The best 3-ingredient banana bread recipe

If you ask us, the primary reason bananas exist is to make banana bread. Who would want to eat a plain-old banana when you can wait until they're too brown and mushy to eat in your oatmeal? That's their time to shine, when they almost magically transform into a light, fluffy, and super-moist bread that's perfect for an on-the-go breakfast, a quick-and-easy snack, or a light dessert.

In general, banana bread is pretty simple to make, but we made the process even easier with our 3-ingredient banana bread recipe. You don't even need any refrigerated items to pull it off! We created a recipe that requires no eggs or milk — just pantry staples that you probably have on hand right now. And, unlike most simplified banana bread recipes, you don't need a box of cake mix, either. Wondering how we made it happen? Read on to learn how to make the 3-ingredient banana bread recipe that creates a flavorful, moist, chewy loaf in about an hour.

Gather the ingredients for 3-ingredient banana bread

The first step to making 3-ingredient banana bread is to gather the ingredients. You probably have most of them on-hand at any given time: a few ripe bananas, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and some self-rising flour. If you don't have that last ingredient, don't worry; you can mix your own by adding baking powder and kosher salt to regular all-purpose flour.

You can also make this banana bread a little bit fancier with a few optional additions. Feel free to toss in ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, or chopped nuts like walnuts. These ingredients add a touch of sweetness, create a depth of flavor, or add texture to your banana bread. The bread tastes great without them, but it's even more fantastic with one or two of the optional additions.

You'll find the ingredient quantities and step-by-step instructions in the directions section at the end of this article.

Do you need a box of cake mix to make 3-ingredient banana bread?

When we were developing this recipe, we checked out what the competition was doing. We were surprised to find that almost every 3-ingredient banana bread recipe had a common ingredient: boxed cake mix. Some recipes used yellow cake mix, while others called for spiced cake mix. Either way, the reviews of these recipes indicated that the results tasted great, but they definitely tasted more like banana cake than banana bread.

So we wanted to do things differently. We knew that self-rising flour worked well for simplifying baking recipes like 3-ingredient pancakes and biscuits, so we wanted to start there. Our second ingredient was taken up by bananas, obviously, so we only had one additional ingredient to work with. We debated using a liquid ingredient like eggs or milk, but we had to include some sweetness in the mix — like the sugar used in boxed cake mixes. So, we use sweetened condensed milk, an ingredient that's both liquid and sweet. After our first test batch, we knew the combination would work. All we had to do was iron out each ingredient's quantity to create the perfect banana bread.

Why sweetened condensed milk?

Sweetened condensed milk is the perfect addition to simple quickbread recipes like this 3-ingredient banana bread. This sticky concoction provides the ideal amount of sweetness to our recipe and enough liquid to hold the bananas and flour together. It's always a good idea to keep a few cans in the pantry because sweetened condensed milk is a shelf-stable product that lasts for years. It's made by simmering milk to condense it, removing the water and concentrating its flavors. Sugar is also added to prevent microorganisms from growing in the milk, so it won't go bad anytime soon.

If you don't have a can on-hand or you accidentally bought evaporated milk (it's happened to the best of us!), you can make your own sweetened condensed milk at home. Simply add 1-1/2 cups of white sugar to 12 ounces of evaporated milk and simmer the mixture until it's thickened. Alternatively, you could blend one cup of boiling water with two cups of white sugar and 1/4 cup margarine. Add four cups of dried milk powder — blending one cup at a time before adding the next addition — and use that mixture instead of canned sweetened condensed milk.

Choosing the best bananas for 3-ingredient banana bread

When it comes to baking with bananas, the riper the better. How ripe is ripe enough? Well, if they're still yellow, they're probably not ready. To create the very best banana bread, you'll want to use bananas with black peels. For starters, these over-ripened bananas will be much easier to mash. The ones we used for our test batch were super ripe and previously frozen, so they had no form; they had already turned to mush inside the peels, so it didn't take any effort at all to mash them. Well-mashed bananas will incorporate more easily into the batter, giving the bread a better overall flavor instead of creating banana-flavored bites.

The more important reason to use ripe bananas is because of their flavor. As a banana ripens, its carbohydrates convert to sugars. A green banana contains over 80 percent starches and less than one percent starch when it's fully ripe. These sweeter, less-starchy bananas simply create better tasting banana bread. To make sure you always have ripe bananas on hand, King Arthur Flour suggests storing them in the freezer. Simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, or pop them in the microwave for about three minutes before whipping up your banana bread batter.

Don't overmix the ingredients for 3-ingredient banana bread

Okay, enough chatter about the ingredients. Let's get cooking, starting with preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, it's time to mash the bananas in a large bowl. If they're very ripe, you'll only need a fork to get them to the right consistency. Underripe bananas, on the other hand, may need to be mashed with a tool like a potato masher. When the potatoes are mashed, add the sweetened condensed milk and self-rising flour. Remember you can also use all-purpose flour, but you'll have to add 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 3-3/4 teaspoons baking powder to the mix. If you're adding cinnamon or vanilla extract to this recipe, go ahead and add it now.

From here, you'll want to mix the batter just enough so the flour incorporates into the wet ingredients. You don't want any dry clumps of flour, but you also don't want to overdevelop the gluten, which can result in a dense, tough loaf. The batter will be very thick when you're finished mixing. To add chocolate chips or chopped nuts to your banana bread, gently fold them in with a silicone spatula after the thick batter comes together.

Prepare the pan and bake your 3-ingredient banana bread

Before you pour the batter into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, you'll want to take an extra step to make sure the bread won't stick. We added a piece of parchment paper to the loaf pan, letting the excess hang over the sides. This makes it super easy to lift the loaf out of the pan after it's finished baking. You could also use aluminum foil, or grease the pan with butter or cooking spray. For the latter, dust a layer of flour over top of the butter as extra protection.

Now that the pan is ready, pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spoon or silicone spatula. It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to bake the banana bread, depending on the moisture and sugar content of your bananas. It's best to start checking the level of doneness at the 45-minute mark and re-checking every five minutes until the loaf is finished. The top of the loaf should be dark brown and caramelized, and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. You can also use a thermometer — you're looking for an internal temperature between 200 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can you use this 3-ingredient banana bread recipe to make muffins?

If you don't have a loaf pan or you're just looking to do something different, make muffins instead of a loaf. Grab a muffin pan and line it with paper liners. Then, fill each cup to about 3/4 full, lightly tapping the pan on the counter to settle the top of the batter.

Muffins cook more quickly and can handle higher heats than loaf pans, so you'll want to make a few adjustments here. The Spruce Eats suggests increasing the oven temperature when converting loaf pan recipes to muffins, so we can increase the heat to 375 or 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At 375 degrees, the muffins should be done in about 30 minutes, or 20 minutes at 400 degrees. You'll want to check the muffins for the same level of doneness as the loaf: You're looking for a skewer to come out clean, or an internal temperature of at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the 3-ingredient banana bread cool

When the banana bread is finished baking, you'll need to practice a little patience. We know you want to dig in right away, but the bread needs a little time to firm up. Give it about 10 minutes in the loaf pan before removing it to cool it on a rack. If you used our parchment paper trick, removing the loaf from the pan is as easy as grasping the paper and lifting the loaf onto the cooling rack. If you greased the pan instead, you'll want to run a butter knife along the sides to loosen the loaf and carefully pop it out of the loaf pan.

When the banana bread is completely cooled, slice it and enjoy. We like to heat the bread slightly before serving it because we love it when the butter melts into the crumb. But room-temperature banana bread tastes great, too. Wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic wrap and store them at room temperature. Don't use the refrigerator, which can dry out the bread and destroy its moist crumb. After a few days, the freezer is the best place to store banana bread. Wrap the bread in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to protect it from absorbing other flavors in the freezer, and store it for up to three months.

How did our 3-ingredient banana bread taste?

We were pretty thrilled that this super easy banana bread also tastes great! It has a moist texture and the perfect amount of chew, and the loaf stays together without crumbling apart when you slice it. The most prominent flavor is definitely the bananas, and the loaf has a subtle sweetness without being cloying.

If you're used to very sweet banana breads, you might want to add 1/3 cup of white sugar to amp up the sweetness. Another option is to top the banana bread with an icing (similar to the one we used to make Starbucks lemon loaf). Adding in some of the optional additions — like ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, or chopped walnuts — is another way to add extra sweetness to the loaf.

The bread tastes fantastic on its own, or spread on butter, peanut butter, or jam to make it even more special. If you find yourself with more banana bread than you can eat, use it to make French toast or bread pudding.

3-ingredient banana bread directions

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 45 to 60 minutes

Serves: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

(For the banana bread)

  • 5 very ripe bananas
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2-1/2 cups self-rising flour

(Optional additions)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts, like walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange a baking rack in the bottom third of the oven. Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, letting the excess hang over the sides. If you don't have anything to line the loaf pan, grease it well with cooking spray or butter and dust a layer of flour over the top of the butter, pouring out the excess flour. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or a potato masher. Add the sweetened condensed milk and self-rising flour. If you're using cinnamon or vanilla extract, add it now. To use all-purpose flour instead of self-rising flour, add 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 3-3/4 teaspoons baking powder to the mix.
  3. Mix the ingredients until the flour is just incorporated to create a thick batter. You don't want any dry lumps of flour, but you don't want to overmix, either. When the batter is mixed, fold in any optional additions like chocolate chips or chopped nuts.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spoon or rubber spatula. Bake the loaf until the top is dark brown and caramelized, and you can see the yellow interior peeking through, about 45 to 60 minutes. Baking time varies depending on the ripeness of the bananas, so start checking at 45 minutes and continue checking every 5 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. You can also check the internal temperature of the loaf, which should reach 200 to 205 degrees when the bread is finished.
  5. Remove the banana bread from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack before slicing.