Ultimate Banana Bread

I know, I know, we’ve all got a banana bread recipe, and who REALLY needs another one?  That was pretty much my attitude when I came across this recipe from Cooks Illustrated.  I’m all for trying endless versions of macaroni and cheese, but banana bread?  I was content with my plain old tried and true version.  But then Cooks Illustrated did what they do…they promised they had the best banana bread recipe on the planet, and they said it involved microwaving the bananas to get some banana juice going (banana juice?) and then they went and called the recipe ULTIMATE Banana Bread, and I was a goner.

Because I always do have bananas lying around.  For this recipe, you want the really ripe and squishy ones, not well-behaved yellow ones like these three.  I just figured the world could live without a picture of brown squishy bananas.

Anyway, you DO get to microwave bananas for this, and they DO make a kind of juice when you do that, and it DOES make an amazing banana bread.  Amazing.  Maybe even Ultimate.  And who could resist that?  Not me!

Adapted ever so slightly from Cooks Illustrated 


Ultimate Banana Bread
  • 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  2. Place bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
  3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
  5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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  1. Joanne says

    I actually always think I could use another banana bread recipe…my thighs on the other hand beg to differ. I never really listen to them anyway.

  2. Marisa says

    Everyone in my house loves bananas, so we almost never have bananas left to get very ripe. I'm going to have to buy extra just so I can try this!

  3. PoetessWug says

    You said the words 'squishy' and 'brown' and 'banana' in the same sentence and I know that means GOOD banana bread!! But you threw me with the words 'microwave' and 'banana juice'! O_0 It's another case of 'I'll have to try it to believe it' I'm afraid!!…I do love the photo of your well-behaved bananas though. They almost look like a singing trio. ^_^ Do I hear 'Moon River'?!

  4. Anonymous says

    This IS the best banana bread recipe EVER. I've been making it for over a year now and LOVE it. Fantastic stuff – and a LOT easier than it sounds, no need for anyone to be afraid.

    Your photos are always so beautiful and well lit. Great job. :o)

  5. Anonymous says

    Actually, I'd be interested to see what you could make of a photograph of waning, old, speckled brown bananas.

    You photos are so great. I'm thinking you could do it. Maybe gently nestled in a brown paper lunch sack or something?

  6. Marisa says

    Delicious recipe! I made a loaf and set it down in front of my kids, saying, "Have a piece of banana bread." Completely unsolicited, my 7yr old said, "This is the BEST banana bread I've ever tasted!!" And thanks to an overbuy by my local grocer, I'm making a triple batch right now with some $0.39/lb bananas. :)

    Just watch your microwave though. . . mine start to boil over at 3mins 30secs.

  7. FramedCooks says

    When you get the 7 year olds liking things, you KNOW you have a hit on your hands. :) thanks for the mention of the microwave…they are all so different you never know…

  8. FramedCooks says

    I wish I could say yes there was, but this is my first experience with juicing a banana! Anyone else – do you know?

    • Yvette says

      I thought I was the only relic without a microwave! I did mine on the stove. Worked like a dream! Just don’t cook them too fast!

      My mother makes a recipe similar to this (microwave wise at least) but her’s uses no sugar, the measurements are “in her head” and she does no reduce the banana juice– still hey are sweet sweet sweet and delicious. I could not get her on the phone so THANK U for this one!

      I did a dairy free sugar free version with 5 or 6 really nasty looking (but yummy tasting) bananas on my fridge!

      • Kate says

        My mom is the same way with her scone recipe – some day I am going to watch her and write it down MYSELF! Glad you like the bread. :)

  9. says

    This banana bread is excellent. It’s moist and full of delicious banana flavor. I baked it for 60 minutes and it came out perfect. Thanks for sharing. Also the photos are beautiful.

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