There is nothing (nothing!) wrong with a plain old banana bread. I am always very excited to see a few bananas moving past their prime in the fruit basket because I know a loaf of banana bread will be making itself a necessity very soon.
But banana bread, like many quick breads, gets even better when you add in an extra ingredient to give it some more flavor and texture. Then you’ve got something special to have on the kitchen counter, ready to be sliced for breakfast, a grab-and-run snack, or a late afternoon coffee break.
It’s especially wonderful when wrapped up for a helpful neighbor or that awesome teacher at your kid’s school.
Start With a Basic Banana Bread Recipe…
These add-ins work with pretty much any banana bread recipe you like, and if you’re looking for a good basic banana bread to start with, well, here you go!
This has been the most popular recipe on Simply Recipes for over 10 years, and you’ll see why–it’s super easy, adaptable, and there’s no stand mixer required.
. . . And Then Pick Some Mix-Ins!
The suggested amounts below are all estimated for a single-loaf banana bread recipe. For two-loaf banana bread recipes, simply double the amounts. The amounts are also guidelines, and you can play around with the amounts until you find your perfect banana bread.
You can also mix and match! Think of ground cinnamon with chocolate chips, for example, or ground cloves and chopped dried pears. If you are adding more than one of the chopped items (chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts), don’t add more than a total of 3/4 to 1 cup of the add-ins, so they remain proportionate to the bread itself.
Do Add-Ins Change the Baking Time?
Regardless of what you add in to your banana bread, the baking time should be about the same.
However, as usual, you’ll want to test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle of the loaf to see if it comes out clean. When it’s clean, with perhaps a moist crumb or two sticking to the skewer, the bread is done, and you can cool it according to the recipe.
I think the one ingredient that makes a muffin or a quick bread sail up a whole notch in appeal is chocolate. I think about how much more quickly my younger son will jump at a piece of “Chocolate Chip Banana Bread” than just “Banana Bread.”
You can go the regular chip route, mixing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chips into the batter per loaf, or even better, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup chips and then sprinkle an additional 1/4 cup over the top just before baking. Extra curb appeal sitting on the counter.
Also play with chopped chocolate bars, or packaged chocolate chunks, mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and all levels of light to dark chocolate. You can also add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the batter along with the flour for an overall delicate hint of chocolate, and without upsetting the moisture content.
Try these recipes!
2 Dried Fruit
There are so many types of dried fruit to play with, you can keep changing up this bread all year long. Small dried fruit such as cranberries, blueberries, and of course, raisins work well in banana bread.
You can also use larger types of dried fruit; just be sure to chop them into about 1/4-inch pieces before adding. Try apricots, dried plums (that’s what prunes may be called these days), cherries, and pears.
Regardless of what dried fruit you pick, use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup and stir these in just before pouring the batter into the loaf pan.
Nuts are a classic add in to banana bread, and there are so many to play with, each with its own flavor and particular crunch. Walnuts and pecans are frequently included in banana breads, but you might also want to try hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or cashews. For extra flavor toast them lightly in a dry pan over medium heat, as Elise does here with cashews.
You can use pre-chopped nuts or chop your own. You want small enough pieces to distribute nicely throughout the bread, but not so small that they blend into the bread, and lose their crunchy, nuggety presence.
Stir 1/2 to 3/4 cup into the batter just before transferring the batter to the pan.
Warming spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and allspice—tend to be very compatible with many sweet quick breads, and banana bread is no exception.
You can add a single spice, or blend a couple together. Just use a light hand, since a hint of these spices is a great enhancement, but too much can overpower the flavor of bananas (and we don’t want that, do we?).
The following is a general guide to how much of each spice to add if you are selecting one individual spice for your recipe:
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
If you decide to use two of these spices, then cut the amount of each in half. If you are looking to include more than two spices, make sure the total doesn’t exceed 1 teaspoon, and hold the nutmeg and cloves to 1/4 teaspoon each at max—they are strongly flavored!
Add the spices to the flour mixture (a.k.a. the dry ingredients) when you stir it together.
Your turn! What are your favorite mix-ins for banana bread?