Home baking has really ramped up (hello, banana bread), so it’s no surprise people are eager to try new ingredients as a way to vary their recipes. One way to do that is with alternative flours like almond, oat and even sweet potato, which can add different flavors and nutrients. Lately, many Americans have been experimenting with banana flour, a finely ground starch made from green bananas that has been commonplace in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America for centuries.
Banana flour is gluten-free, making it a good choice for those with gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. It’s also high in potassium, fiber and resistant starch and low on the glycemic index, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar levels.
If you’ve been curious about banana flour, here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve ever tried tostones, aka fried green plantains, you’ll know they taste more like potatoes than sweet plantains or bananas. That’s because green plantains and bananas are unripe, and their starch has not yet turned to sugar. (They get progressively sweeter as they ripen, which is why dark brown bananas are so sweet.)
Because of the drying and grinding process, banana flour has a light brown color. That means your baked goods come out a little darker than they would if you were using regular all-purpose flour.
Green bananas are a good source of resistant starch, which makes banana flour a good source, too. Resistant starch is a type of prebiotic fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, boosts insulin sensitivity (which helps keep your blood sugar steady), and breaks down slowly in your digestive tract to keep you satisfied for longer. While food labels don’t list resistant starch, it likely makes up most of the fiber in banana flour.
Banana flour is made by chopping and drying peeled green bananas, then grinding them into a fine powder with a texture similar to wheat powder, so naturally, it will have a faint banana flavor. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s a good idea to start by using it in something sweet like banana bread or a cake where the banana flavor will blend right in. It’s likely you can reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe, too.
Unlike other gluten-free flours such as coconut or almond flour, which are primarily made of fat, banana flour is high in starch. This is great for baked goods with a more tender crumb. If you’re substituting banana flour for wheat flours (where the gluten adds more chew), it won’t be a 1:1 ratio like other gluten-free flours. Instead, you’ll need less; as a rule of thumb, use 3/4 cup (112g) banana flour for every 1 cup (150g) of wheat flour in recipes.
Obviously, you can make banana bread with banana flour, but you can also use it to make savory quick bread like this black sesame and carrot recipe. For gluten-free baked goods, you can also use a combination of banana flour and another gluten-free flour (like oat flour) in muffins. Another great option is to use banana flour in baked goods that sneak in vegetables like this banana-zucchini bread or these spiced carrot and beet cupcakes.
Thanks to its starch content (and the fact it’s perfectly safe to eat raw), you can add a tablespoon or two of banana flour to smoothies for extra fiber and staying power from the resistant starch.
Also, instead of making a roux with flour and butter to thicken soups and curries, you can simply sift in 1 tablespoon at a time until its consistency is to your liking.
While you might be able to find banana flour in a local food or specialty shop, the easiest way to secure a bag is to purchase it online. Use it in any of the recipes linked above or search for more in the MyFitnessPal archive.