This simply irresistible Chocolate Chip Banana Bread is the best I’ve ever had. It’s light and fluffy, perfectly moist, and full of banana flavor. I spent four months and tested over 20 different banana bread recipes to find the perfect Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Here’s what I found.
I’m sharing with you today what is probably my favorite dessert. It might even be my favorite food, second only to pasta. Would you believe that four months ago I didn’t even like banana bread? It’s often tasteless and gummy, almost rubbery. Even if it is cooked right, it can be rather bland. When I have bananas that are too ripe for eating, I have a little collection of banana recipes that include anything but banana bread.
So what happened four months ago? Well, a friend mentioned that Chocolate Chip Banana Bread was her favorite dessert. And I was just like, “You’ve GOT to be kidding! Of all the fabulous desserts, how can banana bread possibly be your favorite?” And I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
About the same time, I saw a picture of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread online, aaaaand it looked pretty good. Being a sucker for food porn and having over ripe bananas on hand (and my little collection of anything-but-banana-bread recipes 7,000 miles away in Dubai), I decided to give it a try. And you know what? It was pretty darn good. It was so good, that I set off on a four month journey to perfect the recipe.
If you google “banana bread recipe,” you will find 238 million results. If you look at the recipes on the first couple of pages or so, there are many variations: Butter, oil. 3 bananas, four bananas. Added airy, no added dairy. Brown sugar, white sugar. Baking soda, baking powder. There’s only one way to find out which one was best, my friends, and that was by baking A LOT of banana bread.
I tested over 20 different recipes for banana bread. Here’s what I learned along the way.
Use very ripe, heavily speckled bananas
Heavily speckled or even mostly brown bananas make the most moist and flavorful Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. As bananas ripen their starch turns to sugar, becoming sweeter and more flavorful. I’ve settled on one and a half cups of mashed bananas (about 3 medium) for a light fluffy loaf full of banana flavor. Any more than that makes a dense, almost wet, bread that doesn’t rise as well.
Mash the bananas with a fork, don’t puree them
The bananas should be so soft that they’re easy to smash with a fork. Smashing with a fork gives the bananas the perfect consistency. When you bite into the banana bread, those tiny chunks will be big bursts of banana flavor. You want to smash the bananas well, though, so there aren’t big chunks of banana in the bread.
Using a food processor or pureeing the bananas makes the batter too thin which affects the leavening agent’s ability to rise the banana bread. The batter must be thick enough to trap gases produced by the leaveners.
Which is better for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread: butter or oil?
I’m guessing this is the most controversial question I had about banana bread. There seems to be strong opinions in both camps. I found that I preferred melted, cooled butter. Butter made the bread moist, and it also added a rich, buttery, nutty flavor. Using melted butter allows the batter to be gently folded together for the most tender crumb. Melted butter instead of softened butter also means you can stir it up by hand which makes it easier – a plus. The banana bread made by creaming softened butter turned out more dense. Oil made the banana bread a little too moist. It was heavier and wetter, almost greasy.
Brown sugar or white sugar?
I think that both have their good sides. Brown sugar adds a caramelized flavor to the bread. It also makes a browner bread, something I struggled with until I used light colored pans. (See below). I’ve stuck with white sugar, though. I don’t want anything to distract from the banana flavor (besides all that chocolate!)
Baking soda or baking powder?
This is one of the questions that made me test the most cakes. Recipes online are pretty much split, with half using powder and half using soda.
Baking powder and baking soda both produce carbon dioxide, which helps raise the banana bread. However they do not work the same, and they’re not easily interchangeable in recipes.
Baking soda is a base and needs acid in the recipe to react and raise the bread. In the case of banana bread, this may be yogurt, buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses, or the bananas themselves. Recipes generally include just enough baking soda to balance the acidity in the batter, after that it can give a bitter, metallic taste. If the recipe doesn’t have enough acid for the baking soda to react, it won’t rise properly.
Baking powder contains both baking soda and cream of tartar, a dry acidic ingredient. It doesn’t need acid in the batter to raise the bread.
Sometimes both baking soda and baking powder are called for in recipes that contain some kind of acid, but baking soda isn’t enough to give it the necessary lift. Baking powder is added to give it extra volume.
Baking soda and baking powder both expire so be sure yours is fresh for the best rise.
Added dairy or no added dairy?
This was the second big question I had, and it goes hand in hand with what kind of leavener is used. Adding dairy, such as yogurt, Greek yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, to Chocolate Chip Banana Bread can add moisture. It can also make the bread heavier.
When I thought that I had settled on a recipe for my Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, I came across a recipe in Baking Illustrated written by Cook’s Illustrated. (You may wonder why I didn’t just start there. I asked myself the same thing.)
Cook’s Illustrated tested different kinds of dairy in their banana bread: milk, buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt. Sour cream added richness, but gave the bread a heavy texture and unattractive, pebbly crust. Milk didn’t add any flavor, but gave a slick crust. Buttermilk gave the bread a nice tang, but plain yogurt let the banana flavor stand out and made a more solid loaf.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves bring out the banana flavor.
The aroma profile of bananas contains 49 components. One of these components is eugenol. The chemical compound eugenol found in bananas smells spicy, like cinnamon. Eugenol is also found in cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves deepens the banana flavor of the loaf. Just a bit though, you don’t want to overpower the banana flavor. We’re also aiming for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread bread here, not spice bread.
What is the best mixing method when making banana bread?
Creaming softened butter and sugar together creates a soft, cake-like texture, however it also gives the bread a lighter color, not the beautiful golden brown color we associate with a delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
The quick bread method is where the dry ingredients are mixed in one bowl and the liquids are mixed in another. The two are then gently combined. This method created delicate texture. It also gave a heartier crumb, and it rose higher.
The quick bread method is the method I preferred. Be sure to use a light hand when combining the dry and liquid ingredients. Stirring them into a smooth batter produces loaves that are small and tough. The more you stir, the more the gluten develops, preventing the bread from rising well. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be thick and chunky, but without any streaks of unincorporated flour.
Use a light colored baking pan
Because the bread bakes so long and because of the sugar content, I had a really hard time baking this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread in a darker colored baking pan. Dark pans get hotter around the sides and bottom. The bread would turn too dark before the insides were fully cooked. I found a light colored baking pan that I liked and the problem was solved.
Some tips if you only have a darker colored pan:
Cook the bread for 50 minutes at 350 F then lower the oven to 325 F until it’s finished.
Line the pan with parchment.
Try Bake-Even strips to insulate the sides.
Use a non-stick baking pan, and butter and flour only the bottom.
This was a nifty trick I learned from Cook’s Illustrated. By buttering and flouring (or using non-stick baking spray) only the bottom, the bread can cling a little better to the sides of the pan as it rises, producing a lighter, higher loaf. If the loaf doesn’t easily come out, just run a knife in between the pan and the loaf.
If your pan isn’t, non-stick, butter and flour the sides as well.
The final recipe….
After testing more than 20 recipes, some more than once and often two at a time to have a side by side comparison, I narrowed my search down to two recipes. Both are fabulous. One is adapted from Baking by Flavor, by Lisa Yockelson, the other is adapted from Baking Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated.
These two recipes are surprisingly similar. The Yockelson recipe uses butter, white sugar, and baking powder. It’s a lovely, simple recipe, full of banana flavor, moist, with a light crumb.
The Cook’s Illustrated recipe swaps out two tablespoons of butter and replaces it with plain yogurt. It also uses baking soda instead of baking powder. From what we learned about baking soda and baking powder, this makes perfect sense. Because yogurt is an acid, along with the bananas, baking soda can be used. This loaf was every bit as lovely as the Yockelson loaf. Baked side by side, I slightly preferred the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread made with the yogurt and baking soda. The taste was identical, however the baking soda bread rose slightly higher, giving a fluffier crumb.
I’ve given a range of 6 to 8 ounces of chocolate chips to be used in the batter. This is up to personal preference and how much chocolate you want in your Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. The idea is to find the perfect balance between the banana and the chocolate. You don’t want the chocolate to overpower the banana. The Chocolate Chip Banana Bread in the photos have 8 ounces of chocolate chips in the batter and another 2 ounces sprinkled on top.
If you notice in the photos, there are two different loaves. On one loaf, the chocolate chips are just sprinkled on top. On the other, I used a rubber spatula to gently smooth over the chocolate chips so they would sink into the batter a little bit.
To summarize the preferred ingredients and techniques for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
*Use heavily speckled, almost entirely brown bananas that are mashed with a fork
*Use melted, cooled butter for a light texture and delicate crumb.
*Use white sugar to let the flavor of the bananas shine through, so the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread doesn’t get too dark.
*Using plain yogurt and baking soda resulted in my preferred loaf.
*Using cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves bring out the natural banana flavor.
*Use two bowls to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately. Using only one bowl may result in improperly mixed or over mixed ingredients.
*Use a light hand when mixing and only mix until just combined.
*Use a light colored, non-stick baking pan and only butter and flour the bottom of the pan.
* Leave out the chocolate chips to have a basic banana bread.
* Add ¾ cup walnuts or pecans.
*Replace chocolate chips with fresh, frozen, or dried berries.
I will give the recipe for the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with yogurt, and give the alterations for the bread without yogurt in the notes. You may or may not have yogurt in the house when the craving for banana bread strikes, but that won’t stop you from enjoying a warm slice of the perfect Chocolate Chip Banana Bread in a little over an hour.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10oz, 283g)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs beaten lightly
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5.25oz, 149g)
- 1 ½ cups very ripe bananas soft, darkly speckled, mashed well (13.65oz, 387g) (about 3 medium)
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt (2oz, 57g)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled (3oz, 85g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6-8 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips (170-228g)
- 1-2 ounces chocolate chips for sprinkling on top optional (28-57g)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in middle of oven.
- Prepare a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan by buttering and flouring the base only if it is nonstick. Butter also the sides if it is not nonstick. Nonstick baking spray can be used instead of butter and flour.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk to combine. Reserve 1/2 tablespoon flour and mix with 6-8 ounces chocolate chips.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add mashed bananas, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be thick and chunky, but without any streaks of unincorporated flour.
- Gently fold in the chocolate chips that have been tossed with flour.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth. Sprinkle on additional chocolate chips if desired.
- Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool on rack. (If you didn’t butter and flour the sides of the pan, you may need to run a sharp knife in between the sides pan and the loaf.)
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
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