There is nothing worse than spending time crafting a beautifully creamy and decadent dessert to find that part of it quickly begins to look less than appetizing. Banana pudding is just one of those desserts. If you don’t take a few extra preventative steps, you may find that your banana pudding no longer features white slices of banana by the time dessert is served.
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As we explore how to keep bananas from turning brown in banana pudding, we’ll also look at what banana pudding is and why it happens. You’ll soon find out you have multiple options for keeping your bananas looking fresh.
What is banana pudding?
Banana pudding is an iconic Southern dessert. In fact, its roots go all the way back to the mid-1800s. A few banana bunches found their way into America before the Civil War, but the popularity of this unique tropical fruit really exploded in the 1870s.
From the beginning, ambitious home cooks looked for ways to use the banana in desserts. Early banana pudding recipes consisted of ladyfingers or sponge cake covered with layers of custard and bananas. Topping with fresh cream of a lightly toasted meringue added a special touch.
Fast forward to today’s banana pudding. The creation of vanilla wafers transformed Southern banana pudding into the desert we know today. Layers of vanilla or banana flavored pudding alternate with sliced bananas and whipped cream. Often served in glass dishes, the layers provide a glimpse of the dessert you are about to thoroughly enjoy.
Why do bananas turn brown?
Just sitting on your counter, bananas gradually turn from green to yellow to brown. Peeled bananas will quickly turn brown. Slice that banana, and the browning takes place even faster.
Why does this happen? Mother Nature is at work.
Many fruits, including bananas, apples, and pears, contain polyphenols. When exposed to the oxygen in the air, the polyphenols are oxidized into a polymeric polyphenol compound known as melanin. In other and simpler words, exposure to oxygen turns many fruits brown.
The process happens because fruits in nature are designed for reproduction. When oxidation happens, the fruit is beginning the decomposition process. Over time, the fruit will rot and the seeds are prepared for germination.
You may be thinking that grabbing green bananas can prevent the browning process. While you aren’t incorrect — ripe bananas do brown more quickly — you don’t want to sacrifice flavor and texture. Unripe bananas will still turn brown once they are sliced. At most, you save yourself a minimal amount of time. Using perfectly ripe bananas will give you the perfect banana pudding.
Can you eat brown bananas?
Although they aren’t that appealing, brown banana slices are still bananas. Sliced brown bananas that are starting to brown around the edges are safe to eat. But if you don’t want your bananas to add a touch of brown to your banana pudding, here are a few solutions you can try.
Fold it all together
So all you need to do is keep the bananas from being exposed to the oxygen in the air. Working as quickly as possible, you can simply slice your bananas and fold them into your pudding until they are completely coated. Add your vanilla wafers and a touch of whipped cream, and you have everything you need for a homestyle banana pudding.
The folding and coating process will keep the oxygen off of the bananas, but it isn’t the pretty layered dish you may want to present to your family or guests. If you want to keep the layers, you’ll need to work quickly.
Seal out the oxygen
If you want to keep a beautiful layered look, you will need to cut as you assemble. Cut the banana as you need it for each layer and take a minute to make sure that the next covering layer completely seals the bananas.
Avoid placing a layer of bananas next to a layer of vanilla wafers. It will create pockets of oxygen that will cause the bananas to brown.
Once you reach the top of the dessert, add a thick layer of whipped cream that covers the entire dish. This will act as a final sealing layer. Your traditional banana pudding will still have layers when cut, but you won’t see the beautiful layers from the sides of the dish.
Use a bit of acid
Tossing your banana slices with acidic juice can slow the browning process. You can play with different types of juice for different flavors. Lemon, orange, lime, and pineapple all work well and can complement a banana pudding. To change the flavor of your dessert, simply choose which juice you want to add a touch of flavor to the dish.
Slice your bananas and gently toss them in the juice. You will then want to turn the slices out on a paper towel. Blot gently with another paper towel to remove the excess juice. You can now use the slices in your banana pudding without worrying if they are completely coated with pudding. This can help you if you want to garnish your dessert with banana slices.
If you want to only add as little juice as possible to your bananas, use a pastry brush to lightly brush the acid over the banana slices. This will take a bit longer but can reduce the amount of flavor you are adding to your pudding.
The best advice for avoiding browned bananas in banana pudding is to eat your dessert as soon as possible. The truth is that the methods for preventing browning don’t completely stop it, they simply slow it down. Banana pudding will always have the best appearance, taste, and texture when it is fresh.
Refrigeration will allow you to keep enjoying your dessert for several days. However, cool temperatures also speed up the browning process. To slow it down, make sure you store your leftover banana pudding in an airtight container. You can even place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding to seal it.
When stored in the refrigerator, banana pudding will keep for two or three days. If you plan on creating it ahead of time, the best way is to create your pudding ahead of time, and then cut your bananas and add your vanilla wafers just before serving. This will keep your banana slices white and your cookies crisp.
Banana pudding is a homestyle dessert full of comfort. With a creamy texture, fresh bananas, and crumbly cookies, it is the perfect combination. However, you should plan ahead in order to keep your bananas from browning.
You’ve taken the time to make a beautiful banana pudding, just to find that your banana slices are quickly turning brown. We’ll help you discover why this happens and how to slow the process down.