This banana bread from Cook’s Illustrated includes yogurt and walnuts for a super moist, easy, classic, nutty quick bread. We consider it the best we’ve ever had.
Alas, many a banana bread can turn out flat, dense, or otherwise lackluster. The biggest disappointment of all? A bread that doesn’t taste of banana. None of these scenarios is the case with this winner of a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is the best banana bread I’ve ever had. All the better that it’s easy to make.
Remember, you want very, very bananas–you know, the ones with the black splotches and mushy texture—to ensure the most intense banana experience.–David Leite
Banana Bread FAQs
How can I ripen bananas quickly?
If you don’t have overripe bananas, try one of these two methods. The first is in the oven. Place unpeeled bananas on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil and slip into a 300°F (150°C) for 15 to 30 minutes, checking frequently. The bananas may leak a bit, but pay no mind. It’s totally normal. The bananas are done when they’re completely black. Let them cool completely.
The second method is in the microwave. Poke holes through the banana skins on all sides. Microwave the fruit for 30 seconds. Let cool and check for ripeness. Repeat, if needed, until the bananas and soft and ripe.
☞ NOTE: Don’t use very green bananas with either method.
What does the yogurt do in this banana bread recipe?
The yogurt does two things: It keeps the bread moist as well as gives it a lift by its acid interacting with baking soda. And let’s not mention the flavor it lends!
What can I add to the banana bread?
Consider substituting chopped almonds or pecans for the walnuts. Chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or crumbled banana chips stirred into the batter work nicely, too.
Banana Bread by Cook’s illustrated
- A loaf pan that measures 9 inches long, 5 inches across, and 3 inches deep
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for the pan
- 1 1/4 cups walnuts coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 very ripe, large-ish bananas with big black splotches mashed well (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably 2% or whole fat)
- 2 large eggs beaten lightly
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Position an oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and then toss a little flour in the pan and tilt it to coat all the butter-slicked sides with a fine dusting of flour. Dump out the flour, tapping the pan to remove any excess.
- Toss the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the walnuts to a plate and let cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts.
- In a medium bowl, stir the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla.
- Lightly fold the mashed banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, mixing just until combined. The batter should be thick and sorta chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake the bread until the surface appears golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
- Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully tip the pan over so the loaf releases onto the wire rack and slice and serve the banana bread warm or let it cool completely, if you can stand the wait, and then devour. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. It will have a rather crisp crust when consumed straight from the oven and a soft crust later that day or the next day.)
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is my new, easy banana bread recipe. I had tried to make changes to my old recipe but never with these results.
Like most quick breads, this recipe is easy to put together. Folding in the wet ingredients results in a really tender crumb, the kind you can pick up with the back of your fork. Using melted butter (instead of vegetable oil like my old recipe) gives the bread a dense texture and rich flavor. The toasted walnuts add a nice contrasting crunch to the full flavor of banana.
It’s also nice to know that this bread can be kept for 3 days, but I doubt it will ever last that long at our house.
What a perfect example of the classic American banana bread—fragrant, sweet enough to be a treat but not as sweet as cake, deeply comforting, forgiving, and easy to make.
I’ll admit that the “yogurt” in the back of the fridge turned out to be sour cream…and while I was at it, I swapped a cup of all purpose flour for a cup of white whole wheat flour. Four days later, we’re still enjoying slices toasted for breakfast, warmed bites smeared with Nutella alongside afternoon coffee, and even late-night slivers topped with toffee chip ice cream.
The texture is not too soft and holds together well in thick slices although in sandwich-bread-thin slices it barely holds together due to the loose crumb and soft texture. It’s a knife-and-fork bread after toasting; very typical for a quick bread, in my experience.
I love this banana bread and I will make it again. I enjoyed the ease of preparation and the aroma when I was mixing the batter. My family really loved it, too.
The loaf was so tender and very good to have on hand for tea. I was happy to serve it to friends who were visiting from England. I will try it without the nuts for my grandchildren and I also want to see how it works as banana muffins.
What a wonderful recipe! I have made banana bread for years–usually lugging out the big stand mixer and taking nearly half a day to make, but this banana from Cook’s Illustrated was different! Not only was it easy to come together, but it was, also, lighter in texture, moist, and not too sweet.
It did last for more than two days, but barely! I waited the requisite 5 minutes, then sliced the bread. It literally melted in my mouth! Afterward, I knew I had to have a piece for breakfast and another as a snack each day.
I plan to bake this recipe, again, before the end of the week to present to my neighbors during a Christmas luncheon.
I used 2% Fage Greek yogurt.
Lovely crusty exterior. Moist interior dotted generously with walnuts. The texture of this banana bread elevates it from its competitors. The walnuts play a starring roll and don’t just make a cameo appearance. They play so well against the banana flavor. Eaten warm after cooling slightly, this shines in a way that few can resist.
If any part of the loaf survives the initial onslaught, it’ll be a family favorite toasted the next day and smeared with butter or cream cheese.
This banana bread was fantastic. I took some to a friend that just had a baby, and it was great to have a tasty homemade treat in the house. It’s super easy and is just as simple as if you made it from a box of cake mix.
It was a great way to use up the old bananas that I throw in my freezer for occasions like this. To give the bread a little extra sweetness, I buttered and sugared my pans instead of flouring them. I think the yogurt was a great addition to the bread and made it very moist. It would also be interesting to try different flavors of yogurt—like vanilla, etc.—to give the bread a hint of other flavors.
Keep an eye on the loaves, as the baking time was off a little bit, for me. It definitely took a full hour. I used 2 different loaf pans—one was taller and the other was flatter and wider.
I’m usually not a big fan of banana bread. I like bananas, and I like bread, but most recipes leave me satiated but not craving another piece. This banana bread from Cook’s Illustrated is different.
There’s no cinnamon but there are vanilla and toasted walnuts. Signal the chorus of angels. (Note to those Road to Hana banana bread sellers on Maui…if you use this recipe instead of your current one, you’ll have much happier tourists, especially with those harrowing twisting roadways…just saying.)
This recipe is easy peasy and creates a lovely addition to your afternoon break with a hot beverage. I used Fage Greek 2% yogurt. The texture was soft and moist on the inside with a just-barely-crisp crust. Once the bread cools, the crisp crust goes away, but the bread stays moist.
This is a straightforward recipe that reminds you how delicious banana bread is, especially the second day! Made exactly according to the recipe, this bread is one of the very few recipes where the sweetness was just right without my needing to reduce it. I really appreciated the restraint that allowed the bananas to come through nicely.
The moist, dense texture improves the second day, though of course we sampled it each day in the interest of data collections. Wrapping it up and being patient (or planning and making it ahead) allows the crust to equilibrate in moisture, softening a little to be less of a crisp contrast and more a whole lovely experience.
Another nice thing is that this came straight out of the pan perfectly after 5 minutes cooling—no sticking and no need for my usual parchment paper lining. Local fresh walnuts made this a perfect companion for my mid-morning coffee.
I had intended to share this for a social event, but decided to be selfish and froze half while I continue my daily taste test until I run out of banana bread. (It’s still wonderful on day 3, perfect on day 2, and fine if you get impatient on day 1).
My baking time was 60 minutes for a clean skewer and a nice, even, deep amber crust with a pretty natural split down the length.
Who doesn’t love banana bread? It’s the perfect utilization of that overripe fruit sitting on your kitchen counter. I’ve made a lot of them, and this one is a delicious winner. Great soft texture inside (not mushy) and a wonderful crisp crust outside fresh out of the oven.
I think the secret to a good bread recipe is using a lot of bananas to impart strong flavor and butter for flavor and moisture. I used a fork to smash the bananas in a small bowl until they were mostly smashed with a few intact pieces about the size of peas. The batter was pretty simple to put together, even if it did specify to stir by hand. I think my KitchenAid would have done a good job, though.
I wasn’t serving the bread for a few hours so I tasted it at room temperature. On the first day, a serrated bread knife worked best to slice it. The bread had a dry crust on the outside and was soft and moist inside, but I think I would’ve added one more banana to get more banana flavor.
On the second and third days, the moisture from the loaf caused the outer crust to become soft so it could be sliced with a regular knife. The loaf was still a soft texture and the banana flavor had diminished slightly.
The texture of the bread was soft and moist and it keeps for a full 2 days, no change. Great recipe. I may take the bananas out and substitute other ingredients, i.e., zucchini or cranberries.
A very simple, easy-to-prepare bread that turned out very well. The bread was moist, tasty, and quite enjoyable. It disappeared quickly.
This bread itself is easy to make. I like the walnuts. I usually also add chocolate chips and my daughter missed them. The bread was still moist 2 days later.
Originally published March 28, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is lovely, traditional, comfort-food-to-the-max, perfect for baking on a morning when the Siberian winds are cutting down the East coast. The loaf hadn’t been out of the oven for 3 minutes before my husband and I attacked it like zombies on brains.
The crust is perfect. I like just the right amount of sweet crispiness on the outside of my banana bread–not too hard but not nothing like you’d find on a cake or cupcake. The edges were delightfully brown, crisp, and gave the loveliest contrast with the soft interior.
Finally, it’s not too sweet and the banana flavor is nice and strong. I’m so used to a banana bread recipe being half sugar. If I want a cake, I’ll make a cake. This is much more suitable for breakfast or a snack with a hot cup of coffee without making my teeth feel fuzzy.