HAVE A BANANA
It's hard to imagine a time before bananas were cheap and readily available, especially because they're integral to so many recipes, from smoothies and puddings to baked goods and savory stews. Different recipes call for different degrees of ripeness, and it's possible to make tasty treats from bananas at any stage. (For quick ripening, place bananas in a closed brown paper bag.) The 20 recipes here, served up in honor of Banana Lovers Day on Aug. 27, show off the versatility of this potassium-rich fruit.
COCONUT BANANA CREAM PIE
The best banana cream pie is light, fluffy, and sweet, and accented with just a hint of coconut. There are numerous ways to make this well-loved dessert, from a raw version on Wake Up and Eat to a pie laden with dairy-rich filling and toppings from the blog A Spicy Perspective. Regardless of the recipe, be sure to stash banana cream pie in the refrigerator to keep the layers intact and the freshness at its peak.
ONE-INGREDIENT BANANA ICE CREAM
Those in the know already are familiar with the creamy soft-serve "ice cream" whipped up with frozen bananas and a food processor. This no-fat alternative can stave off the most intense ice cream cravings -- and it makes a guilt-free, nutritious breakfast to boot. Frozen banana pieces are the only necessary ingredient, although the final product benefits from a touch of liquid vanilla for added flavor and to help the food processor along. For the right consistency, freeze the bananas at least four hours in advance. Breaking the fruit into 1-inch pieces means faster freezing and ensures a smooth, creamy texture without leftover chunks.
Any self-respecting banana lover would never settle for banana pudding that comes from a box, especially when the ingredients needed to make it from scratch are so cheap. The extra effort that goes into a recipe from the blog Southern Plate makes a world of difference in terms of flavor, and constant stirring of the pudding pot is nice a workout for the cook's arm. Add rum or another flavored liquor to the custard along with the vanilla for an extra kick.
Store-bought banana chips are usually fried, which puts a high-calorie spin on an otherwise healthy snack. The baked cinnamon banana chips that emerge from a PopSugar recipe are just as tasty without added sugar. Use them in granola and trail mix and as an ice cream topper or munchable snack. Low and slow cooking gives the chips a texture that's both crisp and chewy.
CHOCOLATE BANANA SMOOTHIE
The combination of chocolate, spices, and bananas put forward by the blog Cookie & Kate is invigorating and surprisingly healthy. Rich flavors and a thick texture make this smoothie as indulgent as a traditional milkshake while cinnamon and cayenne add zip to the flavor. For a thick shake that's closer to soft-serve consistency, freeze the banana before proceeding.
SPICY BANANA CURRY
Bananas have been used in savory food preparation across the globe for centuries. Certain spices mesh particularly well with bananas, and a curry posted on Allrecipes is a perfect example. Here, garlic, turmeric, cumin, and ginger provide heat that's offset by the sweet fruit. This one-pot dish is easy to prepare and the ingredients are easy to find.
Oh, banana bread, perhaps the most nostalgic baked good for many cooks owing to its easy preparation, infinite variety, and ability to salvage produce that would otherwise be headed for the garbage. A warm loaf of banana bread makes a tasty breakfast, snack, or even dessert. A version from Martha Stewart uses sour cream for a particularly moist texture. Throw in some chocolate chips, because, why not?
BAKED BANANA OATMEAL
This spin on a classic bowl of oatmeal includes all the nutrition in an exciting and, dare we say, brunch-worthy form. It's essentially a giant banana-oatmeal muffin, which emerges from the oven soft but not runny. The recipe, by the blog Kath Eats Real Food, makes an easy and cheap dish for serving to a crowd or enjoying as leftovers on workday mornings.
Something of a banana milkshake for adults, banana daiquiris have a way of going down dangerously easy. A recipe from Saveur uses banana liqueur, which adds a punch of intense flavor and a bit of extra booze. Use frozen bananas for a frosty antidote to hot summer weather. Chilling the glasses ahead of time also keeps the drink nice and cool.
BANANA ICE CREAM CAKE
This simple and elegant ice cream cake uses only three ingredients: coconut cream, chocolate, and bananas. The consistency of this layered frozen dessert falls between hard ice cream and soft custard but stays firm enough to hold its picturesque layers. A recipe from the blog Kelley & Cricket is quick and easy with the help of a blender or food processor.
BANANA NUT MUFFINS
These single-serve baked goods are soft, fluffy, and lightly sweet, and the flavors of honey, walnuts, and banana make them a breakfast or brunch stand-by. A recipe from the blog Once Upon a Chef calls for blending with an electric mixture to cream the wet ingredients, which keeps the final texture smooth and consistent. (Or, mix by hand, but be sure to get the mixture as smooth as possible.) Swap out the walnuts for any combination of nuts, and try adding raisins, dates, coconut, and other dried fruits to diversify the basic recipe.
Where there's peanut butter, bananas generally are welcome. That's definitely the case with this sandwich from yesteryear made of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Adding in a layer of sliced bananas, pan-roasted bananas, or fried bananas will transport banana lovers to nostalgia heaven.
Related: 13 Sandwiches You Can Make for $1 or Less
NO-BAKE BANANA COOKIES
A cross between traditional cookies and cookie dough, this no-bake sweet is infused with banana flavor. A recipe from the blog Paleo Running Momma suits many alternative diets and lifestyles; the results can be enjoyed by everyone. The dough also can be used in homemade ice cream treats, because it doesn't contain raw egg. The only special equipment needed is a food processor.
Half the fun of this all-American treat is deciding what goes into it. The essentials are a banana, split in half lengthwise and topped with any flavor ice cream, whipped cream, a cherry, and whatever else suits your fancy. Turn the preparation into an interactive activity by setting up a banana-split bar with different flavored sauces and topping options and watch hidden culinary skills go wild. Large bowls or dishes and spoons with long handles are the preferred utensils.
CHOCOLATE DIPPED BANANAS
A make-ahead recipe on Epicurious uses just a few ingredients and works best with bananas that are still firm. Coating bananas in chocolate and turning them into luscious frozen treats is a good way to combat ice cream cravings in warm weather. Make a large batch, because they keep in the freezer for several weeks -- not that they ever last that long. More than nine out of 10 people who tried this recipe said they would do so again.
SAVORY BANANA CORN CAKES
Gently spiced and salted, these cornmeal cakes get their soft texture and a hint of banana flavor from the mashed fruit. The ingredients in a recipe from the blog Cooking with Elise include cornmeal and buttermilk, with a flavor punch from the sweet and savory spice of cinnamon and curry. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, banana corn cakes can serve as breakfast, snack, or side dish.
This classic flaming dessert remains a favorite thanks to its delicious flavor and the spectacle it provides. The most difficult part of this recipe, available at NewOrleansRestaurants.com, is getting the rum to ignite properly in the pan by tipping it near the flame. If the thought of doing that causes anxiety, ignite the liquor with a long match.
BANANA COCONUT CUPCAKES
The combination of banana and coconut gives these personal cakes a tropical feel, perfect for the next tiki party. A recipe from the blog Little Bean Big Bean keeps it simple, so the fruit flavors take the spotlight. Hardcore banana lovers can consider adding extra banana chunks into the batter or hiding a sliced banana underneath the frosting. Mashed banana replaces fat such as butter or oil, making these baked goods (somewhat) diet-friendly.
Crunchy, soft, sweet, and warm, banana fritters are pure comfort food. The batter in a version posted on Allrecipes, made with baking staples such as flour and eggs, is gently spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg to complement the ripe flavor of the bananas. While paper towels work fine for draining excess oil, recycled paper bags from the grocery store help keep the fritters crisp on all sides as they cool before eating.
BANANA RUM MILKSHAKE
Why have a regular cocktail when combining cocktail hour with kid-style milkshakes is an option? An indulgent concoction from the recipe site Just a Pinch is open to creative adjustments, such as different flavors of ice cream. Chocolate, peanut butter, coffee, or even a combination works well. Try an aged rum in place of white rum for extra depth.