We Tested 4 Banana Bread Recipes—Here’s What You Need to Know

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We put four of our top-rated banana bread recipes to the test. Find out which you should be making at home.

four banana breads in a row: vegan, healthy, classic and gluten freeTaste of Home

Looking for a cozy, comforting bake? You can’t do much better than a homey banana bread. But at Taste of Home, we know there are a lot of variations out there—we’ve got dozens of banana bread recipes in our archives! So how do you choose the right bread for you? And how do you take this treat—which we’d happily eat for breakfast, snack or dessert—and make it suit your needs (or maybe make it a smidge healthier)?

Well, we compared our most popular banana bread recipe with a few healthier options: our healthier banana bread, vegan banana bread and gluten-free banana bread. Our Test Kitchen weighed in on the differences between these bread recipes in taste, flavor and nutrition.

Check out some more of our best banana bread recipes.

Classic Banana Bread

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We consider out best-ever banana bread recipe to be the gold standard of banana breads. It’s top-rated by our readers and has made plenty of appearances at our office potlucks. This bread is moist, filled with banana flavor (it’s the perfect way to use up ripe bananas) and it gets extra texture and flavor from toasted walnuts. With a whole cup of chopped walnuts in this recipe, you’re sure to get some crunch in each bite.

This is a pretty traditional banana bread recipe. It has bananas, sugar, oil, all-purpose flour and nuts. This recipe calls for buttermilk which makes the loaf even more tender. And if you don’t have buttermilk, it’s easy to make a substitute at home.

Healthier Banana Bread

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If you’re looking for a banana bread that’s a bit lighter, this makeover version is for you. It uses half the sugar as our standard recipe and uses some applesauce in lieu of more oil to add moisture. You’ll also see that the recipe uses some wheat flour in addition to all-purpose. You’re saving a bit of fat in this recipe and getting a bit more fiber. In comparison to the best-ever banana bread, you’re saving about 90 calories per slice and gaining an additional gram of fiber and protein.

Our samplers in the Test Kitchen found this bread to be buttery and the most banana-forward of all our recipes. If you’re looking for nutty banana bread, you may want to stir more pecans into the batter here since this recipe just calls for them to be scattered on top (which looks very pretty). Just be sure to toast the nuts first for the most flavor.

Vegan Banana Bread

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Vegan baking can be a challenge. Getting the right texture without traditional ingredients takes some finesse, but this banana bread manages it! Instead of eggs, our recipe calls for silken tofu. This ingredient adds tenderness and moisture to the recipe. And don’t be wary of using it in baking—it’s a cinch to use. Silken tofu as soft and blends easily into batters. Just be sure to use silken and not block tofu.

But let’s get real: What does the bread taste like? Our Test Kitchen samplers say that this vegan banana bread is on par with our classic best-ever banana bread (high praise!). This recipe is moist and tender, and it’s not too sweet. Instead, the banana and nuts really shine through.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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You can also make your banana bread gluten-free by following this recipe which calls for a gluten-free flour blend. You can make your own blend of flours or use a pre-made mix, something like Cup4Cup gluten-free flour.

The result is a pale golden loaf packed with nuts and a more mild banana flavor. It’s not quite the cakey texture of traditional banana bread, but that’s typical for gluten-free baking. For GF folks, this is a great recipe and is highly rated by readers.

The Best Option for a Healthier Banana Bread

When it comes to making a healthier version of banana bread, it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you eat vegan, obviously the vegan recipe is the way to go. If you’re looking for the lightest option in terms of calories and fat, we suggest the healthier makeover banana bread.

But if you’re up for a little experimenting in the kitchen, we recommend making some swaps to Taste of Home’s best-ever banana bread recipe if you want to lighten it up but still get the impact of one of our best recipes. If you’re really craving banana bread, cut down the sugar in the recipe to one cup. You won’t miss it.

You could also swap some—but no more than half—of the flour for whole wheat flour. All-purpose flour is what gives the bread a light and tender texture, so don’t omit it completely. A loaf made with just wheat flour will be a bit dense and dry.

Additionally, you could replace half the oil with unsweetened applesauce. In fact, you can do this in most baking recipes.

How to Customize Your Banana Bread Even Further

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Besides making healthy swaps in your go-to banana bread recipe, you can customize your banana bread with additional flavors. We’ve got plenty of options for how you can amp up banana bread. Adding toasted nuts adds texture, flavor and protein. Stirring in some shredded zucchini, like you would in this banana-zucchini bread, adds moisture and some vitamins like vitamin C.

If you’re interested more in flavor than the nutritionals (that’s absolutely fine—this is a treat after all), sprinkle in chocolate chips or some cocoa powder. You can even tip with coarse sugar for crunch.

Really, banana bread is such a flexible bake. You can make lots of alterations to your go-to recipe to create a new favorite.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.