Banana bread is one of those treats that you never grow out of loving. As a kid, a slice of banana bread tucked into my lunch bag was just as good as winning the lottery. And even after all this time, I still get excited about it. There’s nothing quite like cozying up with a mug of tea/coffee and a thick slice of banana bread. You can serve it to guests as dessert or enjoy it solo as an afternoon snack. On really rushed days, banana bread is even there for you as a quick breakfast on-the-go. Sure, it’s not the healthiest breakfast out there, but I’d definitely take a slice over a hangry stomach and a regretful purchase on the way to work. Wouldn’t you?
This recipe starts with a better-for-you banana bread, that’s completely vegan and made with whole grain spelt flour. The loaf is soft, moist and sweetened just right - so nobody will be the wiser that white flour and butter are nowhere to be seen. This one bowl banana bread requires just ten ingredients, almost all of which are likely sitting in your kitchen. So if you have some very ripe bananas on hand, you are SO CLOSE to banana bread deliciousness.
The vegan banana bread can definitely be enjoyed on its own. But, if you like the sound of salted caramel sauce, then you’ve also come to the right place. Bananas and caramel are a match made in heaven, so it felt like a great idea to top the loaf with a luscious salted caramel sauce. I slightly tweaked one of my older vegan caramel sauces for a thicker version that would better suit this recipe. The method remains the same, relying on coconut sugar for the caramel-like flavor, and skipping the traditional process of browning white sugar into caramel. I did indeed test the traditional refined sugar method (along with ten other variations of caramel, ugh); but in the end, this one won for both taste and simplicity.
Thanks to the coconut cream base, the caramel sauce naturally thickens when left in the fridge. After setting in the fridge overnight, the color lightens into a very thick, spoonable caramel spread. It's pretty neat, because this sauce allows you to choose your own adventure. For a pourable caramel sauce that’s more like a liquid-y glaze, refrigerate the sauce for less time. If you want a thicker caramel, that can be spread like the version pictured, then leave it in the fridge for longer (overnight at minimum, ideally for one full day). The caramel sauce thickens considerably as it cools. This recipe features a salted caramel sauce, but if you or your kids prefer an unsalted version, then simply reduce the salt to a pinch. That way you won’t taste it, it'll just enhance the flavor.
We like serving this loaf when friends/family come over, because the banana bread can be made in advance - and everyone gets excited when they see the caramel sauce being added just before serving. You can either top the whole loaf with caramel, or drizzle it on top of individual slices (bonus points if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream).
There are a few options for storing extra banana bread: on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer. In any case, it should be tightly covered or sealed in a container, to help retain its moisture. A cake dome works well too - but if you're like us and don't have one, you could use a plate and an upside down mixing bowl instead. If storing the banana bread on counter, it should last 1-2 days at room temperature. The caramel on top will darken as it warms up, but the taste will be just as delicious. To preserve a lighter color caramel, it needs to be kept cool. You can store the caramel-glazed loaf in the fridge for up to 3 days. The fridge does tend to dry out bread and loaves (more so than a freezer); so while the banana bread has a head start being so moist, I wouldn't keep it in there for longer than that. Alternatively, you can freeze the banana bread (whole or sliced), and then once it's back to room temperature, top with chilled caramel. The caramel keeps in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
Salted Caramel Banana Bread (Vegan)
Vegan Salted Caramel
- ½ cup coconut cream (see note 1)
- 3 tablespoons coconut sugar (or dark brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons ground flax
- 6 tablespoons warm water
- 1½ cups mashed ripe banana (4 to 5 bananas)
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil
- ¾ cup cane sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups spelt flour (see note 2)
- Flaky salt (for garnish)
Vegan Salted Caramel (see note 3)
- Dissolve sugar: Warm coconut cream, sugar, and maple syrup in a small sauce pan over medium heat, until bubbles appear and sugar is dissolved.
- Simmer: Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, to ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the sides of the pot.
- Cool: Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Transfer mixture to a covered container. Refrigerate until set, ideally overnight (caramel will lighten in color and firm up as it cools).
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C).
- Whisk batter: In a large bowl, whisk together ground flax and warm water until smooth. Whisk in banana, coconut oil, cane sugar, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.
- Add flour: Gently stir in flour, just until the last streak of flour is incorporated (use as few strokes as possible to avoid over mixing).
- Bake: Transfer batter to a parchment-lined 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the loaf, comes out clean (about 60 minutes). Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Assemble: Right before serving, top the cooled loaf with the salted caramel. If desired, garnish with flaky salt (see note 4). Slice and serve immediately (see note 5).
- Coconut cream: Either from a can of coconut cream, or the solids scooped from a can of full fat coconut milk. If using canned coconut milk, some brands will separate in the can at room temperature. But many don't, so to maximize separation, put the can at the back of the fridge overnight (or ideally 24 hours) before using.
- Measuring by weight: For the most reliable results, we recommend measuring by weight when baking. Ingredient weights are provided in metric. If you must go by volume (measuring cups), make sure to fluff, spoon, and level the flour to avoid adding too much.
- Caramel sauce: The caramel sauce takes time to cool and firm up, so make it the night before. The caramel will firm up and lighten in color the longer it stays in the fridge. Give it a good stir, to re-mix, before using. To bring the caramel back to a more liquid state, either leave it out at room temperature or place it in a warm water bath until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Flaky salt: Garnish with flaky salt just before serving. The salt will dissolve into the caramel relatively quickly, making them harder to see (although you'll still taste it).
- Serving and storage tips: Once the banana bread is topped with the caramel sauce, it's best served immediately. The caramel sauce with soften as it warms up at room temperature. You can cover the caramel sauced banana bread and leave on the counter for 1 to 2 days, or refrigerate for up to 3 days. For best results, store the banana bread and caramel sauce separately, and assemble just before serving. You can also serve slices of banana bread with a spoonful of caramel on the side.