This 6-ingredient banana bread recipe will never give you up, let you down, run around or desert you. It’s super easy to make and even easier to adapt.
Long before I ever made my first batch of bagels, I made this banana bread. The recipe is originally from a booklet that came with an Oster “Kitchen Center Food Preparation Appliance” my parents got as a wedding gift in 1984 and, while the machine crapped out somewhere around 1991, the banana bread recipe has truly lasted the test of time.
Every now and then I try a different banana bread recipe, curious if different ingredients, more ingredients — honey, brown sugar, orange marmalade, bourbon, maple syrup, whole wheat flour, etc. — will produce a superior loaf of banana bread. But this is the recipe I always come back to. It’s moist and flavorful with a slightly sticky, perfectly cracked-open top, and flecked throughout with evidence of the bananas that make up the batter.
The recipe itself is beautiful in its simplicity: Six ingredients, mixed together in a bowl, then baked for exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes. No more, no less.
If you’re a beginner baker, this is an ideal recipe to familiarize yourself with. It’s endlessly customizable and incredibly forgiving. Start with those key six ingredients, and from there you can experiment to your hearts content.
The best bananas for banana bread
Sometimes, I buy bananas because I want to make banana bread. Other times, I buy bananas to eat for breakfast, only to forget about them (because bacon tastes better) and they sit on my counter for a week turning brown. Luckily, that’s EXACTLY what you want your bananas to look like when you’re making banana bread. They should be brown and slightly mushy, but not deeply bruised and definitely not moldy.
Some banana bread recipes call for you to mash your bananas in advance but I’ve found that this recipe works best when you just toss whole banana chunks right into your mixer. Let the paddle do the hard work of breaking them down.
how to freeze bananas
If your bananas are going brown faster than you’re ready to make banana bread, peel and freeze them in a bag until you’re ready to use them. Defrost them thoroughly before use. When you defrost them, you’ll notice there’s some excess liquid in the bag — discard that. While the normal recipe calls for 3 non-frozen bananas, if you’re using defrosted ones, you’ll want to use 4 bananas instead to make up for the liquid lost in defrosting.
vegetable shortening vs. butter
This recipe calls for vegetable shortening — an ingredient that was popularly promoted as a “healthy alternative to saturated fats” in the 80s and 90s, but is seen far less often in recipes today due to an increase in concern about trans fats (just another reminder that what we consider “healthy” is often the result of successful marketing campaigns). This recipe only uses a 1/2 cup of shortening, so I keep a small container of it in my pantry specifically to use in banana bread. The recipe has been so good to me over the years, and I have no desire to fix something that’s not broken.
That said, if you’d rather not use shortening, you can swap it out 1:1 with unsalted butter. Butter has slightly higher water content than shortening (which is 100% fat), so you might see slightly less rise in your finished banana bread. If you go this route, instead of mixing all your ingredients together at once, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.
greasing and flouring your pan
In order to successfully remove your banana bread from your pan after it bakes, you need to grease and flour your pan. Just grease alone won’t be enough to keep it from sticking.
Spray the inside and the walls of your 9×4″ or 9×5″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. (Or drizzle ~1 TBSP of canola oil in the pan and use a paper towel to brush it against the walls and into all the corners.) Then, scoop 1-2 TBSP of flour into the pan, and rotate it while tapping it lightly against your hand or the side of your sink until a thin later of flour coats the sides and bottom of the pan. Dump out any excess flour.
Pro-tip 1: Always do this over your sink or a trash can.
Pro-tip 2: Use hot cocoa mix instead of flour for a yummy chocolate exterior.
6-Ingredient Banana Bread
This banana bread recipe literally never fails. It’s moist and light, with a perfectly cracked top. It’s super easy to make and even easier to adapt. See the notes for instructions on how to take this banana bread to the next level with some chocolate marbling.
3 overripe bananas (4 if frozen, with liquid drained)
1 cup sugar (198g)
2 cups flour (240g)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening 95g)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
- Optional additions
1/2 cup of chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, or chopped pecans (mixed into the batter, and/or sprinkled on top)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cayenne
2 TBSP of cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar (to sprinkle on top)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (reduce flour by 1/4 cup) to make chocolate banana bread
1 TBSP orange zest
- Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the first six ingredients together with an electric mixer until well combined. If adding any mix-ins (nuts, chocolate chips, etc) stir them in at the end.
- Spray & flour your 9×4″ or 9×5″ loaf pan to prevent sticking (pro-tip: use hot cocoa mixture instead of flour). Pour your batter into the pan, tapping it against the counter a few times to release air bubbles.
- Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (70 minutes) until a toothpick or paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and run a paring knife around the sides to release, then let cool in pan on a wire rack. When mostly cool, release from pan and continue cooling on wire rack. Try to restrain yourself, but wait until it’s fully at room temp before eating.
- To make chocolate swirl banana bread, after mixing the batter, pour 1/3 of of the batter into a small bowl, add 1/8th cup cocoa powder (Dutch process if you have it), and mix well. When you go to pour the batter into the prepared pan, first pour in half of the non-chocolate batter, then dollop in a layer of the chocolate batter, then cover it with the rest of the non-chocolate batter. Insert a knife or a skewer straight to the bottom of the pan, and draw a few continuous figure-8 shapes across the width of the pan to create a swirl.
- If using defrosted bananas, discard any excess liquid in the bag and use 4 bananas instead of 3.
- If you’d rather not use shortening, you can swap it out 1:1 with unsalted butter. Instead of mixing all your ingredients together at once, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and beat well until combined.