This healthy Banana Bread recipe uses caramelized bananas to add extra sweetness and bakes into a moist and delicious loaf!
You know, you wouldn’t think it would be all that hard to develop a recipe for healthy banana bread. But, for the past week and a half, I’ve been testing healthy banana bread recipe after healthy banana bread recipe until I finally came up with something I think you’ll love.
A healthy banana bread recipe that’s moist and delicious without butter or sugar? Can it be done? Spoiler alert: yes.
How to Make a Healthy Banana Bread
To make my healthy banana bread recipe, I started with the following ingredients: bananas, spices, applesauce, Greek yogurt, salt, baking soda, flour, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and eggs.
I don’t have any issue with sugar or butter, but I wanted to give myself the challenge to create a banana bread recipe that didn’t use either. Not even “healthier” refined sugar substitutes like honey or maple syrup. And I wanted the banana bread to still taste moist and delicious. As I said, a challenge.
Banana Bread Recipe #1
My first attempt to make banana bread went perfectly fine. Fine being the operative word there. It wasn’t a banana bread that stood out, not one to win any awards, or have people saying, hey can I have that recipe? It was perfunctory. It was a healthy banana bread. Just not one to write home about. That banana bread recipe used:
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/3 cup mashed banana
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ tsp. cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- 1¾ cup flour
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
I whisked all the dry ingredients together, all the wet ingredients together, and combined them. It needed more cinnamon and more sweetness.
Grade: C. Dense, not super flavorful, not sweet, basically like bread. It was good if you warmed it up and drizzled honey on top. It was the Stone Temple Pilots of banana bread. Not the best, not the worst. Eventually became something else.
Banana Bread Recipe #2
This time, instead of using yellow bananas without spots, I used bananas that were almost black. Super spotted, super sugary bananas would certainly result in a sweeter loaf, right? Everything else stayed the same.
Grade: F. Most of the bananas congealed together in a mass at the bottom of the loaf. It tasted undercooked and gummy, even though it was in the oven for-ev-er. Sad face.
Banana Bread Recipe #3
At this point, I was determined. This was going to happen. I went back to the original recipe, used spotted yellow bananas that I warmed up for 30 seconds in the microwave, swapped the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour (because that would ostensibly make banana bread loaf a bit healthier) and increased the flour to 319 grams (2¼ cups). I also stopped melting the coconut oil and started mixing it in after combining the wet and dry ingredients. I increased the cinnamon to 1 tsp. and added ¼ tsp. cloves.
Grade: ??? Hard to say. It was more flavorful, the crumb was better, and it was certainly healthier. But, I fell asleep on the couch while baking it (staying up past 11pm is not my forte) and the outside got a little…toasty.
Banana Bread Recipes #4 + #5
Essentially, I just remade two versions of Banana Bread #3 as I thought it worked, but I wasn’t sure because I had overbaked #3. But, it still wasn’t quite flavorful enough. What was happening? After more sleuthing, I discovered that while many recipes have so much sugar it masks the taste of everything, when used in small amounts sugar, like salt, is a flavor enhancer.
Grade: B for white flour, B- for whole wheat flour. Even though all the testers wanted whole wheat, they found it overwhelmed all the other flavors.
Banana Bread Recipe #6
On Sunday, as I started working up healthy banana bread test batch #6, I thought, how could I possibly get more sweetness into this recipe. And then, it hit me. I need to caramelize the bananas!
I grabbed a nonstick skillet, added 1” sliced banana medallions from slightly spotted bananas (I could have waited a few more days but had plumb run out of patience), 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and turned the heat to medium low. I stirred the mixture until the bananas had caramelized, then decided to add maple syrup.
I had tested five recipes without sugar, but if it was really supposed to enhance the other flavors, I might as well see what happened. I added the maple syrup and cooked the mixture down until it was very soft. Then, I added ¼ tsp. cinnamon and mixed that in, cooking it for one more minute.
I poured this into a bowl, added the other wet ingredients and cinnamon. For kicks, I toasted ½ cup of walnuts and added those to the dry mixture. I combined everything, added the coconut oil, then added the walnuts. I poured the final mixture into the sprayed nonstick 9×5” loaf pan and baked it for 55 minutes at 350°F. It was done with I could stick a knife inside and it came back mostly clean (I also tested the internal temp to make sure it was at least 170°F, another indicator it was done.)
Grade: A. It was moist, light, and super flavorful. It tasted of bananas and cinnamon and had a slightly crunchy crust. And, despite having tested multiple other loaves over the week, was devoured quickly by my taste testers.
Is This a Healthy Banana Bread Recipe?
I’m a little on the fence. On the one hand, it’s full of ingredients I consider healthy like walnuts, Greek yogurt, eggs, and spices. It doesn’t have refined sugar. But, I do use white flour and I did use one tablespoon of maple syrup.
The recipe does work if you prefer to use whole wheat flour though and it is healthier than most other banana breads… so I think I’m going to go with sure, it’s a healthy banana bread. Or at least a healthier banana bread recipe. It’s definitely healthier that this apple pie bread (which you should also make, but maybe, uh, later.)
Either way, I think you’ll love it! Give it a go, and tag me on Instagram with @letseatcakeblog and #thatcakelife so I can see it!
Healthy Banana Bread RecipePrint Recipe
- 3 large spotted bananas (cut into 1" slices)
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon (divided)
- ½ tsp. fine salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour ((319 grams))
- ½ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup walnuts (optional)
- Nonstick spray
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place sliced bananas in medium nonstick skillet and turn heat to medium-low.
- Add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil to skillet.
- Heat until coconut oil has melted and is mostly absorbed. About 3-5 minutes.
- Add maple syrup. Cook until absorbed. Add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon mix until mixture is very soft and no longer sticking to pan.
- Remove from heat and pour into large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Combine salt, baking powder, and flour in medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Add applesauce, yogurt, vanilla, and cinnamon to bananas. Mix until fully combined.
- Add eggs. Mix until fully combined.
- Add flour mixture to banana mixture. Stir with spatula until combined and no dry flour remains. Add walnuts if desired.
- Add coconut oil to mixture, one tablespoon at a time. Mix until combined.
- Spray 9x5" loaf pan with nonstick spray and pour banana mixture into pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until knife comes out clean or internal temp is 170°F.
- You can swap all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. 319 grams of either will work.
- I usually bake with coarse kosher salt. I don't recommend that for this recipe. Use fine salt instead.