Upgrade your banana bread with mix-ins you already have in your pantry

A dozen delicious ways to make banana bread even better.

Pamela Vachon Contributor
Pamela is a freelance food and travel writer based in Astoria, Queens. While she writes about most things edible and potable (and accessories dedicated to those topics,) her real areas of expertise are cheese, chocolate, cooking and wine. She's a culinary school grad, certified sommelier, former bartender and fine dining captain with 10 years in the industry. When not sitting at the keys, she leads in-home cheese classes, wine tastings and cocktail demonstrations.
Expertise Wine | Cheese | Chocolate | Cooking
Pamela Vachon
4 min read

Fact: Banana bread is the ultimate, go-to baked good. With an easy to make (and even memorize) recipe, it's difficult to screw up and can serve as a simple breakfast or afternoon snack or dress up as a showy brunch plate or decadent dessert. It's portable, giftable and craveable. The basic ingredients are regularly on hand, and it is the utmost transformative baking experience in that it actually calls for the ugliest, overripe fruits to produce a sweet, most delicious outcome. What other baked good has the humility, the veracity, the very Fairy Godmother ability to take what's nearly discarded and make it new again? You think apple pie dances best with the bruised fruits? Not a chance.

Banana bread belongs to a category of pastry known as quick breads, more of a cake or muffin than a bread, since yeast plays no part in the structure and the rise comes instead from the simple addition of baking soda and/or baking powder into the batter. Bread without waiting for yeast to do its business, hence, quick bread.

Read more: Top bread machines for home bakers  

Perhaps you're already sold on the ease and simplicity of banana bread. Perhaps your banana bread game is strong but in need of some excitement. In any case, I offer one final remark as to the perfection that is a banana bread confection: It pairs well with all sorts of things. How many of these do you already have lurking in your pantry or fridge you can try in your next loaf?


Nuts and bananas are about as natural a food marriage as they come; just ask Elvis. Pecans bring out a hint of sweetness and southern flair. Almonds achieve that heady, marzipan aroma. Try grinding hazelnuts into the flour for a rich, pleasantly bitter note, but chopping and mixing them in is great too. Walnuts, though, make an especially classic combination. Get the banana bread with walnuts recipe.

Sour cream


Banana bread is one of those forgiving recipes where the naturally built-in moisture easily allows for variation in the level of fat content without compromising on the integrity of the texture. Sour cream, or thick Greek yogurt, adds both a desirable tartness to the equation, as well as a decadence that pushes the bread into cake territory. Get Chowhound's sour cream banana bread recipe.

Peanut butter


Peanut butter and other nut butters (or even seed butters), accomplish both the flavor element of adding nuts to the batter, as well as the additional fat for density and texture. Here, crunchy peanut butter retains the occasional bite of chopped nuts without the labor, and we love the addition of honey as a complementary sweet flavor. Get Chowhound's peanut butter honey banana bread recipe.


No, not potato chips, though I daresay you could make the argument. (Okay, here's one.) But all manner of sweet baking chips enhance the potential dessert aspect of banana bread, from mainstay chocolate chips, to white chocolate chips, or my personal favorite, the butterscotch banana bread recipe.

Dried fruits

We all have some half-used package of dried fruit in the nether regions of our cabinets. Fortunately, their very preserved nature allows them to survive the wait. Next time you're ripe with over-ripe bananas, feel free to toss in raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, figs; whatever you've got. This wonderful healthy banana bread with dates and walnuts recipe featuring dates adds even more moisture and natural sweetness.

Maple syrup

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Adding maple syrup to the batter is like hinting at the ostentatious brunch potential of banana bread without fully going there. The addition of maple extract is a nice touch to really get the point across. Get the maple walnut banana bread recipe.

Chocolate spread


You know the one I'm talking about: the one and only, Nutella. If you've ever felt inclined to spread it on a banana, or on a slice of banana bread, then you will understand the apparent appeal of swirling it into the mix from the very start. A pre-roast on ripe bananas adds extra deepness of flavor. Get Chowhound's roasted banana Nutella bread recipe.


The irony of baking with coffee is that the richest coffee flavor is often best accomplished with instant espresso grounds. So if you've ever attempted a mocha-flavored anything, from mousse to cookies, you probably still have some on hand and are definitely not using if for morning joe. Enter banana bread, the ultimate depository for the kitchen island of misfit ingredients. Get the espresso banana bread recipe.


Whether you make the caramel yourself or rely on something from a jar, this is another application where banana bread proves its natural dessert ability. This caramel macchiato banana Bread recipe also gets extra credit for the infusion of salted caramel in the bread itself plus a brown sugar glaze on top.

Fresh fruits

As we move into the abundance of spring and summer produce, berries are making their way back into our lives, and any of them are most welcome to come hang with banana bread. Take this strawberry banana bread recipe and combine it with a recipe featuring yogurt and you've basically got a smoothie you can chew.


While coconut may technically qualify under the dried fruits heading above, it adds such a unique and specific flavor and texture that it deserves its own category, and would you look at those gorgeous, toasted flakes? Get the coconut banana bread recipe.

Trail mix

In summary, banana bread can accommodate just about anything and -- if you want to be really extra about it -- can even accommodate everything all at once, like in this trail mix banana bread recipe.

CNET makes banana bread!

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