Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD
Imagine taking the comforting familiarity of banana bread and giving it a mouthwatering twist.
That’s what we’re doing today! Banana bread with the rich goodness of browned butter and the satisfying crunch of pecans. Think of it as a delightful upgrade that adds a new layer of flavors and textures to the classic favorite we all know and love.
Elevating the Ordinary: Browned Butter and Pecans
If you’ve never had browned butter, you don’t know what you’re missing. You’ll often see it used for pasta as a brown butter sage sauce. And it’s so easy to make!
When butter is browned, it takes on a richer, almost nutty, flavor. In this bread, you’ll definitely know something is different, but it won’t punch you in the face with flavor. It’s a subtle improvement that is more than worth the few extra minutes it takes to make it.
I chose pecans for this recipe due to their subtle flavor (don’t want to overpower the brown butter), and their crunch.
Making the Recipe
This really is a simple recipe, despite how good it is!
It takes a while to bake, but the active prep time is actually pretty short.
Mastering Brown Butter
Brown butter is actually pretty simple, despite its reputation as being “fancy.”
The trick is to not get impatient and turn the heat up too high and to keep the butter moving. Essentially, what you’re going to do is melt your butter in a small skillet on medium-low heat. Continue heating, stirring frequently. Eventually, the butter will begin to foam and darken in color.
I strongly recommend using salted butter for this recipe and to use a stainless steel skillet. Using a cast iron or non-stick skillet will make it very difficult to monitor the color of the butter, increasing your chances of burning it. Burnt butter is NOT yummy.
For this recipe, I am using 1 stick + 2 Tbsp of salted butter. After browning your butter, reserve 2 Tbsp to drizzle over the top of the finished loaf. The rest will be used in the batter.
Assembling the Batter
Once your butter is browned, remove it from the heat and set aside.
Peel your very ripe bananas and mash them until smooth in your mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk together. I like to use my flat whisk for this.
Whisk in your eggs, one by one, until incorporated and smooth. Add your brown butter, but first, make sure it’s cooled down enough that it doesn’t cook your eggs!
Once all the wet ingredients are at a smooth consistency, add all your dry ingredients to a mesh strainer or a flour sifter. Make sure these are positioned over your mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients on top of your wet. Then use your whisk to combine.
You only want to mix these ingredients until combined. Do not overmix or you’ll end up with bread that is too chewy and dense.
Because the size of bananas varies, you may need to adjust the consistency by adding a bit more flour to thicken it or a bit of milk to loosen it. Banana bread batter is supposed to be pretty thick though.
Then gently fold in your pecans and transfer your batter to a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Top with more pecans, if wanted.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 350° F until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean.
Cooling and Finishing
When the banana bread with pecans is done, pull it out of the oven and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. Melt the reserved brown butter in the microwave (careful not to burn it), and then drizzle over the bread.
Transfer the bread to a cooling rack. I like to eat my banana bread hot, so I’d slice and serve it at this point.
However, if you want to let it cool before serving, go ahead!
Personalization and variations
Banana bread with pecans is cool because it’s pretty easy to customize. Make this your own.
Amplifying the Flavor
The butter used in this recipe is already salted, but if you really like the mix of sweet and salty, you could sprinkle on some flaky salt after drizzling the brown butter on the finished loaf.
Many people like to use warm spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg in their banana bread. I don’t like either one of those, so I didn’t include them. But it would be easy to add them in. Just consider that these are pretty strong spices and might overpower the taste of the brown butter.
I usually add mini chocolate chips to my banana bread. I didn’t include them here because I really wanted to taste the brown butter, but you could go right on ahead!
A fun option would be to place thin slices of banana on top of the loaf about halfway through the baking time. This will caramelize the bananas on top and deepen the banana flavor.
Swap out the pecans with dried cranberries or dried blueberries. Or use both!
Gluten-free: I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free flour, so I cannot state for sure that a 1:1 ratio of wheat flour to gluten-free flour would work.
If you have a favorite gluten-free banana bread recipe, you should be able to swap out the fat with browned butter in equal amounts to get roughly the same flavor and texture.
Dairy-free – swap out the butter for another fat, such as vegetable oil or shortening. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to quite replicate the browned butter flavor, but your banana bread will still taste great!
Low-sodium – I used salted butter because I wanted the sweet/salty flavor combo. However, you could absolutely use non-salted butter instead. I’d still keep the salt in the batter though, you should still be able to fit a slice or two in a salt-restricted medical diet.
Allergies – Do not include pecans if you will be serving it to someone with a tree nut allergy. The easiest thing would be to leave them out. However, you could replace them with something non-allergenic such as sunflower seeds if you want the crunch. Chocolate chips or dried fruit could also work.
Eggs are used in this recipe both as a binder and as a leavener. I would consider trying to find a recipe that is intentionally egg-free if making it for someone with an egg allergy.
Troubleshooting and Perfecting
Did your banana bread with pecans and brown butter not come out right? There are a few things that may have gone wrong. Troubleshoot below!
Is your banana bread too dense? To start with, I like a pretty dense banana bread, so I didn’t use a lot of leavener. You could always add a bit more baking soda if you want it to rise more.
However, the most likely reason for dense bread is overmixing the batter. This leads to more gluten formation than you want. Once you add the flour to the batter, you want to mix only to incorporate the ingredients. The batter does not have to be smooth!
If you used an electric mixer to start with, I would switch to manually mixing once the flour is added.
Other causes for too-dense banana bread are too much banana-to-flour ratio, using underripe bananas, or using the wrong flour. Because bananas aren’t uniform in size, you may need more or less flour to get the right consistency.
This recipe calls for All-purpose flour. Using bread flour can make for a dense loaf of banana bread, as it contains more protein than AP flour. Other flours may cause a similar result.
We’re using bananas here as a source of a wet ingredient and sugar. Using an underripe banana can through off the balance of wet to dry ingredients, resulting in a different texture.
Did your banana bread with pecans come out crumbly? This could be because you used too much flour or not enough leavener. In the case of banana bread, it’s probably down to that inconsistency in banana size again. If your batter is too thick, thin it just a bit with some milk to improve the texture of the final product.
But just in case, make sure you’re measuring your flour correctly. Don’t just scoop it out of the container with your measuring cup. Spoon it into the cup and use a straight edge to level it. Sifting the flour will help as well.
Handling Browning Butter Challenges
Brown butter is easy to make once you’ve done it a few times. However, there can be some problems if you’ve never done it before.
Is your brown butter separating? To some extent this is normal. You’re seeing the milk solids caramelize and that is actually where the brown butter flavor is coming from. Don’t strain those out! It’s also normal for the butter to start foaming.
However, if you’re seeing a major separation with very dark flecks, you’ve likely got your temperature too high, and you’ve burned your butter instead of browning it. Discard that butter and allow the pan to cool before trying again.
Every stovetop is different, but mine does well on medium temperature, and I keep it moving with my mini-whisk. Start low, and slowly increase heat if you notice the butter isn’t browning.
Constantly stirring the butter serves 2 purposes actually. It does help reduce the chance of burning the butter on a hot spot, but it also allows you to see the butter underneath the foam, so you can tell when you’re done.
In general, a loaf of bread doesn’t last long enough around here to get too worried about storing it. I generally just put the loaf back in the loaf pan and cover it with foil.
However, it would probably be even better (and last longer) in an air-tight container or wrap it in plastic wrap. Keep it in the fridge, and rewarm it as needed.
If you’re going to freeze this banana bread, I would wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and then store them in a large freezer bag. You could do this with the whole loaf, but the thawing process may alter the texture and will take forever.
Banana Bread with Pecans
- 1 Small skillet stainless steel, or other light color preferred
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 Loaf pan 8" x 4"
- 1 Mesh strainer or a flour sifter
- 1 flat whisk
- 10 Tbsp Salted Butter 1 stick + 2 Tbsp
- 3 Overripe Bananas mashed
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 ½ cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 Large Eggs
- ½ cup chopped pecans plus more for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease your loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.
- In a small skillet on medium heat, melt the butter. Allow it to simmer gently, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns a deep golden brown color and emits a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to let it burn. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly. Remove 2 Tbsp browned butter and set aside.10 Tbsp Salted Butter
- In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas and the slightly cooled brown butter. Add the vanilla extract and granulated sugar. Mix until well combined.3 Overripe Bananas, 1 tsp Vanilla Extract, 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.2 Large Eggs
- Add the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt to a your mesh strainer, making sure it's sitting over your mixing bowl and shake gently to add.1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour, 1 tsp Baking Soda, 1/2 tsp salt
- Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Do not overmix!
- Gently fold in the chopped pecans, reserving a few for topping.1/2 cup chopped pecans
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle more chopped pecans on top, if desired
- Bake for approximately 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow the baked banana bread to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes and drizzle with the reserved brown butter (remelt in the microwave if needed). Transfer loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Nutrition Facts are an estimate only. Differences are expected when making substitutions for any ingredient or when different brands are used.
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Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian, mom, wife, and vegetarian in North Texas. She has dedicated Dietitian Jenn to be a source of information, ideas, and inspiration for people like her, vegetarians that live with people with different dietary beliefs and/or needs in a multivore household.