I know, “best banana bread ever” is a really bold statement to make, but we’re betting that when you try this extra moist and delicious recipe for banana bread for yourself, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s somewhere between banana bread and banana cake and it’s 100% Crazy-Monkey (kiddo) approved. Southerners are known for keeping a few tips in our back pocket for making super tender quick breads and this fragrant banana bread is no exception. Plus, there are zero fancy ingredients required and it’s a super easy recipe to make.
Why We Love This Classic Banana Bread Recipe
- It’s super quick and easy to mix
- It’s full of intense natural banana flavor
- It’s super tender and moist (somewhere between banana bread and banana cake)
- It uses up overripe bananas you might otherwise discard
- It tastes even better the next day
- It freezes really well
- You can use the batter to make banana bread muffins
- It’s the perfect recipe to introduce baking to kiddos
What Makes Banana Bread a “Bread” and not a Cake?
Banana bread is part of the ‘Quick Bread” family. It uses a chemical leavening agent (in this case baking soda) to give it the necessary rise. Cake also uses baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast and is sweet like banana bread — so what’s the difference?
For starters, most banana bread recipes are much denser than cake and they typically call for melted butter as opposed to creaming the butter and sugar together first. Also, banana cake batter is usually made up of more mashed bananas than banana bread calls for. So, for this recipe, I use the best of both worlds which leaves us with a banana bread that’s somewhere between cake and banana bread — or as we like to call it, the best banana bread recipe in the world ♡.
A Great “Starter Recipe” For Kiddos to Learn to How to Bake
In case you have kiddos who want to help bake, I’ve included step-by-step recipe photos to make it even easier. If you’re like us, you’ll be buying perfectly ripe yellow bananas and counting down the days until they turn just dark enough to make this banana bread. This banana bread recipe is based on the Banana Cake we used to serve at a restaurant where I worked as the assistant to the pastry chef. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
4 Steps For Making Perfectly Moist, Sweet and Fragrant Banana Bread
How to Avoid Dry and Dense Banana Bread
Below are four tips and techniques that make this banana bread better than most. It’s tender, light, moist, and easy to make. Use the tips and techniques outlined below to avoid dense, dry, and flavorless banana bread.
- Use completely black-brown or very dark and spotted bananas. It’s a well-known baker’s ‘secret’ that you never use yellow bananas for making banana bread. In fact, I usually wait until the bananas are 100% black (like the color of vanilla beans, tobacco, or leather) before I even think about making banana bread. As the banana ages (ripens) it turns carbohydrates into sugar changing both the flavor and texture of the banana flesh. It becomes intensely fragrant (full of “super banana flavor”) and much sweeter. Never let bananas age so long that mold starts to form (that would be gross and unsafe).
- Always thoroughly whisk the dry ingredients together before adding liquid (i.e. flour, baking soda, salt, and dry spices like pumpkin pie spice). This helps ensure the leavening agent (baking soda in this case) is evenly distributed and therefore enables the banana bread loaves to properly (and evenly) rise.
- Do not over-mix the banana bread batter. When adding the eggs, don’t mix too long after each addition (mix just about 3 to 5 seconds in between each egg for a total mixing time of around 15 seconds). And even more importantly, when adding the dry ingredients alternating with the wet ingredients it’s important to only mix just until everything is combined and no more. I like to stop the mixer just after I’ve added the last of the flour and the buttermilk. Then use a rubber spatula to easily fold the ingredients together, add the mashed bananas and fruit or nuts and fold until well combined (or add the fruit or nuts to each filled loaf pan). This is how I avoid over-mixing banana bread batter. If you mix too vigorously, or for too long you will further activate the gluten (protein) in the flour and end up with dense banana bread instead of a light, moist banana bread (similar to cake).
- Use buttermilk or homemade buttermilk instead of whole milk. The tang and acidity from buttermilk are needed for both the flavor and for the baking soda to activate (allowing the banana bread to rise). If you don’t have buttermilk, you have two easy options:
- Make soured milk (aka faux buttermilk). Add 1 tablespoon (14g) freshly squeezed lemon juice to a measuring cup and fill with enough whole milk to reach the total amount of buttermilk called for in the recipe. Stir and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes on the counter before using.
- Make homemade buttermilk by making homemade butter first. Add very cold heavy cream to a quart Mason jar that’s been chilled in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (even longer is better). Pour very cold heavy cream into the jar, tighten the lid and shake vigorously until the mixture starts to separate and butter has formed. Strain the butter solids out. The strained liquid is homemade buttermilk. Freeze unused buttermilk for making pancakes, scones, waffles, or biscuits.
The Photos Below Show How Banana Bread Batter Should Look at the Various Stages of Mixing
The Best Classic Southern Banana Bread Ingredients
You only need 9 ingredients to make homemade banana bread. And you probably have most (if not all) of them in your kitchen right now (including those over-ripe bananas nagging at you from the side of the fruit bowl). There’s never a reason to throw out bananas that are past their prime because not only are they perfect for making homemade banana bread but they’re absolutely mandatory if you want the best banana bread (ever).
- baking soda
- pure vanilla extract
- buttermilk or faux buttermilk*see recipe card notes for making faux buttermilk
- overly ripe bananas
- milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
How to Make the Very Best Classic Banana Bread
This is a quick banana bread that takes just minutes to mix up! Here’s an overview for how to make it, but you’ll find the full instructions with tips in the recipe card below.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C and Prep the baking pans.
- Measure & whisk the dry ingredients.
- Cream the butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs and vanilla.
- Incorporate the flour mixture and buttermilk.
- Fold in the bananas.
- Bake the banana bread.
Best Banana Bread Ever step-by-step recipe photos
Ways to Customize Banana Bread and What to Pair it With
This banana bread recipe is versatile and tastes great with a few add-ins or toppers. So, if you’re in the mood for dark chocolate chip banana bread, or something a little nutty, here are a few ideas to help your banana bread stand out.
- top it with Homemade Strawberry Coulis (easy professional strawberry sauce)
- top it with 15-Minute Homemade Strawberry Jam Sauce
- use it to make banana bread french toast
- add up to 1 cup of chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or dark)
- add up to 1 cup of chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- add up to 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- add a little citrus zest (incorporate lemon, orange, or even lime zest for extra flavor)
- add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coffee extract or espresso powder
- add up to 1 cup of toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or even macadamia nuts)
- Use this recipe to make banana bread cupcakes instead (line muffin tins with paper or aluminum foil cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set and cake tester comes out clean)
Looking for More Delicious Banana Bread Bread Recipes?
Here are a few of our favorite banana bread and pumpkin bread recipes including chocolate chip banana muffins and banana nut bread.
- Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Cake
- Best Ever Strawberry Banana Bread Bread Cake
- Super Moist Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread w/Toasted Pumpkin Seed Crunch
- Easy and Moist Pistachio-Pecan Banana Nut Bread
- Bakery Style Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Bread (w/Toasted Walnuts)
- Granny’s Perfect Pumpkin Bread w/Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (a Vintage Recipe)
- Bakery Style Pumpkin Spice Blueberry Muffins (No-Mixer Needed)
- Bakery Style Pumpkin Spice Muffins (No-Mixer Needed)
Banana Bread Best Tips & FAQs
Can I Freeze Homemade Banana Bread?
Yes, banana bread freezes really well. Always allow any baked good (including this banana bread) to completely cool to room temperature before wrapping with parchment and then sustainable cling film. Place the wrapped loaves into an airtight freezer bag or another container and freeze. You can defrost wrapped banana bread loaves in the refrigerator overnight, or on the countertop for a couple of hours.
Can I Use Baking Powder Instead of Baking Soda in Banana Bread?
Yes, you can use baking powder instead of baking soda in this banana bread recipe. The rule of thumb for substituting baking powder with baking soda is to use 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of flour called for in the recipe. In this case, you would use 2 teaspoons of baking powder to substitute the 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
Why is My Banana Bread Tough and Dense?
As explained above in the “4 STEPS TO MAKING PERFECTLY MOIST, SWEET, FRAGRANT BANANA BREAD”, if you over-mix the ingredients when combining the dries with the wet ones, you’ll over-activate the gluten in the flour which will cause your banana bread (or any quick bread or cake) to become rubbery and dense. In yeasted bread, it’s important for the gluten to be activated (which is why we knead bread dough), but for quick-breads and cakes, it will make the finished product undesirable. Gently combine the elements and if you’re ever in doubt, use a rubber spatula to combine all of the ingredients instead of a handheld or stand mixer.
Why Does My Banana Bread Taste Bitter?
If your banana bread tastes bitter it’s because the recipe you’re using calls for excessive amounts of baking soda or baking powder. Never use more than 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of flour called for in a recipe. And don’t use more than 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour called for in a recipe. This will keep your baked goods from tasting bitter and will allow them to perform their leavening function without wreaking havoc on your baked goods (like sinking cakes and collapsed quick-breads).
What Can I Substitute in Banana Bread if I Run Out of Bananas?
If you’re in the middle of making the batter for banana bread and realize you are short of the full amount of mashed bananas, supplement the missing amount with either applesauce or ripe mashed avocados.
Why is My Banana Bread Dry?
If your banana bread is dry it’s probably because you added too much flour or baked it too long, or there’s not enough fat or moisture in the batter. Start by using an all-purpose or low-protein flour for Banana bread. Avoid using bread flour because it has too much protein. Then make sure you are measuring the flour properly. Correctly measuring flour starts with using the scoop and level’ method which. means that you use a scoop or large spoon to add flour to the measuring cup. Add more flour than what the measuring cup will hold, then using the back of a butter knife (the straight side) scrape the excess flour off back into the bag, leaving a perfectly measured amount of flour in the measuring cup. You can really mess up a recipe if you don’t use the ‘level and scoop’ method and instead take your measuring cup and dig straight into the bag or container holding the flour. As for baking the banana bread, if you still have several minutes of baking time left, but feel the top is browning too much, just place aluminum foil over the top. If your oven bakes hot you may also reduce the temperature by 15 to 25 degrees as well.
Why Did My Banana Bread Collapse, Fall, or Sink in the Middle?
Typically the collapse of quick-breads and cakes happens for a couple of reasons.
- Underbaking banana bread can cause it to be too moist on the inside and not adequately set up. As it cools, the “wet” middle will sink. Always make sure a toothpick or cake tester poked into the middle of the banana bread comes out clean before removing it from the oven.
- Adding too much baking soda and/or baking powder causes too many (and too large) air bubbles to form (from the carbon dioxide that’s produced when the leavening agent and liquid are combined). The bubbles grow too large and then deflate onto and into themselves causing cakes and quick-breads to collapse in the center.
- Adding too many bananas to a banana bread batter can also make your banana bread sink in the middle. If the batter has too much moisture, the air bubbles created by the leavening agent (baking soda in this case) will never be enough to help create and set the air pockets that create the desired crumb (texture). Instead, the banana bread will be dense and “wet” in the middle.