20 Ingredients To Improve Your Banana Bread

It's hard not to love banana bread's plush texture and sweet flavor. This moist loaf, which can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or for dessert, originated in the United States relatively recently. However, it wasn't until the 20th century that bananas started appearing in American homes. The Great Depression brought on many creative ways to use food before it went stale, including baking the fruit into a quick bread (which was popularized by the proliferation of leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder in the market in the early 1900s). 

The modern recipe for classic banana bread is straightforward and includes a few ingredients that can be easily transformed into a sweet treat. Flour, sugar, oil, eggs, leavening agents, and bananas are the only ingredients you'll need to make a moist banana bread loaf. But if you want to make your banana bread stand apart from others, you'll need to include some unique ingredients to help improve its texture and taste. So here are some of the best elements you can add to your banana bread recipe to make it uniquely yours.

Use brown butter for a nuttier flavor

Fat is critical in banana bread because it keeps the loaf moist and flavorful. Without enough fat, your banana bread will crumble when you bite into it and won't have the plush, soft texture we all desire with quick bread. But instead of adding just butter, you should take one extra step to make your loaf more flavorful.

Brown butter banana bread will forever change your thoughts about this humble sweet bread. To brown your butter, add a few tablespoons to a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring until tiny brown flecks form and the mixture emits a toasty aroma. This typically takes less than ten minutes — so you'll have to watch it carefully to ensure it doesn't burn. Then, add the butter and the rest of your wet ingredients to the bananas. The resulting loaf will be much more toasty and decadent in flavor.

Add a citrus element

Banana bread can be albeit dense. When you bite into it, you'll find that you sometimes get lost in the thickness and chewiness of the loaf. If you feel like you're drowning in your banana bread, you can add a bit of brightness with a citrus element.

The simple way to elevate banana bread is to pair it with a bright pop of flavor from a citrus extract, zest, or juice. Orange is one of the most common pairings with banana bread because it tastes mild and can complement other additions like chocolate. Add a splash of orange juice to the wet ingredients to help bring an acidic component and more moisture to the bread, or zest an orange into the batter as you prepare it. If you decide to go the extract route, keep a measurement tool handy, as too much extract can overpower the flavor of your bread.

Turn to cream cheese for more moisture

When making banana bread, choosing ingredients that help lock in moisture rather than releasing it as the loaf bakes is essential. The more fat your banana bread has, the moister it will remain after baking. As a result, many people turn to soft cheeses to add to their quick bread. 

The ingredient that will change your banana bread forever is cream cheese. Not only does cream cheese have a ton of moisture-inducing fat, but its texture is delectably creamy and slightly tangy (without being too overpowering). There are two primary methodologies for adding cream cheese to banana bread: Swirling it into the batter for a marbling effect or stirring it into the batter entirely. The former will add more textural contrast to your banana bread, while the latter will increase the moisture of the batter.

Incorporate toasted oats for flavor and fiber

Alton Brown's addition for perfect banana bread is toasted oats. The chef adds this ingredient to help improve the consistency of the bread by taking it from mushy to textural. He begins his recipe by toasting rolled oats (which are thicker in texture and have a larger surface area than instant oats) in the oven for about fifteen minutes until they are lightly toasted and crisp to the touch. He then grinds the oats in a food processor (although you can use a high-powered blender, too) until the consistency resembles flour before adding it to the rest of the dry ingredients.

You can also toast the oats by cooking them oats in a skillet with melted fat. This will help boost the toasty flavor and add another layer of buttery flavor to your banana bread.

Make your banana bread fall-inspired with canned pumpkin

There are tons of different quick bread recipes you can make. But have you ever considered hybridizing quick bread recipes to create the ultimate loaf? 

The canned ingredient that will give your banana bread fall flair is pumpkin. But besides this distinctively autumnal taste, adding pumpkin to your banana bread is an easy way to add nutrients and increase moisture. Both banana bread and pumpkin bread can benefit from adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and work with many different mix-ins like chocolate, nuts, or dried fruit. To make your pumpkin banana bread, you'll want to add a cup of canned pumpkin puree to the mashed banana and other wet ingredients in your recipe. This recipe is the perfect snack or breakfast any time of year.

Get tropical with pineapple and coconut

The easiest way to spice up your banana bread recipe is to think about a theme to center your recipe around. For example, you might use dark, white, and milk chocolate chips in your batter if you love chocolate. Or, think fruity with dried apricots and raisins. One of our favorites, though, is tropically-themed ingredients. 

The tropical ingredients you should add to banana bread include coconut and pineapple. If you have cored pineapple, you can dice it up into small pieces or grate it into the batter. Canned pineapple might also be a cheaper option; just remove the juice to prevent making your loaf too wet. Dried unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut can also provide a novel texture to your batter. You can add even more coconut flavor by using coconut milk to replace some of the liquid in the batter. 

Add a caramelized banana syrup

Some banana bread just isn't strong in banana flavor. This is especially true if you make the mistake of not using overly ripe bananas for your recipe. 

This microwave trick for more flavorful banana bread can add a unique banana flavor to your loaf without entering the territory of a synthetic and artificial-tasting additive. Start by mashing your bananas in a microwave-safe bowl. The mashing of the bananas makes them taste sweeter is the same scientific reason why frozen bananas taste so sweet; the amylase enzymes break down the starches into sugars once the cells have been ruptured. After the bananas are mashed, microwave them for five minutes and drain the liquid. Next, reduce the liquid down on the stove for the syrup, and add the microwaved banana mash to your batter. 

Use cookie butter for the ultimate loaf

Cookie butter is one ingredient with a cult-like following. For those unfamiliar with cookie butter, think of a spread with the consistency of peanut butter and the taste of a gingersnap cookie. You can use cookie butter as a spread on sandwiches, atop a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or in this case — in your banana bread.

You can make cookie butter banana bread at home by adding 3/4 cup of cookie butter with the mashed banana. Initially, your batter may appear thick with clumps of cookie butter dotted throughout. Still, you should be careful to mix the batter as intentionally as possible to avoid over-activating the gluten and causing the bread to come out chewy. Finally, we recommend topping your finished banana bread slice with a schmear of cookie butter. 

Think chocolate chips

Chocolate and banana bread are a match made in heaven. The exact kind of chocolate you use in your banana bread depends on if you like a more bitter or sweet flavor. We use semi-sweet chips in our chocolate chip banana bread recipe because there is a subtle sweetness rather than the overpowering sugary taste you would find if you used milk chocolate chips instead. You can also use a dark chocolate baking bar if you want your chocolate to seep into the crevasses of your bread. 

Regardless of the chip (or chunk) you use in your banana bread, you should fold it after mixing the rest of the ingredients. A couple of tosses of the batter will ensure that your chocolate is well-distributed without causing unnecessary gluten activation or beating all of the air out of the batter. 

Use nuts for more crunch

The most common addition to banana bread is undeniably nuts. Classic banana nut bread is the perfect way to start your morning (or snack your way through the afternoon). This recipe is studded with your choice of nuts and can also be enhanced with chocolate. Like other additions, you'll want to add your chopped nuts after all of your wet and dry ingredients have been mixed to avoid over-mixing the bread. Finish your loaf by adding a sprinkle of nuts on top and baking until golden brown.

You should always use raw nuts when making baked goods. If you toast your nuts in the oven or on the stovetop, the nuts will be essentially double-roasted when you bake, which can lead to burnt flavor notes that will make your banana bread unappetizing.

Keep things sweet with a sprinkle of sugar

A slight caramel flavor is highly desirable in your banana bread. You should sprinkle sweet sugar over the top of your banana bread before putting it in the oven. But the secret to this trick is only to use Demerara sugar. Demerara sugar, which is classified as "raw sugar," has a more granular texture than white sugar or moist brown sugar. When it's baked, the sugar remains crunchy on top of the banana bread rather than leaving a sweet glaze behind. In addition, because Demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing, it retains a bit more molasses flavor than plain white sugar. The molasses flavor contrasts the rest of the ingredients in the banana bread well — especially the butter. 

Substitute a mixture of flours

All-purpose flour is an essential ingredient in any baker's arsenal. But the major problem with this type of wheat flour is that the flavor can be one-dimensional. So instead of always using all-purpose white flour, you should try experimenting with other kinds of flour. Before adding and substituting flours willy-nilly, you should always note the flour's gluten content and properties. Oat flour, for example, retains a lot of moisture, but it can make your banana bread taste like a cloggy square of baked oatmeal. 

Some flours work better than others for banana bread. Buckwheat flour, for example, makes a delicious buckwheat banana bread with a slightly nutty flavor. You can also use whole-wheat flour with a nuttier flavor and marginally lower gluten content than all-purpose flour. Or, add a bit of spelt flour to your batter for an organic undertone. 

Grate in zucchini

If you're a parent, you've probably thought about ways to sneak vegetables into every meal. Breakfast is no exception. 

Making zucchini banana bread is an easy way to get more veggies into your meal and use up the plethora of leftover zucchini from your garden in the summertime. The shredded zucchini will also add moisture to your banana bread and not overtly alter the sweetness of the loaf. To add zucchini to your bread, you'll want to grate it with the skin on. You can use an S-blade on a food processor (which is excellent for grating a ton of zucchini) or boxed grater. Allow the zucchini to sit in a colander while prepping the rest of your ingredients before stirring it in as the last step. 

Use spices for complexity

One of the easiest ways to add "sweetness" to your banana bread without reaching for the bag of sugar or jar of maple syrup is to use spices. Spices can add a hidden warmth to your bread and help accentuate the other flavors in your dish. The most popular spices to add to banana bread include cinnamon and nutmeg or a combination of spices like pumpkin and apple pie spice. In addition, nutmeg and cloves contain eugenol, a chemical compound that gives the banana flavor. Adding these spices to your loaf can help make your loaf taste more banana-y. 

If you bake frequently, you probably have access to cinnamon in your pantry. But did you know there are different types of cinnamon, both of which will impart different flavors to your treats? Cassia cinnamon has spicy and sweet flavor notes; it's also the more common type of cinnamon you'll see on the spice rack at the grocery store. Ceylon cinnamon is much more floral in flavor and has more defined sweet notes — it's why we recommend it for banana bread. 

Add sour cream for tang

Cream cheese isn't the only dairy product that should make its way into your banana bread. If you want delectably creamy and tangy banana bread, you'll need to enlist the help of sour cream. Sour cream will add a ton of moisture, resulting in extra moist banana bread. You'll want to add the sour cream with the rest of the wet ingredients. Since the sour cream is very acidic, it will help trigger some of the rising action from the baking soda. If you're using baking powder, the release of carbon dioxide will be triggered when the substance comes into contact with liquid. Therefore, you'll want to move relatively fast when making banana bread to ensure the loaf doesn't deflate before it hits the oven.

Use peanut butter

Combining peanut butter and banana? Elvis would be proud. 

Peanut butter is an excellent addition to banana bread because it adds a distinct flavor and complex undertone that other spreads just won't add. One of our favorite ways to add peanut butter to banana bread is to make PB&J vegan banana bread. This recipe features natural no-stir peanut butter and a swirl of strawberry jam throughout the loaf. You can also substitute different kinds of nut butter and jams in the bread, like almond butter and blueberry jam. One of our favorite additions is a chocolate hazelnut spread; it will complement the addition of cocoa powder or chocolate chips while adding a complex nutty undertone. 

Substitute the oil for coconut oil

Oil is the key to moist banana bread. Since oils have comparatively more fat than butter (which is a combination of butterfat and water), they are more apt to keep the bread moist. However, liquid oils (such as canola or vegetable oil) can also impart a greasy texture to your loaf and make it taste very dense. The secret to good banana bread is to use coconut oil instead.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, meaning it will slowly melt while your loaf is baking and remain slightly harder when it is at room temperature. If you like the tropical aroma of coconuts, you can use virgin coconut oil. However, if you want a more nuanced coconut flavor, use refined coconut oil.

Add cocoa powder for extra chocolate flavor

Double chocolate banana bread? Count us in. If chocolate chips don't do enough for you, add some cocoa powder to your loaf to amp up the chocolate flavor. We recommend using unsweetened natural cocoa powder rather than Dutch-processed cocoa powder for this recipe. Natural cocoa powder is more acidic and has a more potent floral aroma because the cacao fruit is fermented. On the other hand, Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkaline salts to alter its color. As a result, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is both slightly saltier than natural cocoa powder. As a result, it will not have the same leavening reaction when it comes into contact with baking soda and baking powder — which are also alkaline. You can use Dutch-processed cocoa powder but expect a smaller rise and a darker, brownie-like flavor. 

Use seeds for extra crunch

Textural contrast is the key to a good banana bread recipe. The best type of ingredient to give banana bread some crunch (and a nutritional boost) is seeds. Depending on the type of seed you decide to use, you can mix it directly into the batter or just add a sprinkle on top before baking. 

If you are familiar with vegan baking, you might recognize the addition of ground flax or chia seeds into a recipe. These seeds are bloomed with water before being added to the recipe; this creates a gel that can replace the eggs used in a recipe. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower, and sesame seeds are slightly larger and denser than flax and chia but can provide a more pronounced crunch and source of fat, fiber, and antioxidants to your recipe. 

Keep it simple with a 3-ingredient banana bread

Banana bread is easy to bake — all you have to do is combine the staple ingredients in a bowl, pop it in a greased loaf pan, bake, and enjoy. But if you're looking for a simpler way to make banana bread, stick to a 3-ingredient banana bread recipe. This classic banana bread recipe rendition uses ripe bananas, sweetened condensed milk, and self-rising flour. The self-rising flour is a critical ingredient for this simplified bread recipe because it contains the leavening agent, salt, and flour needed for a proper loaf structure. The sweetened condensed milk provides the fat, sweetness, and liquid needed to help develop the loaf's texture. As for the bananas, do we need to say? 

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table, Mashed, and The Daily Meal.