I’ve baked more than fifteen loaves of banana bread this past year, with the recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated American Classics being my go-to source of inspiration. But then, King Arthur released its 2018 Recipe of the year: Whole Grain Banana Bread—and a banana bread bake off competition was suddenly calling to me.

I assumed the outcome would be close, but I could not have been more wrong. The King Arthur Whole Grain recipe was SO MUCH BETTER that I ended up dumping the Cooks Illustrated recipe faster than you can spell banana. However, I did make two significant substitutions in the King Arthur recipe.

For banabrea cook off, Dr. Paul's banana bread loaf and two slices


— I much prefer using butter instead of the vegetable oil that the recipe calls for. Head’s up: King Arthur says you need to use ⅔ cup of melted butter to replace the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. The first time I did this, I assumed I should use 1/2 cup of butter to replace the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. WRONG!

—I use 2 cups of King Arthur White Wheat flour [226 grams] instead of the 1 cup White Wheat Flour and 1 cup of All Purpose Unbleached Flour that the recipe calls for.

I’ve been blow away by how much I like the King Arthur White Wheat Flour, given that I am not a fan of whole wheat flour. King Arthur flour isn’t cheap, but it does go on sale every couple of months at Safeway, Kroeger, Fred Myers and other large retailers. I wait until it’s on sale before I buy it, and then stock up.

Other Substitutions to Consider:

Lower Sugar—You can lower the amount of brown sugar from 1 cup [213 grams] to ¾ cup [160 grams appx] without messing things up. I could hardly tell the difference.  Or try 1/2 cup [107 grams] of brown sugar, but make sure your bananas are plenty brown and ripe.

Diabetic?—From the reader’s comments for this recipe at the King Arthur Website “I’m diabetic, for the brown sugar I used Truvia brown sugar blend,” and “I substituted Splenda Brown Sugar for regular brown sugar,” “ I substituted Splenda for the sugar and substituted one half of the all purpose flour with half a cup of almond flour. Turned out tasting just like the banana bread I grew up eating”.

Gluten Free—King Arthur says you can substitute Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour. I haven’t tried this, so you’re on your own.

Only Use Ripe or Gross Bananas!

Never confuse bananas for eating with bananas for banana bread. Bananas that are perfect for eating are newborns when compared to the level of ripeness that’s optimal for banana bread. Here are the bananas I used in my last batch of banana bread. They were okay, but don’t fear bananas that are far more ripe than these.

Four extra ripe bananas with a far amount of dark blotching on the peels.

Rule of Thumb: If you peel a banana and don’t instantly think “That’s gross!” then it’s probably not ripe enough for banana bread.

For the banana bread bake off, a grid with pictures of the 12 ingredients in the winning recipe

Step By Step Guide

Here’s a step by step guide for how to make the banana bread by the ever entertaining PJ Hamel from the King Arthur blog.

How To Know When Banana Bread Is Done?

Really good banana bread is so moist it can be a challenge to know when done. King Arthur says to take it’s temp, with 205 degrees being the sweet spot. (Along with my inexpensive kitchen scale, I pretty much live and die with with one these amazing digital thermometers—they are only $16 at Amazon). I use mine constantly.

If you don’t have a digital thermometer, make like Daryl Dixon and stab your loaf with a paring knife. If it comes out miost but clean, you’re good to go. Unfortunately, terms like “moist but clean” are so subjective I can never really tell if a kife or toothpic is “clean just right,” or “clean too done.”

Why Weigh Instead of Measure?

When my wife first got our cheapo digital kitchen scale I thought “WTF? What’s wrong with a measuring cup, and what good can a scale that costs less than $20 be?” But over the past year, I’ve come to love the thing. I even weigh the amount of banana in the banana bread given how King Arthur recipes allow you to change from volume to weight with the click of a radio nob.

The scale my wife got us is a Mira and it’s less than $20 on Amazon. It’s easy to zero out your scale after you put the bowl on it, and then zero it out before adding each new ingredient that you need to measure. That way, you don’t have to wash more bowls than is necessary; what’s not to like about that?

Note: When I make a link to a product on Amazon, I get maybe a nickel or dime for sending you there if you order it. The affiliate sales experts say I should link to the most expensive products possible–but I prefer to link to the cheapest. I figure you work as hard for your money as I do mine, and don’t appreciate being ripped off.