipe!

Step 1

First beat or whisk together your evaporated milk and cold water. I popped in a few crushed ice cubes into my water as it wasn’t very cold and this worked great. Then beat in your dry instant vanilla pudding straight from the package into your milk and water mixture. It should start to get a thicker pudding like consistency. Cover and put your pudding mixture into the refrigerator to continue to set. I let mine sit in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours.

Step 2

In a seperate bowl, beat your heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in your whipped cream into your cold pudding mixture until well combined.

Step 3

Assemble your banana pudding in your serving dish. For your serving dish, a glass trifle dish works really well, a baking pan, or individual bowls. If you want to be able to see your beautiful layers, then a glass dish is best, but any bowl or dish will work.

Start with a thin layer of pudding on the bottom of you serving dish. Then add layers of ladyfingers, sliced bananas, and pudding. Your final top layer should be the pudding.

Thats it, now go and enjoy your Banana pudding with ladyfingers!

banana pudding with nilla wafer substitute in bowls
Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer substitute

Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Substitute

A modified version of your classic banana pudding recipe using ladyfingers as a vanilla wafer substitute and reduced sugar.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chill 6 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 15 people

Equipment

  • Glass serving bowl A trifle bowl works great, baking pan, or individual bowls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 can (340ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 package (100g) instant vanilla pudding (dry mix)
  • 600 ml heavy cream
  • 4-5 bananas Bananas that are just ripe (with a touch of green on the tips) are best as they will brown less quickly.
  • 200 grams ladyfingers

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, beat or whisk together the can of evaporated milk and 1 cup cold water until combined. Add the dry pudding mix (do not prepare the pudding, use only the dry mix for this recipe) and beat until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours, or until the pudding has set.
    Adding Instant pudding for Banana Pudding recipe
  • In another large bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
    Whipping heavy cream
  • Carefully fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until well combined. Slice your bananas into thin rounds.
    Fold in whipped cream into pudding mixture
  • In your serving bowl, layer ladyfingers, pudding mixture, and sliced bananas. Please refer to the notes for layering suggestions. Chill for up to 4 hours before serving. Note that the bananas will start to brown, so it's best not to prepare this too far in advance, but you do want to allow for enough chill time for the pudding to soak into the ladyfingers. Best to eat within two days.

Notes

Layering Notes:
I’ve found this layering method to work well, allowing the ladyfingers to soak into the pudding mixture effectively. Here’s how to layer: start with a thin layer of pudding mixture, followed by a layer of ladyfingers, banana slices, and then a thicker layer of pudding. Repeat these layers, finishing with the pudding mixture on top. This technique of covering the bananas with the pudding helps prevent them from over-browning, while also ensuring the ladyfingers stay moist. Avoid making the ladyfinger or banana layers too thick, as this might result in overly browned bananas and dry ladyfingers. If you plan to make this ahead of time, use fewer bananas; you can always add fresh bananas on top just before serving.
Keyword banana pudding, lady fingers, substitute nilla wafer
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