Sweet Treat or Workout Fuel? Vegan, Oil-Free Banana Bread


Note from Matt: This recipe post comes courtesy of Stepfanie Romine, co-author of The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. (And don’t forget, today is the last day to get our upcoming video series on oil-free, microwave-free cooking as a bonus when you pre-order the cookbook! Details here.)

One of the great things about being an endurance athlete is that you have a great excuse to eat sweet baked goods by calling it fuel.

But despite my love of cooking (and yummy baked goods), I’m not much of a baker.

There are a few exceptions, however, guided mostly by my husband’s sweet tooth and need for high-carbohydrate, real food snacks to gear up for long bike rides. (He even sometimes brings some, like this one, along with him.)

I make big batches of Miyoko Schinner’s whole-grain waffles (from her book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry), scones from the forthcoming The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and banana bread — my preferred sweet treat.

Growing up, we had cakes on birthdays and cookies during the holidays, but it was banana bread that always popped up on a regular basis. My stepmom’s version was classic: white flour and lots of white sugar, butter and eggs.

Though she made the recipe every few weeks for years, she would always dig out the weathered index card from her recipe box before she started baking, reading over each line, and by the time I was in high school, I was often the one poring over that note card to whip up a loaf for the family.

Once finished, we’d slather thick slices still warm from the oven with margarine — yes, margarine from a giant beige tub. Ah, the 90s.

A loaf rarely lasted more than a couple of days.

Banana bread isn’t a glamorous dessert, but nor is it a particularly challenging one to make. It makes use of overly ripe bananas that would otherwise be destined for the compost pile. Those humble roots make me love banana bread even more.

In this crazy, mixed-up world of unicorn toast and tie-dye bagels, I’ll take a hearty slice of banana bread any day.

My Vegan and Oil-Free Version of the Humble Banana Bread

For years, I didn’t have my “own” banana bread recipe. I experimented with different versions: with vegan “butter” and later coconut oil; with and without add-ins like nuts and chocolate; in muffin, loaf and even cake form.

Finally, this year, I set out to create a version that satisfied my cravings as well as my desire for a nutrient-packed banana bread. This one is nothing like the one from my childhood, and I like it even more.

It takes 45 minutes to bake and only 15 minutes (tops) to prepare. There’s not much mess, so there’s one less factor that typically deters me from baking. All in all, it’s a perfect recipe to integrate into your weekly meal planning routine.

Best of all? It’s oil-free. When it comes to banana bread, that doesn’t happen much.

This banana bread is slightly sweet — there’s just ¼ cup sugar plus the bananas (and whatever sweetener is in the chocolate chips you choose to use) — and it’s surprisingly light despite using a combo of oats and whole-wheat flour. I bake one batch every week to 10 days, whenever we have a half-dozen extra-ripe bananas in the house.

This recipe yields up to 24 slices, and we eat it just as often for breakfast and snacks as we do for “dessert.” And, since it holds together nicely on the go, Sam takes this on bike rides and I pack it on hikes. Just wrap a slice or two in parchment, then tuck into a plastic bag or reusable one.

My standard recipe uses chocolate chips or cacao nibs for sweetness plus walnuts for crunch (and more nutrition), but the beauty of this recipe is its versatility. I’ve listed several options below, but you can get creative.

Ready to give it a try? Here’s the recipe:

Oil-Free Vegan Banana Bread Recipe

2.3 from 3 reviews
Oil-Free Vegan Banana Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 loaf
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup raw sugar (such as turbinado)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (see note)
  • 1 ½ cups oats
  • 2 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (see note)
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or 2 loaf pans) with parchment or lightly grease with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. Puree the bananas in a blender, then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add the sugar, vanilla and coconut milk to the banana puree, and stir well to combine. Stir in the oats, and set aside for 10 minutes. (This allows the oats to soften. If you skip this step, the bread will still turn out just fine, but the oats will stay slightly dry in the center. This will yield a tougher, drier loaf overall.)
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, flax, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  6. After the oats have soaked, use a sturdy wooden spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the wet a third or so at a time, until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips or cacao nibs and walnuts. Reserve a few for the top, if desired.
  8. Transfer to your prepared baking dish, using a spatula to smooth it to the edges. (The batter will only be about an inch deep.)
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (If you use two loaf pans, start to check the bread after 40 minutes.)
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing using a serrated knife. If using a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cut down the center lengthwise first. Cover tightly and consume within five days before best results. You can also freeze individual slices for up to three months. Wrap slices first in parchment, then place in an air-tight container.
  11. If your coconut milk has separated into solids and liquids, aim for about ⅔ solids and ⅓ liquids. I prefer whole-wheat pastry flour, which is finely ground, and produces a softer, less dense final product.
There are several variations to explore. You can swap chopped pecans or macadamia nuts for the walnuts, add dried cranberries, currants or raisins for the chocolate chips, or sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of the banana bread.. For a spicier version, stir in chopped candied or crystallized ginger, and for a creamier version, swirl in ¼ cup nut butter into the dough (don’t mix it in entirely so you can see it and taste it).





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  1. Sandra, Italy says:

    Yeaaaa, I’m an over ripe banana fiend so I’m definitely trying this one out! 😎

  2. What are the notes on coconut milk and whole wheat flour? Not seeing them?

  3. In the ingredients, it states full fat coconut milk (see notes). However, in the notes there is no mention of the full fat coconut milk. Please tell me what the note for the coconut milk should’ve been. Thank you much.

  4. Have you tried making this gluten free? Wondering if it still works…

  5. oil-free great! … yummy but puuh bloody imperial system arghs … dont have cups at hand 🙁

  6. John Hancorn says:

    Will definitely make this, or something close. Not sure how cacao nibs would add any sweetness as they’re just chunks of roasted cacao bean. They’re good and healthy but bitter, not sweet, not even bittersweet.

  7. The name of this banana bread is kind of misleading. It may be “oil-free” with respect to typical vegetable oils, but the bread is extremely high in fat. Coconut fat becomes liquid when warmed. Nearly all the high repute doctors helping people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and high blood lipids and triglycerides recommend a lower fat diet. There’s no need to cook with added fats, which is what coconut “milk” basically is.

  8. It’s not really “oil free” if it has full-fat coconut milk. The fat in the coconut milk subs for oil… kind of the same thing, perhaps a bit less refined? I feel like labeling this recipe to be “oil free” gives people the idea that it’s light but with full-fat coconut milk, it’s not light.

  9. Michelle says:

    In terms of the note regarding whole wheat flour, can you use all purpose flour too? Thanks!

  10. I wanted to love this recipe. Then I saw full fat coconut milk. Not only is coconut milk full of fat; it’s very unhealthy in other ways, too. So disappointed that what could have been a healthy recipe is just as unhealthy as the recipes that use oil and eggs.

    • Charlie says:

      I heartedly agree. And it’s completely unnecessary for the recipe, and one’s health.

      I’m also disappointed that my comment made a couple of weeks ago about how unhealthy coconut is (even low-fat), with a quote by Dr. Esselstyne, never made it to the comments here.

  11. Hi there, just looking at your newest cookbook, can you please tell me are the interior pages gloss or matte finishes? Thank you

  12. Everybody who is freaking out about oil and coconut milk and whatever- guess what? Almost every single food has some fat content. It may be minute, but it’s there. The recipe is clearly oil free- you could extract oil from almost anything. This recipe has no added oil. It has a more concentrated fat source- foods are on a spectrum like that. But oil is not one of the ingredients. We are ok- let’s breathe.
    Also- what’s arguably worse for your health, would be nit picking. We are so lucky to have access to good food. If you medically have to be on an extremely low fat diet, then avoid higher fat foods- you know the ones!
    Can’t wait to make this delicious banana bread. Thank you for the recipe!

  13. I made the recipe as listed…added about a tsp of cinnamon as well as chocolate chips. I sprinkled the top with brown sugar! I made them as muffins. They tasted amazing!

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