Tender Banana Bread with Walnuts or Chocolate Chips
If you’re wondering why the world needs another banana bread recipe, you can bet that I’m asking myself the same thing, too. But it feels right to put a banana bread recipe on this blog, since it’s something I’ve been baking for my family for years and you all feel like part of my family. Plus, if ever there was a time for comfort baking, it’s now. Banana bread is the very epitome of comfort.
This tender banana bread is a hybrid of two different recipes I’ve published in my cookbooks: One super healthy version, another more decadent. I’ve combined what I love about both breads to land on a balanced loaf that my kids are crazy about. I’ve worked whole grain flour into the mix, but not so much that it tastes like health food. I’ve scaled back the sugar relative to typical recipes, but it’s still sweet enough. And the richness comes from heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil rather than butter or vegetable oil.
Use Ripe Bananas
With any banana bread, it’s essential to use ripe bananas. When they’re covered in brown spots, that means they’re sweeter and softer. It makes them easy to mash and translates to a tender, naturally sweet loaf. You can hasten the ripening of bananas by putting them in a brown paper sack for a day or two. Add an apple to the bag and those bananas will ripen even more quickly.
Whole-Wheat Banana Bread
I used whole-wheat flour when I developed this recipe, since that’s the most common whole-grain variety on supermarket shelves. I know flour can be scarce these days, so I wanted to make the recipe as straightforward as possible. That said, white whole-wheat flour will work just as well. Alternatively, if you want to make this an entirely whole-grain loaf, use whole-wheat pastry flour in place of both the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour. It’s a bit lighter than standard whole-wheat flour and makes for delicate baked goods.
Make a Gluten-Free Banana Bread
For those who follow a gluten-free diet, this recipe is deliciously adaptable. Swap 1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour for the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour in the recipe. I’ve had success with both Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour or King Arthur Measure for Measure Flour. The bread won’t rise quite as high as with standard flour and will take a little longer to bake, but results in a tender, flavorful bread.
Walnuts or Chocolate Chips, your Choice
Whether to use walnuts or chocolate chips in banana bread is a topic of fierce debate in my house. The kids are firmly in camp chocolate. My husband could go either way, and I’ll take both. Do banana bread how you like. Other nuts are fair game (pecans, for instance). Shredded coconut can be a tasty addition. And leaving nuts or chocolate out altogether has appeal all it’s own.
How to Store and Freeze Banana Bread
I find banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic or stored in a sealed container on the counter for up to four or five days. It also freezes well. Often, I’ll bake two loaves and freeze one, or even freeze half a loaf for another day. It’s best to let the bread cool completely, wrap in foil or plastic wrap, seal in a freezer bag with the air pressed out, and store in the freezer, where it will keep for several months. To defrost, leave it on the counter to thaw.
For other bread recipes, you might like:
Adventure Bread (gluten-free)
Zucchini Blueberry Bread by Pamela Salzman
Side note: For tips on swapping flours, this guide I wrote for Simply Recipes may help.
Tender Banana Bread with Walnuts or Chocolate Chips
A good banana bread recipe is something you should hang onto for a very long time. This one is wholesome and just-sweet-enough. You can make it with walnuts, or chocolate chips, or keep it pleasingly plain. Whatever you do when you make this bread, be sure to remember two things: 1) use ripe bananas and 2) don’t mix the batter too vigorously. That will make all the difference.
- 4 medium ripe bananas
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whole-wheat flour, spooned into a measuring cup and leveled with a knife
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour, spooned into a measuring cup and leveled with a knife
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a loaf pan that’s roughly 8 ½ x 4 1/2 inches.
Peel the bananas and break them up into a few pieces as you add them to a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat them into a gooey, thick mixture. It’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.
Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, Greek yogurt, and vanilla and beat until blended and smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and beat just until blended with no obvious streaks of flour. Don’t mix it too much or the bread will be tough. Add the walnuts or chocolate chips, if desired, and mix very briefly, just until combined.
Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake until the bread is firm when you touch it lightly and your finger doesn’t leave an indent. You can double check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. It’s done when you don’t see any wet batter sticking to it. This will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Leave the bread to cool on the counter for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the bread on the counter to dislodge it. Set it upright and leave it to cool another 30 minutes before cutting.