Matcha is the finely ground powder of a specific variety of green tea leaves, and I first fell in love with it many years ago thanks to Costco of all places. They sell these ginormous boxes of matcha blend green tea bags, and after one sip I was hooked. I immediately went to my local gourmet supply store to buy a can of pure matcha powder, and once I found out you could do more with it than make tea, I started experimenting. I’ve been cooking and baking with matcha ever since, and my love for the stuff is stronger than ever.
Matcha has such a unique and wonderful flavor. It’s bright, vegetal, astringent, and sweet all at the same time, and I’ve found it to be the perfect addition to fruity muffins and quick breads. Fortunately bananas are available year-round and the combination of matcha and banana is remarkably delicious, so I’ve paired the two in this wonderfully tender and fragrant banana bread which you can enjoy for breakfast, brunch, dessert, or an anytime snack. Just beware that this bread contains a very small amount of caffeine from the matcha, so if you’re very sensitive I’d suggest enjoying it in the earlier part of the day.
Banana bread is one of those things for which there exist hundreds of “best” recipes, and thousands of variations. There are extracts, spices and mix-ins galore that you can add to a basic recipe, and the possibilities are seemingly endless. I’ve tried many variations over the years but I always come back to the same few flavors, and matcha is one of my all-time favorite ingredients to add. Quick breads are pretty forgiving as far as baked goods go, and there are only a couple of things that can trip you up here. The biggest offender? Insufficiently ripe bananas. That’s the easiest way to ruin a loaf of banana bread. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I never have properly ripened bananas on hand when I get the urge to bake banana bread, and for some reason stores now only seem to sell bananas that are still green. So, what to do? You can buy a bunch or two of bananas, let them ripen until the skins are super spotted and mostly black, then peel them and keep them in a sealed heavy-duty bag in your freezer. (They’re also great to have on hand for smoothies.) My problem with frozen bananas is the space they take up, because my freezer is already busting at the seams with flour nuts and seeds. If you don’t have room to store bananas in your freezer or you simply decided at the last minute to bake banana bread and you didn’t have any ready to go, don’t despair! As long as the bananas are mostly yellow, believe it or not you can bake them to ripe perfection. Don’t peel or slice the bananas, just lay them on a sheet pan whole, and bake at 325F for 20-30 minutes until the skins are black and the bananas are soft and aromatic.
This trio wasn’t nearly ripe enough for banana bread. Since I had to test the recipe multiple times of course I ran out of ripe ones, so I popped these into the oven for a bit.
Here they are about 20 minutes later. Isn’t that amazing? Now you’ll never have to deny your cravings just because your bananas weren’t ripe. You’re welcome.
If you’re allowing the bananas to ripen naturally you need to let them go for longer than you think. I leave mine out for at least a week. See those bananas on the left? Prime, naturally aged specimens for banana bread. The ones on the right? Not so much. A few measly spots do not the best banana bread make. (Apparently I’m channeling my inner Yoda today – I must have Star Wars on the brain since the new movie came out last month. And hey, Yoda was green, and matcha powder is green, so it makes perfect sense that I went there. Kinda.)
Since I was testing this during the holiday season and life was more hectic than usual, I simplified the recipe by using a packaged all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. Yes, even I occasionally use a store-bought blend to save time and storage space, and now you don’t have to mix up a bunch of different flours just to bake banana bread. I’ve recently discovered Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour and it’s pretty great. I love that it contains whole grain brown rice and sorghum flours, both of which I use in my own blends. Update December 2017: If you prefer your baked goods completely grain-free, see the Notes section for a modification.
This is what the bag looks like if you’re shopping for it at the store. You can buy it online as well.
So let’s talk about matcha powder for a moment. Yes, it’s a specialty ingredient, yes, it’s trendy, and yes, it can be very expensive. But here’s the thing, we’re not using matcha for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony which would call for the ultra-premium ceremonial-grade powder. We’re baking with it and adding a bunch of other ingredients to it, so a decent culinary-grade powder is just fine for our purposes, and much less expensive than the fancy artisanal stuff. As long as it’s pure matcha powder without any fillers or sugar added, you’ll be good to go.
This is the matcha powder I’m currently using. I ordered it online and it’s been turning out great results in all sorts of drinks and recipes. I think I paid about $16 for the 8-oz bag, which comes out to $2 per ounce. Ceremonial-grade matcha costs a whopping $25-$35 per OUNCE, so yeah, we’re using the culinary grade for baking or this would be one *very* expensive loaf of banana bread!
I prefer coconut oil to butter for banana bread, so I figured I might as well keep all the dairy out of the recipe and use coconut milk instead of the usual buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. (Feel free to substitute any of those for the coconut milk if you’d prefer, just omit the vinegar.) It does contain eggs and honey so it’s not a vegan recipe, and I haven’t tested it with egg replacers, but if you try a vegan version please let me know how it goes. To replace the honey I recommend using golden syrup or agave. In the meantime at least it’s gluten-free *and* dairy-free. Yay.
I think I covered everything. Let’s get baking.
Here are my dry ingredients before whisking and sifting.
Here’s the dry mix after whisking it together. It hasn’t been sifted – l’ll do that directly into the wet ingredients.
Speaking of the wet ingredients, here they are all whisked together and awaiting the dry. You can see a few yellow chunks of banana, which I like in my banana bread. If you don’t want even the smallest bits in yours, puree the bananas. Now I’ll sift the dry ingredients directly into this bowl and mix until thoroughly incorporated, then scrape it all into my greased loaf pan. I forgot to photograph the batter before it went into the pan this time around. Sorry about that – I’ll try to remember to snap one the next time I make this.
Isn’t that color amazing? It will mellow out a bit during baking and obviously the exterior will brown, but the inside of the finished loaf will still have a lovely green hue. Once your batter is ready to go into the oven, lay a halved banana on top of the batter and press down very gently just to adhere to the surface. Alternatively you can do crosswise slices/rounds of banana, but I’ve found that they can shift a lot during baking and may not turn out looking as neat and pretty as you intended.
There it is in the oven, baking up beautifully.
Here’s my gorgeous loaf fresh from the oven. It smells fantastic but I’ll be patient and let it cool completely before slicing. Not an easy feat, because I absolutely love this recipe. You’ll notice that the top is golden and the sides are beautifully browned and crusty, but just wait until you see what awaits you inside.
You want a slice, don’t you? I know. The waiting is killing me. My cats wanted some too, I had to keep shooing them away. (And while I’m on the subject of pets, please don’t give them any of this banana bread. Though it’s not as powerful as coffee, matcha is naturally caffeinated and considered to be a stimulant. It’s not good for our 4-legged friends.)
Everyone in my little household is into bananas. In fact, a certain someone loves them so much that I have to store them in the microwave so she doesn’t get into them. She found my hiding place, but at least she hasn’t figured out how to open the door. Yet.
But really, my girls will take whatever kind of banana you’re offering – the catnip variety works too. (Apologies for the gratuitous cat photos, but they’re awfully cute, aren’t they?)
Okay, back to the bread. Once it’s cool you can wrap the loaf and store it at room temperature for several days, or slice and freeze for 1-2 months. But you’re going to dig right in, aren’t you?
Of course you are. Just look at that beautiful matcha-infused interior.
The contrast of the exterior crust and the moist, tender center is really something. What are you waiting for?
- 173 g (1 ¼ cup) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour¹
- 50 g (½ cup) Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour
- 15 g (2 Tbsp) culinary grade matcha powder²
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) honey
- 26 g (2 Tbsp) dark brown sugar
- 75 g (scant ⅓ cup) coconut oil, melted
- 120 ml (½ cup) coconut milk, room temperature
- 5 ml (1 tsp) apple cider vinegar
- 5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
- 227 g³ (1 cup) mashed very ripe banana
- 1 whole banana (ripe but not mushy), peeled and halved lengthwise
- Preheat oven to 350°F and generously grease a large 9x5 loaf pan.
- Combine dry ingredients: In a medium bowl whisk together flour mix, almond flour, matcha powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients: In a large bowl whisk together eggs, honey and brown sugar vigorously until smooth and relatively uniform.
- Stir in melted coconut oil, coconut milk, vinegar and vanilla, then add mashed banana and whisk until smooth. It’s okay if there are bits of un-mashed banana - I happen to like that in my banana bread
- Mix everything together: Sift dry ingredients into wet mixture and whisk or stir vigorously until everything is incorporated and no visible dry flour remains. Unless you pureed your bananas your batter will probably have some small lumps.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the surface a bit, then tap the pan firmly on the counter once or twice to knock out any large air pockets. Lay the sliced banana halves cut side up over the batter and press down very lightly to adhere.
- Bake: Place the pan on the middle or lower-middle rack of the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for 50–60 minutes, until the banana bread is nicely browned and cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it. I usually rotate the pan about 25 minutes into the baking time and do my first check for doneness after 50 minutes.
- Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning it out to cool completely. It will take at least an hour to cool, and I highly recommended waiting at least that long before slicing or the center may still be slightly tacky.
- Serve or store: Once the bread is completely cool, if you're not serving it immediately wrap it tightly and store at room temperature for several days. You can also freeze it for 1-2 months, just be sure to slice before freezing.
If you'd prefer to make a grain-free version of this banana bread, replace the 1-to-1 GF flour with 140 grams (1 cup) cassava flour and 34 grams (¼ cup) coconut flour, increase the coconut milk to 180ml (¾ cup), and bake for the full 60 minutes.
²Ceremonial matcha is super expensive and unnecessary for baking. You can get good culinary-grade matcha online for about $7/ounce, as opposed to the wallet-busting $30-$35/ounce ceremonial grade.
³Weigh the bananas after peeling. If you don’t have access to a scale to weigh them, I’ve found that three 8 or 9-inch bananas will typically yield the amount you want for this.