Timeline: How Banana Pudding Became a Barbecue Side Dish

And now, a history of brisket’s saccharine sidekick. Let’s just say it had mass a-peel.

Banana pudding has become as familiar to smoked-meat crusaders as white bread and gingham tablecloths. But how did a New England dessert become synonymous with the South? Southern Living barbecue editor Robert Moss credits the appropriation to the southern penchant for sweets and community gatherings, as well as the barbecue buffets that swept through the Carolinas in the 1970s. But that’s only part of the story. Here’s how Vanilla Wafers, banana rings, and gooey pudding made their way onto every barbecue menu from Austin to Boston.

Pair of bananas

1870s
Bananas become plentiful in the U.S. for the first time ever, with more than 4 million bunches arriving annually in American ports such as New Orleans and Charleston.

1888
The first banana pudding recipe appears in print in the Massachusetts-based magazine Good Housekeeping.

1901
The National Biscuit Company, now known as Nabisco, begins selling its flagship sugar wafer.

banana pudding history 3

1940s
Nabisco publishes a banana pudding recipe on the side of Vanilla Wafer boxes. (They’re rebranded as Nilla Wafers in 1968.)

banana pudding history 2

1956
Dwight Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which leads to a 41,000-mile interstate-highway system. Bananas are now transported to grocery stores in a fraction of the previous time, and prices plummet.

1959
After World War II, banana pudding is viewed as a southern delicacy, with newspapers such as the Oregon Statesman describing the dish as having “a touch of the South.”

banana pudding history 4

1964
Jell-O releases banana cream pudding and pie filling.

banana pudding history 5

1966
Cool Whip is introduced by the Birds Eye division of General Foods.

1980s
More than 80 percent of all printed references to the dessert come from southern newspapers.

banana pudding history 6

2010
The National Banana Pudding Festival is created in Centerville, Tennessee.


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