This is the best banana cream pie recipe to serve during the holidays! Each slice has a fluffy topping of whipped cream and crunchy almonds on a flaky, buttery crust with vanilla bean custard.
Table of Contents
Making homemade banana cream pie from scratch is worth the effort. I like to break the recipe into three parts; flaky crust, custard filling, and whipped cream to make each task more straightforward. I usually make the pie dough a day in advance so that you can just roll and shape it the next day.
The luscious vanilla pudding can be a little tricky, but don’t worry. I’ll guide you to prevent the delicate eggs from curdling with tips guaranteeing a smooth and sliceable filling. Adding a blanket of fresh bananas over the crust produces bursts of sweet fruit flavors. Generously covering the filling with a mound of cream provides a pleasant surprise underneath.
Making a sturdy pie crust
To hold the heavy, decadent filling, I use a classic pie dough called Pâte Brisée that consists of just flour, butter, salt, and water. I even use it for my double-crust apple pie recipe. It yields a tender and buttery texture, pairing perfectly with the custard.
It’s crucial to let the dough rest, chilled for 4 hours before rolling. This allows the gluten proteins that form to relax, preventing a tough bite. After shaping the crust, freeze it for 20 minutes to chill the butter. I like to use a 9-inch glass pie plate. It makes it much easier to monitor the browning on the sides when baking.
Fully bake the pie dough
Since you don’t bake the filling, the crust must cook in two stages to create a sturdy shell. First, the shell is blind-baked with weights for 20 minutes in a glass pie pan. This process helps set the shell’s hollow shape and keep the bottom from puffing up in the center.
Afterward, you remove the weights and bake the crust until golden brown. It will shrink slightly on the edges, but that’s normal as the proteins contract when heated up. Before filling the pie shell, it needs to cool down completely.
I’ve even made a version using a graham cracker crust. If you like the robust and sweeter taste of graham crackers, give it a try to switch things up!
Make a creamy vanilla custard
Instead of making the custard pie filling using pudding mix, its’ really easy to make from scratch using fresh ingredients. This recipe uses whole eggs, egg yolk, milk, butter, and vanilla to create a velvety texture. I know it can be pricey, but I infuse whole vanilla beans into the milk. One teaspoon of pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste is a good substitute. A little bit of rum adds depth and complements the vanilla flavor.
Gradually heat the milk, rum, and whole vanilla bean with the scrapings. Don’t let it boil! Turn off the heat when it reaches 180 to 185ºF (82 to 88ºC). Remove from the heat to use to make the custard.
The cornstarch thickens and sets the custard. The trickiest part is not curdling the eggs, so I use a tempering technique.
Temper to prevent curdling
Making the custard is simple but requires constant attention. Add a small amount of warm milk to the egg, sugar, and cornstarch mixture. This process allows the eggs to rise gently in temperature and mix with the hot liquid without shocking the eggs’ albumin proteins.
The custard then cooks on the stovetop, continually stirring until it thickens. It’s normal to see some small clumps. Whisk in the butter to add richness. I always strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve when it’s still hot to achieve a smooth consistency. You can cool it slightly so it’s not steaming hot, but don’t let it reduce too much. Otherwise, the starches will become rigid and solidified, making them harder to spread.
Fill and chill
For a strong banana flavor, cut pieces into ¼-inch thick slices and layer them on the crust’s bottom and sides. Evenly spread the warm custard on top, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The starches and butter in the filling will set after about 3 hours, or you can just let it sit overnight.
Pull the pie out when you’re ready to make the whipped cream so the butter in the crust can come to room temperature, so it’s more tender, making it much easier to slice.
Making the whipped cream
In this recipe for banana cream pie, I use a stand mixer to make lightly sweetened whipped cream. There are other techniques, like the blender or hand whisking if you prefer. Use heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to flavor the dairy. Whip until very smooth, stiff peaks form.
From here, you can top the pie and spread it, or I like to add it to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip to make designs. You can add a few more banana slices, sprinkle sugar on the sliced fruit, and torch it for a caramelized surface. For more garnish, almond slices add extra crunch and contrast to all of the pie’s creaminess.
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
After slicing, tightly cover them with plastic wrap. This creates a barrier from oxygen, reducing oxidation due to enzymatic browning. You could also brush the surface with acidulated lemon water, 1 teaspoon mixed with 1 cup of water. A sweeter option is 1 tablespoon of honey combined with 1 cup of water. I use both methods to keep sliced apples from turning brown.
When making the custard, if the cornstarch isn’t heated high enough, nearly to a boil, it will not thicken. The texture changes from runny to very thick in just a few minutes. If it doesn’t, the recipe does not have enough cornstarch. it will thicken more once cooled so that it’s sliceable.
Yes! Freeze uncovered until the whipped cream and custard filling set, about one to two hours. Then wrap with plastic wrap for up to 2 months. Defrost before serving.
Prevent the milk from curdling
Whole eggs coagulate and form curds at 144ºF (62.2ºC) and above. When tempering, the milk should not exceed 185ºF (88ºC) to prevent the proteins from curdling. You’re only adding a small amount of hot liquid at a time, so it should not exceed 144ºF. Once the tempered eggs are added to the remaining milk, they can be safely heated to around 170 to 175ºF (76 to 79ºC) to cook the cornstarch so it thickens and gels once cooled.
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Banana Cream Pie
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼" cubes, chilled
- ½ cup ice-cold water, chilled
- 3 bananas, ripe but not brown and spotted
- ½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon dark rum, optional
- ½ whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
- ¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, optional
- Prepare the Crust Ingredients – Add ice cubes and water to a measuring cup. Cut the butter into 1/4" cubes. Place both items in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Break Down the Butter – In a stand mixer bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10-seconds. Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat and prevent the flour from spilling over. Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter resemble wet sand with pea-sized butter pieces remaining, about 60 to 70-seconds. Do not over-mix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added.
- Hydrate the Dough – Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 2 to 3-seconds. Add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated but not wet or sticky. It should begin to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 7 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over-mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Rest the Dough – Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap it in plastic, then place it in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4 hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
- Roll the Dough – Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes to make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, let it sit longer until more pliable.Dust the counter and dough with flour. Rotate and dust with flour underneath and on the top to prevent sticking and make it easier to transfer. Roll into a 14-inch circle, slightly less than 1/4" thick.
- Form the Crust – Place the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess leaving a 1/2" overhang. Tuck the excess underneath the bottom crust edges. Crimp by pinching the pointer and thumb fingers. Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the Oven – Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the pie dish on a sheet pan.
- Bake the Crust – Place a piece of parchment paper inside the pie dish and add the pie weights to cover just the bottom and sides, do not overfill. Bake for 20 minutes.Remove from the oven, and allow the weights to sit in the crust for a few minutes to press down any puffed areas. Carefully remove the parchment paper with weights from the pie dish and set it aside. It will not be used again.Continue to bake again for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Use a spoon to gently press the base down and sides up, don’t force it too much. Finish baking until golden brown and dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Prepare the Bananas – Cut the bananas into 1/4" slices. Layer them on the bottom and sides of the pie shell, about 46 pieces. Place plastic wrap over the bananas and press to remove air, then set aside.
- Custard Filling – In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and yolk. Add the cornstarch mixture to the eggs, and whisk until combined.In a medium pot, add the milk, rum, and whole vanilla bean with the scrapings. Heat over medium-low heat until it reaches 180 to 185ºF (82 to 88ºC). It should not be bubbling, 7 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Temper the Eggs – Place the bowl with the egg mixture in between a kitchen towel. Place the pot of hot milk on a towel beside the bowl with the egg mixture. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in ¾ cup of the hot milk mixture, ¼ cup at a time, into the egg mixture. Whisk vigorously after each addition.Whisk the tempered egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the pot. Turn the heat to medium, and continuously whisk until the consistency thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. There may be small lumps. Turn off the heat and whisk in the softened butter.
- Add the Filling to the Crust – Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve placed into a clean bowl using a spatula to press. Add strained custard to the prepared pie shell. Use a spatula to smooth it out. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the filling to prevent a film from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight to firm up the filling. It can also be chilled in the freezer for 1 ½ to 2 hours before adding the whipped cream.
- Make Whipped Cream – Right before serving, make the whipped cream topping. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla to the bowl. Alternatively, if using a hand mixer, use the whisk or beaters attachment and a large bowl or whip by hand. Processing times may vary.Whip on medium-low speed (setting 4), until the cream is frothy with bubbles on the surface, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high (setting 8), and whip until a fluffy and smooth consistency is reached, about 75 seconds for soft peaks. Continue to beat in 5-second intervals until stiff peaks form. Be careful as the texture will change quickly.Use a spatula to spread the whipped cream over the entire pie. Be careful not to overspread, as more agitation can cause the consistency to change. Alternatively, transfer whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a tip and make a design.
- To Serve – Sprinkle almond slices on top if desired. Refrigerate the pie until ready to serve.
- Whole Vanilla Bean: Can be substituted for 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- No Stand Mixer: Use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Banana Garnish: Add sliced bananas on top of the whipped cream if desired. Alternatively, place bananas on a foil-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and use a mini torch to caramelize the surface.
- Storing: Loosely cover the pie with foil or transfer leftover slices to an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: Transfer the whole pie or slices to the freezer. Freeze until the cream and filling firm up, about 2 hours. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost before serving.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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