“Chef’s Big Lie” Banana Pudding

Bowens Island Restaurant

Charleston, SC

Bowens Island insiders swear by this creamy layered dessert, which is the perfect ending to a meal of the scenic spot’s locally harvested oysters, fried shrimp, hushpuppies, and cold beer. The dish was created by chef Robert Barber’s wife, LaNelle, who combined two recipes in a local South Carolina cookbook to replicate a dish described by a friend; food writer Jane Kronsberg published a version of this recipe in her 1997 book, Charleston: People, Places, and Food. It’s not hard to imagine where the dish gets its name; made with instant vanilla pudding and Cool Whip, the dessert requires assembly more than it does cooking. (We prefer it made with whipped cream, but the restaurant swears by Cool Whip.) But when the dish is this good your guests won’t care that you took a few shortcuts—and, better yet, they never need to know.


  • 2 (3.4-ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups whipped heavy cream, or 1 (12-ounce) container Cool Whip
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
  • 6 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick disks


Combine the pudding mix and milk in a medium bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 2 cups of the whipped cream (or half of the Cool Whip), the sour cream, and vanilla extract.

Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a layer of vanilla wafers. Top with a layer of bananas and a layer of pudding. Repeat layers. Top with the remaining whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.


6 to 8 Servings