The BEST Gluten-Free Banana Bread: 6 Secrets

There's more to transforming everyone's favorite quick bread into a gluten-free sensation than merely swapping out wheat flour for a gluten-free blend. If you want the best banana bread -- gluten-free or not -- you need these essential tips.

1. Use the right flour blend (and save money!).

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Most store-bought gluten-free flour blends contain xanthan (or other) gum to enhance the texture of baked goods. Surprisingly, those gums can pose several problems. First, they can cause digestive upset and many individuals don't tolerate them very well. Next, xanthan gum is very expensive and drives up the price of those premade blends even more. And finally, these gums can actually give your baked goods a rubbery or gummy texture. That's especially true with moist quick breads like banana bread.

In fact, it is rarely necessary to use xanthan (or any other) gum in your gluten-free baking.

For a light and moist banana bread, be sure to choose a gluten-free flour blend without added gums, or simply buy a few ingredients and mix your own. You'll save money, and you have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what goes into your baked goods!

Try my recipe for a terrific all-purpose gluten-free blend that's gum-free.

Gigi's Everyday Gluten-Free, Gum-Free Flour Blend

  • 2-1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot flour

Combine ingredients in a large bowl; whisk to blend thoroughly.

Store in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid at room temperature or in your refrigerator if you plan to store longer than 4-6 months.

2. Measure correctly.

Measuring for any type of baking is important, but in gluten-free baking, it is critical. I recommend you measure flour by weight, in grams, with a kitchen scale. You can find affordable kitchen scales in home stores and online and it will make all the difference.

I always provide weight and volume measures in my recipes, but once you weight your ingredients, you will be amazed at the improved results in your baked goods.

3. Use the ripest bananas you can find (and learn how to peel them).

How to Peel a Banana

The riper the banana, the sweeter the banana bread. It's that simple. As bananas ripen, black spots, called sugar spots, appear on the outer peel. Even when the outer peel is nearly completely black, you can have a perfectly good banana waiting inside. That is the best banana to use for banana bread, so don't toss out those overripe fruits!

But what if your bananas are super ripe and you're not able to use them to make banana bread right away? No problem! Simply peel, place the bananas in freezer zip-top baggies, and squish out all the air as you seal. Label them and freeze up to 2 months until you're ready to use them. When you want to bake, just let them thaw at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then mash as you normally would. These frozen bananas are also great for smoothies. I always keep some in my freezer.

Did you know peeling a banana is a bottom up task? Peel the bananas from the bottom end upward and the peel will zip right off and you'll avoid those pesky "strings," which are actually called phloem. They are important to the banana because that's how the nutrients are distributed throughout the fruit as it grows, but they taste yucky and have a bad texture, so we don't want those in our bread.

4. Use fresh eggs (and learn how to test them).

Eggs in carton

Eggs are used for binder and for leavening in recipes, and fresh eggs are essential to the best results. If you're not sure if your eggs are fresh, you can find out in a flash by doing the "float test." Here's how:

Carefully place eggs in a bowl of plain cold water. Eggs that sink are fresh; eggs that float are not fresh and should be discarded. 

This test works because eggshells are porous and, over time, air enters the egg (it's called an "air cell"). The longer eggs are stored, the more air that enters. The more air inside the egg, the more buoyant it is, making it float. So old, air-filled eggs will float. Also, over time, some fluid escapes through the porous shell via evaporation, so that contributes as well.

Some eggs tilt or stand on end. These are still fairly fresh, but should be used soon. These eggs are best for making hard-boiled eggs or for using in dishes that are cooked thoroughly.

5. Follow the recipe.

The first time you make a new recipe, follow it exactly so that you know how it should turn out. The next time you make it, you can make adjustments one by one and experiment to see what works and what doesn't. Recipe developers tend to test their creations with many variations before settling on a final version. We do the work for you, so that all you have to do is bake and enjoy. When substitutions are possible, especially when it comes to those of us who cater to individuals with special dietary needs, they are usually mentioned in the ingredients list. Keep the core ingredients as near the original as possible, and add your own flair by changing things like add-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, etc.) that won't alter the chemistry of the recipe.

6. Be patient and let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Mad for Plaid Banana Bread

I know, you want a warm slice of fresh baked banana bread slathered with butter or cream cheese -- or just on its own. I understand, but I also understand gluten-free baking, and you will always achieve your best results if you allow all your baked goods to completely cool before digging in. That's because the steam trapped inside your baked goods actually continues to cook them even after they are out of the oven. If you slice in too soon, you are likely to find a gooey or gummy center.

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