Of all the banana bread recipes I've tested, tried, tweaked, tried again, and finally posted, THIS banana bread recipe is the best of the best because it's the simplest.
Sure, there are recipes that turn out a banana bread that's as rich and tender as cake. Of course there are recipes for banana bread that are filled with chocolate chunks or other fruit or, god forbid, nuts. And obviously, there are very specific banana bread recipes for whatever diet lifestyle you're on, whether that's keto, paleo, vegan.
But those luxuries are not really what we need right now.
What we need whilst in quarantine during a global pandemic, is a banana bread that we can throw together in a bowl when we have neither the mental energy to follow overly specific measurements like "1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons flour" (seriously?), nor special, non-pantry-staple ingredients like sour cream, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, not even regular old milk because what single, childless woman keeps fresh milk in the fridge?
This is THE banana bread recipe for the times, with suggestions for ingredient substitutions and additions.
BEST of the BEST BANANA BREAD
makes 1 loaf, which serves 1 to 10, depending on how you're quaratined
5 very ripe bananas + (optional) 1 ripe banana for topping
½ cup neutral oil (or melted butter)
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
2 tablespoons coarse raw sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the baked loaf from the pan for cooling.
In a medium-sized bowl, mash bananas with a fork until smooth. Whisk in oil, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk all-purpose flour, baking soda, Kosher salt, and cinnamon together.
Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. If you're adding chocolate chips or chunks, fold them into the batter.
Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice optional 6th banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange banana slices on top on either side of loaf. If you're using the sugar topping, sprinkle over top of loaf and sliced bananas.
Bake banana bread until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Baking time can vary anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes depending on your oven; mine took 65 minutes.
Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.
Bread, tightly wrapped in plastic will keep for a few days. You can also slice the loaf and freeze.
INGREDIENT RESOURCES and SUBSTITUTIONS
- Bananas. Use bananas that are so ripe, they are teetering on the edge of fermenting in their blackened peels into wine. This recipe calls for five bananas, most recipes call for three. If you only have three, make the banana bread anyway, just up the sugar by a ¼ cup to make up for the sweetness of the bananas.
- Oil. I use olive oil, which has a distinctive scent, so use olive oil if you like that. This is the every day olive oil brand I use. You can literally use ANY oil for this bread, with the understanding that the bread will smell and taste like that oil. Neutral oils like canola and grapeseed oils are standard. You can use avocado oil, which is more neutral than some other oils, but also pretty expensive, and melted coconut oil. Softened/melted butter is a fantastic choice if you have it, but in my kitchen, butter is limited and I prefer to save it for recipes that require the very specific properties of butter, e.g. chocolate chip cookies.
- Brown Sugar. If you don't have brown sugar, use white granulated sugar. You can also use honey or maple syrup. Honey is sweeter than regular sugar, so decrease the amount by about ¼ cup (4 tablespoons), and you might want to increase the amount of flour by the same amount to account for the liquid. Maple syrup is about as sweet as sugar, so substitute one-for-one with sugar here. Because it is also a liquid, just add about 2 tablespoons of extra flour to balance the added liquid. The texture of the banana bread will be slightly different with either of these substitutions and of course, will have a fragrance of either honey or maple syrup, which is definitely a very good thing.
- Vanilla Extract. You can't really substitute the flavor of vanilla, but you can substitute the vibe with rum or brandy, or even maple syrup. You can also sub in or even add up to a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. You didn't know vanilla is a vibe? Now you do.
- Flour. Banana bread recipes are generally pretty forgiving so you can use any flour you have, including gluten-free flour mixes, other grain flours like oat flour, bean and nut flours, with the understanding that the texture of the bread can (and will) be very different. If you have some regular wheat flour and are just trying to conserve it, use some of it with the alternative flours to "help" them. The only thing I'd stay away from is any kind of pre-made mix like pancake mix, which has other ingredients like sugar, leavers, and oils, which will be hard to account for in the rest of the Banana Bread recipe.
- Baking Powder/Baking Soda. This is a substitution that you have to think about because the two ingredients are not completely interchangeable without changes to other ingredients in the Banana Bread recipe. If you have baking soda, proceed as directed. If you only have baking powder, use 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
ADDITIONAL NOTES and RESOURCES
- Other Spices. If you like the flavor of ginger and/or nutmeg and already have them, add up to 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and/or ⅛ teaspoon of ground nutmeg with the dry (flour) ingredients. Just know that adding ginger and nutmeg start to take the banana bread toward holiday pumpkin spice bread territory.
- Loaf Pan. I use an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan, which is just ever so slightly smaller than the oft-called-for 9x5-inch loaf pan. I like the smaller size because the banana bread baked up taller. If you use a larger loaf pan, your banana bread will just be a little shorter, and will probably require less baking time, so start checking on the bread for done-ness on the earlier side, 50 minutes. If you don't have a loaf pan, you can bake this in muffin cups. You will have more batter than a 12-cup muffin pan, so just bake it twice, and make sure to check for done-ness at 25 minutes!