Want to make someone’s day? Bake them some banana bread! Just yesterday, I said, “I’m going to bake some banana bread,” and watched a full-grown man’s eyes light up like a kid’s on Christmas morning. Banana bread is one of those classic, all-American comfort food recipes that fills the whole house with warmth and makes everything better. Banana bread is magic.
I’ve been perfecting this banana bread recipe for my cookbook and wanted to share with you right away. This recipe has all the hallmarks of classic banana bread—it’s fluffy, moist, infused with sweet banana flavor, and beloved by toddlers and adults alike.
Unlike traditional banana bread recipes that call for refined flour and lots of processed sugar, this one is made with 100 percent whole wheat flour, so it’ll stick with you. It’s naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup, which offer some trace nutrients that white sugar does not. Lastly, this one calls for a reasonable amount of good-for-you oil rather than whole sticks of butter (choose from coconut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil).
As you can see, my homemade banana bread has plenty of redeeming qualities, chief being that it won’t send your blood sugar levels for a loop. You can keep them all to yourself, though. No one will be able to tell that this is healthy banana bread! Did I mention that you can whip this up with just one bowl, a few measuring cups and some basic ingredients? Yep, really.
If this recipe looks familiar, it’s because it’s is actually an improved version of my old banana bread recipe, which has tons of fans already. I know that a lot of readers swear by that one, so I thought I’d just publish my new go-to version as its own.
When I posted that recipe way back in 2011, I was baffled by the step that called for mixing baking soda into hot water and then stirring it into the batter, but I didn’t have enough confidence in my baking skills to try anything differently. Over the years, I’ve tried this recipe a million different ways (it’s actually the base recipe for my popular pumpkin bread, banana muffins and pumpkin muffins) and can definitively declare that step unnecessary.
I’ve also tweaked the baking time and switched from whole wheat pastry flour to white whole wheat flour, mostly because white whole wheat flour is now available in most well-stocked grocery stores. White whole wheat flour is great because it has all of the fiber and nutrients that regular whole wheat flour contains, without the characteristically nutty flavor of whole wheat. It’s just a more mildly flavored strain of wheat.
Now that I’ve finally perfected this basic banana bread, feel free to change up this recipe and make it your own. If you wouldn’t dream of making a nut-free banana bread, toss some chopped pecans or walnuts into the batter! Same goes for chocolate chips. You could also add raisins, chopped dried fruit or slices of bananas. If you prefer spelt flour, I’ve heard that works well in place of the whole wheat. You can make muffins, too!
This banana bread is also easily adapted for special diets. With a couple of minor tweaks, you can make this bread vegan (so dairy free and egg free, too) or gluten free. Check the recipe notes for details!
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil or high quality vegetable oil*
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2½ medium or 2 large bananas)
- ¼ cup milk of choice or water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more to swirl on top
- 1¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- Totally optional: ½ cup mix-ins like chopped walnuts or pecans, chocolate chips, raisins, chopped dried fruit, fresh banana slices...
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, beat the oil and honey together together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, then whisk in the mashed bananas and milk. (If your coconut oil solidifies on contact with cold ingredients, simply let the bowl rest in a warm place for a few minutes, like on top of your stove, or warm it for about 10 seconds in the microwave.)
- Add the baking soda, vanilla, salt and cinnamon, and whisk to blend. Lastly, switch to a big spoon and stir in the flour, just until combined. Some lumps are ok! If you're adding any additional mix-ins, gently fold them in now.
- Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. If you'd like a pretty swirled effect, run the tip of a knife across the batter in a zig-zag pattern.
- Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (typically, if I haven't added any mix-ins, my bread is done at 55 minutes; if I have added mix-ins, it needs closer to 60 minutes). Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.
Storage suggestions: This bread is moist, so it will keep for just two or three days at room temperature. Store it in the refrigerator for five to seven days, or in the freezer for up to three months or so. I like to slice the bread before freezing and defrost individual slices, either by letting them rest at room temperature or lightly toasting them.
*A note on oils: I love coconut oil here. I used unrefined coconut oil and really can't taste it in the final product. Olive oil will lend an herbal note to the bread, if you're into that. Vegetable oil has a neutral flavor, but the average vegetable/canola oil is highly processed, so I recommend using cold-pressed sunflower oil or grapeseed oil if possible.
Make muffins: Here's my banana muffin recipe! Basically, divide the batter into 11 muffin cups (greased or lined with muffin liners, if necessary) and bake at 325 degrees for 23 minutes or so.
Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey, replace the eggs with flax eggs and choose non-dairy milk (I used almond milk) or water.
Make it dairy free: Choose non-dairy milk (I used almond milk) or water.
Make it egg free: Replace the eggs with flax eggs.
Make it gluten free: I haven't tried myself, but I have heard from a reader that Bob's Red Mill's all-purpose gluten-free mix worked well here.
Make it lower in fat: I would argue that this bread contains a healthy amount of fat, but you can replace the oil with applesauce if you're following a low-fat diet.
If you love this recipe: You will also love my pumpkin bread, banana muffins and pumpkin muffins and banana nut scones!
Recommended equipment: I am totally in love with my Fiesta Loaf Pan in Turquoise (affiliate link).