This perfect banana bread recipe will teach you how to make a tender, moist, and flavorful treat you’ll want to eat for breakfast, snack, and dessert.
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My search for the perfect banana bread has lasted years. Over time, dozens of recipes have disappointed me: the too heavy, the over-the-top rich, the cardboard dry, the overly dense, the excessively banana-tasting (yes, there is such a thing), the so-packed-with-grains-it’s-not-even-enjoyable-anymore, the flat-as-a-shoe, the tasteless, and the ho-hum. I have struggled to find the right additions: nuts or chocolate or nothing at all? And then there’s the everlasting issue of timing: some banana breads burned after 45 minutes, whereas others were not even cooked through after an hour and a half.
Because of my passion for banana bread, for years, every time I made it, I tried a new recipe. They weren’t all bad, but I was still waiting for that quintessential recipe—the one perfect banana bread recipe from which I would never want to stray. In the end, I tested and tweaked my way to my own perfect banana bread recipe.
What Makes Perfect Banana Bread?
Perfect texture: This perfect banana bread has a tender and moist texture that makes you want to eat it as is, without any toppings or spreads, but toasts well, too.
Easy baking: This banana bread rises to an airy texture and is baked to perfection in 60 minutes.
Simple ingredients: This perfect banana bread recipe uses basic ingredients you most likely already have on hand.
Awesome nutritional value: This recipe uses whole wheat flour, which boosts the nutritional content of the banana bread and adds a slight caramelized sweetness to it, and just enough sugar to underline the banana flavor. The recipe also suggests the use of other ingredients to make the banana bread even heartier and healthier, but it’s already good for you as is.
Perfect… and versatile: This perfect banana bread can be eaten from breakfast to dessert. I’ve been having a toasted slice of this banana bread every day for breakfast for years. I have now sold my son on the idea, and our favorite way to eat it is slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam (him) or marmalade (me). It’s a quick and easy breakfast that’s nourishing enough to carry me over to lunch without feeling hungry. This perfect banana bread would sure be great as an afternoon snack or even for dessert, slathered with–gasp!–chocolate or cream cheese frosting.
How to Pick the Right Bananas for the Perfect Banana Bread
The bananas you choose to make perfect banana bread must be very ripe. If you think they’re ready, wait a couple of days more. The skin of the bananas should be more than speckled with black–it should have large black spots all over. The bananas should be very aromatic and soft to the touch. In other words, it’s when bananas look way past their prime that they are perfect for banana bread.
Below, left: Perfect for snacking, not ready for banana bread. Right: Perfectly ripe bananas for making perfect banana bread.
How to Freeze Bananas for Later Use
My secret to regularly making banana bread is to buy big bunches of bananas once in a while and freeze them when they’re perfectly ripe. After bananas are very ripe, you can either bake banana bread right away or throw the bananas in the freezer for later use. There’s no need to place them in a freezer bag or container. You can simply freeze bananas with the peel on: their envelope will protect the flesh from blackening–and from freezer bite.
Frozen bananas thaw at room temperature in about 30 minutes, or you can microwave them for 2 minutes to accelerate the process. Be aware that thawed bananas are pretty disgusting to look at, but they deliver big-time flavor.
To add thawed banana flesh to the recipe, slice off one end of the banana and then turn it upside down over the mixing bowl. The flesh should slip right out on its own or with a gentle nudge down. After the flesh is out, press down on the peel one last time to get any remaining banana juice out.
More Helpful Tips for Making the Perfect Banana Bread
Use what you have on hand: My recipe for perfect banana bread offers lots of substitution tips. These will enable you to make banana bread with whatever’s in the pantry.
Buy bananas in bulk and freeze them when they’re super ripe: You can’t make banana bread without… bananas! You can’t buy banana bread-ready bananas at the grocery store. Keeping bananas in the freezer means you’ll always be ready to indulge your banana bread cravings.
No buttermilk on hand? You can make just enough for this recipe in a pinch: add 1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and then fill with milk up to the 1/2 cup (125 ml) mark. Stir and then let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Use as indicated in the recipe. You can also substitute any type of milk or plain yogurt. Just make sure to avoid using Greek yogurt, as it would a batter that’s too thick and result in dense banana bread.
Add coffee to the mix: Adding a shot of espresso or 2 tbsp of very strong coffee to the batter deepens the bread’s flavor. This may seem like a strange addition, but coffee and bananas go wonderfully together. I picked up this tip from pastry chef David Lebovitz, who says coffee is a tropical fruit, as are bananas, so the combination makes sense. Don’t worry; the resulting banana bread doesn’t taste like coffee at all. If you want to avoid the caffeine content, you can use decaf coffee instead.
Be creative with flavor additions: You can make plain banana bread, but you can also add delicious mix-ins to improve the flavor and increase the nutritional value of the bread. Chopped walnuts or pecans, sesame, hemp, or sunflower seeds, and chocolate chips are all delicious additions. Pick just one, or combine them to your liking. Just make sure not to add too much so you won’t weigh your bread down. I provide options below but don’t hesitate to create your own combinations.
Keep a close eye on the baking process: It’s easy to undertake banana bread. The bread can look perfectly puffed and golden brown on top, but still be very wet inside. Make sure to properly test for doneness before you take banana bread out of the oven: a long, sharp knife or a bamboo skewer inserted deep in the center of the bread should come out clean. Underbaking means that upon cooling, the banana bread will deflate to a flatter, denser texture–the bottom could even be still wet. If in doubt, you’re best to err on the side of baking banana bread for longer–as long as you cover the top with foil, it won’t burn and you’ll be sure it is cooked properly. Past 60 minutes, check for doneness every 5 minutes. Once you’ve nailed the proper baking time for your oven, take a note of it. You’ll know what to set your timer to next time you bake banana bread.
Don’t burn that baby: Check what the top of the banana bread looks like at the 50-minute mark. If it’s already deep golden brown, loosely cover the top of the banana bread with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning.
1shotabout 3 tbsp/45 ml of strong espresso coffee, cooled, or very strong coffee, or you can mix 1 tbsp (15 ml) instant espresso powder with 3 tbsp (45 ml) hot water
Optional: 1/3 cup80 ml mix-ins (pick one or combine) chopped walnuts or pecans, sesame, hemp, or sunflower seeds, or chocolate chips
Lightly grease a loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice or cinnamon.
In a second mixing bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, and coffee. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a spatula, stir to just combine. Fold in the mix-ins of your choice.
Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan and use a spatula to flatten out the top. Bake the bread for 60 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and a long, sharp knife or a bamboo skewer inserted deep in the center of the bread comes out clean. Check the bread at the 50-minute mark: if it looks deep golden brown, loosely cover the top of the banana bread with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning.
IMPORTANT BAKING NOTE: Banana bread may require a longer baking time depending on your oven, so make sure to test doneness before removing it from the oven. (See testing tip, above.) Underbaking means that upon cooling, the banana bread will deflate to a flatter, denser texture--the bottom could even be still wet. If in doubt, you're best to err on the side of baking banana bread for longer--as long as you cover the top with foil, it won't burn and you'll be sure it is cooked properly. Past 60 minutes, check for doneness every 5 minutes. Once you've nailed the proper baking time for your oven, take a note of it. You'll know what to set your timer to next time you bake banana bread.
STORAGE: Wrap perfect banana bread in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. You can also refrigerate carefully wrapped banana bread for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.
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