14 Unexpected Ways To Cook With Bananas

It's not just Curious George that can't stop craving bananas. In fact, it's the most popular fruit in the United States, according to the International Fresh Produce Association. Perhaps it's because of its sweet flavor, easy accessibility, and inexpensive pricing. Bananas are just about the easiest on-the-go snack there is because they're encased in their own natural casing, and it just happens to be portioned out just right — no mess or fuss. While the simple banana may seem like a straightforward breakfast food, there is actually much more to the fruit than meets the eye. Firstly, there are over 1,000 varieties, varying in color, size, and flavor. Have you ever heard of a blue banana that tastes like ice cream? Well, it exists! Cultures from around the world use different varieties of bananas at different stages of ripeness in countless ways to create both sweet and savory dishes. It's time to broaden your banana horizons and dabble in some unexpected ways to cook with bananas beyond banana bread.

Now, don't get us wrong. Banana bread not only got us through the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic but is a universally loved breakfast, dessert, and snack. But the banana has so much potential that has gone untouched, and it's time we showcase it in all its glory. Step outside of the box and let your culinary creativity tingle. The banana just got a heck of a lot more interesting.

Banana peel pulled pork

Perhaps the part of the banana that goes the most overlooked is the peel. Not only is it a gift to the culinary world, but it is a prebiotic and can aid in daily life. In fact, banana peels can create incredible fertilizer for your house plants, fix a skipping CD, help to heal wounds, and soothe insect bites. So the next time you go to throw that stringy banana peel into the compost or the trash can, stop yourself and consider how you can use this precious resource. Perhaps the best way to use up old banana peels is to make vegan pulled pork.

While that may seem like a bizarre concept, vegans have been using jackfruit, king oyster mushrooms, and soy to make imitation pulled pork, and, if we're being honest, they've all been a huge success. Simply cut off the base and stems of a ripe peel, use a spoon to scrape out the soft interior of the skin, and then use a fork to shred it. A brown spotted peel will have a more banana-like flavor, so try to use a yellow peel. Sauté in hot oil with paprika, tamari, maple syrup, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground pepper. Keep it moving in the pan until it's nice and crispy, and serve in a grain bowl, or on a bun with coleslaw. In fact, Brazilians have been making incredible carne louca de banana using a similar method with great success.

Nice cream shakes

Ice cream is one of our favorite comfort foods. Getting over a breakup? Grab a tub. Lost your job? Finish the pint. Overwhelmed? Ice cream's got your back. It's just about perfect, except for those watching their fat and sugar content, or people who can't eat dairy. Even Ben and Jerry's hasn't been able to master a healthy ice cream recipe, but thankfully, bananas have heard our cry and delivered. This ice cream can be made with just one ingredient, and you probably know what it is. Frozen bananas taste surprisingly similar to the sweet frozen dairy dessert that we all love. Simply peel, chop, and freeze ripe bananas and blend them in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of soft serve. If the texture or flavor still screams "banana" a little too loud for your taste buds, try making a nice cream shake, instead.

Blend two frozen bananas with a cup of plant-based milk, and a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Crank up the decadence a notch and add a few spoonfuls of peanut butter and cocoa powder to the mix. And voilà, you have a healthy, refined-sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate peanut butter smoothie that your kids won't stop harassing you about. Need a more passable ice cream flavor? Try using blue java bananas which could fool any ice cream enthusiast when it comes to flavor.

Mash into pancakes

Yes, we've all heard of banana pancakes, thanks to Jack Johnson. But in this case, we aren't talking about pancakes with banana slices and chocolate chips mixed into the batter. Did you know that mashed bananas can be used as an egg replacer? It helps bind ingredients together and is sweet as can be, eliminating the need to include refined sugar in the batter. Simply mash ripe bananas until they are a sticky, gooey mess without any lumps. One ripe banana can replace one egg in any baked good or pancake recipe. Expect your pancakes to be sweeter, denser, and a bit moister.

The flavor of the banana will only slightly change the composition of the pancake flavor, so feel free to load up on your usual toppings like mashed berries, whipped cream, and maple syrup. And just because you're adding in bananas doesn't mean you have to eliminate your sweetener or eggs. Reach for a fluffy banana pancake recipe that hits all of your marks, and enjoy the added fiber and potassium with each bite.

Fried in coconut oil

If you've ever enjoyed fried plantains, then you know the wonders of savory spiced bananas. Bananas become sweeter as they ripen, so green bananas have a totally different flavor to them. Peel and flatten your bananas with your hands, and fry them in olive oil with a savory spice mix to enjoy them like you would plantains. Garlic powder, salt, and pepper are a good place to start when it comes to seasonings.

For a sweeter treat, slice your ripe bananas and fry them in a shallow pan with hot coconut oil until they are deep brown. As they fry, they will caramelize, and all of those natural sugars will come to the surface. This is a good way to put those overripe bananas to good use, as the riper they are, the sweeter they will taste. Enjoy them for dessert, use them to top ice cream or cake, or just eat them as a snack.

Banana peanut butter bacon sandwich

Elvis was quite the trailblazer when it came to dancing, fashion, and music. He combined genres and styles he enjoyed and smashed them all together to create his very own sound. As it turns out, he was quite the culinary creative, as well. Allegedly, this favorite sandwich was an Elvis original peanut butter bacon grilled cheese, which sounds more like munchies or pregnancy cravings than a sandwich. As it turns out, the combination of sweet, savory, and salty mix together to form a one-of-a-kind treat that is quite delicious if you give it a chance.

Simply pile on crispy bacon, sliced or smashed bananas, and peanut butter between two slices of white or sourdough bread. Add cheese as an option and fry the sandwich in leftover bacon fat or butter until crispy. The chewy, crispy bacon, the fatty peanut butter, the sweet mushy banana, and the nippy melty cheese work together to create a dynamic and unique mouthfeel that only the king could invent.

Baked into cookies

There are crunchy cookie fans, and then there are chewy cookie fans. For all of those chewy cookie fans out there, we have an ingredient that will ensure each bite of your baked dessert is squishy, sticky, and soft. Bananas can be used as an egg replacer, but also can be a great addition to any cookie recipe. They retain moisture, are sticky and sweet, and only become sweeter when heated. Consider adding smashed or blended banana to your favorite cookie recipe, or following a banana cookie recipe to try something new.

If you're a fan of chunky monkey ice cream or banana foster, then you know the powerful sweetness that a banana can add to any dessert. They pair particularly well with chocolate, so it might be a good idea to include chocolate chips in your recipe (hey, we will take any excuse to include more chocolate in our cooking!). Banana cookies are exceptionally chewy, and when it comes to selecting your bananas, the riper the better. Finally, you've found a way to use up all of your overripe bananas besides making yet another loaf of banana bread.

Green banana curry

As aforementioned, ripe bananas are sticky-sweet, while green bananas tend to contain less sugar and have a more neutral flavor. This is why we love using overripe bananas for banana bread and green bananas for savory dishes. Don't get us wrong, underripe bananas still have an undertone of sweetness to them, but they tend to lack that intense banana smell and taste. Try including green bananas in your next curry dish.

Simply include sliced green banana towards the end of the cooking process so it doesn't overcook, or sauté sliced green banana in neutral oil with spices before incorporating it into the dish. Pineapple is often added to yellow Thai curries, so bananas shouldn't be too much of a stretch, especially if they are green and therefore less sweet. The texture holds up well and pairs nicely with coconut milk. All in all, the tropical fruit pairs naturally with coconut, sweet potatoes, onions, and proteins, including tofu.

Banana chips

If you thought bringing a whole banana with you was the perfect on-the-go snack, we're here to tell you that there is an even better travel snack option. Banana chips last much longer than bananas, and they won't stink up your car if left on your dash on a hot day. They are crunchy, fun to eat, and a healthy alternative to deep-fried potato chips. Kids and adults alike love them because they taste like dessert and make for easy snacking.

Simply peel and slice bananas into ¼ inch slices and lay them flat on a lined baking sheet. Traditionally, lemon juice is used to ensure they don't become deep brown when baking, but there is a simple trick you can use for extra crispy banana chips, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Try using simple syrup instead for an extra crunchy chip. Roast them at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about 90 minutes to two hours. Let them cool before popping them in a baggie for the ultimate crunchy snack.

Banana peel bacon

Lots of vegans don't hate the taste of meat, and we bet that most of them can agree that bacon is delicious. And vegan folks have been pretty creative with coming up with a substitute that tastes like the real thing. Carrot strips, rice paper, tempeh, and mushrooms have all held their own, but those who abstain from meat are still on the edge of their seat waiting for some Impossible or Beyond bacon to hit the market. Until then, they remain creative, and, well, anything goes. That's why we've even made vegan bacon out of banana peels as a substitute for that crispy, greasy, fried pork.

While it doesn't taste exactly like bacon, it comes pretty darn close to something made out of fruit skin. Like most foods, meat, and vegetables, it's all about the marinade, spices, and seasonings. A pretty standard mock–bacon flavor mix includes smoked paprika, soy sauce, maple syrup, cracked black pepper, tomato paste, garlic powder, onion powder, apple cider vinegar, and sometimes even liquid smoke. Slice the base and stem of the banana peels and use a spoon to remove the mushy inside of the peel. Marinate the peel in the sauce for at least 15 minutes, and then fry in hot oil until crispy. There you have it, surprisingly delicious banana peel vegan bacon.

Green banana latkes

Green bananas are a savory fruit that just keeps on giving. If you're a fan of latkes or even hash browns, then it's time to expand your palate and give bananas their time to shine. Simply peel and use a cheese grater to shred three green bananas, mix the shreds together with one egg, and add salt and pepper. If the batter is too runny, add a little chickpea flour to the mix. Form patties with your hands and fry them in hot oil until brown and crispy.

These crunchy latkes are best eaten with apple sauce but can be enjoyed with almost any sauce, sweet or savory. Bananas take longer to brown than potatoes and will be slightly softer and less crunchy, but the sticky, moist, flavorful interior is well worth the swap. For those unconvinced of its glory, try mixing your shredded green bananas with shredded potatoes to dip your toes in slowly.

Banana pudding

Bananas are really just pudding in tube form. Okay, that may be a stretch, but they are mushy, sweet, and soft, and make for an incredible dessert. Take a whole foods approach to pudding and simply blend a banana in a food processor along with maple syrup and vanilla extract. Blend it long enough until the mix is silky smooth. This magical mushy creation is the same texture as pudding and is a great vegan alternative. Who says mashed bananas are just for babies — why let them have all the fun? Serve drizzled with maple syrup and freshly whipped coconut cream, and topped with chopped dates, and chocolate chips.

If you're looking for a classic banana pudding recipe, simply mix mashed bananas into an instant vanilla pudding pack along with the other suggested ingredients on the back of the box. Add up to three ripe bananas per pudding packet. We recommend enjoying banana pudding along with Nila Wafers, whipped cream, and even more sliced bananas.

Green banana stir fry

Stir fries are known for being that clean-out-the-refrigerator last resort when you're out of options for the week. That doesn't mean we don't love a good stir fry, it just shows how incredibly versatile it can be and how easy it is to make. Simply switch up the sauces to experience a whole new dish each time, and enjoy with starchy staples like rice or potatoes. It's all pretty straightforward, but have you ever considered adding green bananas to your stir fry?

This works particularly well for Indian and Thai-style stir-fries, along with Caribbean and African flavors. Simply chop your vegetables of choice like onion, garlic, peppers, and carrots along with an unripe peeled green banana. Start by adding your aromatics to hot oil until the onions are translucent, then add your firmer vegetables like carrots. Next, add softer vegetables, and lastly, include your green banana. Keep your pan hot and well-lubricated with oil. Be sure to add those spices and sauces, as bananas do a great job absorbing flavor.

Banana peel tea

One of the infinite uses for banana peels is to make tea. For this recipe, you'll want to spring for organic bananas, as most fruits and vegetables absorb chemicals into their skins when sprayed. Although it may seem like an odd concept in the U.S., many cultures around the world use banana skins in cooking and everyday life if they aren't fed to livestock. Instead of throwing them away and creating more waste, try one of the absolute best uses for banana peels by making your very own tea. Some claim that it's a helpful sleep aid, as bananas contain tryptophan, and consume it before bedtime.

Simply boil your banana peels in water for at least 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and serve with honey or maple syrup to make it more palatable. If you'd prefer to not add additional sugars before bed, you can also enjoy it with a splash of pure vanilla extract and a cinnamon stick. You can also use dehydrated banana peels if you make them yourself or can get your hands on some. Sweet dreams.

Biomassa de banana verde

Brazilians know their way around bananas as they are a major producer, consumer, and exporter of the fruit. They have plenty of incredible banana-based recipes from main courses, to drinks, to desserts. One of the most versatile dishes made in brazil is made simply with unripe green bananas and is called biomassa de banana verde. Start by peeling and boiling green bananas, and then use a fork, masher, or food processor to create a starchy mash. This mash can be eaten on its own but is most popularly added to other dishes to improve texture. It's sticky like glue and can add density to almost any dish, sweet or savory.

Biomassa de banana verde can help to "heftify" a recipe and is often added to bread, sauces, soups, desserts, smoothies, stews, and more. Its incredible texture creates a sticky, starchy, smooth texture and can act as a binder in baking. After being boiled, the green bananas are rather mild in flavor, so they don't overpower the recipe they're being incorporated into. If you're having trouble getting your hands on some green bananas, ask your store clerk to check in the back.