The Alton Brown Banana Bread and the History Behind It

There’s a secret ingredient in the Alton Brown Banana Bread Recipe…and it’s not the banana! But the banana does have a cool history…
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  • The Man, the Myth, The Legend

  • Alton Brown didn’t become a famous TV chef for no reason - he has developed some great recipes, including the Alton Brown Banana Bread, which is a must try for any banana bread fan! In fact, even if you aren’t a banana bread lover you might just come to love this recipe thanks to Brown’s secret ingredient.

    Today it’s hard to think of America without the banana bread as part of the food culture, we even have National Banana Bread day on February 23 and Brown himself mentions on his website that there are 7 million banana bread recipes on the web. That’s…a lot!

    However, all those 7 million recipes have likely only been created in the last 100 years, or so, as the banana bread hasn’t been around for that long.

    Read on to find out about the history of bananas, their nutritional value and, of course, the history of the banana bread and Alton Brown’s famous recipe for it!
  • The Banana - Where Did It Come From?

  • Maybe asking where the banana comes from is the wrong question as we could get caught up in a debate about the creation of the world, but let’s have a look at some quick facts about bananas and their history.

    The banana is a fruit, though botanically it’s referred to as a berry (confusing, I know). A certain kind of banana exists that’s used for cooking, which is called a plantain. Plantains, unlike regular bananas, don’t taste great when raw.

    The most common species of the banana, the Musa species, is thought to be native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia (sort of explaining where bananas come from, leaving out any big bang theories…). Today it’s grown in at least 107 different countries!
    Did you know that bananas aren’t only grown to eat? People also grow bananas to make fiber, banana wine and banana beer!

    Archeological findings suggest that people started cultivating the banana as early as 5000 B.C. in Papua New Guinea. They have appeared in writing since the 6th Century B.C. and were even seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

    The banana is possibly the first cultivated fruit, but did you know that they didn’t start selling in North America until after the Civil War?
  • Banana Nutrition - Why You Want to Eat Bananas

  • Bananas are actually a good way to rehydrate as they consist of ca. 75% water (hard to believe, isn’t it? Then again us humans are mostly water too!). Further, they consist of ca. 23% carbohydrates (so not great if you are on a low carb diet), ca. 1% protein and ca. 0.3% fat.

    It’s been rumored for a long time that bananas are an excellent source of potassium, but this is not entirely true. Bananas do contain potassium, about 8% of the Daily Value, or DV, per 100 grams, but this is relatively low compared to the amount of potassium in milk, apricots, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes and bell peppers.

    Bananas contain a lot of are vitamin B6, manganese and vitamin C. Bananas also contain a lot of fibre, which is important to regulate bowel movements and has been linked to help fight various diseases.

    If you have a latex allergy you need to be careful with bananas though as you may experience a reaction to them.
  • The History of the Banana Bread

  • Bananas have been around for a long time and there is some evidence to suggest humans started making primitive forms of bread using starch some 30,000 years ago. However, it seems the banana bread itself may have come about as a result of the Great Depression. At that time housewives did not wish to throw away overripe bananas and instead used them for bread. It’s hard to prove this is actually the origin of the American banana bread though - others believe it was developed in corporate kitchens to promote flour and baking soda products.

    Banana bread recipes started appearing in recipe books in the 1930s, such as in Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes in 1933. In 1950 it appeared in Chiquita Banana's Recipe Book, which is when it really started becoming popular. It’s only a shame the Alton Brown Banana Bread wasn’t around back then…just imagine what they were missing out on in the ‘50s!
  • The Alton Brown Banana Bread Secret Ingredient

  • So, are you ready? We are about to reveal the secret ingredient in the Alton Brown Banana Bread.

    It’s simple. It’s old fashioned rolled oats.

    You see, Alton Brown thinks most of the 7 million banana recipes out there are “mushy and insipid” so he decided to do something about it. And according to Brown, the oats do miracles to the consistency of the banana bread, in addition to being very nutritious (these days many people use oats to lower cholesterol as well). Personally I’ve changed several recipes around with the addition of oats, so I believe he might have a point…I mean it’s Alton Brown, so of course he has a point!
  • The Alton Brown Banana Bread Recipe - Ingredients

  • Of course you can’t wait to try out the Alton Brown Banana Bread recipe now that you know the secret ingredient, so we’ve inserted it below. It comes straight from his website (, so it’s 100% Alton Brown! Just remember to buy bananas in advance so you can let them get perfectly ripe (or over ripe) before you use them.


    6 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
    3 ounces all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    8 ounces granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup (2 to 3) very ripe bananas, mashed
  • The Alton Brown Banana Bread Recipe - Instructions

  • Have you got all the ingredients ready? Great, let’s move onto the instructions.
    1 Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2 Spread oats into a thin layer on a half sheet pan.
    3 Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly toasted.
    4 Cool oats slightly (2 to 3 minutes).
    5 Coat a 9 x 5-inch nonstick loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
    6 Pulse the toasted oats in a food processor until the consistency of whole wheat flour.
    7 Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to the food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine. Set aside.
    8 Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on medium (4) speed using the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes or until light in color. Stop and crape down the sides of the work bowl with as needed.
    9 Reduce mixer speed to the lowest setting and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. (A good batter is essentially an emulsion, so this slow addition of the eggs is critical.)
    10 Add the vanilla extract and banana, and mix on medium-low (2) to combine (The batter will look kind of curdled, but that’s OK).
    11 With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
    12 Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
    13 Bake for 50-55 minutes or until an internal temperature between 200 to 210 degrees F is reached.
    14 Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then run an offset spatula or other thin tool around the edge and turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

    Recipe and instructions come from Alton Brown’s website.

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