When we think of bread, we typically think of filling, pliable textures that are meant to provide structure to other ingredients in sandwiches. But bread comes in many styles and forms, and sweetbreads provide ample opportunities to expand upon what bread is capable of within food cultures. Banana bread is one such style of sweet bread that is immensely popular. Banana bread is popular the world over, but where exactly did it come from?
Banana bread can trace its origins to the explosion of suburban America after the Second World War. Although American in its most popular styles, banana bread likely dates back to at least the 18th century when bakers began to experiment by adding fruits to bread mixtures.
It is likely that many of us have at least sampled banana bread at some point in our lives, but we likely do not think much about its origins. In this comprehensive guide, we are going to take a deep dive into the history of banana bread. We will look at all of the many different ways in which banana bread can be mixed and prepared in addition to the differences between loaves, pieces of bread, and muffins, and how each style of this delicious bread offers a unique taste.
History Of Banana Bread Explained
This sweet bread has a confusing history because this bread variety was likely experimented with for centuries. But in terms of its true history, it dates to mid-20th century America. Bananas aren’t native to most of North America and were only sparingly available in the U.S. throughout the 1800s. Ship captains had difficulty solving the puzzle of how to successfully transport a fruit that ripened (and rotted) so quickly.
But the advent of refrigeration at the turn of the 20th century soon made bananas accessible to American households nationwide, where they quickly became a breakfast staple. Bananas were also used in desserts, though more often as a garnish atop cake or pudding than the main ingredient.
By the early 1930s, banana bread recipes — using mashed bananas as the main ingredient, rather than banana slices as a garnish — had become ubiquitous, appearing in cookbooks from Better Homes and Gardens, Pillsbury Flour, the United Fruit Company (a chief banana importer), and more.
What Country Does Banana Bread Come From?
Until the 1900s, bananas were not readily available in the United States. Since they ripen quickly, there was no way to easily transport them from Southeast Asia. At the turn of the 20th century, the evolution of refrigeration meant bananas could be transported properly. They became more readily available to American consumers.
Although it cannot be 100% confirmed, due to the rise of banana bread in the United States, it is safe to assume that this sweet bread finds its origins in the United States.
When Did Banana Bread Become So Popular?
The home baking revival of the 1960s and the simplicity of its recipe led to an explosion in banana bread’s popularity. This bread became very popular with the rise of baking soda and baking powder during the 1930s. Although it is an American invention, banana bread is also very popular in Vietnam, baked in two varieties – baked banana cake, with a golden-brown crust, and banana pudding, or steamed banana cake.
What Is The Difference Between Banana Loaf and Banana Bread?
Although you may find that some bakers tend to call banana bread “banana loaf,” this is actually not a distinct difference in preparation style.
The banana loaf is the whole loaf of bread typically baked in a loaf bread dish, and the common name of banana bread refers to the individual slices.
Why Is It Not a Cake?
Banana cake is actually a completely separate dish apart from its bread cousin. The main differences between bread and cake are the ingredients used when making them. These can change the taste of the product as well as the number of calories in them.
Even the process to bake them is a little different. Banana cakes are made by using bananas as the main ingredients just as the name suggests. Other than this, the rest of the products are what you would use in a standard cake including eggs, butter, oil, sugar, and even flour. There is no specific method on how you can use the bananas in your recipe.
This means that the user can mash them or cut them down, this can then be mixed into the batter. Alternatively, you can even bake the cake without bananas and top it off later with slices. Although, one thing that people suggest is that you use brown and overly ripe bananas.
Banana Bread Ingredients
This bread is a versatile dish, but there are some general guidelines that are always followed in its ingredient list.
Typical recipes include the following in various amounts:
- Butter or margarine–usually softened
- Mashed ripe bananas (typically 2 of medium size)
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Chopped nuts, if desired
- Baking soda
How Many Bananas For Banana Bread
As mentioned, most recipes call for two medium-sized bananas. Fight the urge to use more bananas than called for in your recipe. Using too much banana could make your bread heavy and damp in the center, causing it to appear undercooked and unappealing. If you have bananas leftover, you can always freeze them for later use.
Can You Make Banana Bread With Fresh Bananas?
Overripe bananas are best, but if you are in a pinch, you can ripen the bananas by baking them in the oven. Place unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Let the bananas cool. Peel, mash, and then you can start baking.
You can use frozen bananas if you are in a pinch, but many people do prefer unfrozen bananas. To freeze bananas, peel them and put them in a freezer bag. You can lay them in a single layer so they don’t stick together and press all of the air out of the bag. The bananas can be frozen for up to 6 months. When ready to use, let the bananas defrost on the counter for about an hour. You want them to be soft but not runny.
How Ripe Do Bananas Have To Be For Banana Bread?
The short answer is–as ripe as possible. With that in mind, while black bananas are great for bread thanks to the moisture they add and the sweetness they bring to the baked goods, there are some other things to look for in and on black bananas before adding them into your batter.
If black bananas are spotted with mold, then it’s time to step away. You absolutely should not use them for bread or consume them at all,
How To Ripen Bananas For Banana Bread
One of the most effective ways to ripen bananas quickly is to put them into the oven. Place your bananas, still in their peels, on a lined, rimmed baking sheet (because they ooze, sometimes). Turn the oven to 300°F. Bake the bananas until their peels turn black. Let them cool a few minutes before handling, and voila: sweet, mushy bananas for baking.
Can You Use Frozen Bananas?
Yes. Frozen bananas can be used to make banana bread, although ripe, fresh bananas are optimal. A bunch of bananas can take up to five days to fully ripen on the counter. Once ripe, you can move them to the fridge for an additional five to seven days before they start to get a little too ripe for comfort.
When that happens, you can freeze them for up to three months in several ways. It’s best to remove the peel beforehand, as peeling an already-frozen banana can be difficult and somewhat gross — the peels turn black, and as the bananas thaw, they get pretty squishy.
How Long Should You Cool Banana Bread Before Cutting?
It is important to allow your bread to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. You do not want to slice the bread too quickly as this could cause the bread to become lumpy and fall apart.
What Can I Substitute For Eggs?
It turns out, you can bake this bread without eggs. Mashed banana is actually a lesser-known egg replacer, so in this case, the eggs are actually optional. The mashed banana adds moisture to baked goods, but also water (producing steam as the cake bakes, which is a leavening agent, as are eggs).
Mashed bananas also help bind batters, which helps replace the emulsifying properties of eggs in cake batters. Bananas can also act as a partial fat substitute, meaning that you can replace a little fat with them, but not all of it. Since eggs are also a partial fat substitute (specifically the yolks), you can see how bananas as an egg replacer actually make perfect sense.
How To Make Banana Bread Moist
To make the bread moist, use oil instead of butter since oil is liquid at room temperature whereas butter is solid, and will continue to be after the bread is baked and cooled. It also uses two eggs instead of the typical one that you’ll find in a lot of quick bread recipes. The egg also imparts moisture to the bread. Finally, the bananas themselves provide significant moisture.
Why Use Sour Cream In Banana Bread?
Simply put, sour cream adds moisture and flavor to banana bread, and gives the banana bread a soft and tender crumb. Banana bread recipes without sour cream have drier crumbs and go stale much faster. But a recipe with lots of sour creams keeps moist and fresh for almost a full week after baking.
But the best part? Sour cream adds a really subtle tang that is the secret je ne sais quoi to many recipes. It is also important to consider using more bananas and sugar to balance out the sour cream.
All that extra sugar needs to be balanced out with something, otherwise, you’ll end up with a banana bread that’s overly sweet and one-note. And that something is sour cream.
Can You Use Almond Flour In Banana Bread?
Yes, almond flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour to make this bread. This also makes for a great keto option since it reduces the overall carbohydrates of the bread to a very small amount.
Can You Make Banana Bread Without Baking Soda?
Though in some recipes, it’s inevitable, many people prefer the taste of banana bread without baking soda, which has a milder, more buttery flavor and a lighter, golden brown color with a pale yellow crumb inside. Baking powder is a good substitute for baking soda in banana bread. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of baking powder for every cup of flour.
With that being said, many people cannot get banana pumpkin bread to work without baking soda, but if you just want to make regular banana bread without baking soda, it does work beautifully.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread With Coconut Flour
For a more gluten-free option, many people choose to make banana bread with coconut flour. When baking with coconut flour, you only need about a quarter to a third of the recommended flour.
Because coconut flour is super absorbent, you need to also increase the number of eggs to ensure you don’t end up with a dry baked good. Many people choose to use unsalted butter, but if you’d prefer to create a dairy-free, paleo-friendly banana bread then swap in 1/3 of a cup of melted coconut oil instead.
Be sure to use spotty, extra ripe bananas. They will be easy to mash and perfectly sweet for enjoying in banana bread.
Regarding the sweetness, it may be important to use 1/3 of a cup of coconut sugar. When blended with the sweet bananas, you will find that this makes for a perfectly sweet version. You may prefer half a cup (or more) of coconut sugar. Or, feel free to use sugar, maple syrup, or your sweetener of choice in this recipe.
- Banana Bread Brownies. You can easily make these brownies by adding chocolate chips to your normal recipe and form the mixture in a flat and square pan instead of a loaf pan.
- Banana Bread French Toast. This unique French toast recipe with banana bread is ridiculously tasty. All the moist, tender, flavor of classic banana bread is only made better by dipping it in a custardy French toast batter and grilling it up in butter.
- Can You Make Banana Bread Into Muffins? Yes, you can certainly form your bread into muffins if you wish. Simply fill the mixture into a muffin-lined muffin sheet and bake as normal.
The nutrition of banana bread varies depending on the ingredients used. It can be as healthy or as rich as you please. Most traditional banana bread recipes make a delicious dessert that’s high in carbs, added sugar, and fat. Even though some banana bread is high in sugar, fat, and overall calories, most banana breads serve as a good source of key vitamins and minerals.
For example, bananas are rich in potassium and vitamin B6. Bread made with these fruits contains a good amount of these nutrients.
Is Banana Bread Good For You?
You can certainly include it in a healthy diet, but this dish should be considered a dessert.
Keep in mind that not all foods are created to be healthy. For example, cakes, ice cream, and sweetbreads aren’t meant to be the most nutritious foods you can eat.
Desserts may not be a part of your everyday diet. Instead, they are meant to be enjoyed as an occasional treat. If you eat sweet desserts, such as banana bread, too frequently, you may experience health issues — especially if the rest of your diet relies on ultra-processed, nutrient-poor foods.
How Many Calories in Banana Bread?
One slice contains close to 100 calories. For an even lower-sugar loaf, you can reduce the sugar, in this case, honey, in a recipe by up to half, if you want to try and cut the calories down. You can also replace the honey with a non-caloric natural sweetener such as erythritol. Adding extra fruit, such as blueberries, can help increase the natural sweetness.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
When you’re looking for an easy way to make your favorite bakes gluten-free, a gluten-free blend is a way to go. These flours combine several gluten-free ingredients like rice flour and potato starch. Look for brands that you can use cup-for-cup, like King Arthur Measure for Measure or Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour.
You can also make your own gluten-free flour mix.
Baked goods without gluten will bake differently than their counterparts without gluten. The final product may have a more crumbly texture because of the lack of proteins helping the structure of the bake. With a little practice and testing, you can make the most of your favorite baked goods with gluten-free flour.
Is Banana Bread Low Carb?
Keto-friendly low-carb bread is typically made with banana extract, not real bananas.
This is because bananas are naturally high in carbs. If you search online for keto-friendly banana bread, you’re not going to find bread made with real bananas. Just one 4-ounce (115-gram) banana contains 26.4 grams of carbs.
Though this may not be problematic for most people, some people on ketogenic diets choose to keep their carb intake below 20 grams per day in order to maintain ketosis. In general, nutritionists recommend keeping carb intake at 20–50 grams per day on the keto diet. A slice of this bread — even one made with low-carb ingredients like almond or coconut flour — can quickly exceed that carb limit.
For this reason, people following low-carb diets such as the ketogenic diet may recognize that most banana bread won’t fit into their diet unless they opt to keep the portion size small and their total carb count below 50 grams.
However, those following more moderate low carb diets can lower the total carb count by using low carb flour.
Can You Freeze Banana Bread?
You can freeze slices, half loaves, or whole loaves of banana bread. I prefer to wrap loaves and slices in foil, place them in a zip-top bag, remove as much air as I can, then freeze them for up to four months. I find that this is enough to keep the freezer from burning away. (Also, you can reuse both the foil and the bag).
When testing the best ways to wrap and freeze the bread, I used plastic wrap by itself, plastic wrap and foil, and just foil in my most recent bake. All versions were also placed in a zip-top bag. I didn’t notice any difference between the textures or taste of the bread with any of these, so use what you have on hand.
How To Freeze It
To freeze banana bread, double wrap each slice individually in foil then put the wrapped slices in a zip-top bag. I double wrap slices because more of the bread’s surface is exposed, which could dry out easier than a whole loaf. Remove as much air from the bag as possible without squishing the bread. Place the bag in the freezer and remove slices as needed for a ready-made breakfast.
Can Old Banana Bread Make You Sick?
Expired food items are not only of lower quality but also don’t taste great either. Moreover, if it has gone bad, you might also experience various adverse health effects. The same is the case for consuming expired bread. You can safely eat expired banana bread if you don’t mind its quality and taste.
On the other hand, if it is molded or spoiled, you should steer clear of it. Molds in the bread produce a toxin called ‘mycotoxin’ which, when consumed, might upset your stomach and make you sick.
Moreover, some individuals are known to show allergic reactions and various respiratory problems when exposed to the mycotoxin. Stale banana bread, however, can still be consumed. Bread becomes stale when they start losing moisture and the starch within them retrogrades. Once you reheat the slice, the bread will, once again, become soft.
How Long Does Banana Bread Last?
This bread can stay good for up to four days on your counter before changes to texture start occurring. Once day five or six comes around, the bread will begin to dry out, but it will be okay to eat. You can toast a slice for the same effect.
Can You Store Banana Bread When It’s Warm?
Always remember that storing warm bread in a container or a bag will cause it to expel more moisture onto its outer layer. It happens due to a process called condensation. Thus, the overall moisture content within the container/bag increases.
And, since we all know, moisture is one of the biggest culprits that invites mold onto your favorite food items, storing warm bread must be avoided entirely.
Is It Better The Next Day?
Many people do find that banana bread is better the next day. This is likely because the ingredients have more time to marinate together, which can also distribute the overall taste of the bread.
Here are some common troubleshooting tips when you are preparing and baking this tasty bread.
Why Does Banana Bread Sink In The Middle?
Usually, the bread rises well as the bananas in the mixture tend to give the batter some extra “lift”. There are a variety of reasons why yours may be sinking on cooling but it is most likely that it isn’t quite fully baked. The bread tends to form a firmish crust on the outside, so even if it looks baked it may not quite be done which means that it will sink as it cools.
Make sure the top is firm to the touch and that a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If the bread is browning too quickly you may need to reduce the oven temperature slightly and bake the bread for slightly longer or cover the top of the bread with a piece of foil for the last few minutes of cooking to reduce the risk of the bread scorching.
Why Is My Banana Bread Dry?
Moisture is key when it comes to this bread, and the ratio of flour to banana makes all the difference. If you use too much flour, you’ll end up with dry bread. If you don’t use enough, your bread will be too wet. The secret is actually in how you measure the flour. The scoop straight out of the bag method could be packing way too much flour into your measuring cup.
Instead, use the “spoon and level” method by spooning flour into a measuring cup and scraping off the excess with the flat side of a knife or straight edge.
Why Is My Bread So Gooey?
Fight the urge to use more bananas than are called for in your recipe. Using too much banana could make your bread heavy and damp in the center, causing it to appear undercooked and unappealing. If you have bananas leftover, you can always freeze them for later use.
Can You Rebake Underbaked Banana Bread?
It is pretty simple to salvage undercooked bread and create a decent loaf. Heat the oven to 350 F, return the bread to the oven, and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes. This will work even if the loaf has cooled, which is similar to par-baking bread. If you are concerned about the bread browning too much, tent the loaf with foil.
If you remove the bread from the oven before it is set, however, there is not much you can do to save it. You can try and bake it further, as there is not much to lose, but chances are the bread won’t be acceptable.
Why Does My Banana Bread Crack On Top?
This is commonly caused by overcooking the bread. Always cook the bread at a decent temp and not too long. Additionally, you can put a pan of water in your oven, preferably before baking. By the time your bread will be ready to put in the oven, your oven will be full of steam. Put your bread in a large cast-iron pan with a lid, then remove the lid.
Why Is My Banana Bread White?
The cause is usually very simple: you have added too much acid to the batter in the form of lemon juice or buttermilk. Since baking is a chemical reaction, pH has a big impact on browning reactions. An acidic batter will yield a paler product.
Why Is My Banana Bread Dense?
The more you mix your batter, the more gluten is developing in the bread – which is great for a yeast-risen, chewy loaf, but not so great when you’re hoping for a tender, soft quick bread. An overmixed batter will result in a dense, rubbery loaf.
Why Is It Two Colors?
This is likely from baking soda. Too much baking soda in banana bread will inevitably lead to too much browning. Baking soda will increase the pH of your banana bread batter, making it more basic or alkaline. At higher pH, Maillard browning reactions occur, leading to a darker color much faster.
What Are The Purple Things in Banana Bread?
Bananas turn purple due to a simple chemical reaction. The potassium in the fruit reacts with the sugars once any heat is applied, initially turning the banana a pink color. However, the riper the fruit, the more sugar it contains, and the stronger the reaction will be. Hence, a very ripe banana will turn a dramatic shade of purple.
This can be an attractive feature, as the purple streaks running through the loaf. Neither the taste nor the safety of the fruit is affected, making it perfectly fine to eat.