Bananas Foster is likely a dessert that you’ve heard of but maybe never had. Well, there’s no time like the present to make this divinely sophisticated and easy dish. You only need a handful of ingredients–bananas, brown sugar, rum, and butter–and a flame, to make this showstopper.
The New York Times food editor Jane Nickerson first published this recipe in 1957 as part of an article on New Orleans-style Creole cooking. Adapted from Brennan’s restaurant, this recipe is meant to be a showstopper. But it’s deceptively easy. Be sure to have a lid at the ready to extinguish the flame in case things get out of hand.–Sam Sifton
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Bananas Foster FAQs
Can I use something other than dark rum?
Actually, in the original version of this recipe, Brennan’s restaurant also added a teaspoon of banana liqueur to the dessert. If you decide to go this way, you can reduce the rum by a teaspoon. As for anything else, we’d really only recommend that you substitute bourbon (or whisky, if you prefer). Either of those choices will cut the sweetness and caramel flavors, but will still make a terrific finished dish.
What’s the difference between bananas Foster and bananas flambé?
Bananas Foster and bananas flambé are essentially the same things. Bananas Foster doesn’t need to be set ablaze if you’re not feeling it but you will find that the sauce will be pretty boozy if you’re not burning off some of that alcohol. Bananas flambé, on the other hand, is specifically set alight–flambé means “to flame.”
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 large bananas preferably slightly underripe, peeled and halved
- 2 ounces dark rum
- Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
- In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook until the mixture begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
- Add the bananas and sauté them, flipping once, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the dark rum. Use a long match or grill lighter to ignite the liquid. Carefully spoon the sauce over the bananas until the flames go out, about 1 minute more.
☞TESTER TIP: Have a pan lid handy ready to extinguish the flame should your flambé become a bit too exuberant.
- Serve immediately, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My husband said “Wow!” at least ten times while we were shoveling this glorious dessert into our mouths. This was so easy and quick yet so rich, well balanced, and kinda fancy. All the ingredients in this dish worked well together creating such an exciting new flavor that will be hard to forget. Served it up with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream.
The timing was perfect for testing this recipe as we had company for dinner last night so I had an audience for my flambé performance!
I prefer salted to unsalted butter to enhance the flavor. Slightly unripe bananas hold up better than ripe bananas in the cooking and plating process. I’ve found it easier to turn and serve quartered bananas instead of halved but they aren’t as dramatic in appearance as halved bananas. A fish spatula is a great tool for turning over the bananas.
Dark brown sugar has more molasses and together with dark rum makes a deep, rich, and luxurious caramel sauce. My secret ingredient is a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg for a warm spice flavor note, perfect with bananas and caramel. I’ve found it easier to make multiple batches of the recipe rather than doubling the recipe if serving more people.
Finally, never flambé on your stovetop if you have a microwave with an exhaust vent screen directly above the stove–and always flambé on the front burner.
Originally published August 3, 2021