Reproducing the Holy Grail of ice creams

I do not like banana-flavored things. Also, not a huge fan of bananas. Can eat them fresh only in certain OCD-laden circumstances.

As a kid, if my Halloween-candy-bag had anything banana-flavored, I instantly put it in the “trade/discard” pile that my sisters and I would create as we sifted through our stash (fresh food also went into that pile, since my mom was always on the lookout for hidden razor blades and other death-traps). I never bought banana-flavored snow cones, or ice pops, or anything yellow, for that matter.

Then one day in high school, I opened the freezer door and found a carton of Blue Bell’s Banana Pudding ice cream. I’m quite sure I avoided it at first, thinking it would have that same fake, syrupy, bright yellow flavor of all things banana. But at some point I must’ve caved — and how fortuitous. It was truly a creamy, frozen version of a big bowl of cookie-laden banana pudding (which, ironically, I always loved — what’s not to like about vanilla custard, a “tasteful”  [modifier quantifiable only by me] amount of sliced bananas, whipped cream, and vanilla wafers?). How did they do it? How could they make it taste so… real? It became my go-to ice cream flavor, until I moved to an unfortunate state in our union that didn’t sell Blue Bell; I remember withdrawal symptoms, until my system adjusted to the void.

And then, one dark day, you couldn’t find it anymore. Not in Mississippi, not anywhere.*

I began to discover that there are two types of people in this world: those who have experienced Blue Bell’s Banana Pudding ice cream, and those who have not. You can tell who is who by their verbal and body-language response when you say the words; if they raise an eyebrow, or scrunch their nose, or back away a few inches, they were never exposed to the perfection. On the other hand, if their eyes widen, and they grasp at your shoulders in hopes you will be the bearer of good news, telling them you’ve found a place where they still sell it — then these people? They’ve had it.

I found two of the latter, one night as I shared pints with a couple of Indy bloggers: Angie and Amy. These ladies knew of The Ice Cream. They knew, we remembered, we mourned, and then they challenged. You make ice cream, don’t you Katy? Why don’t you try to recreate the flavor? You know, for the good of mankind?

Well, if you put it that way.

Four months later, I am here to share the results. I have nothing to compare it to, since it’s been a full decade I’ve been without the original. But it tastes like my memory — creamy, cookie-laden, homemade, Southern banana pudding. It’s good. My family and Angie say the same (hoping Amy can join the fan club once she gets a taste).

Have you longed for it? Do you have an ice cream maker? It’s a little labor-intensive, but worth it. Try it — and let me know your thoughts if you do!


Banana Pudding Ice Cream (just like Blue Bell’s)

Before subbing store-bought marshmallow creme, try the recipe — it’s super-easy, and the only version I can vouch for. It is very important that the vanilla ice cream base be chilled, and you are ready to churn, before you purée the bananas (the ice cream will turn an unsightly coffee-color if you don’t freeze asap after adding the bananas). The ice cream tastes best if it is eaten withing 3 days of freezing — though I don’t think that will be a problem.

For the ice cream (inspired by a vanilla ice cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)

(The vanilla ice cream base must chill for at least a few hours before adding the bananas & freezing — I usually start it the night before and refrigerate overnight)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • heavy pinch salt
  • 6 large egg yolks (save the whites for macaroons)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime or lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the milk, sugar, and salt. Warm until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

In a large bowl, pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. While whisking the yolks vigorously, slowly pour a couple ladles-full of the warm cream/sugar mixture into the yolks. Once tempered, slowly whisk the hot yolk/cream mixture back into the saucepan, and stir.

Continue to heat until the mixture thickens slightly, or reaches 165º on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat, pour through strainer into the remaining cup of heavy cream, and stir in the vanilla. Cool mixture over an ice bath, and then chill for several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to churn, place the bananas, lime juice, and about 1 cup of the chilled ice cream base into a blender or food processor. Purée together until smooth. Stir the purée back into the rest of the ice cream base. Pour into your ice cream maker (there is usually a little leftover after my maker is filled — I pour the extra into a couple popsicle molds for banana ice-cream popsicles), and freeze according to the directions for your maker.

For the marshmallow creme (I adapted this recipe from Cold Creme):
Makes enough for 3 or more batches of ice cream, but freezes well.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In large mixer bowl, use a whisk attachment to combine egg whites, corn syrup, and salt.  Beat for 10 minutes until thick. (After only a minute or so, it begins to fluff up, but keep beating!)

Add powdered sugar at a low speed to thoroughly incorporate.  Add vanilla extract and beat until well blended.

Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a month (it’s usable right out of the freezer, as it doesn’t harden, so freezing is your best bet).

To put it all together:

  • vanilla wafer cookies (I like the 365 brand from Whole Foods), broken into halves or quarters.

In a 1 1/2-quart air-tight container, scrape about 1/4 of the churned ice cream. Add 2-Tbsp dollops of marshmallow cream over the surface, and then scatter cookies on top. Layer in more ice cream, then more marshmallow creme and cookies, repeating the process 2-3 more times (finish with a layer of ice cream). Press plastic wrap or wax paper directly on the surface of the ice cream, seal with lid, and freeze for several hours before enjoying.



* I have since heard rumblings that people can still get Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream. I have no idea how, since they don’t list the flavor on Blue Bell’s website. But apparently, at a Walmart, somewhere, in the midwest (?):

I would hate him, but for the fact that he at least acknowledges the greatness of The Ice Cream.

20 thoughts on “Reproducing the Holy Grail of ice creams

  1. This description sounds so heavenly! You see I *LOVE* all things banana… so if you, who does not, loves this, imagine what *I* would think if I ever tasted such magnificance?! I’m drooling over here!

    Unfortunately, I’m also lazy, which means I’ll probably never indulge in such wonderfulness, because I just can’t see myself doing All. That. Work.

    1. Ok, it’s true — it’s not the easiest ice cream recipe in the repertoire. But how much is too much effort, when it comes to reliving the confections of childhood?
      (or, teen-hood)
      I can bring a batch to the next Indy bloggers night out?

  2. ok, ok, I’m gonna give this one a whirl. I just made mint oreo yesterday, and it was not that great. I didn’t like the way my vanilla base turned out, tasted almost sour, I dunno (and no, my milk wasn’t expired).

    I love that David Lebovitz book. I had it checked out of the library for most of the summer, and just returned it. Might have to bite the bullet and just buy it.

  3. HOLY CRAP does that sound good! I have never had any flavor of Blue Bell ice cream but I had the same reaction as Angie and Amy (as described above) about banana pudding ice cream. I didn’t know you were making a copycat recipe when I saw your tweet about this flavor — I admire your gumption. I am DEFINITELY going to try this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Happy to share!
      I do wish you could’ve experienced Blue Bell. If you’re ever down South, try it (there are many flavors available — even “banana split” which isn’t as good as banana pudding so I don’t know why they replaced it). It’s the best ice cream out there (as far as grocery-store varieties).
      But — if you have a freezer-full of egg whites, you’ve made enough at home to know there’s no going back to the grocery.

  4. Thank you for first acknowledging Blue Bell’s awesomeness (sans their inclusion of crappy HFCS) and then recreating it on a much more nourishing platform! I will be trying this…love me some David Lebovitz too and all that he inspires in the world of churning. Good job KMC.

    1. Jen, I know — that’s actually one reason I tried to recreate the recipe. I unfortunately resort to Karo for the marshmallow creme — but just couldn’t come up with another idea that would work. Pick your battles, right?

  5. Ya’ll must go out and make this TODAY. It’s so good. I highly recommend you follow Katy’s suggestion to use the 365 brand of vanilla wafers from Whole Foods. They have a subtle saltiness to them that is divine with the sweetness of the bananas. I know you didn’t make this just for me, but I still feel pretty darn special.

    Your little midwestern friend on twitter is correct, though. You can find Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream here in Indy. I had some in April from Meijer. I have proof:
    Blue Bell Has Arrived

    But yours is full of awesomeness without the HFCS.

    1. Man, that is so weird. Did we have a beer and discuss BB before you found the ice cream here? I totally had us longing for it — like we couldn’t get it here. Did I dream that scenario?

      I did make it just for you ; ) And Amy (though she hasn’t had it yet… another batch is in order). You challenged!

    2. Holy cow this stuff is so good. My family piled into my bed this afternoon (where we eat all our communal snacks) and scarfed it – it was all I could do to get them to put some away. The effort is completely worth it!!!! And it’s kid-friendly if you have little helpers.

      P.S. I just caught my husband spreading extra marshmallow creme on the vanilla wafers. I teased him until he stuffed one in my mouth. Awesome. Totally agree with the 365 brand recommendation – best vanilla wafers ever. Their lemon wafers are delish too.

      1. So glad to hear that you tried it, and liked it! Great location for consumption, on a Sunday afternoon.

        It just so happens that I have leftover marshmallow creme in my freezer, and the tail bits of vanilla wafers in a box in my pantry…

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  7. Wasn’t real sure but thought I had! I went WM today to pick up a few things so I went by the ice cream section. I thought I remembered seeing Blue Belle Banana Pudding Ice Cream some time back but just wasn’t sure since I don’t buy much ice cream these days. Neeless to say, I am enjoying a small bowl of the “holy grail of ice creams” as I type. Now if I get hooked on it and gain any more weight, it is YOUR FAULT! Stuff surely is goooooood!


    1. Dad, you’ve stepped off a precipice. I’m sorry, I should’ve warned you.

      But it’s not as good as mine… Another reason to come see a race?

  8. Katy, I just left you a ridiculous message about finding this ice cream at Fresh Market. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is going to be a must very soon…I have a banana lovin’ husband! Even though you may not believe it, his taste goes far beyond candy, soda pop, and chips!

    1. Jamie! I got your message, and that is so crazy. I can’t believe it’s been a mere mile away this whole time.
      Which goes to show — I must not have been looking that hard ; )
      But I think I will invest in a carton at some point, for nostalgia’s sake, and to compare with the homemade.

      Oh, and rest assured, no one will be held accountable for what we ate that night. What happens in the Chicken Limo, STAYS in the Chicken Limo.

      ; )

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