Recipes vary but one thing remains consistent when it comes to a homemade banana pudding: no dark bananas. Creamy, yellowish white custard, dotted with dark brown banana slices or chunks can be a visual turnoff, making even the best-tasting banana puddings unappealing. A few extra steps prior to preparation helps to keep your bananas from turning brown before, during and after serving up your prized banana pudding special.
Despite the lack of appeal, dark, brown bananas in a pudding do not indicate that the bananas or the pudding is unsafe to eat. The browning is nothing more than a chemical reaction known as enzymatic browning. The reaction occurs when enzymes in cut bananas encounter the oxygen in the air. This union creates melanin — a natural pigment — responsible for the brown color. The longer the air exposure, the more prominent the browning.
Completely coat the bananas with the custard when preparing the pudding. The pudding coating acts as a barrier between the bananas and the oxygen in the air staving off enzymatic browning. If you are preparing a layered banana pudding, place the bananas on top of the wafers and cover with a layer of pudding. Repeat the process for each layer, ensuring that the final layer is pudding to shield the bananas from oxygen.
The ideal time to make banana pudding is right before it is time to eat it. Otherwise, any leftovers require refrigeration because pudding is a perishable. The coolness of the refrigerator tends to turn bananas dark, so if you do not plan to eat the banana pudding right away, toss the sliced bananas in a few tablespoons of lemon juice before you add them to prevent browning during storage. If your pudding calls for mash, mash the lemon juice right into the bananas.
Ripe and Ready
Resist the urge to prepare your banana pudding with unripe bananas in hopes of prolonging browning. The bananas should be ripe but not over-ripe. Ripe bananas are soft but not mushy with brown speckles on the skin. If your bananas are ripe but you are not yet ready to make the pudding, prepare the banana and lemon juice mash, place it in an airtight container and freeze.
References and ResourcesTexas Education Agency: Fruit Facts
What Can I Bring; Anne Byrn
The Big Texas Steakhouse Cookbook: Janice Shay
Culinary Arts II; Jesse Dagoon
The Splendid Table: Southern Banana Pudding
North Dakota State University: Freezing Guide