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Banana Bread For The Ages

I promise that this recipe will not make you cry. You will not have to put on your big girl face. You will not need to go to the attic to fetch that nearly useless specialty baking pan you bought ten years ago only to find it filled with mouse droppings. And there will be no trips to the grocery store in the freezing cold tonight. Not for this recipe.

This is a recipe you can make in your pajamas. You can make it in a semi-conscious state as you have your first cup of coffee in the morning. You don't have to sift anything (or pretend to sift anything, which is often what I do just in case the pastry gods are watching). In short, this is a recipe for your very real life.

And you will like it. Your kids will like it. Your husband or wife will like it. The people at the neighborhood potluck will like it. The folks at the bake sale will like it. It may be one of the most likeable foods out there, and it is going to come out of your kitchen.

This recipe will make you forget about the fallen pound cake you made for your mother-in-law. It will bury the recollection of the gingerbread men you burned at the stake of your oven. It might even erase the lingering embarrassment you feel over buying frozen pie crust and passing it off as your own.

Banana bread is not a sexy thing. I have seen people try to make it sexy, and while you can indeed put lipstick on a pig (case in point: Miss Piggy), you're not fooling anyone. Besides, save the shenanigans for Valentine's Day. You'll need all the energy you can muster for that one.

This banana bread has been in the Joy of Cooking since 1946, when people were more reasonable and didn't try to turn everything into something it's not. No recipe mashups. No fusion cuisine. Just really delicious banana bread which you absolutely must spread thickly with salted butter.

So, here's the thing about making banana bread--you need very ripe bananas. Some argue over just how ripe you need them--mottled with brown spots or black and unappetizingly slug-like. But I will free you from the tyranny of banana ripeness once and for all. Buy bananas. Preferably not green, but yellow tinged with a little green is fine. Then roast them in their skins until they turn black.

That's right, you actually don't have to start a fruit fly farm in order to make banana bread.

Of course, if you have very ripe bananas or are able to get them at your grocery store for a reduced price, skip the roasting step. I am merely providing an avenue to banana bread no matter what stage your bananas are at. Consider yourselves liberated.

Even better, roasting intensifies the flavor of the bananas and makes them much easier to mash.

I also include some fancy options for you in this recipe. In JOY, you can add optional nuts and dried apricots. I love the apricots, but I also love candied ginger, so I add some of both. You can add both, either, or none, although I highly recommend at least adding dried apricots. Same goes for the nuts--they're optional, but stirring some toasted walnuts or pecans into the batter isn't going to hurt a thing. 

Other articles you might enjoy: Grain and Gluten Free Granola, Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, Muesli With Raspberry Coulis and Pistachios

Banana Bread Cockaigne
Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf (about 8 servings)

Note: Because the size of bananas differs dramatically, you may have extra banana puree. The solution to this is simple--whether roasted or not, just eat the extra.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan.

If your bananas are not quite ripe or you just want a more intense banana flavor, roast in the skins on a baking sheet until black, 20 to 30 minutes:
            3 bananas

Whisk together:
           1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
            1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
            1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat in a large bowl at medium speed until creamy:
           2/3 cup sugar
            6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened
            Grated zest of one lemon

Beat in:
           1 to 2 large eggs, beaten
            1 to 1 1/4 cups mashed banana (use the bananas you roasted at the beginning of the recipe or mash 2 to 3 ripe bananas)

Add the dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Fold in, if desired:
           (1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts) 
            (1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots and/or candied ginger)

Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake the bread about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then unmold.
Cool completely before slicing.


Jody McFarland's picture

My Results were Awesome! I had to tweak a little as I was using 5"x9" pans, making two loaves and using organic bananas which were a bit smaller. To be on the safe side, I tripled the recipe and figured I would just put the leftover batter in a muffin tin. Turns out I didn't need to and my triple batch made two perfect loaves in my 5x9's. We tend to put bananas in the freezer once they turn brown and splotchy. I took out 7 frozen bananas and put them directly on a cookie sheet and in the oven on 350º while I prepped the rest. They were in there for about 30 mins, as I guess, and my prep only took this long because I toasted hazelnuts (which I burned on one side and cut off before chopping and using) and Brazil nuts. I ended up with about 3/4 - 1 cup of chopped nuts in total (folded in at end as suggested). After bananas were black it yelled approx 3 cups mash. I didn't scrap them out of the peel or anything, just peeled back the skin and let the insides drop into a bowl. They seemed a little watery, but after mashing and stirring the mash, all worked well. I used Brown organic, cage free, hormone free, etc... eggs which were smaller than Large white eggs but still used 6 (remember I tripled recipe). So tripling the sugar would call for 2 full cups of sugar and well, my wife is from Sweden and I lack a major sweet tooth, so I cut the sugar a bit and only used a light 1 1/2 cups maybe a bit less. The zest of 3 Meyer lemons (a bit smaller than the average store bought) and everything else was a direct translation. My wife had a 1/2 slice plain (no butter or anything) and deemed it to possibly being the best Banana Bread she has ever eaten. I sliced it in what turned out to be about 5/8" thick slices and had an even 15 slices from each loaf in case that is useful information. I ate 1 slice plain, 1 slice with whipped cream and another with a scoop of ice cream. That last one did me in but still delicious. It was probably a good thing because I was prepped to have another toasted with peanut butter. That was after dinner last night and I ate a slice while typing this. Anyway, thought I would share, Thank you to the JOY family, now go make you some.
meg's picture

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the recipe! This is definitely our favorite banana bread, and we love the recipe because it's so easy to tweak. I've modified the recipe many times, and the results are always fantastic. So glad you enjoyed it. Good banana bread is a true pleasure.
Holly 's picture

I always use this recipe for my banana bread and it always turns out phenomenal
meg's picture

We love this recipe, Holly. It's a great, classic banana bread recipe.
Krystyn's picture

I have always loved this recipe and I'm so happy to see it online. I recently moved into a new place and couldn't find my Joy of Cooking book. So thanks!
LL's picture

I always make this but use whole wheat flour instead of white, am a bit more generous with the amount of banana puree and add dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips to the mix before baking. If I have fresh from the hive honey on hand, I sub the sugar for a little less than 1/2 cup of honey. Always turns out wonderful!
john's picture

Sounds amazing LL!
Sarah Lynn's picture

I used a whole stick of butter and didn't use the ginger or nuts (I would love to try w ginger sometime!). So amazing! My bananas were pretty ripe so didn't bake them. Would be awesome with a touch more lemon zest, blueberries and a glaze (powdered sugar and milk, make really runny, maybe add some zest to drizzle)
Kimberly Orozco's picture

Of course the recipe in my Joy of Cooking was ripped out or missing. But I do recall whipping cream in the recipe, and it has been my absolute favorite recipe for ages. Just wondering if that was something you just omitted? Thanks in advance!
john's picture

No Kimberly, the recipe has been in Joy since the 1940's and, aside from vacillating on whether to use butter or shortening, has remained pretty much the same as the one we posted... but whipping cream sounds like a nice thing to work in to the recipe!
Chef Erik's picture

A little cinnamon in the dry ingredients, and a little vanilla extract in the wet ingredients bring ripe bananas to life. No nutmeg or ginger or lemon zest for the true experience, just a nice stick of soft butter is all you need. As for the roasting bananas trick? I'll leave that one alone. Brown spots on the skin let me know it's time. Can't rush perfection.
meg's picture

The roasting trick is useful for those of us who tend to eat our bananas before they get too ripe...or who need to make banana bread and don't have time to ripen the bananas. But of course you should make banana bread the way you like it.
Chef Erik's picture

I keep extra bananas peeled in freezer bags for smoothies and banana bread instead of throwing them out.
Chef Erik's picture

Oh I forgot to add, I use golden brown sugar. The ingredients dance together.
samkasten's picture

I have been using 1/2 rice and 1/2 chestnut flower which is abundant here in France. And, no, absolutely do not wait until cool. This stuff is heaven, fairly hot out of the oven slathered ( I know, there is a heck of a lot of butter already in the recipe) with butter. YUMMY!!!
john's picture

Yum! We need to get better acquainted with chestnut flour. We recently learned that Italians used chestnut meal to make polenta before corn was transported from the Americas and cultivated in Europe. We'll have to try this soon!
Cindy Alam's picture

If I have crisco shortening on hand, how much would I use in place of the butter?
john's picture

The same amount should be fine Cindy. Butter has a bit of water in it, but this bread is so forgiving... the shortening should make for a super-moist bread.
jay laughlin's picture

Just use three tablespoons of canola oil. Healthier.also use half cup honey fpr moister bread.
annabelle kibbee's picture

I've just made this (double recipe) & I folded in a cup of toasted chopped walnuts and a 300g bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in to the batter. I'm excited to see how the two loaves turn out! Can the banana bread be frozen, and if so for how long before it goes stale?
john's picture

If you put it in a freezer bag and get all of the air out, I would say it will be tasty for at least a month, perhaps two.
Ellen O’Reilly's picture

This has been “my” banana bread recipe since I got my first Joy of Cooking in 1971! I’m always asked for the recipe because everyone says I make the best banana bread. My swap is to omit the lemon zest and add 2 T milk. Since I have family members with nut allergies, I bake the bread in mini loaf pans so I can bake some plain and some with walnuts. Delicious recipe!
john's picture

We're happy you've made this bread "yours"! We're suckers for adding the chopped, dried apricots... I suppose that's "my" banana bread.
Wendy's picture

High altitude adjustments? I live at 7,000 ft and while I have been a great cook at lower elevations, my quick breads and cakes really struggle here. Any suggestions for adjusting this recipe for higher altitude?
meg's picture

Try reducing the baking powder to 1 teaspoon and increasing the oven temp by 25 degrees (keep an eye on the bread, as the baking time will likely be different than stated in the recipe). Otherwise, it should work well.

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