These old-fashioned Banana Bars with chocolate chips are the epitome of snack-meets-dessert (or is it dessert-meets-snack?) stardom.
Wholesome enough to fly as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up but scrumptious enough to satisfy sweet cravings, this healthy-dessert-meets-anytime-munchie is a recipe you can feel great packing for your kids’ lunches or rewarding yourself with after (or during!) a long day, and they travel well for potlucks and picnics too.
One of the reasons I adore banana recipes like these banana bars so much is that they allow me to sweeten up my baked goods more naturally.
And when a dessert is better for you? You can feel great eating it more often. These banana bars are made from less processed ingredients and offer nutritional benefits too (just like the recipes on this list of 50 Healthy Desserts).
A happy handful of chocolate chips on top certainly doesn’t hurt their appeal either!
Healthy Banana Bars—An Anytime Treat
The ingredient lineup here is a more wholesome one.
In addition to being naturally sweetened primarily with mashed banana, these banana bars are made without brown sugar. (I use coconut sugar, though you can swap in brown sugar if that is what you have on hand.) The banana bars are also 100% whole wheat.
Even with these healthy swaps, however, this banana recipe will still satisfy any sweet tooth. I found a good reason to eat them at any time of day.
- In the morning, I topped one of the banana squares with a generous portion of Greek yogurt and side of berries.
- After a workout, I grabbed one right out of the container and munched it while I finished off my water bottle. <—SUCH a perfect post-workout reward!
- After dinner, I replaced the Greek yogurt with vanilla ice cream and—since we are all friends here—more chocolate chips.
As written, this banana bars recipe is sweet, but not overly so.
Like these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars, and honestly the majority of the healthy dessert recipes on my site, they’re well balanced, nutritious, and hit the spot whether you need a 3 p.m. energy boost or a late-night treat.
If you’d like to turn these light banana bars into a truly indulgent dessert, check out a few suggestions below.
Banana Bars—Extra Flourishes for an Over-the-Top Dessert
- Banana Bars with Peanut Butter Frosting. Make the bars as directed. Let cool, then top with a peanut butter frosting. I don’t have one on my site, but Sally’s peanut butter Greek yogurt frosting looks pretty perfect.
- Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting. Make the bars as directed. Let cool and top with the cream cheese frosting from this dreamy Cream Cheese Banana Bread.
- Banana Bars with Brown Butter Frosting. The reviews on this brown butter frosting recipe are stellar. For a butter rum frosting version, add 1/2 teaspoon rum extract.
- Banana Bars with Glaze. Keep it sweet and simple. Drizzle the bars with a simple glaze like the ones on these Blueberry Oatmeal Bars.
- EVEN MORE ICING IDEAS. Try these bars topped with maple frosting (see my Maple Pecan Blondies for a recipe).
While I can imagine any of the above being divine, I honestly give these healthy banana bars an A+ just as they are, no extra frosting or frills required.
If you love a good healthy dessert/wholesome snack crossover, I suspect you’ll give them full marks too!
Storing Banana Bars
- Short term: Store the banana bars at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
- Longer term: Freeze for up to 3 months. If I’m trying to exercise serious self control, I like to wrap and freeze my banana bars individually, then thaw them as cravings strike.
To Freeze Frosted Banana Bars
If you’ve already frosted the bars and want to store them for a longer period, you can freeze banana bars with cream cheese frosting (or any other frosting). See tips below.
- To keep the frosting from getting messy as the bars freeze, first place the bars in a container that is deep enough where the lid doesn’t touch the frosting.
- Place the container in the freezer.
- Once the bars harden, remove them from the container and wrap tightly in plastic and/or foil to prevent freezer burn (since the frosting is frozen, it won’t become messy when wrapped).
- To thaw, unwrap the frozen bars, then let them thaw overnight in a deep container in the refrigerator. See that? Perfect frosting!
- You can also simply wrap and freeze the frosted bars, then deal with messy frosting after they thaw. The bars will still be delicious!
You can also make these banana bars for a crowd. Double the recipe, then bake it in a 9×13-inch pan. The bars will be thicker, so you will need to extend the baking time by several minutes.
Recommended Tools to Make This Banana Bars Recipe
Banana Bars with Chocolate Chips
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana - about 3 medium bananas
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted and cooled to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk - or milk of choice
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips - divided
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that the parchment overhangs two opposite sides like handles. Lightly coat with nonstick spray and set aside.
- Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl. Double check the measurement to ensure you have 1 cup (less will make the bars dry; more and they may not bake all the way through). Stir in the coconut sugar, butter, milk, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir to combine, stopping as soon as the flour disappears. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on top. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Place the pan a wire rack to cool completely, then using the parchment handles, lift the bars onto a cutting board. Slice into squares of desired size and enjoy!
- Store bars at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. See blog post above for freezer tips for frosted or unfrosted bars.
- To make dairy free: Use almond milk or coconut milk and replace the butter with the same amount of a vegan butter substitute or coconut oil.
- To make vegan: Follow the dairy-free directions in the note above; For the egg, you can experiment with a flaxegg, but I haven’t tried this yet. If you do decide to play around, I’d love to hear how it goes!
- To make gluten free: Replace the wheat flour with the same amount of a 1:1 all purpose baking flour blend, such as this one.
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