How to Make a Banana Sandwich Like a True Southerner

If you've never eaten a banana sandwich, did you even grow up in the South?

The South is home to plenty of offbeat food combinations—sugar in grits, syrup on biscuits, and cheddar on apple pie are only a few of the region’s culinary quirks. If you’ve never had a banana sandwich, though, you’re missing out on one of the simplest—and most satisfying—Southern comfort foods. No, it’s not a joke, and for the record, neither is the pineapple sandwich.

What Is a Southern Banana Sandwich?

A Southern banana sandwich is slices of banana with mayonnaise, traditionally Duke’s, in between white bread. We know—it sounds interesting but you really need to try it!

Why Are Banana Sandwiches Popular in the South?

Much like the iconic Southern tomato sandwich, the key to the banana sandwich’s popularity is simplicity. The natural sweetness in bananas makes them a natural complement to the slight saltiness in mayonnaise; don’t knock it until you try it because it works.

The banana sandwich gained widespread popularity as a Great Depression recipe since it was easy and affordable. Other Depression-era classics include the peanut butter and mayo sandwich and vinegar pie. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact date the banana sandwich was created, we do know it was particularly popular during the 1930s and ’40s.

“This sandwich (and others like it) flourished in a time when people doing a long day of physical work needed cheap (and relatively easy) calories, vitamins and fat,” says Melissa Booth Hall, interim co-director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. “And, weirdly, both mayo and bananas were Southern products—readily available in many corners of the region.”

The main ingredient in this Southern sandwich comes from the opposite side of the world—bananas were first cultivated in Papua New Guinea and later spread to Pacific areas like Indonesia and the Philippines. They eventually made their way to the Americas via Portuguese and Spanish explorers and were widely grown in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. A few centuries ago, imported bananas were a luxury, but now they’re a supermarket staple.

How to Make a Southern Banana Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 2 slices white bread, preferably Sara Lee or Wonder
  • 1 ripe banana
  • Mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s

Directions

  • Using a butter knife, smear mayonnaise onto the bread.
  • Cut the banana into slices widthwise.
  • Arrange banana slices on top of the mayonnaise.

Variations on the Banana Sandwich

Of course, there’s more than one way to make a banana sandwich. Many Southerners were raised on a banana and peanut butter sandwich, or a sandwich that combined bananas, peanut butter and mayonnaise. Mid-century newspaper archives show other types of banana sandwiches as well: one banana and mayo sandwich got extra protein with the addition of bacon, while another accented bananas with lemon juice, sugar and chopped nuts. Another banana sandwich recipe from the 1930s featured cream cheese, jelly and an optional slice of lettuce.

Tips and Tricks for Making a Banana Sandwich

The banana sandwich may be simple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play around with the formula. Charleston-based chef and food writer Amethyst Ganaway prefers her banana sandwiches with peanut butter and honey on butter or honey wheat bread. “The bananas and honey are so sweet it’s like a dessert snack,” she says. “It’s not something I do regularly, but there are times when I really get a hankering for it.” For a real sweet treat, replace the peanut butter with marshmallow fluff.

Ganaway also recommends putting a little extra work into the slicing process: “I like my bananas cut like coins, but recently I’ve been cutting them lengthwise and it makes it easier for the slices to stay put.”

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Sarra Sedghi
Sarra Sedghi is a Birmingham-based writer and editor specializing in food, travel, and history. Her work has appeared in Allrecipes, Atlas Obscura, Eater, MyRecipes, Polygon, and Tasting Table. She excels at narrative writing, and received her MFA in Narrative Nonfiction from the University of Georgia in 2017.