14 Ingredients To Upgrade Banana Bread

We all know and love classic banana bread. You might even have your own go-to recipe. But even the tastiest recipes can become mundane after a while. So, what if we told you there's a way to elevate this classic treat to new heights of deliciousness? We're here to talk about some awesome ingredients you can use to upgrade your banana bread.

With its moist texture and sweet fruit flavor, banana bread is a staple in many households. It's the obvious — and most delicious — way to use up overripe bananas, and its simplicity is part of its charm. But, there's always room for innovation, which can turn a recipe you've made 100 times into something fresh and exciting. Imagine infusing your banana bread with the rich taste of dark chocolate, or the subtle crunch of toasted nuts. Think of adding the zing of citrus or the warmth of aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

In this article, we'll introduce you to 14 ingredients to upgrade your next batch of banana bread. Use them individually or combine a couple of complementary ingredients to really kick things up a notch. With a little time set aside for experimentation, you might even create the ultimate banana bread.

1. Chocolate chips

One of the most popular ingredients used to upgrade classic banana bread is the simple chocolate chip. We mean, doesn't chocolate improve almost anything? When you add chocolate chips to your banana bread batter, something magical happens. As the bread bakes, the chocolate chips melt slightly, creating pockets of luscious chocolate throughout the loaf. Each bite becomes a delightful combination of the moist banana bread and the rich, creamy sweetness of chocolate.

Here's how you can take this upgrade even further — instead of reaching for a bag of regular chocolate chips, consider using chopped bar chocolate. Chopping up your favorite high-quality chocolate bar and adding it to your banana bread makes it even more special. You will have a wider range of chocolate to choose from and the large chunks bring heartier helpings to the table.

Whether you prefer dark chocolate for its deep, intense flavor or milk chocolate for its sweetness, choosing a good-quality chocolate bar will elevate your banana bread to a whole new level of indulgence. With this addition, you should definitely make chocolate chip banana bread part of your repertoire.

2. Nuts

Nuts are a classic choice for upgrading banana bread. Whether you opt for walnuts, pecans, almonds, something else, or even a combination of them, adding nuts to your banana bread batter not only enhances its texture but also introduces a tasty nutty flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness of ripe bananas. You can easily follow a banana nut bread recipe or simply add nuts to your existing favorite banana bread. Besides enhancing texture with crunch, nuts can also add a subtle earthy flavor that rounds out the sweetness, creating a balanced taste profile.

If you want the most flavorful nuts, try toasting them lightly before adding them to the batter. Toasting not only intensifies their natural flavors but also gives them a slight crunch that they wouldn't have in their raw form. Whether you prefer the buttery richness of pecans, the mild sweetness of almonds, or the robust flavor of walnuts, adding nuts to your banana bread is a surefire way to upgrade this classic treat.

3. Coconut

Coconut can effortlessly elevate your ordinary banana bread into something extra rich and flavorful. There are several forms of coconut you can add to create different effects. Whether you choose toasted coconut flakes for a delightful crunch, desiccated coconut for a more subtle texture, or coconut milk for an especially moist and rich crumb, incorporating coconut into your banana bread recipe is worth trying.

Toasted coconut flakes are a game-changer. When sprinkled atop the banana bread batter just before baking, they become golden and crispy in the oven, providing a delightfully crunchy texture with every bite. You can also mix some into the batter for additional flavor and texture. Desiccated coconut blends more seamlessly into the batter, imparting a delicate flavor and a slightly chewy texture. This option is perfect for those who prefer a more integrated coconut experience without the crunch of larger pieces.

For a banana bread that's incredibly moist and luxuriously rich, coconut milk can be a key player. Try swapping all or part of the liquid in your recipe with coconut milk. The result is a velvety crumb that practically melts in your mouth and imparts a subtle coconut flavor to the experience.

4. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is a fantastic ingredient that you can easily use to upgrade banana bread. It adds both flavor and moisture to baked good, as the natural oils in peanut butter keep the bread moist while the distinctive taste of roasted peanuts and its slight saltiness contrasts with the sweet bananas. 

Feeling a bit more adventurous? There's an even wider world of nut butters and seed butters out there for you to explore. Whether you choose subtly sweet cashew butter, robust almond butter, richly flavorful cashew butter, or earthy tahini, there are all kinds of flavor profiles that can play well with your next loaf of banana bread. Remember also that you can choose from smooth or crunchy varieties. Smooth nut butter adds flavor and moistness, while crunchy nut butter adds all this as well as the texture of pieces of roasted nuts.

So, the next time you're baking banana bread, don't hesitate to swirl in a generous dollop of your favorite nut butter. Whether you stick with the beloved peanut or venture into the realm of almond, cashew, or hazelnut, you're in for a treat that combines the best of bananas and nuts in one loaf.

5. Zucchini

Shredded zucchini might sound like an unconventional addition to banana bread, but you shouldn't ignore it. After all, you've heard of banana bread and you've heard of zucchini bread, so why not combine the two? This humble vegetable brings moisture, subtle sweetness, and wonderful texture to your banana bread, making it a popular choice among bakers seeking a creative twist. It's also great for any home growers dealing with a large glut of zucchini.

When you incorporate shredded zucchini into your banana bread batter, its high water content adds moisture, ensuring your bread stays soft and tender. The zucchini practically melts into the bread during baking, leaving behind a lovely, moist crumb that will leave you reaching for another slice. The texture of shredded zucchini in banana bread is another winning factor. As the zucchini bakes, it becomes almost undetectable in the final product, except for the slight crunch it sometimes imparts.

The next time you have overripe bananas and a surplus of zucchini, don't hesitate to combine them into one tasty loaf cake. Your resulting banana bread will be incredibly moist, subtly sweet, and wonderfully textured, proving that unexpected ingredients can create extraordinary results in the world of baking.

6. Nutella

Who among us hasn't spent a significant amount of time with just a jar of Nutella and a spoon? But, as much as you may enjoy that simple treat, there's more that you can do with this delicious chocolate hazelnut spread. Its smooth, creamy texture and rich flavor add a delicious twist to any banana bread recipe. Love chocolate? Love hazelnuts? Love bananas? Then you'll adore Nutella banana bread.

Nutella not only adds incredible flavor, but its velvety consistency ensures that the bread remains tender and moist. Whether you choose to mix it evenly through the batter, swirl it on top for a marbled effect, or layer it in the middle for a surprise filling, you'll end up with banana bread that's impossible to resist.

Chocolate and hazelnut are also versatile enough to work with a range of other add-ins that might strike your fancy. So, if you're hoping to make the most indulgent banana bread with all kinds of extra ingredients, Nutella can be just one in your arsenal.

7. Sweet spices

Spices typically served in other sweet treats can transform traditional banana bread into a fragrant and flavorful delight. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and other warm, aromatic spices are all excellent additions to banana bread. With just a few teaspoons of aromatic spices, and whether you opt for a single spice or a carefully crafted blend, your banana bread could go from basic to brilliant.

Cinnamon is a classic choice here, where its warmth and sweetness are an obvious choice for banana bread. Ginger adds slightly fiery warmth and plenty of fragrance, while nutmeg brings sweet nuttiness to the party — especially when it's been freshly grated. If you want to try something a little out of the ordinary, cardamom is a great addition that brings some floral and citrusy notes and a slight cooling edge.

Creating your own spice blend by combining these sweet spices (and others of your choice) lets you tailor the flavor to your preference. Alternatively, using a ready-made blend like a pumpkin spice mixture offers the convenience of a perfectly balanced mix (here, that's one often containing cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes cloves or allspice). Not only do these sweet spices taste great, but they also infuse your kitchen with an amazing aroma when baking. It's cozy, warming, and reminiscent of the holidays at any time of year. All told, baking spiced banana bread will practically never be a bad idea.

8. Cocoa powder

Banana and chocolate work brilliantly together, which is why cocoa powder is an obviously great ingredient to help your next banana bread shine. Its deep, rich flavor adds a chocolatey twist that will please you and anyone who is lucky enough to share your baked goods. What makes cocoa powder even more exciting is its potential to create a stunning marbled effect, turning your ordinary loaf into a work of art — and a delicious one, at that.

To marble banana bread, first mix cocoa powder into a portion of your banana bread batter. Then pour the cocoa-free banana bread batter into a loaf pan. Next, dollop in spoonfuls of the chocolate-infused batter. Swirl a knife or skewer through the layers to create a marbled pattern. The end result not only looks great but enhances the flavors and textures.

It's not hard to work out how to adapt your existing favorite banana bread recipe into a marbled banana bread. However, if you'd rather not risk making any mistakes or need a bit of help the first couple of times, there are plenty of marbled banana bread or marbled pound cake recipes you can find to lead the way.

9. Orange

The vibrant citrus flavor of oranges can bring a delightfully zesty twist to a standard banana bread recipe. Your banana bread will take on a new form by incorporating oranges into the batter, in the form of juice, zest, or both. It might not seem like the most obvious pairing, but oranges can add a freshness that banana bread sometimes lacks. It's a great summertime choice when you might be looking for bright flavors rather than warming, cozy additions.

The natural acidity and sweetness of orange juice also help to make the crumb of your loaf even more tender, while the tangy notes from the orange juice balance the sweetness of the bananas. It's best to use juice freshly squeezed from an orange rather than store-bought orange juice.

You can also use orange zest in banana bread. The zest is where the fruit's essential oils are concentrated, so it has a more intense citrus flavor and aroma than the fruit's juice. As for its flavor, bright, complex orange zest makes your banana bread taste incredibly fresh and vibrant. All told, combining both orange juice and zest in the batter is your best bet for the ultimate in orange flavor. However, it can take a little trial and error to get the balance of banana and orange right without one overwhelming the other.

10. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a beloved fall ingredient. It's found its way into various baked goods, so why not banana bread? Incorporating pumpkin into your banana bread recipe doesn't just add a lovely orange hue to the result, but also brings flavor and even more moisture. It's great with added sweet spices for an even cozier, fall-inspired treat.

When it comes to taste, pumpkin puree adds a mild, earthy sweetness to banana bread that doesn't overpower the natural taste of bananas. Its velvety texture helps your cake stay incredibly moist with a tender crumb. Pumpkins and bananas combine for a loaf that's rich, comforting, and subtly sweet.

With its warm color and cozy flavor, pumpkin banana bread is a wonderful treat to enjoy during the fall months. It's perfect for gatherings, Thanksgiving dinners, or simply for savoring on a chilly day with a cup of hot tea or coffee. By inviting pumpkin to the banana bread party, you're not just upgrading a classic — you're potentially creating a seasonal masterpiece that captures the essence of autumn.

11. Berries

Fresh berries can easily elevate banana bread. Whether you choose strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or something else, adding berries will bring plenty of flavor, texture, and color. Berries infuse your banana bread with a natural sweetness and sometimes even a hint of tartness that lends contrast to the otherwise uniform banana bread.

What's more, they bring a lovely texture to the treat, as when they bake, they soften slightly and create pockets of fruity goodness, color, and additional texture throughout the loaf.

We love the versatility of adding berries to banana bread. You can choose one type of berry or mix and match several for a more complex result. For instance, blueberries offer a burst of sweetness, while raspberries bring a touch of tartness. Strawberries, with their juicy and fragrant nature, add a delightful twist. You can even experiment with more unusual berries like blackberries or cranberries. Just consider dusting berries with a light coating of flour or adding them halfway through filling the loaf pan to help them stay suspended in the banana bread batter.

12. Rolled oats

When mixed throughout the batter of your banana bread, rolled oats can provide a hearty texture, lending heft and chewiness to your banana bread. As they bake, some oats will also blend into the mix, while others maintain their texture, creating a contrast with the softness of the bread. They can also be sprinkled on top of the mix before baking, where they will toast up in the oven and add flavor and crunch. An oatmeal banana bread may also feel more filling than regular banana bread, making it an especially great choice for brunch.

For a more pronounced oat flavor, briefly toast the oats before adding them, a step that will intensify their nutty taste. Oats also pair well with other add-ins like nuts, seeds, or dried fruits, making it easy to adapt your banana bread and load it up with fillings to your heart's content.

Whether you're looking for a more filling and substantial banana bread or you just want to mix it up and try something new, rolled oats are a great addition that is also cheap and easy to find. Chances are good that you probably even have some waiting around in your pantry.

13. Earl Grey tea

Earl Grey tea is a fragrant blend of black tea and bergamot oil. Bergamot is a lesser-used citrus fruit that has some of the usual zingy notes of citrus but with a more floral edge. So, if you want to make banana bread that's sophisticated and aromatic, Earl Grey tea is the perfect ingredient to use as an upgrade. The bergamot oil in Earl Grey tea lends a subtle citrusy flavor and aroma to your banana bread, while you also get earthy elegance from the black tea in a combo that truly makes your banana bread stand out.

All you need to do in order to make Earl Grey banana bread is to replace some of the liquid in your banana bread recipe with brewed Earl Grey tea. To really make it decadent, consider preparing a glaze using Earl Grey as well. Drizzling this tea-infused glaze over your banana bread adds a glossy finish and intensifies the tea flavor. Experimenting with unexpected ingredients like Earl Grey tea also works to show you the many possibilities in the world of baking. Rather than reaching for the same old banana bread add-ins, add a touch of class with Earl Grey.

14. Dried fruits

It might have been annoying when you were a kid to hear adults call dried fruit nature's candy. But, the older you get, the more you may begin to begrudgingly understand. Thanks to its concentrated sweetness, dried fruit can feel candy-like — a factor that makes it a great addition to banana bread. These can include raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, or even something more out of left field, such as dried apple or pineapple. There's something for everyone, even if you're a dedicated raisin-hater.

When added to banana bread, dried fruits infuse the loaf with concentrated sweetness, providing bursts of flavor that complement the mild taste of ripe bananas. Plus, the chewy texture of dried fruit adds contrast to otherwise soft banana bread. The variety of dried fruits gives you so many choices for texture, as well as flavor.

As with many other add-ins, you can easily experiment with different combinations to create unique flavor profiles. For example, pairing apricots with almonds or cranberries with orange zest can result in something really special that you wouldn't have gotten from dried fruit alone. Additionally, you can soak the dried fruits in warm water, tea, or even a liquor like brandy or rum to enhance their flavor before adding them to the batter.