Do you never have quite the right amount of bananas? In my home, I find that we’re either out by the middle of the week or there’s a pile of extremely ripened bananas on my countertop by Saturday. There is no middle ground.
This is why a good, easy, reliable banana bread recipe is essential. One that is customizable to what you have on hand, but always comes out good. I have been making this recipe, based on Angela Liddon’s “One Bowl Vegan Vegan Banana Bread” for years. It is absolutely my go-to recipe for ripened bananas and I need to share it with you. Read on for the details and some fascinating history of banana bread! And really, don’t skip the history. I too thought it would be boring until I realized it combines several major breakthroughs in global food in the past 150 years into one single dish. Consider the idea of food commodities and growing a single food, like say, the banana, at scale, the invention of refrigeration, the corporate promotion of ingredients, and the introduction of chemical rising agents to household kitchens. Read on!
Banana Bread Origin Story
Banana bread is a type of quick bread, meaning that it can be made without yeast. This baked good is attributed to the United States, originating in the late 1800s, gaining popularity by the 1930s, and still incredible popular today when it’s the most search bread recipe on the internet. People have been cooking with bananas since, well, forever, but this type of quick bread wasn’t always so popular or even available. The first step was the arrival of bananas in the United States. Today, the banana is the most widely consumed fruit in the country, so it’s easy to forget that they aren’t native to North America. In fact, bananas originally come from South and Southeast Asia, and their cultivation spread over time from tropical to Central Asia then to North and West Africa. Their cultivation in Central America and the Caribbean started when the European colonizers brought seeds with them. In the 1800s, banana fruit was still difficult to ship long distances and was therefore considered a delicacy rather than an everyday food item in the United States. But in the late 1800s, the Boston Fruit Company, a predecessor of Chiquita Banana, began to ship bananas from Jamaica to the east coast of the US. As commercial refrigeration became increasingly available and banana growers launched aggressive campaigns to woo American consumers, the yellow fruit became ever more ubiquitous.
Banana bread recipes themselves began to appear in cookbooks in the US in the 1930s. There are two theories about where banana bread came from. The first is that it became popular during the Great Depression as a way to use overripe bananas and avoid food waste. Other accounts believe the recipes were developed in corporate kitchens to promote baking powder, the chemical leavening agent that is common today but really changed baking when it first hit commercial markets. Before the invention of baking powder, all baked goods had to rise using yeast so the process was lengthy and time-consuming (makes you truly grateful for cake doesn’t it?). Baking powder products began circulating in the late 1800s and these businesses also created cookbooks with recipes using the powder, one of which might have been banana bread. Personally, I don’t see these two stories as mutually exclusive – perhaps the popularity of banana bread is due to corporate marketing and it’s usefulness in reducing food waste?
What’s in Banana Bread?
Like many foods, there are many variations of banana bread but there’s a few things that all recipes have in common. Let’s start with the obvious one: banana bread must have bananas. It is typically made with wheat flour (although gluten-free alternatives exist), a sweetener (usually sugar), rising agents (baking powder + baking soda), liquid (milk), and something to bind it all together (eggs). It’s common to add extra fun ingredients for flavor such as nuts, chocolate chips, or raisins.
But what’s in this loaf, and how is it made vegan? For the flour, it uses a mix of whole wheat flour and oats, which make it dense, hearty, and nutty. For sweetener, it uses banana, maple syrup, and sugar. It still uses baking powder and baking soda for the rise, and replaces cow milk with plant-based milk (I like almond or soy for this bread). As a binder, it uses ground flaxseed and coconut oil. And for fun? Chopped walnuts and vegan chocolate chips of course! I love the ones from Enjoy Life (not sponsored, just love). The result is delicious, nutrient-rich, and easy.
There’s an important thing that must be said here. Banana bread should be easy and made with ingredients you have in your kitchen. If you’re running to the store for almost everything on this list, you’re not living the essence of banana bread. Remember the purpose is to use up leftover food! This recipe is easy to customize based on what you have. I must have made this recipe at least 15 times and I’m not sure I’ve ever made it exactly the same way twice. Only have 2 bananas? Totally fine! Have a different type of milk? Try that! Only have all-purpose flour? Go for it! No walnuts? No worries. Many of these ingredients can be substituted. And this is where I’ll tell you the secret that the “whole wheat flour” pictured in my photos is a mixture of whole wheat flour, all-purpose white flour, and teff flour because I had a small amount leftover from making Ethiopian food and didn’t know what to do with it. Tasted the same as all the other versions.
How do you make banana bread?
Baking banana bread is easy! This recipe is one-bowl and no stress. You mash the banana to a puree, mix the wet ingredients in, add the dry ingredients one by one, stir until mixed, and bake in a loaf pan for 45 minutes at 350˚F. You can always use parchment paper to line your loaf pan, but I prefer to use a combination of grease and flour. I always grease the bottom and sides of the pan with vegetable oil, sprinkle in a bit of flour and shake the pan until the bottom is covered in a thin layer of oil + flour. It works every time, the bread falls out perfectly. You can see how I do this in my video.
And that’s it! The best part? You can eat the batter safely because it’s vegan!
Sources: Banana bread, Short History of Banana Bread, History of Banana Bread, The improbable rise of the banana, Banana, The Great Uprising: How a Powder Revolutionized Baking, What is Quick Bread
Easy Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread (Vegan)
55 minutes (10 minutes prep + 45 minutes bake)
- 2-4 very ripe bananas, peeled
- 1/3 cup plant-based milk (almond or soy)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil melted
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- chopped walnuts to taste
- vegan chocolate chips to taste
- small amount vegetable oil + flour
- Large bowl
- Hand mixer (entirely optional, a spoon works fine and is usually what I use)
- 9×5 inch loaf pan (have a different size? run this recipe through the cake pan converter)
- Preheat the oven to 350F˚
- In a large bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. If you’re having trouble, you can use a hand mixer (although I usually bake it with chunky bananas instead because banana bread should be, about all things, lazy)
- Stir the wet ingredients into the banana and then mix until combined, using either a wooden spoon or hand mixer.
- Stir the dry ingredients one at a time, in the order listed. Mix in each one before adding the next.
- Mix in any additional ingredients like walnuts or chocolate chips.
- Grease the pan with a small amount of vegetable oil and sprinkle with flour. Shake the pan until there is a thin layer of flour on the bottom of the pan. Add a bit more flour if there are patches without flour. This prevents your loaf from sticking to the pan.
- Spoon the batter into the loaf pan and shake gently / spread with a spatula so it’s even. You can even taste it guilt-free because it’s vegan!
- Optional – If you want a fun crust (like the walnut topping you see in my photos), press and topics gently into the top of the batter.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle is clean and the top is lightly golden.