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date-sweetened banana bread recipe

January 21, 2011

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One of my pet peeves is when people label a dessert as “healthy,” and not because that is grammatically incorrect, but rather because desserts have sugar of some form and that will never be “good” for you no matter how much whole wheat flour you throw in there.  Of course, you could say one dessert is more healthful than another or that it will lead to the demise of your health less quickly than its traditional counterpart.  But to call a dessert healthful because we use yogurt instead of butter, but then add in 3 cups of sugar, is just plain delusional.

Would you call me a hypocrite if I told you I have a recipe for a healthful dessert?  I don’t blame you, but stay with me here.  I know of a sweet something that calls for no sugar of any kind — not even my favorite, maple syrup.  Don’t be silly, I am not going artificial on you!  It is a delicious banana bread sweetened only with ripe bananas and pureed dates.  Dates grow locally in Southern California, so we have access to some fantastic varieties here, my favorite being the Medjool.  If you are ever craving something sweet, but don’t want to give in to processed junk, take a pitted date or two and stick a pecan in the middle.  Amazing.  I digress.  The dates do double duty as sweetener and add moistness so we cut back on some of the butter, too.  The key, though, with any banana bread is using super ripe bananas, well-speckled with lots of black dots (the kind many people toss in the garbage — arrgh!).

Banana bread freezes beautifully and makes a terrific muffin, as well.  I adapt this recipe according to the season, adding blueberries in the summer, fresh cranberries in the fall and walnuts or pecans in the winter.  This banana bread is not as sweet as the ones you may be used to, so yes, you can add chocolate chips or a drop of maple syrup if you must.  Just don’t call it healthy!

date-sweetened banana bread

makes 1 9 x 5 loaf

1 cup dried dates (about 7 ounces), pitted

1/2 cup hot water

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups white whole wheat flour, spelt flour or sprouted spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

3 large, ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup raw walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (or fresh blueberries or cranberries)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. (Can be lined with parchment if it is aluminum.)
  2. Place the dates in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the hot water and allow the dates to soften for at least 10 minutes.  (I usually get the rest of my ingredients ready while the dates are softening.)
  3. Turn the mixer on low speed and blend until the water has incorporated with the dates.  Turn the mixer to medium low speed and beat the dates until a smooth puree forms.
  4. Add the butter or coconut oil and beat until well blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract and mix.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter-date mixture and mix until just combined.
  6. Fold in the mashed bananas and walnuts.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (I made it in many different ovens with this range of time), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out barely clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

61 Responses to “date-sweetened banana bread recipe”

  1. Holly says:

    Delicious! I made muffins (8 from halving the mix) with spelt flour, pureeing the dates with the fats (half coconut oil, half butter) in a small food processor, and they are the best banana muffins I’ve ever made – and I’ve made a few. I used black bananas and they are plenty sweet. Thanks!

  2. Colleen says:

    This sounds great. We are trying to eat less refined sugar so cannot wait to try. I currently use dates to sweeten my morning smoothie. Re the banana bread, any thoughts on what to add to increase the fibre without tasting too strong of bran?
    Colleen

    • Pamela says:

      what about adding flax meal? In fact you can use flax instead of eggs. 2 Tbs. flax meal mixed with 6 tbs. warm water, allow to sit for 15 minutes before adding to batter. Use in place of the 2 eggs. Or add some rolled oats on top for decoration, but they have lots of fiber!

  3. […] I ate my usual breakfast of berries and yogurt, but I didn’t eat oatmeal as I normally would have done. Rather, I opted to bake a banana-date-walnut bread and noshed on that instead. I baked the bread for several reasons. The most important reason was because I had a friend come in from out of town and I wanted something special to serve him that I could also eat myself, since I’m sugar-free. I also wanted a good carb-source to get some tasty carbs in for today (also hard to do when I’m sugar free), but also have something easy to prepare for a pre-race meal in the morning. I could make oatmeal tomorrow morning, but bread seems so much easier at 4 AM. I think if there’s anything I regret tomorrow, it will be putting dates in the bread, but who knows? Maybe I’ll appreciate the extra propulsion forward. The recipe I used can be found here.  […]

  4. […] make them a great ingredient in cakes where they can be used as a substitute for refined sugars. Banana and Date loaf is a classic ‘healthy’ cake and is ideal for using up browning bananas.The rest of the […]

  5. Bella says:

    I just tried the recipe for the first time & can’t wait to experiment further. I used a Vitamix to make the date paste & folded in the wet ingredients into that (on low, 1). The dates were Whole Foods Deglets and the bananas were frozen. I throw the ugly brown/black ones in the freezer before they gross me out completely. I also used a touch of maple syrup (freshly made here in my little town). It did take the full 60 minutes. Thanks!

  6. Michelle says:

    I made this for the first time last night and IT IS SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!! Next time I’m going to use a few less dates but seriously, best banana bread recipe ever and it’s healthy too :-)

  7. Karen says:

    I just made this (twice in one weekend) with both whole wheat and then gluten-free all-purpose flour. My sweets-loving son took several pieces without even realizing that it was “healthy.” Everyone loved it. Thanks!

  8. Caitlyn says:

    Just made this recipe last night! SOO amazing! Hands down best banana bread I have ever attempted to make at home! I used the Earth Balance butter and pecans instead of walnuts. I also had to substitute cake flour for whole wheat flour(because that was unfortunately all I had) and instead of two cups I only used one cup of the cake flour, then I added 3/4 cup wheat bran and 1/4 cup of ground golden flax-seed mill. The consistency and moistness was undeniably good!

  9. Melanie says:

    I just baked this bread this morning. I added some unsweetened coconut and walnuts that I hand on hand and toasted up before adding. I have made alot of banana bread in my time and this is easily the best. How wonderful it has no refined sugar!

  10. […] found this recipe which looked good, but it wasn’t gluten-free and I didn’t want to use eggs.  So, I […]

  11. jdbrica says:

    i have made this recipe several times and every time i can’t quite get the center of the bread to bake fully. Do you know what could be going wrong? or how i might adjust it? the only thing that is different is that i do not have the paddle attachment and may not be getting the dates into a paste but otherwise i am doing everything as per the recipe. i also want to make them in muffins this weekend. is there anything different i should do for muffins?

    • Pamela says:

      Let me try to think of what could be wrong. Make sure you’re using the right size pan. If yours is an 8.5 x 4.5, that’s smaller than the one I used and the bread will be too thick. Or your leavening agents could be expired. Or you’re using too much banana. Lastly, your oven might run cooler than mine. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out and then make sure you cool it on a cooling rack so that the heat escapes and the bread doesn’t keep steaming itself. That’s all I can think of! Let me know if you have any other questions. I hope it works for you!

  12. Ashley says:

    I want to make this, but I don’t have a ‘paddle attachement’. I have an electric hand mixer, a food processor, and a vitamix. Would any of these work as an alternative? Thanks!

    • Pamela says:

      I haven’t tried this with an electric hand mixer, but to get the dates into a paste you’ll need something stronger. I’m sure the food processor would work great. Process all the wet ingredients including the dates in there and mix the dry in a separate bowl. Then add the wet to the dry, fold in bananas and you should be good!

  13. jannett says:

    does this recipe absolutely need the eggs. I want to make a vegan version so i would like to know if it would work without the eggs. also can i use any other flour like oat or almond.

    • Pamela says:

      a good substitute for eggs in this recipe would be 2 Tbs. ground flax meal mixed with 6 Tbs. warm water. Allow the mixture to sit on the counter for 15 minutes before adding to the batter. Use coconut oil or Earth Balance instead of butter. I haven’t tried this with oat flour, but it’s heavier than wheat, so maybe use a touch less. You can sub spelt very well for wheat, although it’s not gluten-free. Almond flour is a whole different thing — different fat profile, etc. Are you also trying to make this GF?

  14. Bryan says:

    Has anyone ever tried this recipe with coconut oil instead of butter? I use a coconut oil that retains a strong coconut flavor, and it might give this recipe a slightly tropical feel/taste.

    • Pamela says:

      I don’t normally do this, but when I was reading your question, I was in the mood to bake something and I had ripe bananas on the countertop so I gave the banana bread a go with coconut oil. I used dates to make a puree and 1/4 cup or room temperature coconut oil and it was just as delicious and moist as with butter. BUT, I didn’t taste any coconut flavor. Perhaps adding a handful of shredded coconut would get you closer to a more tropical flavor. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion since now I know the recipe works well dairy-free!

  15. Mary Michael says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I made the loaf with pecans for my family and they loved it! I have muffins with blueberries in the oven now :)

  16. Sheri says:

    I just made a batch of muffins from this recipe. Amazing! So moist and the perfect amount of sweetness. I followed the advice from one of the previous comments and added chocolate chips to the recipe so that my kids would eat them. This will be a keeper!

  17. Jade says:

    I just baked this cake yesterday. It’s wonderful and moist and to me just as sweet as a cake full og sugar. Thank you for this recipie. It’s incredible that it’s baked with whole wheat flour. It really just tastes like the regular all refined ingredients and suger bomb and usually bake :)

  18. Erin says:

    so if you’re substituting dates for sugar in other recipes, would you just use the same amount of dates that it calls for of sugar?

    • Pamela says:

      it’s a good question, but the substitution is not that straightforward. To start, it takes more dates than sugar in this recipe. I would sub 1/2 cup maple syrup or sugar for the 1 cup dates here. But also, dates add moisture which you may or may not want. I find that date puree works really well in quick breads and muffins, smoothies and other blended drinks, puddings, brownies, but not cookies, for example. If you have a specific recipe in mind, I am happy to offer my opinion for what it’s worth. =)

  19. Kate says:

    Hi Pamela- I’m planning to make this after school tonight. Would this be a good use for the pulp leftover from my first batch of homemade almond milk? My kids won’t eat anything with visible nuts. Thanks!

    • Pamela says:

      Hmmmm, you got me there. I’ve never used leftover almond pulp in this recipe so I couldn’t advise you how much to add. I think it’s a great idea, though! If I were going to try it, I think I would start with 1/4 cup. Let me know if you try it — very curious!

  20. Donna Hann says:

    My loaf is in the oven as we speak. So excited to try this date sweetened loaf as we’ve recently removed sugar from our son’s diet and I was struggling to find “treats” without sugars of any kind. Dates have come to the rescue in a no-bake peanut butter “truffle” and now this banana bread. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Pamela says:

      It’s definitely a challenge to come up with treats without sugars, but dates can be a great alternative. I very often use this date puree in other quick breads in place of 1/2 cup sugar and if the recipe calls for more, I sometimes add an extra spoonful of maple syrup. See the pumpkin bread recipe as an example. Hope you enjoy!

  21. Alex says:

    I made these with flax meal/water for my egg free son into muffins for his birthday breakfast. They were so hearty and delicious. They really held up well without the egg and were a perfect treat with a couple chocolate chips tossed in. I can’t wait to make these again!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks for sharing your egg-free experience! My son’s favorite is with chocolate chips, but I just made this bread this weekend with blueberries and I thought it was great :) .

  22. Amanda says:

    This is my #1 favorite banana bread recipe and I have been on the hunt for a good recipe for some time. MUCH yummier, richer and moister than any other whole wheat version I’ve tried. My kids love it too!

  23. Justine says:

    Hello Pamela,
    I made these last night & divided the “wet” mixture into 2 parts – the first I completed using wheat flour as per your recipe; the second I completed using a combination of rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch (I am gluten intolerant, but the rest of my family is not). Everyone loved it! Also, we celebrate lent by forgoing sugar, so this recipe was perfect for this time of year. We had the muffins for breakfast, and I packed what was left in the kids’ lunches. Thanks so much!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Justine! So glad it was a nice treat for everyone. Mashed ripe bananas and pureed dates are two of my favorite sugar-free tricks.

  24. Jo Elen Gidish says:

    If I am glluten intolerant and allergic to tapioca starch, what can I subsitute for tapioca in this banana bread recipe and other recipes that call for tapioca?

    • Pamela says:

      Hi Jo Elen, That’s tough since all the GF flour blends I have used contain tapioca. But I think the way you go is with blanched almond flour. I haven’t tested it with this recipe, but Elana Amsterdam at elanaspantry.com uses almond meal in all her baked goods. She has a very popular blog. Check out her recipe: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-banana-bread/

  25. SAB says:

    Thanks for posting this. My loaf is currently in the oven, but the batter tasted great. I may have used more dates than called for, but it seemed plenty sweet. I can’t wait to eat it.

  26. [...] No Sugar Added Banana Date Muffins – inspired by this recipe [...]

  27. cma says:

    I just made your date-sweetened banana bread. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. I brought to work for a school breakfast. It was quite delicious and very big hit at the breakfast!

  28. Alison says:

    ok seriously these are amazing. i had this for breakfast today and then i couldnt resist and had it for snack after lunch and some for dessert. this is my new fave food. and the best part is…theres almost no sugar!!!!!

    • Pamela says:

      I love this bread, too! Actually, there’s NO sugar, except the naturally-occurring sugar in the dates and bananas. I should adjust the pumpkin muffin recipe to include an option for date puree in lieu of some of the maple syrup. You can soak the dates in hot water in the blender and cut half the maple syrup and it’s amazing — I like it even better as a loaf than muffins. Yum!

  29. Mary says:

    I baked this batter in a muffin tin for 17 minutes. My only mistake was that I didn’t double the recipe!!! My family really enjoyed having banana muffins for breakfast.

    • Pamela says:

      If you make extra, they freeze great. You can take them out of the freezer, put directly into the lunch box and they are defrosted in time for snack or lunch!

  30. Jennifer says:

    So I’ve made this banana bread a few times and it’s great, but I would highly recommend using really ripe bananas, even black ones. Because there’s no sugar or maple syrup, it won’t be sweet enough unless you use the ripest bananas. My kids like this a lot with chocolate chips or dried cherries or fresh blueberries. If I make it with just nuts, I add 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup and it’s just right for us. It’s one of the only really wholesome desserts I’ve found!

    • Pamela says:

      I agree about the bananas. I would say “just-before-fruit-flies-black.” Thanks for sharing how you adjusted the recipe to suit you. Love that!

  31. Luisa says:

    This is my kind of “comfort food”! A cup of herb tea and banana bread are a perfect treat!

  32. Goli says:

    Wow Pam: I Know what I’ll be baking next!!!!!!

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