Banana bread is a beloved baking staple, but you can take it from basic to spectacular with creative add-ins. The mild flavor and tender crumb of banana bread make it the perfect canvas for all kinds of mix-ins.
Nuts, spices, chocolate, and more can transform your bread into a decadent treat. Read on for inspiration and how-to’s on incorporating add-ins that take your banana bread to the next level.
Nuts and Seeds
Toasted nuts or seeds lend flavor, crunch, and texture. Fold them into the batter or sprinkle on top before baking. Try walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, or hemp hearts.
Toasting nuts intensifies their flavor. Spread on a baking sheet and toast at 350°F for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool before adding to the batter.
Chocolate Chips and Chunks
Chocolate and banana are a match made in heaven. Mini chocolate chips are classic, or use chunks or chopped chocolate for bursts of chocolate in each bite. Dark, milk, or white chocolate all pair wonderfully. Add up to 1 cup of chips or chunks to the batter. They’ll sink as the bread bakes, creating chocolate pockets throughout.
Dried or Fresh Fruit
Diced apples, pears, cranberries, raisins, apricots, dates, figs, and more provide a chewy contrast. If using larger fresh fruits like apples and pears, par-cook them first until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Toss the diced fruit with a tablespoon of flour before folding into the batter to prevent sinking.
Bright citrus flavors accent banana bread perfectly. Zest an orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit before juicing. Fold the zest into the batter along with juice for extra moisture and flavor. Lemon and lime lend fresh, vibrant notes while orange provides warmth.
Spices and Herbs
A blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice or pumpkin pie spice adds comforting spice flavor. Or try a pinch of cardamom, cloves or marjoram for a more exotic twist. Mix in up to 1 teaspoon of ground spice. Fresh minced herbs like rosemary, basil and mint also infuse inviting aromas and flavors.
For delicious contrast, add 1/2 cup of toffee bits, crushed cookies, granola, cereal, pretzels, potato chips or puffed rice. The crunchy textures offset the bread’s soft crumb perfectly. Break cookies and cereal into bite size pieces before mixing in.
Swirls and Drizzles
Before baking, swirl peanut butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread, dulce de leche, or jam through the batter. Or top just-baked bread with a glaze, ganache, or cream cheese frosting. The possibilities are endless for sweet vanilla glazes, chocolate drizzle, lemon curd, salted caramel and more.
Mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Work in 4 tablespoons melted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle this streusel over the batter before baking for a deliciously crunchy topping.
For vegan banana bread, use non-dairy milk and vegan butter. Then customize with vegan chocolate, nuts, seeds, fruit, and spices. Dairy-free add-ins like coconut flakes, vegan protein powder, nut butters, and crushed cookies or cereal also work wonderfully.
Gluten-free flours like almond, coconut or oat flour make for sturdy yet tender banana bread. Boost nutrition and texture with chia or flax seeds, nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate, spices, extracts, crunchy cereal and puffed quinoa.
For an unexpected twist, add 3/4 cup shredded cheddar or crumbled feta cheese along with 1/4 cup snipped chives or scallions. Or fold in 1/2 cup diced ham, crumbled bacon or cooked, chopped veggies like spinach and roasted red peppers.
Simple Banana Bread Base Recipe:
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Next time a bunch of bananas gets overripe, don’t toss them! Put them to delicious use in customized banana bread. With the simple base recipe above, the options for mix-ins are practically endless.
Get creative with nuts, chocolate, fruit, spices and more to bake up your own signature loaf. Impress your friends and family with your inventive flavor combinations and irresistible homemade creations!