Classic banana bread is a perfect canvas for new flavors. I developed this adaptation while designing the menu for my B&B in Jamaica. I wanted it to be comfortingly familiar, yet exciting with a new twist.
We served this bread simply sliced as part of the welcome spread of snacks for arriving guests, and it’s seriously perfect any time of day.
WHAT IS JAMAICAN BANANA BREAD?
The most traditional use of overripe bananas in Jamaica is probably banana fritters. They’re made by mashing bananas, then stirring in spices, sugar, and flour to make a thick batter that is pan fried until golden brown and crispy on both sides.
With the popularization of quick breads—breads using a chemical leavening agent and baked in the oven—banana fritters gave way for banana bread to become an instant classic as well.
These days, you’ll find a wide range of Jamaican-inspired banana breads, depending on the baker’s choice of Jamaican flavors to incorporate into the loaf.
Don’t Skip This Step!
To make this recipe, you do need to plan ahead at least one night to soak the raisins in the dark rum. (Two nights? Even better!) Once you pop a raisin into your mouth and get that burst of flavor, you’ll know it was well worth it. Don’t be surprised if you end up soaking more raisins just to top ice cream or use the raisin-infused rum for cocktails—yum!
In spite of how delicious this banana bread is, it’s also insanely easy and comes together in no time.
If you’d rather not use alcohol, soak your raisins in water or juice, such as pineapple juice, instead. In this case, you could do an accelerated soak by combining the raisins and liquid in a small pot, bringing it to a boil, and letting it stand for 10-15 minutes before draining.
SWAPS, SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
I love my combo of the warm spices, rum, and raisins, but you might find some Jamaican banana bread variations with:
- A sweet glaze on top
- Coconut flakes
- Lime juice
- Chopped walnuts or pecans
Not a fan of raisins? Try any other kind of dried fruit you enjoy. Or, skip them all together. You can even try it with chocolate chips!
Whatever your combination of mix-ins might be, just make sure you don’t add more than 1/2 cup total of additional ingredients. Fold them into the batter when you add the raisins. For coconut, I would only add 1/4 cup.
WHY USE RAW SUGAR?
I use raw or turbinado sugar, because that’s what is more commonly used in Jamaica. You should be able to find it in the baking aisle of any major grocery store.
You can use granulated white sugar in place of the raw sugar, but it won’t create the same caramel-like flavor that raw sugar provides, because the molasses has been processed out of granulated sugar.
HOW TO MAKE BANANA BREAD GLUTEN FREE
If you’re gluten free, like me, simply swap in your favorite gluten free AP flour, and you’re good to go. King Arthur’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour and Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour both work well. Just use the gluten free flour in place of the conventional flour, and you don’t need to modify the recipe at all.
WAYS TO ENJOY JAMAICAN BANANA BREAD
This banana bread is subtly sweet, so it’s a completely justifiable breakfast or afternoon (or anytime) snack. I love it all by itself with a cup of mint tea.
If you want to revive leftovers, try:
- Toast them and spread with butter.
- Use a few slices as the base for French toast.
- Take a cue from bananas foster: Pan fry a slice in butter and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
HOW TO STORE, FREEZE, AND REHEAT BANANA BREAD
To Store: If you’re going to eat your banana bread in a couple of days, it’s best stored at room temperature in an airtight container. If you need to keep it fresh for up to a week, stick it in the fridge in an airtight container.
To Freeze: Banana bread will freeze beautifully for up to three months. You can freeze individual slices, partial loaves, or whole loaves. Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or foil, and then place the wrapped bread in a resealable freezer bag and seal tightly. Note that the larger the piece, the better it will be able to withstand freezer burn.
To thaw frozen bread: Stick it in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours. If you’re in a rush to thaw your slices, pop them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
RECIPES FOR MORE BANANA BREAD INSPIRATION!