Banana Bread Brownies
Any other week, I might have been content to use my cache of ripe bananas to bake a wholesome loaf of banana bread, but I (and my sweet tooth) agreed that what we really need this week is a pan of Banana Bread Brownies.
Banana bread brownies have the gratifying density and moistness of a brownie, the old-fashioned, homey flavor of banana bread, and the sky-high reaches of a banana sheet cake.
I folded in toasted walnuts for warmth and crunch, then topped the brownies off with brown butter frosting, which I didn’t *think* they needed…until I tasted it and realized that I couldn’t possibly live without it and neither should you.
You’ll need 1 cup of mashed ripe banana for this recipe, which comes out to be about 3 medium bananas, and you can make the brownies with fresh bananas or frozen.
Anytime I have ripe bananas that we don’t use right away, I peel, chop, and freeze them, so while I don’t always have fresh, ripe bananas on hand, our freezer is almost always stashed with them. If you do the same, see the tips below for how to bake with frozen bananas.
And just in case you *do* still want to bake banana bread (or just have an especially hefty supply of ripe bananas): try this Healthy Banana Bread, this Oatmeal Banana Bread, or these Healthy Banana Muffins. Enjoy every bite, then please do yourself a favor and save these banana bread brownies for a (very near) future baking project. If you like banana bread, you’ll love this blondie brownie-inspired version!
How to Make Banana Bread Brownies
You’ll notice these banana bread brownies are made with no sour cream, a deviation from other recipes I found online.
Since sour cream isn’t something we have in our refrigerator regularly, I decided to see if I could omit it and use more bananas instead. SUCCESS! These banana bread brownies are still mega moist, and leaving out the sour cream allows the natural sweetness of the bananas to shine.
As with all of my healthy dessert recipes, I used more wholesome, natural ingredients in these banana bread blondies anywhere I could without sacrificing flavor. You’ll find whole grains, honey, and the natural sweetness of the bananas themselves.
- Banana. Bananas bring natural sweetness, happy, familiar flavors, and moisture to baked goods. You’ll love the way they blend seamlessly with the other ingredients in these blondies. Plus, bananas are packed with potassium and fiber.
- Flour. To make these blondies more wholesome, I used a combination of all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour, which offers whole grain benefits like additional fiber and nutrients. You won’t even notice the swap.
- Brown Butter. Browning butter intensifies its flavor (so it tastes even more buttery!) and adds a delightfully nutty nuance. Those cute brown specs in the frosting? That’s the browned butter bits. Once you taste it, you’ll want to brown butter everything.
- Honey. It stands in for most of the sugar and tastes magical with bananas and cinnamon.
- Brown Sugar. A key ingredient for making blondie-style brownies like these.
- Cinnamon. A dash of cinnamon in banana bread anything is mandatory. Fact.
- Baking Powder + Baking Soda. Baking soda is necessary anytime you are using honey in place of all or some of the sugar in a recipe (in baking science, it reacts with the honey’s acidity). Because I like my bar desserts like this one to be sky-high and ultra thick, I also added baking powder to help the brownies rise.
- Toast the walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, then chop them. Mash the banana in a big bowl.
- Brown the butter, then add it to the bowl with the banana.
Whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. No mixer needed!
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add them to the wet mixture. Stir until the flour disappears, then add the walnuts.
- Bake the banana bread brownies for 22 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let cool in the pan.
- To make the frosting: Brown the butter, then remove it from the heat and slowly add the sugar, then the cream and vanilla. Frost the bars (eat the rest of the frosting off of the spatula), and DIG IN!
How to Use Frozen Bananas in Baking
Never toss an overripe banana, even if you don’t plan to bake with it right away. Instead, freeze it! Bananas can last in the freezer for 3 months or even longer, and you can use them in baking.
- To Freeze Bananas. Peel your banana, and chop it into 1/2 to 1-inch slices. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and place it in the freezer until the slices are frozen solid. Then, add your slices to a freezer-safe ziptop bag and freeze for up to 3 months. (Confession: Sometimes I just toss all of my banana slices into a bag without freezing them flat. They form a big banana lump that I have to force apart. You can decide which route is more worth the effort.)
- To Use Frozen Bananas in Baking. Let your frozen banana slices thaw in the refrigerator (or if you forget, heat them up in the microwave very slowly). Once they’re thawed, drain off the excess moisture and juices. Mash and use as directed.
- Banana Bread Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting. Instead of the brown butter frosting called for in this recipe, use the cream cheese frosting from this Pumpkin Sheet Cake. You will only need about 1/2 the amount of cream cheese frosting (unless you are doubling this blondie recipe and baking it in a 9×13-inch pan).
- Banana Bread Brownies without Eggs. Swap the egg for a flax egg or for an additional 1/4 cup mashed ripe banana. (**Note: I have not yet tested these methods, but I do think they have a good chance of working. If you experiment, I’d love to hear how it goes!).
- Chocolate Banana Bread Brownies. Replace the walnuts with 2/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips.
- Gluten Free Banana Bread Brownies. Swap 1:1 GF flour for both the all-purpose and white whole wheat flour.
- To Bake in a 9×13-inch Pan: Double the recipe, extending the baking time by a few minutes as needed (do start checking around 20 minutes though!).
- To Store. Store brownies in an airtight storage container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Place brownies (frosted or unfrosted) in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
More Sweet Recipes to Make with Ripe Bananas
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Rimmed Baking Sheet. Perfect for toasting the walnuts.
- Baking Pan. Perfect corners and no sticking. I love this pan so much, I own two.
- Rubber Spatula. Sturdy and ideal for both baking and cooking.
These banana bread brownies are a new dessert recipe in our family of two, but I know that they are going to be one I make again and again.
Even Ben, whose dessert preferences are notoriously limited to burned chocolate chip cookies—don’t get me started—and cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream, was a big fan, which in our house, is a BIG DEAL. I hope these banana bread-meets-brownie bars are smash in your family too!
Banana Bread Brownies
For the Banana Bread Brownies:
- 1 cup raw walnut halves*
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana - about 3 medium
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup white whole wheat flour - or swap additional all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Brown Butter Frosting:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract - divided
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream - if you have it or half-and-half or milk of choice
- Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, so that two opposite sides overhang like handles, then coat the paper with nonstick spray. Set aside. Spread the walnuts on an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until fragrant and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.
- In a large mixing bowl, mash your banana (double check to make sure you have 1 cup).
- Brown the butter: Heat the butter in a small/medium light-colored saucepan over medium-low. This will take several minutes. Continue to heat until butter melts completely, foams and crackles, turns clear golden (the crackling will stop), then turns toasty brown, swirling the pan periodically. This entire process will take 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon your pan. Once the butter begins to smell lightly nutty, whisk it frequently, scraping up any browned bits from bottom. Watch the pan carefully in the last few minutes to ensure that the butter does not burn. As soon as the bits of butter in the bottom of the pan turn the color of a pecan, remove the butter from the heat and pour it immediately into the bowl with the banana to prevent the butter from burning, along with any toasted bits that are at the bottom. If you’ll be making the brown butter frosting, keep the pan handy.
- To the banana mixture, add the honey and brown sugar and whisk until smooth. At this point, the mixture should be cooled to lukewarm, but if it’s not, let it rest for a few minutes (or pop it into the fridge to cool it more quickly). Whisk in the egg and vanilla.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the banana mixture. With a rubber spatula, gently and slowly fold just until the flour disappears. The batter will look lumpy. Fold in the walnuts.
- Scrape the batter into prepared pan and smooth the top with spatula. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack. Let cool in the pan completely if you will be frosting them. If not, wait at least 10 minutes before you lift the brownies from the pan using the parchment and cut them into squares. If they’re cool, the squares will be tidy; if they’re still warm, they’ll be messy. No one will mind.
- To make the frosting: brown the butter in the same sauce pan you used previously (unless it is super tiny, in which case, switch to a larger one), following the directions in step 3 above (if there are any burned bits of butter on the pan, wash them out first. If your pan is relatively clean, no need to wash in between). As soon as the butter is browned, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately, begin to stir in the powdered sugar with a rubber spatula or whisk, 1/4 cup at a time. If at any point it becomes too thick to whisk (likely by the fourth or fifth addition of powdered sugar), switch to a rubber spatula and add 1 tablespoon of the cream, then continue adding the powdered sugar, until the frosting is thick but spreadable. Stir in the vanilla extract. If needed, continue adding cream, 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency (the butter might look like it's separating but just keep stirring. As long as you combine everything well, it will all cool together beautifully as the bars sit). Frost the cooled bars. Slice and enjoy!
- *Not into walnuts? Swap them for 2/3 chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips (YUM!) or try a mix.
- TO STORE: Store blondies in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO FREEZE: Place blondies (frosted or unfrosted) in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
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