Nutritious Banana Bread Loaf with Dates

03/24/2021
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Are you unsure what to do with those spotty overripe bananas in your fruit bowl? Give them a proper send-off with this fruit-sweetened banana bread loaf.

A picture of oven-baked banana bread on a white plate

This rustic and wholesome banana bread loaf has quickly become a favourite recipe to date (geddit? ba-dum-tss). 

It’s sweetened with fruit alone, just overripe bananas and big juicy flecks of dates scattered throughout the batter. There’s no extra maple syrup, honey, or granulated sugars added. I promise, the fruit, along with cinnamon and vanilla, leaves it sweet enough.

Tips for Using Fruit in Baking

As a nutritionist, I’m often asked for nutritious breakfast recipes and wholesome dessert recipes lower in added sugar (while satisfying a raging sweet tooth!). One approach is to celebrate the natural sweetness in fruit, which this recipe does. Here, make sure to:

  • Opt for really ripe bananas. Look for bananas that are yellow and streaked, with brown or black freckles. Absolutely no green! These will provide sweetness and a luscious deep banana flavour. An unripe green banana is up to 80% starch. As they ripen starches convert to sugars, until they end up being less than 1% starch by the time fully ripe (1).
  • Try a homemade date puree. Cooking dates into a puree will infuse a caramel-sweetness into the batter, while encouraging a moist and tender texture. Scattered chopped chucks provide a flavour burst, but not the even layer of sweetness we’re after.

Banana Bread Loaf Baking Tips

Here are tips and tricks I’ve found help the baking flow and final outcome when making this recipe:

  • Cool your cooked date puree in the fridge or freezer. This speed things up while you prepare other ingredients. Otherwise, brew yourself a tea, or water the plants, or put away the washing and wait for it to reach room temperature!
  • Always swift dry ingredients. Sifting promotes consistency in the batter by breaking up larger lumps. So easy to say ‘meh!’ and skip – but please don’t friends!
  • Gently fold. Folding is where you combine ingredients together without stirring, beating or agitating the mix. Instead, the lighter delicate mixture is placed on top of the heavier thicker one, again and again, until combined. Air becomes trapped into bubbles, helping it rise. Use a wide flexi spatula here. 
  • Be careful not to overmix! This can lead to a denser loaf – boo! Mix ingredients until the batter is just evenly incorporated.
  • Size matters. My loaf tin was 25cm long x 12 cm wide. A different sized or shaped tin may mean you need to adjust baking time. Test done-ness with a fork or toothpick – if it comes out clean you’re good!
  • Cover with foil. If you notice the top of your loaf starting to over-brown in the last ten minutes or so of baking, use foil to your aid by loosely covering.
  • Mix-ins? Make this loaf your own. It’d be ace with a handful of chocolate chips, raisins or walnuts tossed through the batter before baking!
A close up of a slice of banana bread spread with butter on a white plate

Nutritional Info & Dietary Swaps

  • Bump up protein with almond meal. Almond meal is finely ground almonds. When used in baking like here, it’ll increase the protein content, helping to leave you full for longer (while adding a lovely rustic feel). 
  • Fruit = culinary and nutritional wins. A perk of fruit in baking is that – depending on the fruit – it adds varying amounts of dietary fibre into the mix. Fibre helps keep us regular, slow the digestion and absorption of sugar, and feed our gut bugs; making it all-important for gut health.
  • Dairy-free? Sub the greek yoghurt with a coconut or plant yoghurt. I had a reader message to say they tried it and it worked beautifully!
  • Gluten-free? Simply use a plain gluten-free flour. Works a charm.

Serving Suggestions

  • This banana date loaf is the perfect breakfast or snack slathered with nut butter, ricotta & honey or classic beloved butter. Kick back with a cup of coffee and enjoy!
  • Serve warm as a wholesome dessert along with a dollop of ice cream. 
  • Not feeling it anymore? Repurpose into a delectable bread and butter pudding! You’ll find oodles of inspiration online for recipes.

Thanks for reading! If you give this recipe a go, I hope you love it =-) It’s a favourite and took many loving attempts to get right. Are you a mega-fan of bananas, like me? Be sure to try this creamy banana porridge or these banana oat cookies next time you have spotty bananas in the fruit bowl!

Nutritious Banana Bread Loaf with Dates

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Rating:

Ingredients:  

  • 1 cup pitted dates with ½ cup water
  • 3 very ripe bananas, medium
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup flour (plain or gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond meal*
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • A good pinch of salt
  • cup plain greek yoghurt**

Method:

  • Finely chop dates. Add to a small saucepan with the water measure. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated - this will take less than five minutes.
  • Remove from heat and leave to cool to room temperature. To speed up the process, scoop date mixture into a bowl and place in the fridge or freezer.
  • Preheat oven to bake 160 degree Celsius. Line a loaf tin with baking paper (I used a 25cm long x 12 cm wide rectangular tin - a different shaped tin might produce different thicknesses and require a slightly different cooking time).
  • Add to a mixing bowl the bananas. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla essence.
  • Sift in flour, almond meal, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the date puree. Using a spatula, gently fold together until just evenly incorporated.
  • Add yoghurt and gently fold through - be careful not to overmix!
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour. It’s best baked in the middle the oven, not the top. If it looks like it’s starting to overbrown, cover loaf loosely with foil the last 10 or so minutes of baking. Check to see it’s cooked by inserting something thin and sharp into the middle to the loaf e.g. toothpick or knife (it should come out pretty clean, if not, keep it in for a smidge longer).
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes in tin. Remove from tin, slice and enjoy!

Notes:

*Almond meal is almonds that have been finely ground. In NZ you’ll usually find this in the baking section of supermarkets where the nuts and seeds are.
** Feel free to sub greek yoghurt for a plant yoghurt.

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6 Comments

    • Hey Amit – I haven’t tried replacing it, but I reckon you could replace it with flour and it should turn out okay! Happy baking – hope it turns out okay if you do.

  1. I’m so excited to have all (almost!) the ingredients to bake this tomorrow… is there anything I can use instead of yogurt since I have none? 🙁

    • Hi Krista! Oo exciting! I haven’t tried making it without yoghurt. You could try coconut cream maaaybe – but as I haven’t tried it, I can’t promise on the end product. I hope you enjoy it if you go ahead and make it x