Fact: banana bread is the ultimate, go-to baked good. Easy to make and even memorize, difficult to screw up, capable of behaving as a simple breakfast or afternoon snack unto itself, or dressing up as an ostentatious brunch plate or bombastic dessert. It’s portable, giftable, and craveable. The basic ingredients are regularly on hand, and it is the utmost transformative baking experience in that it actually prefers the ugliest, over-ripe fruits for the sweetest, most delicious outcome. What other baked good has the humility, the veracity, the very Fairy Godmother ability to take what’s nearly discarded and make it new again? You think apple pie wants to dance with the bruised fruits? Not a chance.
Banana bread belongs to a category of pastry known as quick breads. More of a cake or muffin than a bread, yeast plays no part in the structure, and the rise comes instead from the simple addition of baking soda and/or baking powder into the batter. Bread without waiting for yeast to do its business, hence, quick bread.
Perhaps you’re already sold on the ease and simplicity of banana bread. Perhaps your banana bread game is strong but in need of some excitement. In any case, I offer one final remark as to the perfection that is banana bread confection: you can also basically put any other thing in it. It will pair with anything. How many of these do you already have lurking in your pantry or fridge?
Nuts and bananas are about as natural a food marriage as they come; just ask Elvis. Walnuts make an especially classic banana bread companion. Pecans bring out a hint of sweetness and southern flair. Almonds achieve that heady, marzipan aroma. Check out this recipe for hazelnut banana bread where the hazelnuts are ground into the flour for a rich, pleasantly bitter note, but try chopping and mixing them in too. Get the recipe.
Banana bread is one of those forgiving recipes where the naturally built-in moisture easily allows for variation in the level of fat content without compromising on the integrity of the texture. Sour cream, or thick Greek yogurt, adds both a desirable tartness to the equation, as well as a decadence that pushes the bread into cake territory. Get our Sour Cream Banana Bread recipe.
Peanut butter, or other nut butters, accomplish both the flavor element of adding nuts to the batter, as well as the additional fat for density and texture. Here, crunchy peanut butter retains the occasional bite of chopped nuts without the labor, and we love the addition of honey as a complementary sweet flavor. Get our Peanut Butter Honey Banana Bread recipe.
No, not potato chips, though I daresay you could make the argument. (Okay, here’s one.) But all manner of sweet baking chips enhance the potential dessert aspect of banana bread, from mainstay chocolate chips, to white chocolate chips, or my personal favorite, butterscotch. Get the recipe.
We all have some half-used package of dried fruit in the nether regions of our cabinets. Fortunately, their very preserved nature allows them to survive the wait. Next time you’re ripe with over-ripe bananas, feel free to toss in raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, figs; whatever you’ve got. This wonderful recipe featuring dates adds even more moisture and natural sweetness. Get the recipe.
Adding maple syrup to the batter is like hinting at the ostentatious brunch potential of banana bread without fully needing to go there. The addition of maple extract is a nice touch to make sure you really get the point across. Get the recipe.
You know the one I’m talking about: the one and only, Nutella. If you’ve ever felt inclined to spread it on a banana, or on a slice of banana bread, then you will understand the apparent appeal of swirling it into the mix from the very start. A pre-roast on ripe bananas adds extra deepness of flavor. Get our Roasted Banana Nutella Quick Bread recipe.
The irony of baking with coffee is that the richest coffee flavor is often best accomplished with instant espresso grounds. So if you’ve ever attempted a mocha-flavored anything, from mousse to cookies, you probably still have some on hand and are definitely not using if for morning joe. Enter banana bread, the ultimate depository for the kitchen island of misfit ingredients. Get the recipe.
Whether you make the caramel yourself or rely on something from a jar, this is another application where banana bread proves its natural dessert ability. Kudos for the design element here as well where sliced bananas are baked into the top—a perfect landing pad for a drizzle of MORE CARAMEL. Get the recipe.
As we move into the abundance of spring and summer produce, berries are making their way back into our lives, and any of them are most welcome to come hang with banana bread. Take this recipe with strawberries and combine it with a recipe featuring yogurt and you’ve basically got a smoothie you can chew. Get the recipe.
While coconut may technically qualify under the dried fruits heading above, it adds such a unique and specific flavor and texture that it deserves its own category. If you want to get really tropical about it, pineapple can also come to play here, but we love this lighter style banana bread with a fresh hint of orange juice and a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut on top. Get the recipe.
In summary, banana bread can accommodate just about everything, and if you want to be really extra about it, everything all at once. Get the recipe.