12 of the Best Banana Bread Variations

If you missed my recipe for the best vegan banana bread on the planet, be sure to check that out first. If you don't agree with me, you can definitely use these variations for your favorite recipe, too. Though, I still think you should check out my (mom's) recipe :)

This is just one scrumptious way to use old bananas, but I have 16 more ways too ;)

Now, listen, banana bread is definitely great, but you know what makes it better? Jazzing it up every now and then. If you're like me and continually buy too many bananas and never eat them before they get brown, you also might be making a loaf every week. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can get boring eating the same old same old.

So I spent my quarantine experimenting with different variations every week and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share them all with you so you can try these yummy and unique flavor combinations that will make any banana bread just that much better.

Something to note: all of these breads will bake the same amount of time as my original recipe or whatever recipe you use. It does not affect baking time!

Let's just dive right in!

1. Berry Swirl Banana Bread

This one is super simple. You can use a store-bought jam or make your own at home. Either way, find your favorite jam (not jelly!) and simply swirl it into the top (maybe even the middle) of the batter after putting the batter into the bread pan. It gets slightly chewy and adds a nice acidic bite to a very sweet loaf.

To take it one notch farther on the sustainability spectrum, use up the last bit of jam you have in the back of your fridge that you would otherwise throw out! Honestly, the only reason I came up with this banana bread twist is that my homemade mixed berry chia seed jam was headed towards becoming rancid and I had no idea what else to do with a half jar of jam!

I'd recommend starting with about half a cup of jam and add more if you feel like it. Measure this (and other variations) with your heart!

2. Frozen Berry Banana Bread

Honestly, all of these variations are super easy, but this could be the easiest. Just chose bits and pieces of your favorite frozen (heck, even fresh) berries and fold them into the batter before dumping the batter into the pan.

I have not tried many combinations of this, but my favorite is a few handfuls of frozen blueberries. It makes this into the perfect loaf for a group brunch. A word of caution though: the berries will make your batter cold and a bit of a challenge to stir. So, work quickly!

3. Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

What's more decadent than banana bread? Chocolate chip banana bread (or double chocolate, see below). YUM! As much as I love a crazy and unique flavor, this one is all things classic banana bread with a gooey chocolate chip in every bite!

Just like with the frozen berries above, just fold in a handful or two of your favorite chocolate chips before putting the batter into the pan. Be sure to enjoy this loaf warm with some still-partially-melted chocolate chips! As a tip, coat the chocolate chips in flour before folding in to prevent them from sinking to the bottom. I also added some on top!

4. Chocolate Banana Bread

Though you certainly can add chocolate chips to this (I even encourage it), it's as simple as just adding cocoa powder to the batter. My recipe is sweet enough that the bitterness of the cocoa will mellow that out and make it a perfect balance, no need to add any more sugar. This variation is perfect for people who aren't a fan of overly sugary desserts.

To my original recipe, substitute 1/2 cup of flour for 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. Be sure to whisk it into the other dry ingredients to ensure it is completely incorporated. This seemed to make the batter a bit thicker than normal, so, add an additional 1/4 cup of milk. This brings the total milk to 6 tbsp or 1/3 cup.

This variation would be delicious to pair with any other variation as well! For example, I paired it with the chocolate chip variation above to make DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD!

5. Lemon Banana Bread

I know what you're thinking...lemon and banana? But, trust me. I made this loaf on accident (don't mistakenly use your lemon extract for vanilla, oops! or maybe do it and then you'll end up with a brand new, tasty recipe!) and it ended up amazing! While the first attempt may have been an accident, I have tweaked it sense to make it even better.

To my original recipe, substitute the vanilla extract for lemon extract. Also, omit the spices or reduce their amount my half to allow the lemon to shine. Additionally, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and the zest from one lemon. Add this with the flax egg and blend.

To top off this bread off, make a quick lemon glaze by combining about 1/4 cup powdered sugar and roughly 1 tsp of lemon juice (add more juice to make thinner or more sugar to make thicker). Add some zest to the glaze for a pop of color. This variation would be FANTASTIC with either the berry swirl or frozen berries.

6. Orange Banana Bread

Follow the same steps for the lemon bread above (lemon bread): substitute vanilla extract for orange extract (or keep vanilla), add 1 tbsp orange juice, and the zest of one orange. Top with a glaze and more orange zest!

8. Coffee Cake Banana Bread

OH. MY. GOODNESS. If this doesn't combine the two best desserts/cakes/breads in the whole world I don't know what does. My house was smelling like a bakery all afternoon and this flavor combo is out of this world.

That being said, this one requires a few more steps than the other ones so let's begin.

First, make the filling. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tbsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp cocoa powder. Set aside.

Next, make the crumb topping. Combine 1/4 cup of white sugar, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a dash of salt. After this, cut 3 tbsp of butter into it with two forks, two butter knives, or a dough cutter. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Make the batter as normal, but don't put all of it into the loaf pan. I did 1/3 batter, 1/2 the filling, 1/3 batter, 1/2 the filling, and then the final 1/3 of batter to make it multi-layered. For each layer of batter, try to get it all the way to the edges so that it stays together well.

Finally, add the crumb topping and bake as normal! Just a warning, this bread is super sweet, which I don't mind at all!

9. Nutty Banana Bread

This one is another super simple one. Follow any banana bread recipe you chose and simply fold in some nuts. My personal favorites are walnuts and pecans and I also like to throw some on top before baking. I love the contrast between fluffy bread, chewy and crispy crust, and crunchy nuts!

10. Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This bread is absolutely scrumptious and so decadent. All you have to do is follow the original recipe. Then, melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil and 2 tbsp of peanut butter in the microwave (the coconut oil keeps the peanut butter from getting too dried out in the oven). Drizzle it over the bread and then swirl it into the bread with a butter knife. This bread will need to bake probably 10-20 minutes more because of the extra oil and fat. I have only tested this loaf once, but it ended up being super crusty and a little crumbly on top, which I loved!

* Note: you might have to use a bit more oil with store-bought, not "natural" peanut butter. I use my homemade peanut butter which is naturally more oily than, say, Jif.

11. Biscoff Banana Bread

Okay. Why did I not think of this sooner?! Speculoos is quite possibly my favorite flavor ever! I got inspiration from this from the Edgy Veg and decided I needed to try my own spin on this. I love cookie butter and I love banana bread so why not combine the two! For this twist on banana bread, there are a few steps. You can use all or just some of them, but here is what I did:

First, I added 2 tbsp of melted cookie butter to the batter. Then, similar to the coffee cake, I layered the batter. I did 1/3 batter, a swirl of melted cookie butter, a layer of crushed cookies, and repeated that 3 times ending with the last swirl of melted cookie butter and some crushed cookies. It's like banana bread lasagna! The total I used for the swirl was another 2 tbsp.

12. Mocha Banana Bread

If you love banana bread, coffee, and chocolate, you're in the right place. This combo is pretty easy to achieve. For this variation, you'll need to make two substitutions:

- substitute 1/2 cup of flour for 1/2 cup of cocoa powder

- substitute the 2 tbsp of milk for 2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1/4 cup of boiling water

That's it! This version is perfect for those who don't have a sweet tooth. The balance of bitter cocoa and coffee really helps to mellow out the sugar content in my recipe. Though, if you are looking for something a bit more decadent, fold in some chocolate chips to make it extra delicious. As a warning, this bread will not rise as much and is a bit denser. It's a bit closer to a brownie but still delicious!

BONUS! (Go Bananas Bread)

That's right, I couldn't just stop at twelve! That being said, this one also isn't really a variation, rather, this one just emphasizes the best part of the bread: bananas!

This variation is simple: swap banana juice (sounds weird, but it's like a smoothie) for the milk, swap banana extract for vanilla extract, fold in one chopped banana (don't mash this one!), and then add banana circles or a halved banana to the top. This might sound like a lot, but this bread is super banana-y and scrumptious and moist! Those bananas on top will get caramelized and add a lovely depth to this bread.