Classic Vegan Banana Bread
October 4, 2016

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

It’s important to be careful when naming a blog recipe. This is something I’ve always known, but I was reminded of it this past week, when I read Food52‘s take on the many internet recipes labeled as “best.”

The gist of the article is that the pressures of search engine optimization have compelled us all to throw around a superlatives (best, easiest, etc.) a little too liberally. These titles may speak the truth, but they might also be more strategic than honest, which means that it’s still a reader’s job to sift through mountains of content and find recipes that truly are “the best” (or just very good). To prove the point, Food52‘s editors did a taste test of numerous loaves of banana bread, each of which touts, if not the label of “best,” a claim to being definitively good.

This got me thinking about banana bread–specifically, about the fact that I have yet to post a recipe for vegan banana bread on this site, in spite of the fact that it’s possibly my very favorite thing to bake. I’m not somebody who has a lot of treasured or tried-and-true baking recipes tucked away into a cherished binder or family cookbook; I didn’t grow up around bakers. But I do have a vegan banana bread recipe that I think deserves the title of “classic.”

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

In truth, I can’t say for sure what makes a recipe worthy of that word. I’m not expert enough to have developed a criteria. But I know that this bread has been adored by everyone I’ve ever shared it with. I know that, while it’s baking, it makes your kitchen smell exactly the way banana bread should (like bananas, cinnamon, and burnt sugar). I know that it’s been tested many times over, in pretty much every kitchen I’ve cooked in as an adult, and that it has proven itself to be sturdy and reliable. I know that it features simple, cherished banana bread ingredients: flour, brown sugar, mashed bananas, vanilla, a (very) little milk. Cinnamon. Walnuts, if you like.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping
Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

And for all of these reasons, this feels like classic vegan banana bread to me. And I’m very happy to be sharing it, inexplicably late in my blogging game, with all of you.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

This recipe is perfect for those of you who are new to the world of vegan baking, or for novice bakers in general. There’s not much you need to be particularly wary of here, except that the bananas should be very, very overripe (the spottier, the better!) and that you shouldn’t overmix the batter.

Other than that, the recipe takes care of itself, resulting in thick, moist, fragrant slices of banana bread goodness. Steven declared this “perfectly sweet” the first time he tasted it, and noted that it seemed to be just the right amount of crumbly. I have to agree–or else it wouldn’t be the recipe that I come back to again and again, in spite of playing with new formulas and ratios.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

The time may actually be just right for posting a recipe that is–to me, anyway–something of a classic. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a lot of alternative baking flours and techniques, and I love the creativity that this has fostered. Lately, though, I find myself returning to simple baking recipes and time-honored flavor combinations. And it doesn’t get more time-honored than this.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

Classic Vegan Banana Bread

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 10 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (such as grapeseed, safflower, or canola) or 8 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 3/4 cup tightly packed, light brown sugar
  • 1 heaping cup mashed banana (3 medium or 4 small ripe bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, plus more for decorating

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly oil a standard size loaf pan. Pour the almond or soy milk into a bowl and add the apple cider vinegar.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Add the oil, sugar, mashed banana, and vanilla extract to the non-dairy milk and vinegar. Whisk to combine. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix till everything is evenly combined. Don't over-mix; some clumps are OK. Fold in the walnuts, if using.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with extra walnuts, if you like. Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out mostly clean.
  • Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to cool to room temperature before cutting into slices and enjoying.

Notes

You can also use a combination of 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose and 1 cup light spelt or white whole wheat. To make the recipe gluten-free, use a gluten-free flour blend that you trust.  
Leftover banana bread slices can be wrapped individually and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. The banana bread can be frozen for up to 1 month. It makes a great gift!

 Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

I can understand the urge to use superlatives for recipes–even apart from the practical, SEO considerations. If you’re passionate about food (and most food bloggers are), then it’s hard not to speak with exclamations when a recipe turns out to be not only as good as you’d hoped, but better; the best, even, that you’ve ever tried. It’s a special moment for a home cook.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

None of us can go out and taste all of the recipes that ever were for a particular dish, and so we might not be able to say for sure what’s best and what isn’t. Plus, there’s the issue of subjectivity: as I’m learning through my cookbook testing process right now, tastes differ, plain and simple. The world’s “best” fudgy brownies probably won’t be all that appealing to a cakey brownie person.

But we know what tastes best to us. We know when we’ve struck gold, so to speak, with a particular set of ingredients and quantities. We know when our many frustrating attempts to perfect a recipe have finally paid off in the form of a dish that we know we’ll treasure and keep for a long time. When we talk about a recipe in glowing terms, we’re really just communicating our own, unique tastes. In the end, that’s what keeps the world of food blogging vibrant and interesting.

So, I can’t say for sure if this is the best vegan banana bread you’ve ever tasted. But I can tell you that it’s my favorite. I can promise you that it has served me very well. And I hope it gives you some of the happiness it often gives me.

xo

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    31 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I made this the other day and it’s great! I didn’t have whole wheat flour so I only used all-purpose, but the texture was still good. I added walnuts and vegan chocolate chips and it was soooo yummy. The bread itself is definitely just the right amount of sweetness, not too sweet at all, and is nice and moist. My boyfriend had a large slice and said “this is some bomb a** banana bread. This is dope.” Hahaha so safe to say it’s pretty tasty!

  2. 5 stars
    Perfect banana bread recipe, simple to make with just the right amount of sweetness. Exactly what I was looking for. I will definitely make this recipe again!

  3. 5 stars
    I can’t believe I haven’t left a review for this banana bread! It’s my all-time favorite. I’ve made it a bunch of times, which is unusual for me because I don’t bake much. It is very moist with lots of banana flavor. I’ve taken it to holidays and given it as presents. It always goes over well.

  4. 3 stars
    Made this yesterday and followed the directions exactly. I baked for 45 minutes and when I tested the stick came out clean however after cooling, the middle sank in and I could tell it hadn’t cooked all the way through. The ends were cooked and the bread was delicious! I was so bummed about the middle not being completely done. Did I do something wrong?? I want to try again but think I need to increase the baking time. Any suggestions are appreciated. 🙂

    • Hi Tracie!

      I’m so sorry about the center of the bread—I know that’s a bummer. Next time, rather than using a toothpick, I’d actually remove the bread from the oven and give it a gentle tap to see if the top is set. You can give it up to 55 minutes if the center needs more time. If you don’t have good results, let me know, and I can retest to see whether I have useful ideas or revisions for you and other readers 🙂

      G

  5. 5 stars
    Love love love this recipe! I’ve been trying a different banana bread recipe each weekend, and this one is so simple and tastes delicious!

  6. 5 stars
    I am head over heels for this banana bread. I added a handful of chocolate chips and millet (an idea I picked up from Smitten Kitchen), and I would honestly choose the resulting crackly-chocolatey magnificence over “fancier” desserts.

    I have a question, though – I have an abundance of pears and I’m wondering if I can substitute pear puree for the mashed bananas. Have you ever tried substituting fruit purees for mashed bananas in this recipes or others? Do you know if it would work with a direct 1:1 swap, or if I’d have to do some more tweaking (decreasing liquid, etc)?

    Thanks for such a wonderful recipe.

    • You’re so welcome! I’m delighted that you like it 🙂

      I haven’t tried it with other fruit purees, so I’m sorry to say that I’m not really sure. I think pear puree would be a little more “liquidy,” so I’d suggest using slightly less. But you can also see how the batter looks after mixing: so long as it is close to the banana bread batter in appearance, you should be OK!

  7. 5 stars
    Update on my previous comment: It works! Baking this bread in my 10″ cast iron skillet for 35 minutes worked perfectly! (A few chocolate chips accidentally fell in some how, but they didn’t seem to ruin it.) Five stars are not enough.

  8. Well said! There is no way to taste everything that ever was or will be so superlatives shouldn’t really bother you. It might be a fantastic treat to you and a horrible one to someone who doesn’t like bananas. Not everyone will be a fan but we shouldn’t let that stop our excitement.

    D. King

  9. Now that it is getting colder, baking bread or cakes sounds very heart warming. Your bread looks rustic and aromatic in the pictures, and I am sure it tastes good too. Being single and working for an events promotion company in London, where we have lots of food related events, I end up eating out a lot. But tonight, it is baking time! Cannot wait to get fingers into my banana bread!

  10. 5 stars
    Once again, you have created and shared just the type of recipe I love. Banana bread was always one of my favorites and yours most certainly deserves the title “classic”. Simple, straightforward with ingredients that are already in the kitchen. Now was the perfect time for you to share it. Thank you. I’m going to bake it in my cast iron skillet because I don’t have a loaf pan and can’t wait to try it!

  11. Such a good point about how SEO has changed the creativity of recipe titles. There really is so much to think about now! And banana bread is always a great comfort food; I remember the smell of my mom baking banana and pumpkin bread while I was still in middle school.

  12. 5 stars
    I loved this post, Gena! When I saw the title in my e-mail, I smiled broadly, because to me posting a “classic” vegan banana bread recipe means you are definitely enjoying baking! I did do a lot of baking when I was growing up and your recipe reminds me of a banana bread recipe I made out of something called The Mother Daughter Cookbook that my Dad got for me when I was about 10. I love banana bread, and this one looks wonderful. I could almost smell it as looked at the pictures. I like how you talk about the value of subjectivity when naming a recipe but also how sometimes we can get lost in superlatives. I like your choice of the word “classic” here. You reminded me that I called one I posted “double banana bread” because I used up some dried bananas in addition to the very ripe fresh bananas. It’s fun to name things. . .I also like your prescription for the gluten free version–good combo. Always better to make your own mix if possible. xoxo

  13. I read the article, Gena. It made a strong argument and one that I agree, we can be sucked in by SEO. I made a silent pact to myself when I started blogging, that I’d never use that word “best” or “ultimate” or any of their relatives, simply because food is incredibly subjective. For example, I have a recipe readers rave about, but it’s a lot of work to make it. I had *one* reader write and say it took her far longer than what the recipe indicated and it didn’t even taste that good. She unsubscribed. That was my aHa moment about food and my readers. Just because it works for me or several or many of my readers, doesn’t mean it will work for all simply because we all bring a different skill set to the kitchen and our palate can be vastly different from one person to the next. But this banana bread.. a classic indeed. I love it’s simplicity, crumb and loft! I’ll take it as (the best) a classic! 😀

  14. You are so so right in this Gena! It’s hard for me to believe the whole ‘the best!’ ‘the easiest!’, etc. because it’s all subjective for each person. Also, I get really tempted to throw any and everything into a recipe (banana bread with chocolate and walnuts and caramel and shaved chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt and homemade sprinkles on top 🙂 or something like that!) and I have to remember that the classics are oftentimes the best recipes. I need to give this a try this week! My husband has a couple bananas that he abandoned and are in need of eating, so this is perfect! xo