Since everyone in our house eats a banana every day, we don’t wind up with extra ripe bananas often enough. But when we do, banana bread is certainly on our mind. We love freezing ripe bananas for banana ice cream and making my chickpea flour banana muffins to food prep. Still, when it’s cold outside and I have the patience to wait for a whole loaf to cook, this healthy dairy free banana bread is where they go!
Healthy Dairy Free Banana Bread
What makes this banana bread healthier? It’s dairy free since I have an allergy and I’m on a mission to make more dairy free baked goods easy to make for those who need them. But, the nutrition boost comes from the whole wheat pastry flour, reduction of sugar, and use of honey as the majority of the sugar. Honey naturally contains some vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While the total amount per serving is low, if you swap out more of your added sugar intake with honey, the benefits can increase. Honey is also shown by research to support immune function, be more gentle on the gut for those who are sensitive to sugar, and to provide better blood sugar results in those with diabetes.
When utilizing certain cooking fats, you can also provide more unsaturated versus saturated fat options. Finally, by using mini dark chocolate chips vs. semi-sweet or milk chocolate, you’re reducing sugar a touch more while amping up the antioxidant content with more cocoa. I’ve actually been using Lily’s mini dark chocolate chips – the company sent me some samples, and despite not typically liking the taste of stevia, I am loving their products!
Banana Bread Preferences
For the first time, I had recipe testers make this recipe before I published it. I had two versions of the recipe that I had come to while trying to stay somewhat true to my mom’s recipe while turning it into a healthy dairy free banana bread. I thought I had a preference, but when it comes to baking, it’s a lot harder to make decisions on what will be a crowd pleaser versus savory recipes.
What I found was that overwhelmingly, more people liked the version I enjoyed more. That was a win! But, I also was excited to hear feedback that despite cutting the sugar in half, the recipe was “just sweet enough” (-quoted from at least 5 of the close to 20 testers!). This one was also noted to be approved by husbands, boyfriends, toddlers, kids, grandmas, and co-workers. Much larger sample size here than me reassuring you that Tim and Cooper like it!
However, there are distinctly different preferences for banana bread texture! I had assumed most people enjoyed a super moist banana bread – not “goop” in the middle moist, though a couple of testers said they enjoyed that and just under-baked to get that texture. But, several of my respondents indicated that they prefer a dry texture for banana bread over moist, so that they can better add toppings that will soak into the bread (like an extra smear of butter for example). If you like a dry banana bread, this recipe may not be for you, though, you can absolutely bake an extra few minutes to get closer to that texture.
Making Dairy Free Banana Bread a Balanced Snack
While I can definitely take down a piece of this healthy dairy free banana bread on it’s own, I usually enjoy it more, and am more satisfied from it when my slice has some toppings. Better yet for satiety, especially if this is calling my name at breakfast, is pairing it with a source of quality protein.
Nut or Seed Butter
This is really my go-to topping. It depends on what I am in the mood for, but peanut butter, almond butter, pumpkin seed butter, etc. all work. They add a few grams of protein plus more fiber and healthy fat to increase the satiety factor of the bread while also limiting blood sugar increases, to provide sustainable energy as a snack. For more ideas for rounding out snacks and meals with nut butter, see my post 15 Creative Uses For Nut Butter.
Chopped Nuts and Coconut
If you don’t want the gooey, sticky texture of nut or seed butter, add some chopped nuts and shredded coconut. While these can certainly be added to the bread before baking, I find I like the texture better when they top the bread after the fact, to provide some crunch. Like nut butter, the nuts especially will increase satiety and overall balance.
Want to make this your breakfast? Add 1-2 hard boiled eggs, a tofu scramble, or some dairy free greek yogurt (this vanilla unsweetened greek yogurt is a staple in our house). Adequate protein is necessary to start your day and support not only muscles, but metabolic functions, too.
Recipe Notes and Variations
I had all of my testers indicate what type of loaf pan they used, their cooking fat (they had two options but some made the recipe several times with different ones), their oven type, type of chocolate chips (which didn’t make any differences), total time in the oven, and as discussed above, their preference for texture and sweetness.
Results showed much better texture on the outside of the loaf when earth balance spread was used over coconut oil. Since then I tested it with Country Crock’s new Plant Butter with Olive Oil (so excited to see this high quality product from them, and hear of their new sustainability initiatives!) and it yielded good results. One tester used Miyokos creamery cultured vegan butter spread and shared positive reviews, too. Once this Faba Butter is on the market (I got to try it at a food show last summer), I’m confident it will be wonderful in this recipe, too.
While results were, for the most part, similar for those who used non-stick pans and glass pans, one tester used a ceramic pan and it yielded a bread more dry than she preferred. However, this tester also baked for the max time I indicated, so that of course could have played a role, too.
Time in Oven
The sweet spot, whether using a gas or electric oven, was 43-47 minutes for a moist banana bread with a slightly crisp edge. The 2 testers who reported dryness baked the full 50 minutes that were originally indicated, so if you are the type who enjoys a dry banana bread, choose the longer baking time.
Halving the Recipe
Two testers took it upon themselves to halve the recipe! Such a great idea for anyone living alone. Both baked for about 30 minutes and still yielded a favorable texture and really positive feedback for their healthy dairy free banana bread. One of them said “Overall I give it an A+. Loved it! And so easy to make!”. I’ll be making a half loaf next time I have one large overripe banana on hand versus two!
As mentioned above, over half of testers provided feedback that this gave the “perfect level of sweetness”. But, a few indicated that either themselves or a loved one preferred banana bread without chocolate chips. If that’s you, just omit! You can add in blueberries, cacao nibs, and nuts instead.
If you’re someone who has more of a sweet tooth and prefers a sweeter banana bread, one tester said without the chocolate chips it may not have been sweet enough. A few people did indicate that they felt it was still too sweet, though. This is despite most banana bread recipes including about 1 full cup of sugar. Because of this, and due to honey tasting sweeter than white sugar, I cut back the brown sugar in the final recipe by 2 tbsp.
All in all, if you decide to forgo the chocolate chips and like your banana bread to be sweet, add an additional 2 tbsp brown sugar on top of the 2 tablespoons the recipe indicates.
Healthy Dairy Free Banana Bread
- ½ cup melted earth balance stick
- ¼ cup raw honey
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup very ripe banana, mashed about 2 medium
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour plus 2 extra tbsp for a more fluffy cake
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda, fresh
- ⅓ cup mini dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350° and either spray loaf pan with non stick spray or grease with more earth balance.
- Whisk butter with honey and brown sugar.
- Whisk in the eggs before stirring in the mashed banana and vanilla .
- Add the flour*, salt and baking soda and fold in. Do not over-mix.
- Gently stir in half of the chocolate chips.
- Pour into loaf pan and add the remainder of chocolate chips on top.
- Bake for 42-48 minutes and let cool before serving.