Keep Bananas From Browning In Your Pudding Or Pie With One Ingredient

Creamy banana pudding and a perfectly prepared banana cream pie share a few things in common, not least of which is their impeccable presentation. Pale yellow bananas are layered within and perched atop velvety, light-colored custard or pudding. But when bananas start to brown, that ethereal aesthetic vanishes quickly.

Both desserts can be stored for at least three days in the refrigerator. However, the browning process for bananas begins during preparation, as soon as the flesh is exposed to air. The more scientific term for this color change is enzymatic browning, a result of the enzymes within the fruit coming into contact with oxygen. The same reaction occurs when other fruits like apples and peaches are cut.

To prevent this process from happening so quickly, you need to disrupt the enzyme's reaction to the air. One of the most popular and effective methods is to coat the fruit in lemon juice, which changes the pH of the fruit. This reduces the enzyme's ability to cause the fruit to brown. While the effects of the lemon juice won't last forever, it should preserve the color of the bananas for the length of time the dessert can be stored. Additionally, keeping the dessert refrigerated and tightly covered will help lengthen the time the bananas retain their fresh appearance.

Other ways to preserve bananas for desserts

While lemon juice is possibly the most commonly used ingredient to slow the browning of bananas, other acidic juices work well too. Consider using another citrus fruit juice like orange, or try pineapple juice instead.

Although using lemon and some other fruit juices is an effective strategy, the downside is that they have the potential to alter the flavor of the bananas and your dessert. To prevent this, minimize the amount of juice you use, applying only as much as necessary. Using a spray bottle filled with the juice can help in applying it evenly.

If you don't mind adding a bit of extra sweetness to your dessert, you can also use honey. Ensure the honey is at room temperature, then mix it with a little bit of water to achieve an ideal consistency for easily tossing with the banana slices. Coat them evenly with the honey and water mixture, and they'll be protected from the air.

How you make your dessert matters

While using acidic juice or a coating of honey can prevent browning, the way you construct your dessert also affects the bananas. For banana pudding, ensure you completely cover the layers of bananas with the pudding. Doing so forms a barrier between the bananas and the air, helping them stay fresh longer. The same principle applies to banana cream pie: simply line the bottom of the pie crust with sliced bananas and spread the custard over the top so that the surfaces of the slices are not exposed to the air.

As for the top of the pudding or pie, you can wait until serving to add freshly sliced bananas, or you can prevent having brown bananas as a garnish by simply eliminating them. Alternatively, you can layer the slices on top and cover them with a layer of whipped cream to protect them.

Covering the bananas in your dessert is likely to minimize browning before serving, but once slices or scoops have been removed, the bananas will start to brown again. However, while your leftovers may not look as lovely as when fresh, there's no need to discard them. As long as the dessert has been properly stored in the refrigerator for three days or less, it should be safe (and delicious) to eat, even if the bananas are a little brown.