~ This Healthy Hawaiian Banana Bread doesn’t taste healthy! It tastes like a summery tropical paradise! It’s scrumptiously loaded up with sweet pineapple, and finished with a decadent, toasty-crunchy topping of coconut and almonds! A freezable make-ahead, it’s great for breakfast, snacking … even dessert! Make this once, and it’s sure to become a new go-to family favorite! ~
This Recipe Is: • Freezable • Make Ahead • Vegetarian •
This sure isn’t your typical banana bread.
I mean, banana bread usually feels like cozy food. I picture myself firing up the oven on a chilly day, so we can snuggle in with mugs of cocoa and fresh-baked banana bread.
But this banana bread’s not like that.
It’s like sunshine. Like a warm, tropical breeze that lifts your spirits and whispers seductively of a carefree island paradise. It’s the crossroads where a comfort food hug meets a summer piña colada. (Well … except for the rum. Since I make this for my kids, ya know. But feel free to serve yourself up a slice, alongside a little tumbler of coconut rum – may as well play the summer vibe allllll the way out while you’re at it!)
Our “Summer Sunshine” Banana Bread
No doubt, this is the banana bread to bake for summer, or any time you need to imagine what summer sunshine feels like (hello, Ohio in mid-January).
I created it this early summer, side-by-side with another banana bread recipe I’ve got cued up for you (a full-on delicious one that’s perfect for fall … so stay tuned!). As I was baking up that other test batch, I realized I had waaaay more brown-speckled bananas on hand than I needed to test just the one recipe, so I also tossed this tropical version together, too, totally on a whim. (And by now, you know how I am about “tropical” flavors, right?!? Ahem … tropical angel food cake, tropical energy balls, grilled tropical fruit …)
Anyway. This Hawaiian Banana Bread: Instant Smash Hit.
So much more interesting that regular-old, plain-jane banana bread.
We’re talkin’ …
- Banana (of course!)
- Sweet, juicy pineapple
- All that fun, tropical-ness that coconut always brings to the party
- A little hit of almond flavor
- And oh.my.goodness. the toasty-crunchy-to-die-for topping
It’s truly special. Banana bread reimagined, on a whole ‘nother level of greatness.
I’ve made it again and again since that initial “hey, why not” time I first tossed it together earlier this summer.
In fact, this whole summer kind of turned into our family’s “banana bread summer,” with me testing banana bread recipes for you, and Amy away at pastry camp baking up banana muffins (and fresh strawberry cake … and cream puffs … and Bavarian pretzels … you HAVE drooled your way through her recap of all that, haven’t you? If not, you truly must!).
So, it turned out that we baked a lot of banana breads this summer.
And after you taste this one, I just bet I know what you’ll be baking every summer, from here on out!
Or, if you’re like us, it’s probably what you’ll be baking in mid-January, when you almost can’t remember what summer sunshine feels like and you desperately need a little tropical pick-me-up (coconut rum entirely optional).
Healthy Banana Bread (Nobody Will Know Is Healthy)
Yeah – this is seriously, unarguably delicious. (I wouldn’t be sharing this recipe with you if it wasn’t!) But you might also be wondering, “If it tastes this good, can it still be nutritious?”
Come on, guys! This is THK, after all!
So, of course, this Hawaiian Banana Bread is jam-crammed with nutritional upgrades, like:
- 100% whole wheat flour
- a fraction of the oils you find in classic banana bread recipes (more on that later)
- and lots of fruit
But don’t worry … nobody’s going to pay one bit of attention to those nutritional upgrades. There’s way too much yumminess going on here for anybody to be noticing the fact that it’s also pretty healthy.
So let’s talk logistics and get this summer-y, Hawaiian vibe going!
How Ripe Should Bananas Be for Banana Bread?
As bananas ripen, their starch converts to sugar. That’s why brown-speckled bananas taste much sweeter (and, arguably, also more banana-y) than their bright yellow or their still-slightly-green counterparts.
The bananas you probably most enjoy eating straight-up, or slicing on cereal (the perfectly yellow ones) actually aren’t the best ones to use for baking banana bread.
To really capitalize on all the potential sweetness and full-on banana flavor, you want to be a little patient. Wait until those “perfect” bright yellow bananas are not-so-perfect for your cereal … which is the precise moment when they actually become ideal for banana bread!
Sidenote: that overripe, brown-speckled stage is also the perfect time to turn bananas into smoothies or instant “nice cream” – more good options for you, when your counter is overflowing with too-ripe bananas nobody got around to eating.
Ideally, you want the bananas to be heavily speckled, even mostly brown. No, you probably don’t want to use truly black ones – there does come a point when your bananas are too far gone. But a lot of brown spotting and blotchiness is very, very good when it comes to baking great banana bread.
Do I Have To Make This Banana Bread with Coconut Oil?
Keeping with the coconuty-Hawaiian-tropics vibe here, we used a tiny bit of coconut oil, but you could use canola instead, if you don’t happen to have coconut oil on hand.
If you don’t use coconut oil often, it’s worth noting that you purchase it as a shelf-stable solid (kind of like how shortening is a solid at room temperature).
A few seconds in the microwave are all you need to melt the coconut oil into a liquid that’ll easily mix into your batter’s other wet ingredients.
Sure, you often can completely slash fats like canola oil or coconut oil from your quick bread recipes, generally subbing in something like applesauce or another fruit puree to replace the majority of the oil. BUT, after a lot of testing and a lot of different quick breads, we’ve found that adding just a couple of tablespoons of oil to your quick bread batter often makes a slight but noticeable improvement in the final bread.
So, that’s become a typical go-to for us: just a little bit of oil (like coconut oil or canola), instead of the large quantities of butter or oil you often find in classic quick bread recipes. Using only a little still allows us to keep the fat and the calories in check, but that little bit also helps to create an incredible recipe that nobody is going to accuse of being unhappily “too healthy.”
How Your Pans May Affect Your Banana Bread’s Baking Temperatures and Times
Like we mentioned in our recipe for Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread, it seems like everyone has a slightly different loaf pan in their cupboard, and even simple quick bread recipes like this one can require small adjustments, depending on the exact size and material of your pan.
Don’t worry, though – we can help!
Note that this recipe calls for a “standard” 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. (I absolutely adore my USA Pan 9×5 loaf pans – they perform like a dream, and generally don’t even require one bit of cooking spray to be wonderfully non-stick.)
If your favorite pan is a little smaller (even an 8.5 x 4.5), or if it happens to be a dark-colored metal or an oven-proof glass pan, you may need to make tiny adjustments (in this particular banana bread recipe, or most any other quick bread recipe) to achieve that perfectly baked, lusciously moist loaf you’re looking for.
- For smaller loaf pans, the batter will be deeper (and your loaf will be taller), s0 a slightly longer bake time may be needed to ensure the center is cooked.
- However, because you don’t want the outsides of your banana bread to dry out before the center is done, you may also find it helpful to decrease the oven temperature slightly (maybe by 25 degrees) for smaller loaf pans. This strategy of lowering the oven temp also works well with glass or dark metal pans, because of the way they conduct heat.
The bottom line here is that – with this banana bread recipe or any other quick bread you might bake – slight differences in pan size or materials can make a difference. But they’re easily compensated for with just a tiny bit of tweaking!
Remember: the goal is to ensure that the bread is evenly baked but still very richly moist throughout.
To be absolutely sure you bake a great loaf of bread, it’s always a good idea to check for doneness a little earlier than you might expect, and to continue checking fairly often until your bread is perfectly baked.
Yummy Serving Ideas!
This recipe doesn’t need a lot of extra bells and whistles.
You really can just slice and go. Nothing else needed. Instant tropics.
That’s definitely my favorite way to eat this banana bread!
But Ty swears it’s even better with a schmear of pineapple cream cheese. Ok. Sure … why not?!?
You can also try toasting it, to really reinvigorate the roasty flavors and beckoning scents of the golden-brown coconut and almonds on top.
This sunshiney banana bread is great as part of a quick breakfast, or for an afternoon snack.
I’ve honestly also nestled it next to some reduced-fat vanilla ice cream for dessert, too (and I was very, very happy!). Sort of the same way that we turned these chocolate-strawberry muffins into healthy ice cream sandwiches. Brilliant!
Oh – but you do know that I was mostly kidding about serving it alongside some coconut rum, right?!? (Mostly.)
A Few Last Tips
Choose the Right Pineapple – I’ve tried making this with both crushed pineapple (as directed on the recipe card), and with pineapple tidbits. I was surprised how much I preferred the flavor of the finished bread when I used crushed pineapple, so I definitely recommend choosing crushed instead of pineapple tidbits or even chunks. Also, be sure to select pineapple that’s packed in 100% juice instead of syrup.
Toast the Perfect Topping – You’ll notice on the recipe card that I recommend gently pressing the coconut and almond topping into the batter before baking, to help those yummy toasty bits to stick to the top of your bread. Also, note that you may want to lightly tent a piece of foil over the top of your bread at the very end of baking – maybe for just the last 5 or 10 minutes. This can depend on how close to the top of your oven the baking rack is positioned, how long you end up baking your bread (see the section above related to Baking Pans), and how toasty you want that scrumptious topping to be. You make the call – but if you feel like your topping is getting too brown, it’s easy to save the day with a piece of foil!
Making It Ahead and Freezing – You can freeze this banana bread, either as a whole loaf or in individual, pre-portioned slices. Either way, be sure to wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and then store it in a zippered freezer bag.
Ok! Off you go to the tropics, armed and ready for complete banana bread success!
Try this banana bread now, as you cling to the last days of summer. And then, in the depths of winter, when you still want comfort food but you also need to pretend that summer is just around the corner … make it again then, too.
Soak in the sunshine, friends! If you squint realllllll hard, you just might be able to pretend you’re in Hawaii!
- cooking spray and flour for preparing loaf pan (if needed)
For the Batter:
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (fine grain, not flaked kosher salt)
- 1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2-3 bananas)
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple in 100% juice, NOT drained
- 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Topping:
- 3 tablespoons shredded, sweetened coconut
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray and/or lightly but thoroughly flouring the bottom (if needed – my pans don't need this). (See note below for more information on using a different pan size and adjusting baking for various types of pans.)
- In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine thoroughly.
- In a medium bowl, combine banana, brown sugar, pineapple, coconut, egg, coconut oil, almond extract, and vanilla, stirring well to combine.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist (do not over-mix).
- Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the coconut and almond topping over the top of the batter. Press topping ingredients gently into the batter just a little (so they are a bit stuck into the batter but still laying on top – they will adhere to the loaf better after baking).
- Bake for 48-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you notice that the topping on your banana bread is getting more toasted than you'd like, you can tent the loaf with foil during about the last 10 minutes of baking.
- Cool banana bread in pan for about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove from pan to finish cooling completely on a wire rack. You may find it helpful to run a thin paring knife around the edge of the loaf to help it release from the pan, if needed.
Make-Ahead and Freezing: This banana bread recipe freezes well. After cooling completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer in a freezer-safe zipper bag. You can also pre-slice the loaf and freeze individual portions.
Adjusting Bake Time and Temperature for Your Pans: Any quick bread recipe may need small adjustments in bake time and temperature, to account for different pan sizes and materials. If you're using a different pan size (other than the 9x5 we specify here), you may need to adjust the bake time a little. Also, if you're using a dark metal or a glass baking pan, you may additionally need to slightly change the oven temperature, possibly lowering it by about 25°F. You can read more about this in our post. Regardless, the key to a perfectly baked loaf is to check for doneness early and often, especially until you know how a recipe will work with your equipment and your oven.