After evaluating 11 cookies and crackers, we discovered the best cookie for banana pudding. Learn which cookies to use and which ones to avoid.
I have been working on a perfect not-too-sweet banana pudding recipe.
The first step was to find the best cookie for banana pudding. If you have wondered which cookie to use, you are in the right place.
We evaluated 11 cookies and crackers to find the perfect cookie for the pudding. The top two best cookies for banana pudding are vanilla wafers and butter cookies. Shortbread cookies, biscoff cookies, and graham crackers are also good choices to use in the recipe.
Many cookies will work in the recipe, but there are a few you should avoid. And surprisingly some cookies tasted better in the banana pudding the longer the pudding was refrigerated.
Try my not-too-sweet banana pudding recipe at the end of the post with your favorite cookie. Also check out all the cool ways you can serve banana pudding.
Blog Post Contents
- Cookie Test Criteria
- Overall Best Cookie for Banana Pudding
- Best Flavored Cookie for Banana Pudding
- Danish Butter Cookies – Not Easy to Use
- Best Cookie for Make-Ahead Banana Pudding
- Nothing Specifically Wrong with These Cookies
- Best Unique Flavored Cookie for Banana Pudding
- Most Disappointing Cookie for Banana Pudding
- Best Cookie for Very Sweet Banana Pudding
- Best Cracker for Banana Pudding
- Better Stick with the Original
- Don’t Use These Crackers
- The Worst Cracker for Banana Pudding
- Cookie Experiment Takeaways
- 3 Cookies and Crackers to Avoid
Cookie Test Criteria
- Taste of cookie and ability to blend with the other ingredients.
- Cost comparison of the cookies.
- How it held up over time.
Pudding was refrigerated for three days and evaluated at:
- 2 hours
- 4 hours
- 24 hours
- 48 hours
- 72 hours
The cookies were layered flat, not crumbled. Crumbed cookies created uneven layers making it difficult to completely coat the bananas in pudding.
Coating the bananas in pudding is important because it helps slow the browning process of the bananas. Banana pudding is only as fresh as the bananas remain.
Overall Best Cookie for Banana Pudding
Vanilla wafers win for best overall cookie.
Most banana pudding recipes call for vanilla wafers. And for good reason. They taste good in the pudding and have the right consistency. They are also cost effective and easy to find.
Vanilla wafers were one of the first cookies used in banana pudding, thanks to Mrs. Laura Kerley.
In 1921 Mrs. Kerley submitted a banana pudding recipe to the Pantagraph, a local newspaper in Illinois. She used vanilla wafers in her recipe instead of a sponge cake which was traditionally used in the pudding.
Nabisco said, “Thank you,” and ran with it. A recipe for banana pudding even appears on the box of Nilla wafers today.
Taste: Unsurprisingly, the Nilla wafer tasted good in the pudding. The vanilla cookie blended harmoniously with the vanilla pudding, which complimented the banana slices.
Texture: Nilla wafers are crisp and crunchy. But they softened in the pudding over time. This provided a nice tier in this layered recipe.
After a minimum of two hours (but four hours is better), the vanilla wafer had softened. Almost no cookie crunch, which was perfect.
At 24 hours the texture was still good, but after 48 hours the Nilla wafer started disintegrating into the pudding.
At 72 hours, it was hard to distinguish there was a Nilla wafer layer.
Cost: An 11 oz. box of Nilla wafers is sufficient for a recipe yielding 8 to 10 servings. The box is over $3, but it only takes one box, making Nilla wafers one of the most cost-effective cookies for banana pudding.
Best Flavored Cookie for Banana Pudding
Butter cookies win for best flavor.
I used Chessman butter cookies by Pepperidge Farm. These unique cookies are stamped with the faces of chess pieces. Pretty cool if you are into chess, like my family.
These were my favorite cookies to use in banana pudding if the pudding was eaten within 24 hours. Try them with cream cheese banana pudding.
Taste: The butter-flavored cookie itself was light, but rich-tasting. It complimented the vanilla and banana flavors in the recipe, proving that you don’t always need a vanilla-flavored cookie.
Texture: Butter cookies are crisp and crunchy and slightly softer than Nilla wafers. They softened over time in the pudding.
After two to four hours of chilling in the refrigerator, these cookies had softened, the flavors blended, and the pudding was mouthwatering.
Even 24 to 48 hours later, the butter cookie layer was still going strong. If you plan to make banana pudding the day before and refrigerate it overnight, you can’t go wrong with butter cookies.
However, similarly to Nilla wafers, they started to disintegrate into the pudding the longer the pudding was refrigerated. At 72 hours, they still tasted good, but the layer did not seem as obvious. If you love to taste the cookie layer in banana pudding like I do, keep this in mind.
Cost: This was the biggest downfall to using Chessman butter cookies. Although the cost per bag was comparable to Nilla wafers, you need two bags to have enough cookies for a recipe that has 8 to 10 servings.
In addition, be aware of broken cookies when you open the package. If you plan to decorate the pudding with chess-faced cookies on top, buy an additional bag to compensate for broken cookies.
The cost to get enough Chessman butter cookies for the pudding is almost double the cost of Nilla Wafers.
Danish Butter Cookies – Not Easy to Use
I also tried Danish butter cookies (often found around Christmas). They presented some problems when compared to Chessman cookies, so I do not recommend them.
- They are hard to find outside of the holidays.
- The cookie tin holds different flavors of butter cookies, including a coconut flavored cookie. If you want flavor consistency, this is not the right choice.
Best Cookie for Make-Ahead Banana Pudding
Use Keebler Sandies Shortbread Cookies if you plan to make banana pudding 1 or 2 days early.
Initially I didn’t like these cookies as much, but my opinion changed the longer the pudding was refrigerated.
Taste: Shortbread cookies had a distinct taste when they were layered in the pudding. I personally preferred the taste of vanilla wafers or butter cookies to the taste of shortbread cookies.
Texture: Shortbread cookies are crisp and crumbly. However, the longer the pudding was refrigerated, the better the shortbread cookies became.
In fact, these thick shortbread cookies held up the best after refrigerating the pudding for 72 hours. The thickness of the cookie helped, but the passing time also mellowed the shortbread taste and the cookie flavor merged with the other ingredients.
Keep thick Keebler shortbread cookies in mind if you need to make your banana pudding two days early or if you expect to have leftover pudding in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Cost: The package of Keebler shortbread cookies cost less than Nilla Wafers but had less cookies in the package. You may need to buy two packages if you like lots of layers in your banana pudding.
You can get away with one package if you have a solid bottom layer of cookies, but use the cookies sparingly in the other layers.
Nothing Specifically Wrong with These Cookies
Lorna Doone shortbread cookies are quite different than Keebler shortbread cookies, so I evaluated them separately.
They are smaller and thinner than Keebler cookies. I was not impressed with them compared to the other cookies.
Taste: The flavor of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies was forgettable. The flavor was swallowed up in the pudding, rather than contributing to it.
Texture: They are a crisp cookie, but a bit crumblier than butter cookies or vanilla wafers.
The longer they were refrigerated the less pronounced the flavor was. After 48 hours, they had disintegrated in the pudding to the point of being unrecognizable.
Cost: They are almost double the cost of Keebler shortbread cookies. Depending on how thick you want your cookies layers, you may need two packages, although if used sparingly one package would work.
But overall, they were unimpressive, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to add them to banana pudding.
Best Unique Flavored Cookie for Banana Pudding
If you want to mix up the flavor of traditional banana pudding, try spiced biscoff cookies.
I was pleasantly surprised with Lotus Biscoff cookies. They became one of my favorite cookies for banana pudding.
Biscoff cookies are a crispy cinnamon spiced cookie known as a speculoos or speculass cookie (Dutch or Belgian cookie).
Taste: The cookie tasted of cinnamon and reminded me of gingerbread.
These flavors are not traditionally found in banana pudding, but I really liked the combination. If you want to venture from traditional pudding, biscoff cookies are the ones to try.
However, if you are a traditionalist, skip this cookie.
Texture: After 24 hours, the cookie had softened, but it was in a thick layer in the pudding. So delicious!
Cost: They are about 1 ½ times the cost of Nilla wafers, but one box will make the full pudding recipe.
Most Disappointing Cookie for Banana Pudding
Nabisco Gingersnaps were the cookie I was most excited about trying because I do love the taste of banana and ginger.
However, I was disappointed not only in the flavor, but also in the texture. Gingersnaps were so hard that even after 72 hours of refrigeration in the pudding, they were still tough and hard to snap through.
Taste: The ginger, banana, and vanilla flavors did not come together the way I hoped they would. And the ginger flavor distracted from the expected banana pudding taste.
Texture: The worst. The cookie never completely softened in the time frame of the experiment. And the parts of the cookie that were “softened” were more soggy than soft like the other cookies.
The only way these cookies might work is by crumbling them in a blender or food processor and making a cookie crumb layer.
Cost: You won’t even need a full 1 pound box of gingersnaps for the recipe. So even though one box cost more than all of the sampled cookies and crackers, you will have plenty of leftovers.
However, I don’t recommend them.
Best Cookie for Very Sweet Banana Pudding
Tone down a too-sweet banana pudding recipe with lady fingers.
Lady fingers were the original substitute for sponge cake in early banana pudding recipes. They are only lightly sweetened.
This may help tone down an overly sweet banana pudding recipe. Lady fingers may have been a good alternate years ago, but better choices exist today.
Taste and texture: Lady fingers are a bit bland and slightly stale. They were the thickest (and breadiest) cookie in the experiment.
They softened and got spongy the longer they were refrigerated in the banana pudding. The sponginess worked.
Since I make not-too-sweet banana pudding, lady fingers didn’t quite work for my recipe. If you make banana pudding with sweetened condensed milk, lady fingers would soften the cloying taste of the pudding.
Cost: One package is adequate for a recipe and cost close to what Nilla wafers cost.
However, they are difficult to find. When I finally tracked down a package, there was only one brand to choose from.
Bottom line: I would never go out of my way to use lady fingers in banana pudding, especially since my banana pudding is not too sweet.
Best Cracker for Banana Pudding
Some crackers went head to head with cookies and graham crackers worked surprising well in the pudding.
Placing the crackers flat, rather than crumbling them, helped keep the layers even, making it easier to completely coat the bananas.
I would reach for graham crackers if I did not have butter cookies or vanilla wafers. Maybe even if I did have them.
Taste: Perhaps because I’m used to graham cracker crusts, the graham cracker flavor merged well with the vanilla and banana flavors. The consistency in flavor remained for over 24 hours.
Texture: At 48 and 72 hours, there was no longer a distinct graham cracker layer anymore. Everything melded together.
Cost: One box is enough for this recipe with plenty of leftovers. The cost is comparable to Nilla wafers.
Better Stick with the Original
Cinnamon graham crackers caught my attention because cinnamon and banana are great flavor pairings. Although I could taste the cinnamon flavor, I preferred regular graham crackers to cinnamon graham crackers in banana pudding.
Taste: The cinnamon flavor merged with the bananas. However, the cracker also tasted like nutty whole wheat. It was too hearty for the pudding.
Texture: The texture was comparable to the texture of regular graham crackers. It was best two to four hours later, but by 24 hours and beyond, it was soggier than blended and it disintegrated between 48 and 72 hours.
Cost: The same as regular graham crackers and similar to Nilla wafers.
Don’t Use These Crackers
Club crackers are too salty. Don’t use.
I had high hopes for light, flaky, buttery club crackers. Especially since butter cookies were so tasty in the pudding. Wouldn’t a butter cracker be just as tasty?
But no. They were too salty, which distracted from the vanilla/banana flavor of the pudding.
Taste and texture: Despite the nice buttery flavor, I couldn’t get past the saltiness.
A quick search showed that Kellogg’s does not make a reduced salt or no-salt club cracker. Too bad because the texture was great. The cracker softened into a nice layer that blended into the pudding.
Cost: Similar to Nilla wafers.
The Worst Cracker for Banana Pudding
Don’t use animal crackers in banana pudding. Just don’t.
Taste and texture: The taste was bland and got worse the longer the pudding was refrigerated. The cookie was crispy and harder than the other cookies.
When layered in the pudding the texture was a soggy, gummy, bland mess. It was the worst. After 24 hours, I threw it out. It couldn’t get better and would only get worse.
Cost: The cheapest option of them all. But… Not. Worth. It.
Cookie Experiment Takeaways
- Nilla wafers win for best overall taste, texture, and cost effectiveness. Nabisco focuses on making these cookies the best for banana pudding. Best of all, they are easy to find.
What can you substitute for vanilla wafers in banana pudding? Butter cookies, shortbread, and graham crackers are all excellent choices.
- Butter cookies were the best flavored. Something about that butter flavor really made a difference. I didn’t need to taste more vanilla in a recipe, but the butter flavor hit the spot.
- If you are going to make banana pudding ahead of time (especially over 24 hours early), use Keebler Shortbread cookies. They will hold up the best.
- If you want to veer from traditional banana pudding, Lotus Biscoff cookies are a good place to start. The cinnamon and spice melds with the pudding in a deliciously unique way.
- Crumbling any cookie or cracker made the layers uneven, making it more difficult to completely coat the sliced bananas.
- Submerged and well-coated bananas resulted in slower browning keeping the pudding fresh longer. Don’t crumble the cookie layer unless you will eat the pudding within a few hours.
3 Cookies and Crackers to Avoid
- Never, and I mean never, use animal crackers. They are awful.
- Don’t use club crackers either. They are way too salty.
- Avoid gingersnaps unless you pulverize them to crumbs in a food processor. Even then, I’m not so sure. You must really love the banana/ginger flavor combination.
Now that you have decided on your cookie, try my quick and easy, not-too-sweet banana pudding recipe with boxed pudding. Use either instant pudding or cook & serve pudding. You will love it!
- 1 (3 oz.) box of vanilla or French vanilla pudding mix (instant or cook & serve)
- 1 ¾ cups milk (skim, 1%, 2%, or whole)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ cup of sour cream
- 1 (11 oz.) package of Nilla wafers OR 2 (7.25 oz.) packages of Chessman butter cookies OR your favorite pudding cookie
- 3 to 4 medium bananas, ripe
Prepare the Vanilla Pudding
Use either Instant Pudding OR Cook & Serve Pudding (NOT BOTH).
For Instant Pudding:
- BEAT pudding mix with 1 ¾ cups milk for 2 minutes. Wait for 5 minutes for the pudding to set.
For Cook & Serve Pudding.
- STIR pudding mix into 1 ¾ cups milk in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When pudding begins to boil, remove the pan from heat.
- COVER the pudding with a piece of plastic wrap. Place the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.
- CHILL in the refrigerator until cool (about 30 minutes).
Mix the Banana Pudding
- POUR the heavy whipping cream into a deep bowl. (A deep bowl will contain the cream and prevent excess splashing when the cream is whipped.)
- STIR 3 or 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar into the heavy whipping cream. (Sugar amount depends on how sweet you prefer your pudding.)
- Using a hand mixer with the WIRE WHIP attachment, WHIP the heavy whipping cream on the highest speed until stiff peaks form. This could take up to 5 minutes. Set aside.
- MIX the sour cream into the cool pudding until combined.
- FOLD the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until combined.
- PEEL and SLICE the bananas into ¼ inch round disks.
Layer the Pudding
- SPREAD a thin layer of pudding at the bottom of a serving dish.
- COVER the pudding with a layer of cookies.
- TOP cookies with a layer of sliced bananas.
- GENEROUSLY SPREAD pudding over the bananas, covering them completely.
- CONTINUE LAYERING cookies, bananas, and pudding until the serving dish is full. Always end with a layer of pudding completely covering sliced bananas.
- COVER and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 24 hours. During this time, the cookies will soften and all the layers of flavor will blend together.
- BEFORE SERVING, garnish the pudding with cookie crumbs and freshly sliced bananas.
- COVER and refrigerate leftovers up to 72 hours or until the bananas are no longer fresh.
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Amount Per Serving Calories 317Total Fat 16gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 51mgSodium 245mgCarbohydrates 41gFiber 2gSugar 28gProtein 4g
Nutrition information is an estimate only and may vary based on individual ingredients added and cooking methods used.