Can I let you in on a secret? It’s a little something I’ve realized as I’ve bookmarked and dog-eared a zillion different recipes for baked goods. Here it is: you don’t really need a ton of different recipes to be a great baker.
Us food bloggers and recipe developers churn out separate recipes for every tasty variation, but the truth is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time. If you focus on finding the best base recipe, you’ll inevitably learn a lot about how ingredients and substitutions work together in the process. Once you’ve found that stellar base recipe, you can change it up to suit your whims thereafter. All of those other recipes floating around can inspire your next variation on your base recipe.
Take this banana “trail mix” bread, for instance. The base recipe originated from one of my favorite, most reliable recipe sources, Deb of Smitten Kitchen. (Always start with recipes from trustworthy sources.) She posted her double coconut muffins and mentioned that we could substitute mashed bananas for the yogurt in her recipe. Eureka!
That little nugget of substitution wisdom led to my whole wheat, honey-sweetened banana coconut muffins, a variation on her original that I really love. Then those muffins turned into the base for this loaf of bread, to which I added chopped, dried fruit and nuts, and substituted oats for some of the flour.
Want more examples? These banana oat pancakes turned into blueberry lemon yogurt pancakes when I substituted yogurt for banana. My all-time favorite basic banana bread recipe turned into pumpkin bread when I substituted pumpkin purée for the mashed banana and added extra warming spices. This maple-sweetened cranberry cornbread could turn into cheesy honey-jalapeño cornbread (sub honey for the maple syrup and mix in finely chopped jalapeño and cheese). My blueberry muffins could easily be cranberry-orange muffins or blackberry-thyme muffins. The same goes for these yogurt scones and this maple tea cake. If you love the base and the add-ins, you’ll more than likely love the result.
For even more variation inspiration, please check out my notes on natural sweetener substitutions in this quick molasses bread post, and all the marvelous suggestions in the comments on my banana bread and pumpkin bread posts. I get so giddy when you all try out my recipes and report back with your substitution notes and results. Thank you, sweet commenters, for sharing inspiration and suggestions with the rest of us.
I’m eager to hear how you change up this recipe to suit your taste and nutrition preferences. I’ll share what I think might work well in case it sparks an idea for you. Feel free to leave out any of the add-ins, but do include the coconut flakes as I believe them to be integral to the batter. Substitute any other kind of nuts for the pecans, any other dried fruits for the cherries and candied ginger, and any kind of chocolate or chocolate chips for the chopped dark chocolate. You could leave out the cinnamon and add lemon zest a brighter flavor, or substitute another natural sweetener for the honey.
I bet you could use melted butter instead of coconut oil (that swap generally works great), yogurt instead of banana (keep in mind that the resulting bread will be less sweet) or gluten-free flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour (I would guess gluten-free flour would work well because there isn’t a ton of flour to begin with). If you make any of these substitutions, please report back and let us know how it turns out!
Banana Trail Mix Bread
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 50 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 10 slices, 1 loaf 1x
- Category: Quick Bread
Hearty banana bread made with coconut, oats and whole wheat flour and naturally sweetened with honey. Mix in your choice of chopped nuts and dried fruit for extra sweetness and a bit of crunch. Serve with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey for a substantial breakfast or snack. This bread can be difficult to slice; see notes below for how to make muffins instead.
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- ½ cup oats
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
- ⅓ cup chopped candied ginger
- ⅓ cup chopped dried cherries or cranberries
- ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (about 1 ½ ounces, you may sub chocolate chips)
- ½ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 large egg, preferably at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon turbinado (raw) sugar
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan (see note below on how to make muffins).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in ½ cup shredded coconut, then mix in the chopped ginger, dried fruit, pecans and dark chocolate.
- In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, mashed banana, honey, egg and vanilla.*
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup coconut. Top with a light sprinkle of turbinado (raw) sugar.
- Bake for until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes or longer. Let the bread cool in the pan before slicing. This bread is dense and not very easy to slice; I found that my sharp paring knife worked better than a serrated bread knife.
Recipe adapted from my banana coconut muffins, where were originally adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Double Coconut Muffins.
How to make muffins: If you want to make muffins, grease your muffin tin or line with muffin liners. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or longer, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Yields about 12 muffins.
*Preparation tips: If your coconut oil goes back to its solid state when you’re stirring the batter, just warm the mixture for short 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring between each, just until it is melted again.
Recommended equipment: If you’re in the market for a quality, non-toxic loaf pan, I love my Le Creuset stoneware loaf pan (shown above). It heats evenly and cleans easily. Highly recommended!
Make it vegan: Use either agave nectar or maple syrup instead of the honey. Also, substitute your favorite dairy free chocolate chips for the dark chocolate.
ashley - baker by na
I might need to make this today. God you’re good at making me hungry, girl!
Looks so tasty, I am so hungry right now and this isnt helping! xx
I am not even kidding you when I say I was just thinking I wish somebody would post a new banana recipe because I have four bananas in my freezer just waiting to be used! Pinned! Making this tomorrow!
Perfect! Hope you love this bread, please do let me know how it turns out.
Laura (Tutti Dolci)
Pretty bread, I’m loving that coconut sprinkle!
I imagine this is how most bakers do it…just have a few solid bases that they then use to mix and match flavors. It’s all the experimenting to get to the solid base that’s the hard part! Or we can just let Deb do it for us :P This trail mix bread sounds delicious. I love all those mix-ins!
claire @ the realist
This looks UNREAL Kate!
The Sketched Chef
It looks really great and tasteful !
Love this! And it’s so true – a great base can lead to millions of variations. This certainly seems like a great base to play around with. I’m always looking for riffs on banana bread!
Katrina @ Warm Vanil
Oh my! This is exactly what I need. Yum!
The Newlywed Chefs
Yum!! Trail mix bread? Sign me up!
Can I substitute with coconut flour?
Is there something I can sub for the egg to make this vegan? Looks delicious!
I used a flax egg (1T ground flax, 3T water) and it worked wonderfully. I also subbed molasses for the honey as it is surprisingly a great vegan substitute for other sweeteners. Yum!
I can’t wait to make this!,, I love healthy-good for you- foods!
jamie @ GB&G
Great array of add-ins…really kicks banana bread up a notch! I’m definitely making this soon. Thanks Kate :)
You had me at the coconut on top, but the rest has my mouth watering relentlessly! I’ve got some ripe bananas that I need to use, so I will be making a version of this most likely today. Thanks for the inspiration!
mmmmm! This looks stellar. I will definitely need to try this using a mix of almond flour and coconut flour. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I think this bread looks and sounds divine! I am looking forward to making it!
I think some of my most favorite baked good options I’m currently circulating through have come from your site. I love that they give some amazing flavors without tons of sugar, or even flour. And with them easily being successful for everyone, I know they’re trustworthy. There is nothing worse than preparing a much anticipated recipe only to take one bite and throw the entire thing in the trash. A recent batch of muffins ended up that way; inedible. This bread, even in it’s current state without one substitution, would be devoured in our house. And I can’t wait to make it and have that happen. Thanks so much for what you do, your encouragement and beautiful, tasty recipes.
I have to admit that Deb from Smitten Kitchen always has GREAT recipes. Her site is so reliable. Knowing all that… this has to be great. Better than great. :-) Pinning!!
Amazing recipe! Banana bread with a twist, I love it ;) I’ll give it a go and if I come up with any delicious additions or substitutions for the recipe I’ll let you know!
Love this post! And I hope I make this loaf for breakfast soon!!
Followed the recipe without the ginger because we didn’t have any, They came out perfect and highly recommend people making them instead if just pinning stuff…this is a must make!
Thank you, Tami! It’s so nice to hear from people who have made my recipes. You might also like my banana oat pancakes.
Baked this last night. Delicious! What a great banana bread variation. I loved it, especially with the toasted coconut on top. I think if I leave out the ginger next time, it might have a more universal appeal.
Thanks, Azure! My friend said the topping is like coconut crème bruelée, I think she’s right! Good point on the ginger. I just can’t get enough of the stuff.
I made the muffins with a few (quite a lot) of substituions! Not for any dietary reasons, just because of what I had in the house. I swapped the ginger for dates, raisins for cranberries, nuts for mixed seeds and a couple of flaked almonds, and no chocolate. I only put in half the amount of honey too – and no sugar. They turned out amazing! Perfect sweetness, and nice and filling too! I’ll definitely be making these agin with whatever else I have in the house.
Your bread sounds great, Anna! Thanks for sharing your substitutions, they really go along with the “trail mix” theme!
I made these as muffins and the combination of flavors is AMAZING! I have been wanting to make these for a few weeks now but was out of candied ginger. In the meantime, I made your whole wheat pumpkin-honey loaf and that was a big hit with my children – my second loaf is baking now as they have asked me to make it again. Thanks for the great recipes, looking forward to trying more.
Thanks, Terri! I’m so glad you enjoyed the combination of flavors. I’m a big fan! I’m happy to hear that you and your family are enjoying my recipes.
Just put a loaf of this in the oven- added a quarter teaspoon of cloves and mixed in pecans, dried pears, dried figs and candied ginger, and replaced a quarter cup of the oats with quinoa flakes. I also used spelt flour. So excited- it’s my one-exam-to-go treat!
Thank you for commenting, Kathleen! I hope this bread was just what you needed to get through your last exam. Your substitutions sound great (I can’t find dried pears around here, they’re sooo good).
I just made this in muffin form for my boyfriend to take to his potluck Saturday at a 50k he is running. Thought the folks there could use these muffins to refuel! I am cooling them now, it’s Tuesday. If I cool them completely and put them in the freezer in plastic storage bags, should he pull them out still frozen Saturday morning to take? The potluck is after the run. Do you think they are just as good after freezing? I’m a baking newbie. Thanks!!!
Hey Amy, that’s a really good question. I think that I would just let the muffins cool, then store the muffins in a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator. That way they won’t go through such a harsh temperature change. I think they will last just fine that way until Saturday.
Hi Kate, these muffins were an enormous hit at his potluck! I made 2 dozen and took them to him on Tuesday. By Saturday morning he only had a dozen left to take! :) I guess he had no guilt since he was running 31 miles that day! Thanks! I am making the banana coconut muffins tonight!
This looks amazing! If I want to omit the nuts and ginger, what can I use as a substitute or increase to balance the recipe out? Thanks!
Hi Kara, you could just omit the nuts and ginger and bake it that way. I know the bread will turn out well without them. You could add more dried fruit, I suppose.
I absolutely love this bread! I made it with dried black mission figs and walnuts. I also made it gluten free with brown rice flour.
My husband and I are fasting for Ramadan and this is the perfect sweet addition to our evening meal – wonderful flavor and with lots of relatively healthy calories to get us through the next day of fasting. Thanks for this one!!!!!!
Thanks, Erin! Really glad to hear that you’re enjoying this bread so much. Your substitutions sound great, thank you for sharing!
michael s. thompson
Just tried Banana Trail Mix Bread with great result. (Baked in Ramekin)
Substituted Candied Ginger with Pickled Ginger (small amount) and some fresh, peeled chopped Asian Pears.
Had a little batter left over so tried it as cookies, 25min. at 350F on parchment paper.
Thanks, Michael! I’m glad you enjoyed the bread. Thanks for sharing your substitutions/additions with us.
I’ve drooled over this for a while now- finally found time to make it! I did cranberries and prunes for the dried fruit and used a variey of nuts. Almond meal is a great flour sub! The family loved it
gorgeous recipe, thanks so much! I made it with sunflower oil as I had no coconut oil, and agave nectar instead of honey – I didn’t have any dark chocolate either but used sultanas instead and it turned out beautifully! I’m glad I’m not the only Kate who believes you can eat nice things without needing bad ingredients :)
Thank you, Kate! Glad you enjoyed the recipe. Your version sounds terrific.
Love Love this bread. everybody love it. I made mini-loaf of this recipe for Christmas give. My friends were very very thankful. Since I started baking this bread, I don’t stop making it every other week.
Thanks, Alexandra! So glad you enjoy the bread. It’s about time I made another loaf.
I made a batch this weekend and it was AMAZING. Definitely the best bread I’ve ever made. Thanks for another great recipe!
Hooray! Thank you, Brynn!
Oh. My. Goodness.
My new favorite (muffin, I need portion control)! I rarely comment on blogs and here I am for the second time this week. SO glad I discovered you (through Pinch of Yum, btw). My bananas were very ripe and my shredded coconut was presweetened, so I left out all additional sweeteners. I wanted the coconut to shine, and I can’t live without chocolate so I made mine with just chocolate, coconut and chopped raw almonds. ohmygoodness! So glad you encouraged us to make this our own, because this is now my go-to muffin recipe. Very moist, very delicious. Thanks again!
Leah, I’m just delighted that you love the bread (muffins) so much. It’s a really fun recipe to tinker with! Lindsay was sweet to mention me on her blog.
Hi there. Can I omit the coconut? My husband doesn’t like it.
Hi Poli, I’m afraid the coconut flakes add some necessary bulk to this bread. You could use my banana bread recipe and add the other mix-ins to that! It just might need a little more time in the oven.
Thanks Kate. I will do that.
What about substituting the coconut with something else? What would you suggest so i could still use this recipe?
This was a great recipe! I used all applesauce in place of the coconut oil/butter, and the muffins turned out perfect.
Yay, thanks Sadye!
Hi! I made these today after a lot of anticipation. I opted for muffins, and I would just like to comment that 50 minutes in the oven was far too long. They are a little over-done. I do live at high altitude and made all the necessary adjustments, and usually baked goods require extra time up here; definitely not the case today. My coconut flakes on top burned pretty badly, too. Just a heads up!
Hi Claire, so sorry your muffins didn’t turn out well! Did you see my note on how to make muffins? They should only need about 20 minutes of baking. :(
I made a double batch of this loaf (cranberries, slivered almonds, raisins) for a midnight breast-feeding snack. I hate to admit, I’ve eaten nearly both loaves by myself in under 1.5 days–it’s just that yummy!
I made this bread with oat flour instead of wheat flour and dried apricots instead of candied ginger. It was awesome!
Hi Kate, is there a way to make this gluten free?
I made this recipe as muffins – love them! Thank you for sharing!
You’re welcome, Cathy!
I just made this. I left out the chocolate chips to reduce sugar/calories and I used maple syrup. It’s delicious and it made my house smell amazing!! Thank you for sharing.
I love when baking and the house smells so good! Thank you, Karen for sharing. I really appreciate the review.
This looks yummy! Can’t wait to try this.
Thanks for sharing your awesome ideas.
You’re welcome, Irma!
I used your banana trail mix recipe. I tasted it and know it will be a big hit with my family. My daughter typically does not like banana bread, but I’m sure she will like this one.
I hope she does! Let me know, Mary. Thanks for your review.
One of your very best recipes! I have made this a number of times. Just finished mixing together for our Christmas Eve. We top the bread with honey or coconut whipped cream. Excellent recipe!!
Thanks, Kathy! I appreciate the review.
Wow so yummy! We made the muffins this morning and amazing! My daughter stalked the oven, they smelled so good and she ate 2. I added flax seed and omitted the ginger, but great recipe! We will make this again.
Great to hear, Diane! Thanks for your review.
I’ve made this bread 3 times this summer. It’s a great recipe to use everything in your pantry, and it’s hard to mess up. I love the substitutions you can make. I’ve used maple syrup instead of honey and butter instead of coconut oil. Delicious for breakfasts for the week. I’m sure I’ll continue to return to this recipe.
OMG, this is a beautiful recipe!! I put in dates, cranberries, toasted pecans and of course the dark choc chips! Then while it was still warm I sliced of my first piece (too excited to wait for it to cool!) and smothered it in my homemade coconut and cashew spread! I’m in food heaven!!! I seriously never doubt your recipes, thank you! (and I know my fiance is grateful too! :)
I’m glad you were able to make it and love it, Leeona! I appreciate your comment and review.
This recipe is delicious! I made a few changes: apricots and cranberries for dried fruit, raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips, 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas instead of 1 cup and maple syrup instead of honey.. I omitted the topping at the end, but the muffins were wonderful, just perfect! thank you!
You’re welcome, Angela! Thank you for taking time to review.
I have some zucchini that I would like to use when I make this recipe. Would that work? What else would I have to change to balance it out?
I recommend this recipe as written. Changing an ingredient in baking will impact your results.
Made this today and it is SO good! Fun mix up from regular banana bread.
You should feature it!