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Please help me make my banana bread healthy.

  • f

I use the Cook's Illustrated banana bread recipe but want to make it healthier. Here are the ingredients; please let me know your ideas. For example, I thought of replacing the regular all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour, but don't know if it will work. I'd love to add in some oat or wheat bran as well, maybe subbing it for some of the flour?

I'm listing all the ingredients, but don't need subs for the baking soda, salt, bananas, etc. Thanks in advance!

10 oz unbleached AP flour
1 1/4 cups walnuts
3/4 cup white sugar (can I use brown sugar, molasses, or some combination?)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup plain yogurt (can I use nonfat, maybe drained to make it thicker?)
2 large eggs
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

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  1. In their newest cookbook, The Best Light Recipe, Cook's Illustrated has lightened up this recipe themselves. They go into the usual Cook's Illustrated details about what they tried, and if you're into lightening recipes, the books has a tonne of good information.

    The ingredient list ends up:

    1 1/2 cups AP flour
    1/2 cup cake flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 ounces sugar
    3 very ripe bananas
    1/4 cup low fat yogurt
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 tbsp unsalted butter
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup walnuts

    This drops the calories from 350 to 240 and the fat from 16g to 4.5g over their original recipe.

    1. I usually take the low-fat recipe I found on EPI and change it even more. Here is my adjusted version:

      2 large eggs
      1/2 cup sugar (white, or a mixture of white and brown)
      3 medium bananas (the riper the better!*), smashed but not too smoothly; little lumps give you gooey pockets of banana in the finished loaf
      1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/3 cup of milk, poured over two squirts of lemon juice in a bowl, left for five minutes without stirring to get lumpy)
      1 tablespoon melted butter
      1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      1 ¾ cups all purpose flour (I sometimes substitute up to 1/2C wholewheat flour, or 1/4C ground almonds)
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      ½ teaspoon baking soda
      ½ teaspoon salt
      ground cinnamon
      1 small handful chocolate chips

      Preheat your oven to 325F or 160C. Lightly grease and flour a loaf tin.

      Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bow until thick and light; about five minutes. In a smaller bowl, mix the bananas, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Incorporate this into the sugar and eggs, then sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on top of the mixture. Add several good shakes of ground cinnamon, and beat it all until just blended. Gently stir through the chocolate chips, and pour batter into the loaf tin.

      Bake until the top is golden brown. The recipe says a tester should come out clean, but between the chocolate and banana, there will always be something gooey in the tester! I’d give it 45 min - 1 hour. Turn the bread onto a rack and cool (in reality, I eat half before it reaches ‘cool’). Delish!

      Like most low fat recipes, this won't improve with time; it will tend to dry out due to its low fat content. So eat it preferably the day you make it.

      * if your bananas are not as ripe as you'd like, put one (still in its skin) into the preheating oven for 10-15 minutes. The skin will go black, and the inside will caramelize. Don't do this to all your bananas, or the bread becomes too sweet.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gooseberry

        Gooseberry, this recipe rocks, thank you for posting it! In an effort to make it more healthy and to attempt to make up for nutrients I'm having trouble getting into me right now (morning, heck all day and night, sickness), I healthy-ified this a bit more. Why these are something that make me feel good is beyond my understanding, but aside from a few crackers, spicy-carby ethnic food (go figure), and a multigrain bagel from a local bakery, these are one of the few things I can stomach.

        I used 1/4 c of blackstrap molasses(iron, calcium) and 1/4c of brown sugar for the 1/2 sugar
        For the 1 3/4 c flour, I mixed in: 1/4c freshly ground flax seed meal(Omegas, fiber), 1/2 spelt flour, 1c white whole wheat (next time i might go 1/2 and 1/2 on regular whole wheat and the w.w.w.).
        Also added some cardamom to the cinnamon, but I don't think it's discernable.

        These are moist and really flavorful. They remind me of this muffin that I have adored for years, which I can only get at the Boulder Bakery in Boulder, CO. There, they call it the Peak to Peak muffin and, seriously, it can get you through a tough 2hr trail run at altitude! It's way bigger, definitely is made with canola oil (and no eggs or buttermilk, it's vegan) but it's got the same dark deep taste.

        Anyway, thanks for this recipe!! It's terrific!

      2. You could sub all the flour for whole-wheat pastry flour...I've done it in many recipes and it will be just fine.
        As the eggs here are acting as a binder and not a leavener, you can substitute "egg substitute" or egg whites (just use the conversion on the side of the package).
        You could substitute 2 Tbs. of butter for 2 Tbs. canola oil. You'd still have the butter flavor, but would get a more heart-healthy serving of fat from the canola.
        I've heard that some people have consistency problems when subsituting sugar and honey/molasses, but I might try subbing out 1/4 cup or so.
        Hope this helps...

        1. I made banana bread while baking for a restaurant.
          It was really delicious. I used unbleached white flour. Don't use just WW - too dense. I used brown sugar. Brown sugar is really no healthier than white though. They just add a bit of molasses to white sugar to turn it brown. But it does make for a better flavor. Replace the yolks in the two eggs with the white of a third to make the same volume and cut cholesterol quite a bit. Substitute canola oil for the butter. I think canola oil is suposed to be the healthiest. (I used Wesson oil in mine, way back when). You could certainly drain your yogurt and use non-fat, but measure the yogurt after draining, rather than before. Over-ripe bananas do make the best cake.

          1. Here's something to consider...a recipe that uses buttermilk instead of oil (mostly) for moisture in addition to the 2 or 3 very ripe bananas...this recipe below has very little fat...and yours uses 6 Tablespoons of butter; I've baked this bread oh, maybe 3 times now, and it's always delicious. Now, I have not tried this recipe using any whole wheat flour but I'll bet you that if you use 1/2 unbleached and 1/2 whole wheat, you'll get a great product. And, read the reviews; it is very well-received!

            Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

            1. I "health-ify" recipes all the time, even for baking. For this one, I'd sub ww pastry flour for most (or even all) the white flour; cut the sugar down by a third (BTW, brown sugar isn't healthier than white); use nonfat yogurt; use egg whites; and replace half the butter with unsweetened applesauce.

              You could also reduce the amount of nuts and toast the ones you're using so the flavour stands out more.

              A good variation, if you're interested, is to replace 1/3 c. of flour with cocoa powder - it makes a fabulous and healthy choc cake!

              1. p

                I have adapted the Bill Granger banana bread recipe and have made the following substitutions with great success:

                1) used ww flour for half of the all purpose
                2) cut out the sugar completely and just used really ripe bananas - I think they are sweet enough but the BG recipe uses 4
                3) substituted canola oil for the butter

                I dont think you need to take out the nuts, these are healthy and a great source of good fat...

                Now I've perfected my recipe, I make the bread then spread it with Nutella while it's still warm - so much for my healthy efforts but its DELISH!

                1. I've adapted a similar pumpkin bread recipe in my quest for the perfect bran muffin/bread, one that is a bit heavy, moist, and not too sweet.

                  I'm happy replacing the all purpose flour with half whole wheat, 1/6 wheat bran, 1/6 oat bran, 1/6 ground nuts. I cut the sugar in half. If I use white sugar, I add some molasses for added flavor. Canola oil substitutes nicely for melted butter. Any puree could be used with or in place of the bananas; I'm using sweet potatoes. Other liquids could be used in place of yogurt; substitute some baking powder for the baking soda if the liquid isn't as acid as yogurt.

                  Nuts and dried fruit (raisins ,etc) add nice texture contrasts, making up for lower sugar.

                  As long as the batter wetness remains about the same, there's a lot of room for variation in this type of bread. Obviously some versions will be more sweet and cake like, and others denser.


                  1. Here's an excellent recipe that I created with input from other recipes I found to create a low-calorie, low-fat, moist, delicious recipe. The best part is that it uses no oil or butter/margarine. But don't forget the flaxseed as it adds moisture and nutrition in the form of Omega 3s to the bread.

                    2x ripe bananas—200 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1x 2-egg container of Egg Beaters—60 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour—600 calories, 3 grams fat
                    1/2 cup Splenda/sugar blend—368 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1/2 cup all-purpose flour—200 calories, 1 gram fat
                    1/2 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce—50 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1x tbsp ground flaxseed—40 calories, 5 grams fat
                    1x tbsp molasses—60 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1x tsp vanilla extract—12 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1x tsp baking soda—0 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1/4 cup hot water—0 calories, 0 grams fat
                    1/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds—210 calories, 22 grams fat for pecans
                    1x tsp salt—0 calories, 0 grams fat

                    Total calories & fat—approx. 1800 calories, 31 grams fat—18-slice yield equates to approx. 100 calories, 1.7 grams fat per slice

                    You may or may not want to add more nuts for more texture and/or flavor. But as it is, you still end up with several nuts per slice and it seems to be the perfect amount for me. If you do add in more nuts, keep in mind that every quarter cup of chopped pecans (which is what I use) adds 210 calories and 22 grams of fat to the loaf (though a majority of that fat is monosaturated fat; which is good for you in moderation and helps get rid of the "bad" fat).

                    Preheat oven to 325°F
                    Peel and mash bananas—should yield approx. 1x cup
                    Blend all ingredients together in one bowl with the exception of the nuts and flour
                    Blend flour together in a separate bowl
                    Slowly fold in flour into wet ingredients
                    Fold in nuts, ensuring even distribution
                    Lightly spray 5” x 9” loaf pan with non-stick vegetable oil spray
                    Cook in center of oven for approx. 50 minutes; place skewer in center of loaf and checking to see if it comes out relatively clean (it should still “grab” a little)
                    Allow loaf to cool for at least 10 minutes prior to slicing
                    Slice into approx. 18x 3/8” slices

                    Happy cooking,
                    James G

                    1. Can you handle one more recipe?

                      Banana Loaf

                      Preheat oven to 350.

                      Sift together:

                      2 cups white flour (or 1 cup white, 1 cup whole wheat)
                      2 teaspoons baking powder
                      1 teaspoon baking soda
                      ½ cup sugar
                      ¼ teaspoon salt

                      Mix together:

                      1 egg
                      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
                      1 cup (or more) banana (2 – 4 bananas)
                      1 teaspoon vanilla
                      1 cup orange juice or ½ cup orange juice ½ cup plain yogurt

                      Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. If you like you can then mix in 1 cup raisins, chopped nuts or chocolate chips (or some of each). Mixture will be thick.

                      Bake at for 1 hour in greased loaf pan.

                      1. The sugar, butter, and white flour are the only unhealthy things in this recipe. Fats are essential in baked goods because they "carry" the rest of the flavors and make things moist. Butter is the best fat to use in baking, but it's not the only one. You could try adding an extra bananna and using 3 T of butter or you could try using 1/2 butter and 1/2 vegetable oil. If you tweak with the butter, leave the white flour and sugar as is.
                        Turbinado sugar is a good alternative to white sugar that doesn't affect taste. A half cup of apple sauce or concentrated white grape,apple, or pineapple juices are healthier options, but they will affect the taste. You will probably also have to bake a bunch of experimental batches before you get the hang of making fruit-juice sweetened bananna bread. Please let me know if you try this because I haven't been able to figure this one out.
                        As for the white flour, I would leave it in. This is a treat, after all...

                        1. I often sub 50/50 flour ... Maida has a banana recipe that uses whole wheat flour that you might check out.

                          1. You'll find recipes if you do a search on whole wheat banana bread. It beats guessing at substitutes.

                            1. must be banana bread week! I noticed there are tons of recipe variations on tastespotting.
                              My original bb recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil & buttermilk and I've been sub'ing banana yogurt for the buttermilk and unsweetened applesauce for the oil. I like the flavor combo of vanilla & almond extract together so I do 1/2 tsp. of each; of course that's just a preference but I do omit as much sugar from the recipe as I can get away with and still have a nice loaf. My family prefers granulated raw sugar so that's what I use. Raw sugar has a richer taste so it allows me to bring a 2 cup sugar ingredient down to 3/4 cup. Happy baking!