How to Cook With Bananas

Hand cutting up bananas, next to full bananas

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Bananas are among the most popular fruits for eating right out of the hand as well as incorporating into baked goods. Recipes call for sliced bananas, mashed bananas, diced bananas, and even whole bananas, so sometimes it's difficult to know just how many bananas you need. Luckily, there are some simple equivalent measurements you can use to help you the next time you are buying bananas for a recipe. But, if you are in doubt about the quantity, buy a couple of extra bananas; you can always freeze them if they aren't needed in the recipe.

One thing to keep in mind is how big the bananas are as some recipes will reference the size, as in "two small bananas," for example. Small bananas are approximately 6 to 6 7/8 inches long, medium bananas are roughly 7 to 7 7/8 inches long, and large bananas are approximately 8 to 9 inches long.

Converting Pounds to Quantities

Some recipes will specify how many pounds of bananas you need, but if you are using bananas from the fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, and you don't own a food scale, then you probably don't know how many bananas are in a pound. If you keep these equivalents nearby, though, you will be able to make the switch easily.

  • 1 pound bananas = 3 medium bananas
  • 1 pound bananas = 4 small bananas
  • 1 pound bananas = 2 to 2 1/2 cups sliced
  • 1 pound bananas = 1 1/3 cups mashed
  • 1 pound dried bananas = 4 1/2 cups slices

Converting Quantities to Cups

Whether you are making a fruit salad or a banana bread, these recipes may call for either whole bananas or the measurements in cups. Once you get a hang of the conversions, you will feel confident with any banana recipe down the road.

  • 1 medium banana = 2/3 cup sliced bananas
  • 2 medium bananas = 1 cup diced bananas
  • 3 medium bananas = 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 2 medium bananas = 1/2 to 1 teaspoon banana extract

Substitutions

You can't make banana pudding or banana bread without bananas. However, if you don't care for bananas, are allergic to them, or don't have time to run to the store, there are some substitutions you can make for bananas in recipes.

  • Applesauce (storebought or homemade) can substitute for a banana in baked goods. Replace one banana with 1/2 cup of applesauce, but don't use more than 1 cup of applesauce because the mixture will be too wet. Egg whites (or a whole egg) can also substitute for a banana in some baked goods.
  • Canned pumpkin and silken tofu also work as substitutes for a banana in some recipes, although you may need to add sweetener, and plain yogurt might work in some recipes—but if the recipe calls for vinegar or lemon juice, choose another substitute.
  • Mashed cooked sweet potato works as a banana substitute in baked oatmeal recipes, and good substitutes for bananas in smoothies are canned pumpkin, mango, avocado, and frozen yogurt.

Using Bananas as Substitutes

Bananas can be used as substitutes for other ingredients in baked goods. Vegans, in particular, are familiar with using bananas to substitute for eggs. One ripe banana replaces one egg in a cake recipe—the banana will flavor the cake, so only use them when they complement the other ingredients. Extra leavening may be needed.

Bananas can also be a substitute for butter and oil in recipes. If using bananas for butter, replace in equal amounts. You can substitute 3/4 cup of mashed banana for 1 cup of oil in baked goods such as muffins, cakes, and bread, but you'll need to use a low-gluten flour and reduce the baking time.

Freezing

Keeping a supply of banana slices in the freezer means you'll always have just the right amount of banana for baking, sauces, and smoothies—making substitutions unnecessary. Freezing bananas is a simple process, but they should be frozen at peak ripeness. Begin by peeling the bananas, and then cut each banana into slices that are about 3/4-inch thick. Spread the banana slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet; the slices should not touch. Freezing them this way means they won't all clump together, and you'll be able to remove only as many slices as you need.

Freeze for an hour or more and transfer them to plastic bags or containers that have been labeled and dated; then return them to the freezer.