The Ultimate Banana Bread

Dessert, Entertaining | November 22, 2014 | By

Ultimate Banana Bread

If you’re looking for the best banana bread but don’t want to make a dozen recipes trying to find it, rest easy, I’ve done it for you!  This recipe from Cooks Illustrated has a little science behind it in extracting the most banana flavor possible from bananas for a moist, tender loaf with over-the-top banana flavor!

Ultimate Banana Bread Top

Most banana bread recipes use just 3 bananas but this one uses 6!  How do you add that many bananas without getting pudding you ask?  There’s a secret to it….we’ll extract the juice from the bananas!

Who Knew Bananas had Juice?

We’ll add banana flavor without adding too much moisture to our banana bread by microwaving the fruit and draining it.  Then we’ll simmer the banana liquid in a saucepan until it’s reduced and then incorporate it into the batter. We’ll use brown sugar instead of granulated and swap out oil for the nutty richness of butter. Toasted pecans give our banana bread a nice crunch, and a sixth banana sliced thin and caramelized on top of the loaf gives this banana bread an enticingly crisp, crunchy top.

Do it Ripe!

As bananas ripen, their starch converts to sugar so be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe.  If you use anything less than very ripe bananas, you’ll end up with a very bland loaf. 


Microwaving ripe bananas for 5 minutes causes them to release “juice.”


After straining the bananas, you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid to work with.


Reducing the banana liquid yields a concentrated liquor, intensifying flavor without making the loaf wet.

Banana Bread Batter Prep

Pour the reduced banana juice back into the bananas, mash and add the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.  Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the pecans.  Pour the batter into a pan sprayed with cooking spray.   Add the 6th banana to the top, layering the banana slices on either side of the loaf.  This will add more banana flavor and it looks pretty!  Make sure to leave a 1 1/2 inch wide space down the center so the loaf will rise evenly.

Banana Bread with Milk

It really is best after it’s been cooled a bit and fresh from the oven.  That’s when the crust is the crunchiest!  Okay enough talking, the banana bread is calling me!  🙂

The Ultimate Banana Bread
Yields 1
Banana Bread that is moist and tender with over-the-top banana flavor.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
50 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
50 min
  1. 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled
  6. 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  11. 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for sprinkling on top
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinammon together in large bowl.
  2. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut a few steam vents in plastic with small knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid).
  3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1 1/2-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
  5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 50 to 70 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
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