I have an unusual confession to make. I’m about to get real honest with you in a way that is probably going to – no, it’s definitely going to make you wonder why I’m even sharing a banana bread recipe in the first darn place.
But first, a little context for why my confession is bound to be a head-tilter …
homemade banana bread is popular!
Did you know that home bakers search ‘banana bread recipe’ online more than any other type of bread?
It’s so beloved, February 23rd has been crowned National Banana Bread Day.
The nation – the world? – became obsessed with It during the pandemic, rocketing the sweet quick bread to social media stardom with 1.9 MILLION posts under #bananabread and an additional 44,600 posts fighting for attention under #bananabreadrecipe.
People LOVE banana bread!
Everyone, that is, except for this person at Delish who believes our current banana bread obsession is just sad and boring people doing sad and boring things (we’re not and it isn’t, Miss Tess Koman. Hmph!)
… and me.
I do not like banana bread.
My preferences lie in the pillowy softness of a brioche, the chewy tanginess of sour dough, the rich buttery flavor of a croissant, the crispness of a baguette. Challah, ciabata, focaccia, pita, even cornbread … I love just about any kind of bread.
Traditional banana bread is SO mushy! I need a huge mug of coffee and a lot of butter to get it down. It barely even tastes like banana and the bottom always has this weird spongey consistency with less flavor than said sponge.
It doesn’t matter where I’ve tried banana bread, from high end bakeries in Hawaii to small breakfast joints in rural New York or even baking it at home. It was always the same problem. Flavorless mush.
homemade banana bread is both art and science
We had a big bunch of bananas that were sitting on the counter getting very, very brown. So, in spite of my dislike for banana bread, I do enjoy baking, and my husband enjoys banana bread, so I decided our plethora of browning bananas would be the perfect opportunity to do some experimenting and see if I could create a loaf that I DID like.
I went through a few loaves with varying levels of failure, from epic to won’t-win-a-beauty-pageant-but-tastes-amazing.
This ugly little loaf was the one that told me I was onto something.
The sunflower pips burned, the almond flour refused to rise, and it wouldn’t come out of the pan.
But. It. Was. Delicious!
So I made another loaf, with a few changes like using all-purpose flour (almond flour was a bit ambitious for me) and ditching the sunflower pips.
It was perfect.
Still, I was a bit reluctant to share the recipe because I honestly didn’t know if anyone else would like it. I know I like stronger flavors and more texture and figured that while I loved the bread, it may not suit most people’s preferences.
I figured wrong.
I baked up a loaf for visiting family who each have very different taste preferences.
The first loaf barely had time to cool before there was a line of people with a plate in hand. Some took half a slice, some took a full slice, and all went to sit downstairs to eat and watch a movie … and each one quickly returned to claim a second slice before they were done with the first!
The first one back for seconds has a gluten sensitivity. His opinion? “Worth it.”
The secret to the best homemade banana bread is …
Freeze and thaw your bananas first!
This breaks down the cellular structure, releasing a ridiculous amount of syrupy sweet juiciness that makes the bread explode with banana flavor!
Bananas can be frozen for up to 6 months so you can always have a few in reserves, but use them quickly once they have been thawed.
Use dark brown sugar instead of white!
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses, which makes it a sweet yet savory swap for elevated banana bread.
It adds depth and sophistication to the flavor that white sugar just can’t match and compliments the warm spices used in this recipe beautifully.
Note: I messed up and photographed 1/2 cup, but use 1 cup for this recipe!
Use a Butter With High Butter Fat %!
I decided to try a sea salted butter with high butter fat content over unsalted table butter, and wow! It imparted a noticeable butteriness, a silkiness, and a robustness that transformed it to a luxury experience.
Vital Farms butter is a gorgeous deep yellow and stays firm at room temperature, which is great for creaming and the adorable packaging makes the experience even more enjoyable. 🙂
Use Full-Fat Sour Cream!
I accidentally used 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup in one bake and my husband said he liked it even more! The extra .5 cup made it take longer to bake and it wouldn’t stay together, but I agreed that the added tanginess and moisture was really delish!
It’s totally worth it to use more than a 1/2 cup if you don’t mind using a fork to eat the bread!
Use High Quality Dark Chocolate!
I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips. They are huge and bake in phenomenally well. They stay firm but not too firm, adding a delectable texture and not-too-sweet chocolate flavor.
An earlier experiment used Toll House because that’s what we had on hand. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious, but Ghiradelli took it to another level!
Splurging on the good chocolate makes a noticeable difference.
Use Warm Spices and Use Them Generously!
I use vanilla extract, Saigon Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in this recipe, but experiment with any combination of warm spices like ginger, coriander, cumin, star anise, and cloves.
Use a Porcelain Ceramic Loaf Pan!
When I swapped out a steel or glass loaf pan for this ceramic pan, it baked up so evenly and gorgeously and was full of flavor all the way through.
That weird tasteless sponginess on the bottom that I despise was completely gone.
This photo was completely accidental! I was taking photos of the loaf and my husband was so anxious to dig in, that he reached over to steal a chunk off the top 😀
Seriously the Best Banana Bread Recipe Ever
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Medium Mixing Bowl
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Mixing Spoon or Fork
- Ceramic or Porcelain Bread Pan
- 2 Overripe Bananas – Frozen and Thawed
- .5 Cup Sour Cream
- 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 Stick High Quality Butter I use sea salted butter with a high butter fat content to get a rich buttery flavor, but you may prefer unsalted butter with a lower fat content.
- 2 Large Eggs At room temperature
- .5 Cup Coursely Chopped Walnuts or to taste
- .5 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips or to taste
- 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 TSP Baking Soda
- 2 TSP Pure Vanilla Extract Yep, 2 tsps! You may reduce it to 1 tsp if you prefer
- 2 TSP Ground Cinnamon Most recipes will call for 1 tsp. I double it!
- 1 TSP Ground Nutmeg
- 1 TSP Ground Allspice
- 1 TSP Sea Salt This is *in addition* to the sea salted butter since sea salt has a subtle flavor compared to table salt, but you may salt to taste
Cream the Butter and Sugar
- TIP: If your brown sugar has hardened into a solid mass, place a wet paper towel over the top of a microwave-safe container and microwave the sugar in 15-30 second intervals until is soft.
- Tip: You may also put your butter in the microwave for 2-5 seconds to soften it, but don't let it melt! You want the butter to be firm. The goal is to make it just soft enough so you can work with it.
- Using a fork or a masher, mix the butter and the sugar together until even. Using a small bowl makes this task easier.
Mix the Wet Ingredients
- Peel the bananas into a large mixing bowl, gently squeezing the banana skin to release extra juices.
- Using a fork, mash the bananas.
- Using a fork, mix the wet ingredients in with the mashed bananas.
- Using a fork, mix the butter and sugar in with the wet ingredients and the mashed bananas. Mix everything together until it is uniform.
Mix the Dry Ingredients
- Using a fork, mix all of your dry ingredients in the medium mixing bowl.
Mix the Wet and Dry Ingredients Together
- Slowly mix about ⅕ of the dry ingredients at a time into the wet ingredients until all of the dry ingredients have been mixed in. Mixing it a little at a time makes it much easier to distribute evenly and ensures you don't overmix, which can lead to a denser bread.
Pour into the Ceramic Pan
- Lightly smear the bottom and sides of the ceramic pan with butter
- Pour the mixture evenly into the pan and give it a little wobble to help it settle in
Put in the Oven
- Bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Some ovens may cook faster, some may cook slower. Stick a knife in the middle to test for doneness. If it comes out clean or just smeared with chocolate (yum), it's done!
- Let it rest for a moment and gently tip the pan over to get it to fall out. Letting it cool a bit makes it much easier to slice!