Whole Wheat Banana Bread: The Perfect Comfort Food

Banana bread is not the belle of the bakery ball.

Banana bread is plain and rustic. You can dress it up with chocolate and cinnamon sugar, but it’s never going to stun the way a three-tier layer cake will.

Still, when it comes to pure comfort, banana bread delivers like nothing else.

Banana bread via @kingarthurflour

Consider a tender, chewy forkful of moist banana bread. Being so humble in looks and ingredients, it has to really deliver in terms of pleasure. There’s no frosting to hide behind, no sugary glaze or candy coating to distract from the taste.

I’ve made a lot of banana bread recipes in my life, and I’m fairly exacting in my standards.

Banana bread should highlight the fruit, not mask it. It should be sweet but not too sweet, and rich in flavor.

If you, like me, have ever typed “best banana bread” into your search bar, then you’ve come to the right place.

Today I’m going to show you two excellent, reliable banana bread recipes. Depending on your preferences, you can choose your favorite. Both use white whole wheat flour: an essential in my book for baking substantial, moist loaves that elevate the taste of banana.

Banana bread via @kingarthurflour

Unlike whole wheat flour, which has a strong “wheat” flavor that can taste bitter, white whole wheat flour has a mild flavor (closer to what you’d expect from all-purpose flour). This makes it an excellent candidate for banana bread: It’s heartier than all-purpose, but it lets the banana flavor shine much more than whole wheat would.

The perfect banana bread should be moist and hefty. Here’s where white whole wheat really improves your loaf: It produces a denser baked good than all-purpose flour will, but it’s lighter in texture than whole wheat. It’s the ideal compromise, texture-wise, between AP and whole wheat.

Loaf 1: 100% Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Banana bread via @kingarthurflour

Looking for a classic banana bread? You’ve come to the right place.

This loaf is dense and compact, thanks to 100% white whole wheat flour. Butter gives it richness and brown sugar adds an earthy sweetness that pairs well with bananas.

Loaf 2: Whole-Grain Banana Bread

Banana bread via @kingarthurflour

In the mood for something a little more elegant? This loaf is lighter and loftier. It has all the classic banana bread flavor in a more sophisticated package.

Thanks to a 50/50 blend of all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour, it rises higher above the pan and has a slightly cakier texture than the first loaf.

This loaf uses vegetable oil instead of butter, which helps keep it ultra-moist. And the best part? A crackly crust of brown sugar on the top.

Banana bread via @kingarthurflour

See the difference (whole-grain recipe on the left, 100% whole wheat on the right)?

Once you’ve chosen your ideal recipe, you can keep customizing! These two recipes both call for walnuts, but you can swap in any nut you like. And don’t stop there: Dried fruit, spices, crystallized ginger, and chocolate chips are all excellent additions to banana bread.

Here are a few ideas to get you into the kitchen:

Go bananas!

comments

  1. Kat

    Gah! I just made banana bread on Monday for my grad class! Now I have to make another loaf, or two! Why couldn’t you have posted this recipe on Sunday?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      uumm, we have secret cameras in your kitchen, and wanted you to bake more? I guess it’s really because we know that grad students need home cookin’. 😉 ~MJ

  2. Tom

    I’ve been making the 100% whole wheat banana bread for some time now. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s sturdy without being a brick. I have a few aging bananas on the counter – I think I’ll try the Whole Grain recipe. A question regarding terminology: The recipe calls for 50% whole wheat and 50% AP. Why is the recipe titled Whole Grain? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Tom, excellent question! We label recipes that contain a significant portion of whole grain ingredients “Whole Grain,” but quite often a recipe that is “100% Whole Wheat” will be labeled as such. The Whole Grain label helps when searching for a recipe that contains whole grain ingredients. Barb@KAF

  3. Diane Rowlee

    Have you ever substituted maple syrup for the brown sugar? How would the recipe be altered to accommodate the syrup?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Diane, we haven’t tried this, but you’re welcome to experiment! While you could certainly substitute maple syrup for the honey content, the brown sugar is a bit more tricky. The general rule is to substitute 3/4 of the amount of sugar with maple syrup and reduce the liquid amount by 3 tablespoons for each cup of maple syrup substituted. Unfortunately, banana bread recipes don’t usually have a liquid content beyond the bananas (which isn’t quite the same). You may be able to add more flour, but playing with the liquid/dry ratio isn’t always easy. Barb@KAF

  4. ADR

    I have a recipe that calls for roasting the bananas in their skins before using. It really bring out the banana. But I’ve always used all-purpose or even cake flour. I am motivated now to combine one of these recipes with the roasted bananas.

    Reply
  5. Julie

    How about substituting maple sugar for the brown sugar? I just made “healthy banana blueberry muffins” from a recipe that called for 1 cup each of whole wheat, AP and old fashioned oats. They’re okay but not yummy … a little too “healthy” tasting for me ; )
    But I’ve still got 4 bananas on the counter looking for a warm bread to call home and these 2 recipes are it!!! KAF = Home Sweet-Smelling Home!
    Julie in the Berkshires

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If maple is a flavor you love, then you are more than welcome to try incorporating maple sugar into this recipe. Maple sugar is typically more sweet than brown sugar in a cup-for-cup comparison, so you may consider reducing the amount of maple sugar used in the recipe just slightly. Sprinkling some maple sugar on the top of the batter before it goes into the oven is great way to make a crispy, yummy crust too! Kye@KAF

  6. Wendy

    You should try butterscotch chips rather than chocolate chips. It is absolutely phenomenal. My friends and family will not let me make it any other way.

    Reply
  7. DW

    I’m looking forward to trying the #2 loaf option! I’m not a fan of walnuts but really like the idea of getting the texture and meatiness provided by nuts. Anyone have suggestions that would add texture and compliment flavor? Maybe sunflower or hulled pumpkin seeds? Novice baker here.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi DW,
      I love adding sunflower seeds to breads instead of nuts. I think they give a milder crunch and a sweeter flavor. I hope you give it a try, too. ~ MJ

  8. Carol

    I have a Chicago Metallic set of four mini loaf pans. They are approximately 5 3/4 x 3 x 2 at the top of the pans, though they do taper in toward the bottom. How would I adjust the time and temperature?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Carol, you could keep the temperature the same–350–but reduce the baking time down to about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Bryanna@KAF

  9. Pamela Robinson

    Many years ago, I threw some banana chips into my banana bread in addition to the usual walnuts. I received so many compliments that they are now a part of my recipe.

    Reply
  10. Barb Schnitzer

    We really love and make often…..the one that uses 1 cup regular and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Got bananas to make more but we live in Stuart, Fl and expect “Matthew” to hit by the end of the day….so no baking today!

    Reply
  11. Mark

    Whenever I bake whole wheat banana nut bread, I always add some rum extract along with spiced rum AND vanilla extract. That addition seems to really enhance the banana flavor. Think Bananas Foster!

    Reply

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