Vegan Banana Pudding is a creamy, plant-based banana dessert layered with crisp cookies and fresh bananas and topped with a dairy-free “cream.” This is a plant-based take on the classic Southern dessert inspired by a recent trip I took to Iowa to learn about soybean farming and sustainability.
Back in June, Best Food Facts invited me to Iowa to learn more about sustainability in soybean farming. You know I’m all about learning more about my food, so I jumped at the chance to travel to the Hawkeye State to discover more and learn. The trip consisted of a wide range of information from farmers, registered dietitians, and the coolest field trip I’ve been on since 4th grade.
How Do You Make a Vegan Banana Pudding?
The base of vegan banana pudding is silken tofu blended with very ripe bananas. Powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, banana extract, and vanilla extract are all you need to flavor vegan banana pudding. The banana pudding mixture goes between layers of crushed, vegan, cookies, and fresh bananas before being topped with a vegan whipped topping.
How are Soybeans Farmed?
We took a field trip to the Struthers Farm, where I had the opportunity to learn more about soybean farming.
Now, I’ve been eating soy in some way, shape, or form throughout my entire life, so the final product is not something new to me. What was a revelation was how soy goes from farm to table.
At Struthers Farms, soybean farming takes up 550 acres.
Soybeans grow on wide-leafed bushes that actually felt velvety to me. The soybeans you munch on at your local sushi restaurant are the green pods, which are often still fuzzy themselves.
One of the phrases I often heard from the farmers while on this trip was “‘no-till’ farming.” No-till farming means that the farmer is essentially drilling the soybeans into the ground where a previous crop’s remnants are. This conserves the soil and decreases soil erosion.
Soybeans are actually fast sprouters. The plant sprouts about a week after planting, and the pests and weeds start springing up around the same time. Pesticides, whether organic or not, are used to mitigate the pests, but the weeds can compete with the soybeans for sunlight and soil nutrients, which means they’re a more vicious threat to the crop. In fact, I saw many soybean plants battling weeds at the Struthers. Being the “go git ’em” girl I am, I asked Farmer Dave if I could pull up some weeds for him, which he was more than willing for me to do. I did, and that pretty much means I’m a farmer now.
The soybeans don’t bloom until late summer/early fall, so we couldn’t see their pretty purple flowers, which are self-pollinating. The pods that contain the beans grow from these blossoms.
Soybeans are actually harvested closer to the fall season when the leaves begin turning yellow. Their pods are left exposed once the plant sheds their leaves, and that’s when they are harvested by combines and sent off to the market to be sold to manufacturers or used as feed for animals.
Speaking of animals: why is this the cutest cow on the planet?
Why use tofu in this Vegan Banana Pudding?
Not only are soybeans tasty in recipes like this vegan banana pudding, but they are also a great source of protein. Many cultures around the world use soy as a protein source. Soybeans are high in protein and fiber while also cholesterol-free and rich in B vitamins, folate, iron, and phosphorus
Using silken tofu to make vegan banana pudding gives you nutrients, texture, and protein. Adding bananas to tofu bumps up the potassium even more!
How do you prep tofu for this Vegan Banana Pudding?
Before you prepare the banana pudding mixture, drain and blot the excess liquid from the block of tofu.
Carefully remove the tofu from the packaging. Silken tofu is very soft, so it will break apart easily. It’s okay if it does since we’re going to puree it. Transfer the tofu to a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover it with a triple layer of paper towels while it drains. This absorbs the rest of the liquid.
Allow the tofu to drain for 15-20 minutes. This extracts 1/2 cup of liquid from the tofu. That’s important because adding that much liquid will cause your banana pudding to be runny. Discard the liquid and add the tofu to a food processor or blender.
How Sustainable are Soybeans?
One of the myths surrounding soybeans is that they’re not a sustainable crop. After our trip to Struthers Farm, we had another unique soy-focused dinner at Bubba’s in Des Moines. There we learned more about the sustainable farming practices of the soybean farmers who joined us.
Farming is much more technologically advanced than in the old days. Farmers use various techniques to plan for each crop and their respective locations in the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. That cost-effectiveness spoke to my heart because I know that means I pay less for the end product if they’re saving money at the beginning. The silken tofu I use in this vegan banana pudding cost me $1.62.
One thing that stuck out to me was how farmers hyper-focused on precision in planting, applying fertilizers, and watering. They avoid soil erosion while protecting their waterways by using that no-till farming method I told you about earlier.
As a home gardener, I learned that using soybeans as a cover crop is a good way to restore the nutrients to my garden because soy produces nitrogen, making it a great way to restore nitrogen in your soil.
How are Soybeans Used?
On our final day, we met up at the National Pork Board- which you know made me giddy- to delve into more nutritional facts about soy. According to the United Soybean Board (USB), 20% of soybean crops mostly go to producing oils for food. Yes, most vegetable oil is soybean oil. But soybean oil is also an ingredient in margarine and salad dressings. Of the remaining 80%, the majority of the soybean crop feeds our nation’s livestock and poultry, which later feeds us. Three percent goes into food products like protein alternatives- tofu, soy-based yogurts- and soymilk, or just left whole: edamame, anyone?
This is also where I tasted this insanely delicious vegan chocolate pudding prepared by Charlotte Rommereim, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and fifth-generation family farmer who was the person educating us on soybean nutrition. That chocolate pudding was so delicious that it inspired this Vegan Banana Pudding recipe.
How Ripe Do the Bananas Have to be for the Pudding?
The bananas you use in this vegan banana pudding need to be overripe. More black than yellow on the banana peel means your bananas are super sweet. I prefer these overripe bananas because it means I don’t need to add as much sugar.
Add the bananas to the food processor and pulse these together for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will be slightly thick and free of clumps.
Can I use an alternative to powdered sugar?
Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.
Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, banana extract, and vanilla extract to the food processor.
There are plenty of vegan powdered sugars on the market, so you won’t have an issue finding them. But, if you prefer to avoid it, you can replace the powdered sugar in this recipe with 1/2 cup of agave syrup.
Your banana pudding mixture will be runnier but still tastes great.
Chill the banana pudding mixture for at least 1 hour to allow the tofu to firm up again.
How do I make this Banana Pudding creamy?
My secret to making this vegan banana pudding über-creamy is to fold in some non-dairy whipped topping. Be sure to pick up a whipped topping that says “Vegan” on the packaging.
You can replace this with regular whipped topping or cream if you’re not on a strict vegan diet. Gently fold some of the whipped topping into the chilled banana pudding mixture until well combined.
Which cookies are vegan?
There are certain cookies which are great in vegan banana pudding because they have a caramel-y flavor, provide texture, and are vegan.
Add the cookies to a food storage bag and whack them a few times with a rolling pin to break them up.
Here are vegan-friendly cookies you can use instead of:
- Tate’s Ginger Cookies
- Siete Mexican Shortbread Cookies
- MadeGood Snickerdoodle Crunchy Cookies
- Biscoff Cookies
Whichever cookie you choose, make sure it’s crunchy and vegan. Unless you’re not vegan, then just go for crunchy.
How do I assemble the dessert?
Layer 3 tablespoons of crushed cookies into the bottom of a 6 to 8-ounce dessert cup. Top the cookies with the vegan banana pudding, then top the pudding with a layer of sliced bananas. Repeat for a second layer, then top it with your non-dairy whipped topping.
Garnish with more crushed cookies and fresh slices of bananas.
If you want to serve this family style, put 1 cup of crushed cookies into an 8x8x3-inch baking dish. Top the cookies with half of the banana pudding mixture. Cover the pudding with 1 1/2 bananas, sliced 1/8-inch thick. Repeat this once more to make the banana pudding two layers deep. Cover the final layer of bananas with the whipped topping and garnish with crushed cookies and banana slices.
How long can I store Vegan Banana Pudding in the fridge?
You can store uncovered vegan banana pudding for up to two days in the fridge. After that, the cookies begin to get soggy, and the bananas in the pudding make it look murky.
You can also prepare the banana pudding mixture a day ahead and store it in the fridge, covered, before assembling the dessert.
Can I freeze this dessert?
Don’t freeze vegan banana pudding because it changes the texture of the pudding after you thaw it. The cookies also are miserably soggy after freezing and thawing.
You’ll see this is an easy dessert to make, so you won’t feel the need to freeze it anyway.
What other recipes can I use soy in?
If this post inspired you to incorporate more soy into your diet, YAY!
Here are some of my favorite recipes that include soybeans in one way or another, Banana Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal made with soymilk being one of my favorites.
This Vegan Banana Pudding might replace the classic recipe for you. I served it to Hector and the twins, who had no idea it was plant-based. That’s the wonder of soybeans for you, though. I hope you give this recipe a go. If you do, let me know what you think of it in the comments below, and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.
Vegan Banana Puddingat Sense & Edibility
- food processor
- fine mesh sieve
For the Vegan Banana Pudding
- 16 ounce package (454 grams) silken tofu
- 3 medium overripe bananas mashed (about 1 cup or 250 grams)
- 3/4 cup (85 grams) vegan powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt optional
- 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) banana extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 9 ounce container (255 grams) dairy-free whipped topping separated, plus more to garnish
- 8.8 ounce package (250 grams) vegan cookies crushed into medium-sized pieces, plus more for garnish
- 3 medium bananas sliced, plus more to garnish
Drain the Tofu (begin 20 minutes ahead)
- Before you prepare the banana pudding mixture, drain and blot the excess whey from the block of tofu. Carefully remove the tofu from the packaging and place it into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl.
- Press a triple layer of paper towels gently onto the tofu while it drains to absorb the rest of the liquid. Allow the tofu to drain for 15-20 minutes.
Prepare the Banana Pudding Mixture
- Discard the drained tofu liquid and add the tofu to a food processor or blender. Peel, then add the bananas to the food processor and pulse these together for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will be slightly thick and free of clumps.
- Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, banana extract, and vanilla extract to the food processor. Blend these together for 30 seconds. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides and bottom once more.
- Blend the banana-tofu mixture for 30 second to 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic film or a lid. Chill the banana pudding mixture for at least 1 hour to allow the tofu to firm up again.
Finish the Vegan Banana Pudding Before Assembling
- Gently fold 1 cup of the non-dairy whipped topping into the chilled banana pudding mixture until well combined.
- Layer 3 tablespoons of crushed cookies into the bottom of a 6 to 8-ounce dessert cup. Top the cookies with the vegan banana pudding, followed by layer of sliced bananas (about 1/4 of a banana per cup per layer).
- Repeat these steps to create a second layer, then top it with your non-dairy whipped topping if desired. Garnish with more crushed cookies and fresh slices of bananas. Keep chilled until ready to enjoy.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- Silken and soft tofu are interchangeable. You can use either one.
- Replace the powdered sugar in this recipe with 1/2 cup of agave syrup. The pudding will be loose.
- You can replace the non-dairy whipped topping with regular whipped topping or cream if you're not on a strict vegan diet.
Tips and Techniques:
- It's important to drain the tofu because adding its liquid will cause your banana pudding to be runny.
- The bananas you use in this vegan banana pudding need to be more black than yellow on the banana peel so the bananas are super sweet.
- Add the cookies to a food storage bag and whack them a few times with a rolling pin to break them up easily.
Family-Style Vegan Banana Pudding:
- Prepare the banana pudding mixture as instructed.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of crushed cookies into an 8x8x3-inch baking dish.
- Top the cookies with half of the banana pudding mixture. Cover the pudding with 1 1/2 bananas, sliced 1/8-inch thick.
- Repeat this once more to make the banana pudding two layers deep.
- Cover the final layer of bananas with the whipped topping and garnish with crushed cookies and banana slices.
Make Ahead and Storage Instructions:
- Store uncovered vegan banana pudding for up to two days in the fridge.
- You can prepare the banana pudding mixture a day ahead and store it in the fridge, covered, before assembling the dessert.
- Don't freeze vegan banana pudding because it changes the texture of the pudding after you thaw it.