The perfect banana bread is warm and comforting, with a caramelized exterior, moist crumb and silky-sweet bananas in a vanilla-scented batter. I’ve been making banana bread for 25 years and I’ve dabbled with the recipe countless times. I’ve adjusted the amount of flour and sugar, swapped egg whites and flax eggs for whole eggs, made the bread gluten-free and dairy-free, with applesauce, milk, yogurt, sour cream and butter. I’ve also played around with add-ins like nuts, chocolate and even Nutella. After all this experimenting, I’ve discovered the precise combination of ingredients that works best.
Using my go-to recipe, I know there will be just enough batter to fill the pan without overflowing, the bread will be perfectly (not overly) sweet and it’s completely customizable to suit dietary needs. It’s also mix-in friendly, meaning you can customize your loaf with nuts, chocolate chips and more. Even better? This banana bread is healthier, too, because I use applesauce, which not only slashes half the fat in the recipe, but also adds fiber and keeps the bread moist. And don't worry, you can’t detect any apple flavor.
Trust me, this tried-and-true banana bread recipe is the only one you'll need from this day forward.
How to ripen bananas
For this recipe, you need to use overripe bananas. The darker the banana, the sweeter the flesh and the more pronounced the banana flavor will be.
If you only have yellow bananas and want to make this bread ASAP, speed up the ripening process by putting the bananas in a paper bag with a ripe apple or avocado. The ethylene gas emitted by the apple or avocado will ripen the bananas in 24 to 36 hours.
If you need ripe bananas sooner, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin blackens and the flesh softens.
Dining downtown:A guide to all the restaurants and bars at The Churchill
How to make banana bread
Mash the bananas into a fine puree. Use a fork to make quick work of this process. Make sure to eliminate any large clumps of banana before creating the batter.
Don’t overmix the batter. The more you mix your batter, the more you encourage the gluten proteins in the flour to develop, creating elastic gluten strands. These chewy strands can lead to dense and rubbery banana bread.
Use oil in the batter. Banana bread made with oil (versus butter) is typically moister, and moist is what we’re going for.
Don’t overbake your banana bread. The size and color of the pan you use — 8-inch or 9-inch, and light or dark —will affect cooking time. Darker, bigger pans will cook faster.
Start checking your banana bread after 50 minutes of baking. When finished, a wooden pick inserted near the center of the bread will come out with little moist bits clinging to it.
Let your banana bread rest before slicing. Cool your banana bread in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. This gives the sugars in the bread a chance to solidify, making the bread easier to slice.
Gluten-free banana bread and other variations
Consider add-ins. Add flavor, crunch, and nutrition to your banana bread by folding in ¾ cup of nuts, such as pecans or walnuts, or chocolate chips. I prefer semisweet chocolate chips in my banana bread. If you choose mini chocolate chips, use ½ cup because they spread out more.
Consider substitutions to suit your tastes and dietary needs. This banana bread is completely customizable, and there are many ways to alter the recipe so everyone in your household can enjoy it.
For gluten-free bread, substitute any 1:1 gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour.
For darker-colored bread, use half white sugar and half brown sugar, or use all brown sugar.
To replace the sugar entirely, substitute ½ cup honey or maple syrup for the granulated sugar. Honey and maple syrup will add their own distinct flavors while keeping the bread moist.
If you don’t have applesauce, you can use an equal amount of yogurt, sour cream, milk, cream or half-and-half.
For egg-free bread, replace the egg with 1 “flax egg.” To make one flax egg, combine 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal and 2 ½ tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before using.
If you don’t have vanilla extract, you can use almond extract. The almond flavor will come through and it’s a nice variation.
The only banana bread recipe you need
Banana bread will last up to four days, so wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can also freeze leftover banana bread for up to three months. To prevent freezer burn, wrap leftover bread tightly in plastic wrap, then place the bread in a freezer bag or cover with a layer of aluminum foil. Label and date the bread and enjoy within three months (this is a quality issue, not a safety issue).
Makes: 1 loaf (6-8 slices)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
¼ cup applesauce, preferably unsweetened
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat an 8-inch or 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. If desired, line the pan with parchment paper so you can remove the whole loaf after baking. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix with a fork to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, applesauce, oil, egg and vanilla.
Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula and mix until just blended. Ignore any small lumps. If adding ingredients like nuts or chocolate chips, fold them in now.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any bubbles.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out with little moist bits clinging to it (timing will depend on the size and color of your pan and whether you added any mix-ins).
Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing.
Serve warm with butter, if you like.
You'll never make boxed again:Easy homemade mac and cheese
Questions or comments? Email the culinary team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Banana bread recipe: How to make the perfect loaf with variations