Everyone knows you need ripe bananas to make banana bread — the browner, the better.
But rules were meant to be broken, and our newest banana bread recipe does just that. It calls for yellow bananas instead. A sneaky shortcut makes those unripe bananas just as flavorful as their mushy counterparts in a matter of minutes, not days. It’s a tip so good, one commenter called it “revolutionary.”
The trick? Cover the bananas with brown sugar, then roast them while the oven preheats, about 20 to 25 minutes. As they cook, the bananas begin to caramelize and break down, transforming into a super-soft, fragrant mixture with concentrated flavors as the fruit’s starches convert to sugars.
The idea originally came from recipe developer Jason Hudson, who wanted to develop a banana bread that could be made anytime — even if you can’t wait for bananas to ripen on the counter all week or find appropriately brown ones at the supermarket. “Sometimes you have an impromptu visit or a last-minute bake sale that banana bread would be perfect for, but you don’t have any of those ‘perfect’ bananas on the counter,” says Jason. That’s where this loaf comes in.
Developing the recipe wasn’t easy. The challenge to making banana bread with yellow bananas was replicating both the flavor and texture of ripe bananas. They need to be soft enough that they can seamlessly blend into the quick bread batter, leaving small pockets, rather than large chunks, of banana behind. And then there’s the flavor.
Jason initially tried the recipe with raw, yellow bananas. “While the bread was good, it wasn’t quite banana-y enough,” he recalls. For the taste of sweet, tropical bananas to come through in the final bread, he needed to concentrate their flavor, which is what happens when bananas naturally ripen over time and turn soft and brown. By adding sugar and heat to break them down and caramelize them, you can hack this natural process, creating a banana mixture that mimics fruit that has naturally overripened, both in texture and flavor. And bonus: It happens while you’re already waiting for the oven to preheat, so it barely takes any extra time out of the recipe.
The result is a classic banana bread: soft, tender, and flavorful, with subtle but detectable banana flavor enhanced by brown sugar and vanilla. Test Kitchen Director Sarah Jampel describes it as “even more flavorful than your average banana bread.” There’s also a crunchy, crackly crust, thanks to the addition of coarse sparkling sugar scattered over the surface of the bread before baking.
So the next time you want banana bread, but don’t have the patience to wait days for bananas to ripen in your fruit bowl? Grab a bunch of yellow ones and turn on the oven. You’re only two hours from the banana bread of your dreams.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.