banana cream pie

As a lifelong picky person who has brought another picky person into the world, my single biggest hope is that she’s as burdened by the things she doesn’t like as I am, and as eager to shed them. Like this. Although I like bananas, cream, pie, and also custard, I’ve never been really into banana cream pie because something about it all together always seemed so one-note, soft, and sweet. I wanted to shake it up with dark toffee sauce or bittersweet chocolate shavings, brown butter, or flaky sea salt, but having to change something to get yourself to like it isn’t really the same thing as truly liking it. And I wanted to truly like it because I hate it when I don’t get a meme, a joke, or find the charm in something [well, a food; I’m okay never taking up spelunking] beloved by millions of people.

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So, a month ago I made one as classically as possible, using The Book On Pie [Amazon, Bookshop, more stores] from the talented Erin McDowell as guidance. My biggest change was to make a ‘nilla wafer crust, a nod to classic banana pudding with the cookies instead but aside from smaller tweaks — I like to one-bowl my custards, I prefer whipped cream barely sweet with a tiny bit of tang from sour cream — I kept to the classic script and every single person in my family, including the two who don’t like bananas at all, couldn’t get enough of it. I get it now, I really do. It’s far more complex than it seems, and abundantly cozy. I think keeping the sweetness in check and getting the salt level right really helps, but it’s just objectively good: vanilla-flecked pastry cream, plumes of whipped cream, burrowed bananas, a cookie crust. There are seven hours left in Pi(e) Day: I think we know what to do.

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Banana Cream Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Source: Adapted loosely from The Book on Pie by Erin McDowelll
  • Print

  • 1 11-ounce (311-gram) box Nilla Wafers, ground into crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • Custard
  • 2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond brand; use half of any other)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups (475 grams) whole milk
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Assembly
  • 2 to 3 large bananas
  • 1 cup (225 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract

Make crust: Heat oven to 350°F. Combine cookie crumbs and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a standard 9-inch pie dish. I like to use the outer edge of a heavy measuring cup to press in neat, firm sides but nobody will be the wiser if you just use your fingertips. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 9 to 10 minutes. Cool in fridge (or outside, my favorite fridge) until needed.

Make custard: In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, starch, and salt. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, whisking until smooth and no pockets of sugar-starch remain before adding the next. Whisk in vanilla bean paste, if using, and then, very gradually, whisking the whole time, pour in milk, then cream. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking the whole time. As the custard begins to bubble, it will thicken. Simmer for one minute, whisking. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is fully melted, then vanilla extract. Let cool for 5 minutes.

While custard cools slightly, lop off a few inches of banana and leave it unpeeled and set aside until needed for decoration. Peel and slice remaining bananas into the bottom of your cooled crust. For an extra-silky filling, pour and press the custard through a fine-mesh sieve, right over the bananas. If you don’t wish to sieve it, just spoon it in. Spread the custard into an even layer, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, and chill (in fridge or, again, outside) until custard is cool and set, 1 to 2 hours.

Finish assembling: In a large bowl, beat heavy cream with sour cream, if you wish, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon or dollop over cooled custard, or you can make starry blobs, as I did, with a big star tip set into the corner of a pastry or freezer bag. Decorate with remaining banana, peeled and sliced. Cut into big wedges and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last.

Do ahead: Banana cream pie keeps for 4 to 5 days in fridge.

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101 comments on banana cream pie

  1. A

    Deb… I audibly gasped when I saw this pie. It’s so beautiful! I love the contrast between the piped star-shaped dollops and the simple slices of banana. I made some of your amazing banana pudding yesterday but I’m definitely saving this for later!

  2. Kat

    I already made a coconut cream pie today using your crust, Erin’s technique, and my own filling based on recipes from Erin, you, and David Lebovitz. How sweet, tingly, and reassuring to see a post here today nodding to all three of you!

    1. Jennifer

      I also made coconut cream pie, except I mostly used Deb’s recipe. Except a little less sweet, and I added a thin layer of dark chocolate over the crust to make it a “mounds bar pie”. And, for once, I got the balance of chocolate to coconut right, so neither overwhelmed the other. Happy Pi Day!

  3. Julie

    I headed to Instagram as the work day wrapped up, you’d posted a recipe for my favorite type of pie, AND I have all the ingredients?! This may be the best day ever, Deb. THANK YOU!

  4. JP

    When I went to BYU, there was an ice cream crepe shop there that called sliced bananas “banana wheels”. We still call them that! Thanks for the recipe…bananas, pastry cream, whipped cream and cookies…how could you go wrong?!

  5. Erika

    Congrats to you on your WCK contributions! You raised $400K for something awesome in face of something awful! I don’t even know what that feels like and I am so glad that there are people like you in the world that use your power for good. Thank you, Deb xoxoxo

  6. Katie Tibbitts

    I am SO excited to see this recipe!!!!! I came onto the site hoping for a banana cream pie recipe in honor of Pie Day, and cannot believe my luck!! Thank you Deb!! You are as always right here when I need it 🤗🍌

  7. Angela

    2 pm, came looking for pi day inspo on SK, rued the lack of good fruit in March
    5 pm, saw new post on insta, ditched dinner prep as directed to read the recipe and planned to use remaining pi day clock wisely
    7 pm, made crust and custard
    9 pm, watched new Gilded Age episode with big wedges of glorious banana pudding in pie form!! 🎉 🍌

    Thanks Deb!

  8. Camille

    Hmmm perhaps I should try this…I grew up hating Banana Cream Pie. We only had it at my grandma’s house, where it had clearly sat in the fridge too long, the bananas grey and slimy, separating away from the pudding, and of course the bananas were never ripe. But in the world that is the Midwest Traditional Supper, it sat alongside canned green beans, cottage cheese, a loaf of grocery store bread with margarine and leftover roast chicken, to form a family meal that is absolutely burned in my memory!

  9. Lynn

    Hi Deb. This pie looks stunning. I am not a whip cream fam and was wondering if you can recommend instead some type of clear glaze that could go over a simple decorative banana slice topping and possibly keep the bananas from browning? Slava Ukrainia! Thank you for your fundraiser and to all who have contributed. How about a recipe soon for Chicken Kyiv?! (Probably strictly an American invention, but would love to know how this dish got its name).

      1. Yvonne

        My mom used to make banana cream pie with meringue. One time, she forgot to add the bananas to the pie — so she lifted the meringue off with a spatula, added the bananas, and put the meringue back on top. My dad — the banana cream pie fan in our family — was none the wiser.

      1. deb

        I haven’t but (please forgive me) I do not love it the way I’m supposed to. It’s so sweet. I know I’ll come around when I have the right one.

        1. Layla

          how do you know if you’ve never tried it? I could see you liking it if you swapped the dulce de leche for dark toffee sauce, put no sugar in the whipped cream, and used browned butter in the crust.

          1. deb

            I mis-typed. I’ve had it *and* made it from scratch. I love it, but it’s too sweet for me. I will work on a recipe in the future, however. The flavor combination is too good not to get it right.

    1. Lisa

      I’ve made bechamel in a microwave during a kitchen renovation so I would think you could make custard. Stir often and watch for hot spots.

    1. Kelly P

      Any sort of simple biscuit/cookie should work, bonus points if it’s vanilla flavored. I’m an American living in the UK and I’d substitute Digestive biscuits or a Vanilla Snap Biscuit. They’re not quite the same as a Nilla wafer, but they’d certainly work.

    2. Tryshkabob

      I would use Butterkekse. The texture in whole cookie form is a little different, but the flavor is pretty close. In crumb form, I doubt most people could tell the difference.

  10. Wendy

    I am looking forward to trying your recipe. I never thought of using bills wafer crust!!! Brilliant!!! I love that your recipe is not loaded with sugar!!!

    FYI….Bananas soaked in banana cream RUM is a game changer for banana pudding…

  11. StephZ

    I’m sure you’ve heard of banoffee pie, but if not you would really like it. It’s bananas, cream, and caramel sauce over a biscuit crust. Yum! Cant wait to try this one too.

  12. Jen

    Hey Deb, BCP is a family fave and I usually make it with a GF graham cracker crust. Do you think your homemade vanilla wafers would be good here? I can easily make those GF. So excited to try this!

    1. deb

      Yes, you could. The main thing with homemade cookies is that they’re usually more buttery and looser crumbed; you’ll probably need less butter to make a cohesive crust.

  13. Sarah

    In the annals of banana cream pie blasphemy, my mom began melting a thin layer of chocolate over her pastry crust. She just applied some semi sweet chips when it came out of the oven and let the heat do its work.

    It added a hint of contrast. It upset my grandfather to no end.

    Just in case you’d care to tinker more.

  14. Anita

    Well shoot! I just made banana cream pie with a different recipe and it sure is not as pretty as this. It’s also way too sweet. Your recipe looks a lot better!

  15. Beth

    I’m so happy that you like banana cream pie now! I would add, however, that with the tweaks you made, it’s almost the same as a delicious homemade banana pudding (instant pudding mix and cool whip does NOT count). But we can have both!

  16. Safta Sue

    March 14th is my anniversary. I usually make a pie, duh. And it is usually lemon meringue as that is what my husband likes. But this year the temptation to make something different ended up with The Great Canadian Heinz Ketchup Cake. We only chose this because it is our 57th anniversary, happy not to make it again. Next year we will definitely try the banana cream instead.

  17. Amanda

    I can’t get ahold of whole milk (dumb supply chain issues!) but I can get both heavy cream and 1% milk. Anyone have a suggestion on ratios to replace the whole milk + heavy cream in the custard part of the recipe?? Thanks for the help!

  18. britania

    I’m making this now and wondering if it would work to make the custard in advance, chill, then assemble the pie in a couple days. Will the custard be sliceable if it’s spooned in cold rather than if it sets in the pie pan?

  19. Anne

    Hi Deb,
    My mom turns 90 in a few weeks. We are celebrating a little early and my plan was to make a banana cream pie for dessert. I was planning to use your banana pudding recipe as a guide UNTILL I saw this post yesterday! I was beyond thrilled! My grandmother was an exceptional scratch baker and my mom loved her mom’s recipe for banana cream pie. Unfortunately, I cannot find my grandmother’s recipe but I do know the gist. From reading your recipe, I know the ingredients and process are very similar. THANK YOU! My mom will be delighted.

  20. You certainly make it look very easy. I think I have to try by myself ASAP. Thanks so much for sharing your version of this recipe. I’ll probably use my springform pie mold instead and see if I can de-mold completely before cutting.

  21. Shannonhood

    My custard set thick for some reason and wasn’t sweet enough pretty easy to make any suggestions for next time

  22. Suzanne

    I usually sub arrowroot starch for corn starch, but at 1/3 cup, I’m wondering if it will work. Do you (or other commenters) think it might? Thanks!

  23. Aaartistry

    I am that comment with everything changed- but this custard was otherworldly . I have a strange thing against bananas in anything except breads, so I used it in a press-in coconut cookie crust(again out of Nilla wafers and wanted to eat PIE) so we made it in mini muffin pans, topped it with berries and ate the leftover custard with a spoon :) All in all as Deb always does, an inspiration and amazing- the custard is the star here. I got scrambled custard the first time through so low heat and stir as she says :)

  24. Judi Evans McArthur

    No other online site has recipes that sound or look as good as yours! I’ve made some wonderful recipes from you over and years and am never disappointed in the result. Thanks for what you do! This banana cream pie is a must-try; it was my favorite dessert growing up.

  25. Mal

    Ooh! I’m intrigued by your whipped cream recipe and will definitely try that on different cream pie soon, since I also like mine to be less sweet. I wish I liked banana cream pie. If anything could change my mind, it would be one of your recipes though! Maybe I’ll make a small one just to see.

  26. Tali

    This looks unbelievably good, even though I’m allergic to bananas! I might try it with strawberries or raspberries when they come in season. If anyone tries subbing a different fruit, I’d love to hear what worked for you.

    1. JP

      Hi Tali,
      I bet this pie would be beautiful with golden raspberries (sometimes called yellow raspberries), but it would probably taste great with any berry. Good luck!

  27. Annalisa

    I don’t usually love banana cream pie for the reasons you explained. There’s a delicious recipe in Baked Explorations by Lewis and Poliafito that has a vanilla wafer crust, like this one here, then bananas, custard and a peanut butter-cream cheese topping in lieu of whipped cream. Topped with chocolate-covered peanuts too. The savoury and tangy notes provided by the peanut butter-cream cheese topping and the crunch from the peanuts are exactly what is needed.

  28. Michelle

    I love banana cream pie. I definitely have this on my “to make” list. I was reading about how you always felt the need to alter it until this recipe. Your suggestions reminded me of Bannoffee Pie. Maybe a compare and taste?

  29. Carole

    Thank you for so many delicious recipes and informative food posts. Thank you also for all you do for the relief efforts to Ukraine—I’ve just sent money to World Central Kitchen and hope many of your readers follow your example.

  30. i hated banana flavored things (ew banana laffy taffy and marshmallow pies) and barely liked bananas, hated nilla wafers

    but now i like them precisely for the reasons you described/the reasons I hated them. Over the years/post-childhood i liked to explore things i hated and it’s like eating a new to me food. Olives, eggplant, bell peppers, raw onions, sweet potatoes, coconut

  31. D Fern

    Lovely custard and very nice presentation! But nothing like enough butter to make the crust set up–I needed another 1/4 c. (half a US butter stick) melted plus 2 more Tbsp oil to get the crust to properly stick to the pie pan sides for baking.

  32. P

    Made this yesterday! It was so easy and absolutely delicious. Your instructions are always spot on. Next time, I will use more butter in the base, think digestive biscuits need more to hold them together.

  33. Oh my goodness! I cannot wait to make this! And I love how you have topped it with dollops of Cream and fresh bananas! It’s beautiful. Thank you for the great recipe! I’ll be pinning this one!

  34. Jaclyn

    I adore banana cream pie, and I look forward to trying your version! Even my weirdly picky kids like banana cream pie, so it’s gotta be a winner.

  35. Curious how you feel about banoffee pie? If you always felt that banana cream could use toffee or chocolate, and a bit more texture, banoffee seems like it could be your dream come true!

  36. Daniel

    I was ecstatic to see this recipe pop up, and couldn’t help but make it right away! I’ve always has luck with Deb’s recipes, and this one came out PERFECTLY.
    I couldn’t get Nila wafers on short notice and used standard graham crackers instead, but the crust was wonderful. I used 3 bananas in total, which seemed great (honestly, could have even gone for 3.5 or 4, I loved the banana pieces at the bottom).
    I opted to press my pudding through a sieve, and it was smooth and thick and not too sweet. I also used plain greek yogurt in the whipped cream (I rarely have sour cream or creme fraiche on hand), which gave it a wonderful tangy flavor. I’ll definitely be doing that for any future whipped cream I make.

    Thank you, Deb!

  37. Vee

    Just made this for my partner’s birthday and it’s perfect. I’m in Australia and I don’t think we have Nilla Wafers here, so for my fellow Aussies: I subbed two-thirds Arnott’s Granita cookies and one-third Lotus Biscoff cookies, and it turned out great! The flavour of the bananas in the filling really permeates through the custard while it sets in the fridge. I loved the addition of sour cream in the topping. This pie is decadent but not too sweet. Delicious!

  38. Anna K

    I really enjoyed this! I couldn’t find vanilla wafers easily in the UK so I made a speculoos and butter base. Everything else I kept the same bar reducing the sugar in the custard. On the custard – KEEP MIXING, ITS GOING TO BE OK, I PROMISE – I can’t be the only one who sees lumps and has a mild anxiety attack. The pie lasted four days in the fridge and my eldest adored it. A really fun recipe that I wouldn’t usually make. Thanks again Deb.

  39. Hadilly

    Dear Deb,

    My husband loves banana cream pie so I made this, slightly late, for Pi Day. It was absolutely delicious.

    I was at Trader Joe’s looking for a Nilla Wafer substitute. I ended up with their Lattemiele cookies (which, as I’m looking up the spelling, appear to be available on Amazon for a huge markup. Anyway) which worked very well.

    I don’t recommend anyone follow my process though. I made the custard, tasted it, and thought, Oh no, this is way too salty. I must have confused tablespoon for teaspoons.

    I dumped out and made it again, this time with half the salt listed.

    The second batch also tasted disgusting. I then realized that my bulk bag of baking powder had gotten confused with my bulk bag of cornstarch.

    The third batch was beautiful.

  40. Holly McDade

    I made this today and my family and friends went nuts about it. I really thought it wouldn’t be banana-y enough with just the vanilla custard but it’s perfect, in my opinion.
    If I wanted to flavor the custard, how would I go about doing that?

  41. Katherine

    I made this over the weekend and it was a major hit! I think the directions are pretty spot on, but I was a little confused if I should have had the custard mixture over heat while I was combining. I am glad I didn’t as it all came together perfectly. My personal opinion is that the whole recipe could have done with a little less salt. The crust is salty and I found the custard to be a little salty, but overall it was delicious. I would 100% make it again!

  42. Rebecca

    Just wanted to thank you for this! I made it for a dinner party and the custard is a thing of beauty.

    For other folks: don’t freak out if it’s lumpy! My custard was extremely lumpy after the 1 minute simmer. I sieved it expecting to find scrambled egg and there was none! It smoothed out in the fridge overnight. I’ve never had such success with custard before; it was a dream.

  43. Caitlin

    Hi Deb! Thank you for the recipe! I’m so excited to make this for our celebration this weekend. If I assemble the pie tomorrow (Friday), will the crust be soggy by Sunday?

  44. Gen

    This was truly amazing. I did cut the sugar back, but that’s just a personal choice, it was just a really well rounded, delicious pie, thank you!

  45. Holly

    Delicious and easy to follow. This was our Easter dessert, swapped Graham Crackers for Nilla wafers and swapped confectioners sugar for granulated in the whip cream to stabilize it. I thought it had the perfect amount of sweetness. Thank you!

  46. Anna

    This pie is so beautiful, and seems delicious! I have never read your blog until today but I will definitely be saving this recipe so I can make it the next time I’m home. I also look forward to trying more of your recipes, they all look so wonderful.

  47. Alyssa

    Made this last night. So delicious!

    I made this w/ half and half as I didn’t have heavy cream. I tried the sieve but it was pretty tiresome so quit halfway through – still amazing. I used a cool whip topping. Great recipe!

  48. Kate

    Delightful. Used my food processor to break up the Nilla wafers and mix them with the butter. Topped the whole pie off with toasted coconut flakes.

    My one complaint is that the crust shrunk quite a bit in the oven. There’s probably an easy way to fix this – I’m thinking next time I’ll try docking the crust or baking it with pie weights to try and flatten it out.

  49. Noy

    Sorry if I’m going a bit far with this question.
    Do you think it would be possible in the custard to caramelize the sugar and heat the milk, then add the hot milk to the caramel, before chilling this whole thing and then using it to make the custard? I’m just trying to think of a way of maybe making this more banoffee… Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Noy

      If anybody here is wondering – it worked! The caramel flavour wasn’t very intense but I think it was a nice touch. Thank you Deb for recipes that are always the best!

  50. idalily

    Cooking a couple of extra bananas in a bit of butter until softened, then steeping the cream and milk in them for an hour before making the custard imparts a ton of banana flavor. Added bonus, the used bananas make a great topping for french toast.

  51. Diane

    I’m so sad. I spent so much time making this and the only thing I can think of – because I followed the recipe to a T aside from this – as I used tapioca flour instead of cornstarch (I’m trying not to use cornstarch for health reasons) – and the pudding did not set up AT ALL. It was all liquid when I poured it into the pie plate. So sad! We’ll see what it looks like after chilling in the fridge for 2 hours, but I have very very low expectations. What a bummer. I’ll report back if it remarkably turns out, or else DO NOT use tapioca flour instead of cornstarch (despite the fact that google said it would be a great substitute). Ho hum. Sad.

  52. Lisa

    This recipe came out perfectly as written, and that’s saying a lot because I’m not very good at making desserts. My family liked that the custard and whipped cream weren’t overly sweet. My custard initially looked a bit lumpy even with continuous whisking, but turned out perfectly smooth and silky after I passed it through the fine mesh strainer.

  53. Kim

    What can you uses instead of Nilla wafers? Someone here in Canada, decided in their wisdom, to discontinue Nilla wafers! I understand they are still available in the U.S.

  54. Tanya Barker

    I’m a little confused! Am I supposed to be turning the burner on to medium heat while adding each egg or after all the eggs, vanilla, cream and milk are mixed?

  55. Deborah Armstrong

    I made this and it was LOVELY, even with bananas that were more ripe than Deb recommended. However, this makes way too much pie crust. I used only about half and it was still a bit thicker than I like. I will now ALWAYS add sour cream to whipped cream in the future.

  56. Kathleen Joseph

    The custard was very thick. Does straining it make it looser? Also the crust is hard and crumbly. Would it need more butter? Or less cookies?

    1. deb

      Are you using vanilla wafers? It’s fine to use other cookies but sometimes the crumb crust will then need more or less butter to hold together. Straining won’t make it looser.

  57. Diane

    Hi Deb
    Thanks so much for this recipe.
    The taste was excellent but my presentation was not.
    The custard was a bit sloppy…trying to figure out where I went wrong.
    I did refrigerate it for over 2 hrs.
    Do you think I didn’t cook the custard long enough?
    I used a 9 1/2 pie plate but I felt like the custard was up to the top.
    Any advice would be appreciated. I want to try it again. Thank you kindly.

    1. deb

      Did the custard not seem to set in 2 hours? Were their leftovers? If so and they custard was more set the next day, that might have been it.