Banana bread seems to have become the baked good of choice during lock-down. It’s something you don’t tend to be able to buy in supermarkets or bakeries, so is perfect if you want to leave people in no doubt that you have gone to the effort of making it yourself. And this recipe provides an enticing twist on the classic, with the addition of cardamom and a hint of coconut. It is wonderfully moist and squidgy without being at all dense, is healthy enough to be breakfast-appropriate, but tastes delicate and decadent enough to serve to your most refined afternoon tea guest.
If you’re not familiar with cardamom, it’s a wonderful spice with a very distinctive flavour. It’s aromatic and almost floral, and is used widely in Asian and Middle-Eastern dishes, both sweet and savoury. You can buy cardamom ready ground, but I find the flavour comes through much better if you buy cardamom pods. I bash them a few times in a pestle and mortor until the pods split and then it’s easy to remove the seeds and discard the papery encasing.
The secret to any banana bread is using really overripe bananas. Part of the reason I have not got my lock-down banana bread recipe nailed down before now, is that back in March I was living with eight other family members. The very idea of having left-over bananas was laughable. Now the house is back to less ridiculous residency levels we’ve started to see the black spots returning – a welcome sight for baking. When your bananas are looking less and less appealing, and likely to be too sweet and mushy to eat by themselves, that’s when they are perfect for banana bread.
I use flax seed as an egg-replacer in this recipe. It helps with binding and adds a bit more moisture, as well and bringing a bit of omega goodness to the table. You can buy ground flax seeds or grind them yourself in a spice grinder or high-speed blender. You then add a little water and let it sit, so the ground flax seeds can absorb the moisture, so I often start with this and just leave it to one side until I need it. It’s also a good idea to heat the oven, grease and base-line your loaf tin, and gather all of your ingredients at the beginning.
When it comes to the flour you have some options. This recipe uses oats, blitzed to flour – I use a high-speed blender with a milling blade, which works for the flax seeds as well, but a food processor is fine. The second flour is really up to you – you could use plain white, or wholemeal, or a gluten-free flour blend. Rye flour or barley flour would work well for a wheat-free option. I used white spelt flour in the loaf in the pictures. Whatever you choose, sieve into a bowl with the oat flour and the rest of the dry ingredients; baking powder, salt, cardamom seeds, and desiccated coconut.
Next up, the wet ingredients. Measure the coconut oil in a heat proof bowl or saucepan, and microwave for a minute or warm on the hob until melted. In another bowl, peel and mash your overripe bananas and stir in the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and flax eggs until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until everything in incorporated and you have a thick batter. Scrape it into you loaf tin, sprinkle the coconut flakes on top, if you’re using them, and bake for 50–60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
This loaf is plenty moist enough to eat by itself, but is delicious with a generous coating of vegan butter (I use Naturli Vegan Block). I particularly like it smeared in almond butter with a little salt sprinkled on top. There is no reason why you couldn’t have it with ice-cream, or with vegan chocolate spread, for a little more indulgence. Whatever you choose, I think it’s best cut into thick slabs with a cup of tea.
If you give this loaf a go I would love to hear how you get on! You can comment below, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Cardamom and Coconut Banana Bread
A deliciously moist and surprisingly light banana bread, flavoured with aromatic cardamom and a hint of coconut
Vegan, Gluten-free option, Nut-free, Soya-free
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed + 4 tbsp water
- 12–13 green cardamom pods
- 100g oats (gluten-free if necessary)
- 175g flour (plain, wholemeal, spelt, rye or gluten-free)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 100g coconut oil, melted
- 3 medium overripe bananas (or 4 small – you want about 400g unpeeled)
- 5–6 tbsp (75–90 ml) maple syrup
- 15g coconut flakes (optional)
- Heat your oven to 165C fan and grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin, lining the base and sides with baking paper.
- In a small bowl mix 2 tbsp ground flax seeds with 4 tbsp water and set aside.
- In a pestle and mortar, bash 12–13 green cardamom pods (depending on how pronounced you want the flavour) a few times until they have split open. Remove the seeds and discard the papery husks.
- Blitz 100g oats in a food processor or high-speed blender until they are finely ground, like flour. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add 175g flour, 50g desiccated coconut, 1 tbsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, and the cardamom seeds, and mix until everything is evenly distributed.
- In a separate bowl, mash the overripe bananas with a fork, then add in the flax seed mixture, 100g melted coconut oil, and 5–6 tbsp maple syrup. If your bananas are very overripe, or you prefer a less sweet loaf, you may only need 5 tbsp, but otherwise use 6 tbsp (You can always taste the batter once mixed and add a little more). Whisk until combined.
- Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated and you have a thick batter. Scrape into your loaf tin, level out and sprinkle the coconut flakes on top, if using. Bake for 50–60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. If after 50 minutes the coconut flakes are starting the burn, you can put some tin foil over the loaf for the remaining time.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.