Extreme Banana Bread Makeover

Banana Braid-33.jpg

Not your mother’s banana bread

Aging bananas can be hazardous to your health!

You might know what I mean if you can’t stand to see bananas go to waste but don’t like to peel and eat them when they become spotted and soft. Although they freeze well for making nutritious smoothies, a lot of my old bananas used to end up in delicious but rich and caloric banana bread–the quick type that’s more like cake.

When traditional banana bread is sitting around my kitchen, it’s easy to rationalize eating one slice, then another,  and then half a slice and then the cut end needs to be cleaned up so I eat the irregular crumbs.

Banana Braid-14.jpg

You don’t have to braid it but it’s more fun if you do

After all, bananas are fruit. Fruit is healthy. Banana bread contains fruit so it must be good for you. (Never mind all the sugar and fat.)

My solution? Make banana bread with yeast instead. It’s a little bit sweet but not overly much. Pack it full of dried fruits or not. Add nuts or not. Use part whole wheat flour if you like. (See recipe here.) Either way, you won’t need nearly as much sugar or fat to make banana bread this way.

This recipe is written for the bread machine (used for mixing and kneading only) but you could use a stand mixer or do it all by hand if you prefer.

Banana Pecan Yeast Braid with Dates
Serves: 1 loaf
This is a great way to use overripe bananas in this fruit-and-nut-studded yeast bread.
  • 3 tablespoons milk (any variety), lukewarm
  • 3 tablespoons water, lukewarm
  • ½ cup mashed, ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut up
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • ½ cup chopped dates
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (you can leave this out but I never do)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Add all ingredients but dates and pecans to bread pan in order given. Select dough cycle. Add dates and pecans when machine beeps that it is OK to add extras. OR, do what I do and knead dates and pecans into dough after you remove it from the bread machine and before you divide it into 3 pieces as described below.
  2. When dough cycle is complete and dough has risen to double inside bread machine, remove dough to floured surface or silicone baking mat (my favorite). Divide into three equal pieces and roll each into a 15-inch rope. Braid ropes, pinching ends together and then tucking under at each end.
  3. Place braid on silicone mat or parchment paper. Cover with tea towel and let rest in warm spot until nearly doubled in size-about 1 hour.
  4. Combine sugar and cardamom in small bowl for topping. Brush twist lightly with milk and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over bread.
  5. Bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes or until 190 degrees internal temperature. Allow to cool if you can wait that long.

P.S.  If the whole idea of braiding bread dough intimidates you,  click here for an illustrated tutorial.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

LisaLynn September 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

Thank you Paula and everyone else, for a fantastic recipe. It’s delicious, such a comforting homemade yeast bread smell while it cooks and and the taste! Its just perfect, crusty crust and tender sweet bread.
We made it in our breadmaker – so easy, but maybe next time I’ll braid it.
I used milliander’s idea of the frozen bananas, microwaved them and then mixed with the cold milk so both were warm when added to the flour mixture.
I switched raisens and walnuts for the dates n pecans, just what I had on hand.


Paula September 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

Oh Lisa, So glad to hear you enjoyed the banana bread. I can’t make it often–have no willpower when it is in the house. Raisins and walnuts sound wonderful!


lingting May 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm

I tried this recipe yesterday and it turned out GREAT! thanks so much(:


milliander October 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm

another idea!! I freeze the whole banana, take it out and it thaws very fast. Cut off the end and hold it by the stem and it drains into a measuring cup. No mess or cutting up. It is all measured without touching the inside at all.


milliander October 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm

When do you add the dates and pecans?


Paula October 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Add them when your machine beeps that it is OK to add extras, usually close to the end of the kneading cycle. OR…you can knead them into the dough by hand after you remove it from the bread machine. That’s what I do because I always seem to miss the beeps. I revised the recipe. Thanks so much for asking.

I also like the way you store frozen bananas. Very handy!


Sue December 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Just a note on the comments above about wishing it used more banana…that’s why I used 1 cup instead of 1/2, to use up some more of the fruit. The bread has a very banana-y flavor this way – you just have to adjust the other liquids. I wanted to keep the egg in so I just dropped the water & milk. Many bread machine recipes add in dry milk rather than fresh, so I went that way, and it worked very well.

So it depends on how many bananas you want to use up (guilty!) and how much banana flavor (1 cup = a TON of banana flavor).


Sue December 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

Oh MY GOODNESS, this is awesome bread! I think it even trump my cinnamon raisin. Slightly sweet, very fruity (see below tweak) and just delicious.

I tweaked the recipe a bit (as I always do LOL)….I added 1 cup of mashed bananas, omitted the water and milk, added 2 teaspoons of dry milk and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I ended up having to add a few more tablespoons of bread flour to get to the right consistency. It’s just the two of us, so I made two smaller loaves; we’ll eat one now and I’ll either freeze or give away the second loaf. Or I might just eat it 😉


Lanna November 5, 2011 at 7:31 am

Good morning all! I’m new to your blog and I must say i am so glad I found you! This bread sounds wonderful. Just a curious question though, can this be made in a machine (sans braiding of course). I’ve always made my bread the old fashion way and just got a machine so im on this kick of using it for pretty much everything. I’m making this bread the braided way today. I was just wondering. Thanks again! Love the blog!


Paula November 5, 2011 at 7:43 am

Are you asking if the bread can be baked in the machine? If so, yes. I never do because I don’t like the shape or the crust one gets from a bread machine but the original recipe called for doing the whole thing in a machine. Enjoy!


Katrina August 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I love this idea and can’t wait to try it. Overripe bananas are one of my favorite things to bake with!


Karen August 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Paula, this looks spectacular! I love how you braided the bread. I’d probably finish half a loaf before lunch, given how healthy bananas are… 😉


Nina August 6, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Paula, this is brilliant! Your braided loaf is gorgeous…lovin’ this “extreme makeover”. Hope you are having a great summer! xo


Suzanne August 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I totally understand the banana dilemma, I end up making banana everything because I hate to through them out, hence the banana-cinnamon ice-cream which BTW you could probably make that healthy with your homemade yogurt. Your bread looks beautiful, I’ve been want to try braiding out again it’s been a long time. Wish I had a slice of that bread right about now 🙂


Paula August 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I love banana bread and make it often. Never have I thought to make a yeast banana bread. I just may have to give this recipe a whirl.


Holly August 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I’m so glad I stopped by your blog again today. I have some bananas that need to be used and this bread looks like it would be really delicious for breakfast with some of the yoghurt I made from your directions – maybe with a few fresh raspberries from the garden.


Lorraine August 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Another delicious bread recipe from dear Paula! I wish it used more than 1/2 cup banana because I always have more bananas that need using up 🙂 Guess I will have to make a couple loaves of bread and share them!


Paula August 4, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Well, yes, you are right about the 1/2 cup of banana. But this stuff makes wonderful little cinnamon melba toasts which we eat like cookies so it’s not a problem to have two loaves around.


TheKitchenWitch August 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

What a genius way to use up those gnarly bananas! I fear the yeast, but this looks so good!


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