best-ever banana bread

1 loaf    |   
Prep Time:
15 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
50 minutes

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banana bread

“2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 3 ripe bananas…”

I don’t have the patience to be a good baker, but I can still recite the ingredients for banana bread in my head. I learned the recipe in high school and I’ve never found a better version. In those days I made it over and over for bake sales, carbo-fueled excuses to bring goodies to school to sell to each other. The number one customer was Sr. McKenna, our principal, who had a hearty laugh and even heartier sweet tooth. Long after she retired, I’d bump into her at the grocery store and we’d talk about cooking. I haven’t seen her in ages and this weekend there was an obituary in my inbox: Joan McKenna had died at age 81. Immediately the words “2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar…” popped into my head. So I’m baking this one for you, Sr. McKenna. I hope your life ended on a sweet note.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil or 1/4 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 (depending on size) ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips, optional

*a mix of oil and buttermilk makes the bread lighter and shears off a fair amount of fat…be sure to shake the carton of buttermilk before you measure the liquid.


Preheat an oven to 350°F.

In a big bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk the eggs, oil (or oil and buttermilk) and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Add mashed bananas and optional nuts or chocolate; stir until blended.

Pour into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Cool completely on a rack. Store, wrapped well, for up to 3 days.