Bananas are full of surprises. In fact, the plant is actually a giant herb—and the banana is technically a berry. It's one of the few fruits that announces its ripeness on the outside, and there are about as many unexpected ways to enjoy it as there are shades of green, yellow, and brown in its skin.
Grown in the tropics year-round, bananas never go out of season—but they aren't going to waste, either: Americans eat more of them than any other fruit. So we got inspired by your No. 1 snack, and transformed it in these recipes, using it in classics—see our take on the ultimate smoothie—as well as in curveball ways: bananas + lime + a few more tasty ingredients = a sensational zesty salsa to serve with seafood.
In our tropical take on this classic fruit salad, we call for two bananas, one apple, one small celery stalk, and 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans for the base. For the dressing, we use seasoned rice vinegar to add sweetness without too much acidity. You can find it in the international section of your market, or substitute apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar. A teaspoon of orange zest adds extra brightness and color, and ¼ cup mayonnaise keeps the Waldorf true to its roots.
- Recipe: Banana Waldorf Salad
Made with long-grain white rice, three bananas, orange juice, curry powder, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, shredded sweetened coconut, and coconut milk, this recipe is an adventurous way to celebrate the banana. To turn the flavorful side dish into a hearty meal, stir in two cups of grilled and chopped chicken, and then chill the mixture in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve, top with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.
- Recipe: Coconut-Curry Bananas and Rice
This fruit-filled smoothie is perfect for breakfast or a midday snack. To make, combine one large frozen banana, one cup of frozen blueberries, one cup of orange juice, one cup of plain yogurt or milk, and one tablespoon wheat germ (optional) in a blender until coarsely chopped. All that’s left to do is sip and enjoy. Keep a stash of frozen bananas on hand—they're great in smoothies because they add flavor and body.
- Recipe: Banana Berry Smoothie
This dessert is especially fun when served in personal-sized ramekins. It combines elements of a classic fruit crumble—breadcrumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter—with bananas and a surprise ingredient: bitters (they’re not just for cocktails). Here, we call for bitters not only in the crumble, but in the Bitters-and-Butter Sauce that tops it. The classic cocktail ingredient adds unique flavor and aroma to the simple dessert.
- Recipe: Banana Crumble
What’s better than fresh fish and a topping of colorful salsa at the beach? We can’t think of much, unless it’s the glass of crisp white wine we’d pour as the perfect accompaniment. Our Banana-Lime Salsa calls for lime zest, lime juice, honey, salt, bananas, jalapenos, red onion, cilantro, and a dash of chili powder. To add extra flavor to the fish, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt, black pepper, and ground cumin before grilling.
Any dessert that calls for rum is a friend of ours. In this tropical treat, we cook fresh bananas in brown butter and top with a velvety sauce of rum, milk, lemon zest, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Browning the butter adds a rich, nutty flavor to the sauce, but it's tricky to see in a dark, coated skillet. Use a stainless steel skillet to make sure the butter reaches a golden-brown hue without burning.
If banana bread went on a sunny island vacation and had a fling with a pineapple, you’d get something like these scrumptious cupcakes. And of course we can’t forget the topper of classic cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes will have a richer flavor if you toast the nuts before baking. Spread them in a single layer in a jellyroll pan, and bake at 350° for 5 to 8 minutes. Check frequently, because they burn easily.
- Recipe: Tropical Banana Cupcakes