This simple healthy banana bread recipe is my absolute FAVORITE banana bread. It's moist, lightly sweetened, and filled with maple banana flavor. It tastes so indulgent that you would not guess it was healthy!
About the recipe
This past Christmas, I was delighted to be gifted with Joanna Gaines' cookbook, Magnolia Table. I had been eyeing it for a while and even checked it out of my local library, and was so excited to have a copy of my own. First of all, the photography is absolutely stunning, and reading Joanna's stories and notes about each recipe has been so enjoyable!
This cookbook was the first to be explored in the new Sweet Cayenne Cookbook Club. One of the fun challenges we have in the club is to modify a favorite recipe from the book to create a new, personalized version.
The goal of the recipe modification cookbook club challenge is to help make recipes better fit nutrition goals, dietary needs, or taste preferences. I chose the After School Banana Bread from the book to inspire my own recipe for a healthy, wholesome, banana bread that I could enjoy anytime!
Believe it or not, homemade banana bread can be good for you! Below are the modifications to Joanna's recipe that make this a healthy and moist banana bread recipe without sacrificing flavor:
- Toast the walnuts and caramelize the bananas - this concentrates and deepens the flavor of the bread batter and reduces the need for lots of sugar.
- Reduced the added sugar in the banana bread batter by half.
- Reduced the amount of butter by half - this cuts back on saturated fat and calories.
- Replace the butter with Earth Balance vegan butter sticks.
- Substitute unsweetened applesauce in the banana bread batter for the butter that was reduced.
- Replaced the all-purpose flour with freshly-ground white whole wheat flour for added fiber and protein.
A common question people ask is "why is banana bread so high in calories?"
Banana bread is typically loaded with fat in the form of oil and/or butter. It's also very high in sugar - most recipes call for 2-3 cups of sugar! But trust me, once you taste this healthy banana bread, you will not miss the extra calories!
- Vegan butter - I recommend Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
- Very ripe bananas - 5 medium or 4 large
- Dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon rum flavoring- optional
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- Unsweetened applesauce - used instead of oil
- White whole wheat flour
- Baking soda and salt
- Cane sugar or turbinado sugar
You may be wondering: "how ripe should a banana be for banana bread?" Well, as ripe as possible! You want your bananas to be practically brown and almost black for the best banana flavor.
As bananas ripen, the starch inside turns to sugars. Using really ripe bananas in this bread allows us to reduce the amount of added sugar needed.
However, with my caramelization method below, it is possible to use fresh bananas (like yellow ones) and still get a good banana flavor from this banana bread recipe. I can't wait for you to try it!
Step 1: Toast some walnuts and caramelize some bananas. These are two critical steps for developing a deep and intense flavor in banana bread. These techniques also help concentrate flavor in recipes where the sugar and fat have been reduced.
Step 2: Mix the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients. Be careful not to overmix or your banana bread can turn out dense and tough.
Step 3: Fold in the mix-ins. In this case, that's walnuts!
Step 4: Sprinkle on the sugar topping, then bake! Using cane sugar or turbinado sugar on top will create a delicious shiny crust on the banana bread.
I love that Joanna's original recipe called for the banana bread to be baked in a square pan. I will never go back to a bread pan again - the square pan creates so much more of that delicious crust!
Step 5: Drool over baked crunchy sugar topping.
I mean, how delicious does this look?!?
Are you ready to make this Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts? I’m so excited for you to try this recipe. Once you get the chance to make it, please let me know how it turns out for you!
Leave a comment and rate the recipe below. This will help me with the creation of future recipes!
Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts
- Cooking spray and parchment paper for the pan
- 4 tablespoons of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 5 medium very ripe bananas
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon rum flavoring (optional)
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unbleached cane sugar
- Preheat oven to 350℉. Spray an 8x8-inch pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper so that there is a 1-inch overhang on both ends. Set aside.
- Place the walnuts on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once it is melted, add the bananas. Sautee the bananas for 5 minutes, reducing heat as necessary and breaking them up into small chunks with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the brown sugar and stir until melted and the mixture is dark and thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rum extract (if using) and the vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl to cool slightly.
- While the banana mixture is cooling, chop the walnuts.
- Add the eggs and applesauce to the banana mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, whisking lightly until almost combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in walnuts (if using), scraping the sides of bowl and folding in any residual flour. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top, covering the whole surface evenly.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool a bit on a wire rack. Serve warm.
- When the bread is completely cool, cover with foil and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Longer storage will require refrigeration, which will soften the crunchy sugar topping.
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