Banana bread is a classic.

It’s such a classic that you likely already have your go-to recipe. Maybe it’s from a parent, grandparent, great aunt, neighbor, or your favorite blogger.

It comes out perfect every time.

But maybe you want to mix things up a bit and create a banana bread recipe that’s entirely your own. We’ve got you.

Whether you’re a novice or a pro, here’s the 411 on making the best banana bread ever — from the perfect bananas to the make-it-your-own mix-ins, to the best baking tips.

We’re sure you know the golden rule: ripe bananas make the best banana bread.

And basically, the riper the better. The blacker the banana is, the sweeter it is — ensuring your bread has the most pronounced “banana-y” flavor. Just make sure the fruit hasn’t actually gone rotten.

This makes banana bread the perfect use for those overripe bananas that have been sitting on your counter way too long. Or, even better, buy super ripe bananas from the start (bonus: they’re usually on sale).

Buy “dessert” bananas

Any “dessert” banana — a banana that is eaten raw as opposed to one you would cook (such as plantains) — works for banana bread.

It’s likely you’re going to use the most commonly found U.S. supermarket banana: Cavendish. But if you spy “baby” bananas, such as Lady Finger or Manzano (apple bananas), those will work lovely too. These bananas are sweet and fruity with a creamy flesh.

Organic or conventional? This is up to your preference — as when it comes to pesticides and peels, bananas aren’t on the list for serious contamination. The most important thing is to not break the golden rule: use only the ripest bananas.

Don’t have any overripe bananas around, but are craving banana bread? Here’s how to take those yellow bananas from pass to a banana bread-worthy yaaas.

The paper bag method

If you have some time on your hands, the paper bag method will have your bananas ripe in just a few days. Place bananas in a brown paper bag with either an apple or an already overly ripe banana.

This will trap the ethylene gas they are producing, speeding up the ripening process.

The oven method

To get ripe bananas STAT, the oven method works like a dream. Bake unpeeled bananas at 300°F (148°C) on a baking sheet until black, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let the bananas cool, peel them, and you’re good to go.

Most banana bread recipes call for all-purpose white flour. But the truth is you can make banana bread with many different flours or combination of.

  • All-purpose flour. The most common flour.
  • Cake flour. This can be used in combination with all-purpose to create a lighter bread.
  • Whole-wheat flour. Banana bread can be made entirely with whole wheat flour or a combination of whole-wheat and white flour. Note that all whole-wheat flour will make a denser bread.
  • Gluten-free flour. Any 1:1 gluten-free flour blend can replace all-purpose flour in your favorite recipe.
  • Other flours. Almond, coconut, oat, buckwheat, or other flours can be used. If you’re using looking at a recipe that doesn’t include other flours, you’ll need to alter or experiment — plus failed banana breads can be turned into other foods!

Most recipes use white sugar or a combination of white and (dark or light) brown sugar. Using all brown sugar will create a darker colored bread with more of a molasses flavor. Coconut sugar can typically replace white sugar 1:1.

But other sugars, such as honey and maple syrup, work very well in banana bread, imparting sweetness and flavor while keeping the bread moist. You can replace every 1 cup of white or brown sugar with 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup.

The key to ensuring a moist banana bread is fat. This varies by recipe and can be achieved in many different ways.

Some common fats in banana breads include:

  • butter
  • vegetable oil
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • sour cream
  • buttermilk
  • milk

Extra-moist tips:

  • Use sour cream or applesauce in your recipe, two ingredients known to produce moist baked goods.
  • Don’t overmix the batter.
  • Don’t overbake.
  • Banana bread made with oil tends to be more moist than bread made with butter.
  • Measure ingredients accurately, and by weight if you can. Incorrect dry ingredients (like flour) will make the bread more, well, dry.

Who says you have to follow a recipe? Take inspiration from your pantry and play with an endless variety of mix-ins and combinations.

  • nuts or nut butter
  • seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, etc.)
  • chocolate chips (white, dark, semisweet, or milk)
  • toffee pieces
  • butterscotch chips
  • streusel
  • citrus zest
  • spices (cinnamon, pumpkin spice, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, etc.)
  • espresso powder
  • raisins
  • dried fruits
  • fresh fruits
  • extracts (vanilla, almond, orange)
  • liqueurs
  • coconut

This is completely up to your preference, and obviously if you’re allergic, skip this step. But nuts can give banana bread an unforgettable excellent texture and flavor.

Pecans and walnuts are the most popular choices, but we say experiment with hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, or pine nuts too!

Two methods can be used for mixing banana bread: the creaming method or the stirring method. The creaming method (creaming butter with sugar until lightened) is used for recipes that contain butter, while the stirring method is used for recipes that use oil.

Whichever method you use, don’t overmix your ingredients! The more you mix, the more gluten develops, which makes for a chewy, rubbery bread. If you’re unsure, stop the mixer and fold with a spatula by hand.

Almost all banana bread is baked in an oven that is between 325°F (163°C) and 350°F (177°C) for about an hour on average.

Follow these tips to ensure perfectly baked banana bread:

  • Grease and flour the baking pan very well.
  • Do not open the oven during baking unless you have to.
  • If your banana bread is browning too much or too quickly, lightly tent the top with foil while baking.
  • Use light-colored metal pans, preferably aluminum.
  • Make sure you preheat your oven completely to the correct temperature.
  • Use a toothpick to test done-ness (it’ll come out clean with a poke).

The best banana bread is delicious as is. No need to get fancy, but sometimes getting a little extra is all you’ll want to do. So, if you’re all about indulging in that mouthfeel, here’s the best ways to top your toast:

Sweet and/or fruityCreamy or slightly savoryPairs well with walnuts
Apple butter Butter, nut butters, or coconut butterCoffee glaze
Applesauce Flavored butters (honey butter, maple butter, cinnamon sugar butter, orange-cardamom butter)Salted caramel
Pumpkin butter Cottage cheeseCream cheese
jams / preserves Crème fraîcheChocolate
Chia jam MascarponeMaple syrup
Fresh fruitCream cheese frostingBrown sugar streusel
Lemon curdWhipped cream (or coconut whipped cream)Caramelized nuts
Nutella
Cinnamon glaze
Caramel
Honey
Date caramel

You have your banana bread guide — use every crumb of knowledge to make the banana bread of your dreams. For starter recipes, try these:

Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.