The Pros and Cons of Baking with Banana Peels
Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the tour group is floating along on that nice, charming Oompa Loompa powered boat and then they enter a dark tunnel and everyone immediately knows something’s wrong, but they have no choice except to sit there and hope for the best as they speed further into the pitch-black abyss only to be surrounded by highly disturbing imagery—assumably designed with the intent of making viewers feel repulsed and anxious—as Gene Wilder sings some creepy little ditty that evolves into a terrifying vision about the fires of hell a-glowing?
Yeah. That’s more or less what I experienced the first time someone suggested I try incorporating pureed banana peels into a baked good.
This “hack” has surfaced in a handful of recipes circulating the Internet in recent months, and it was suggested during a daily staff meeting that I see if there’s anything to it. And I’m gonna tell you right now, the minute I digested what was being said to me in that moment, I became every legal guardian on that Wonka boat of the damned. I knew Violet’s dad’s panicked anger, Mike TV’s mom’s nausea, Veruca’s dad’s feeble attempt to self-soothe by singing along, and even Grandpa Joe’s optimistic hope that he could convince himself (and his grandson) that this absurdity is all in good fun.
Seriously though, banana peels.
Despite my immediate and unpleasant visceral reaction to the idea, I could (and still can) see the argument for it as a waste-reducing play. My real problem with the whole thing came when I started to look further into it and found people out here framing the concept as some brilliant baking technique the world had not yet discovered—one that would yield a more delightfully textured final product than any home baker would accomplish if, say, they did not puree compost into their cake layers.
That felt like a bit of a stretch to me. (Alright, to be honest, it felt like a generous stretch someone made in an attempt to paint an OK idea as a !!great!! idea.) With gross curiosity as my prime motivation, I experimented.
I made two loaves of banana bread, following this basic recipe I’ve used several times before; the key difference between the two loaves being that one contained banana peels and the other did not. Obviously, this was a fairly casual experiment, but I did make sure I used an equal weight of bananas in each of the two loaves and did my best to select six bananas that seemed to be in the same peer group as far as ripeness.
For the peel-enriched loaf, I trimmed and washed the peels from two of the three bananas called for in the recipe (using all three peels just felt excessive) before cutting them into pieces and simmering the peels in a small pot of water for about 12 minutes. I then transferred the peels and ¼ cup of the cooking liquid to a high-power blender and pureed everything into a smooth mixture, which I added to my banana bread batter. (As I mentioned, this particular quick bread recipe calls for three ripe bananas, but I have certainly made it using four when I’ve had more overripe bananas I’m trying to use up, so I wasn’t worried about the recipe being unable to take additional moisture.) Ultimately, I ended up needing to bake my peely loaf six minutes longer than the control loaf. Once both were cool enough to cut, I sliced on in, proceeded to dole out nanner bread, and interrogated an array of fellow editors and test kitchen staffers about it.
And here’s the thing, most people couldn’t identify any significant difference between the two loaves other than the peeled loaf being slightly more dense and notably less visually a-PEEL-ing. Though the splotchy, uneven coloration of the peel-enriched loaf wasn’t the most inviting, the peels’ presence did not contribute to or detract from the quick bread’s flavor appeal. If there was a miraculous, joy-inducing textural nuance going on, well, I hate to report that ten people who over-analyze food for a living missed it. So, why might one feel inclined to do this?
Here’s what I know...
Pros of Baking with Banana Peels
- You avoid throwing a couple of banana peels into the garbage
- You need not own a compost bin in order to accomplish avoiding throwing a couple of banana peels into the garbage
- They’re not nearly as obtrusive within a baked good as you might think; in fact, they’re mostly undetectable
- Banana peels contain nutrients such as vitamins B6 and B12, plus magnesium and potassium.
- They contribute moisture without intense banana flavor
Cons of Baking with Banana Peels
- You should really buy organic bananas in order to do this, and bananas are one fruit next to no one buys organic… because the fruit is protected by a hearty peel that you wouldn’t typically eat.
- Though not technically difficult, washing, trimming, boiling, and pureeing banana peels is kind of a pain when you look at the amount of time and number of dirty dishes it adds to the baking process
- There’s no real payoff in terms yielding a “better” (i.e. more delicious and enjoyable) final product. In the case of banana bread, you produce a kinda homely “quick bread” that no longer feels all that quick to make.
Point being, baking with banana peels will make such an unremarkable difference in your day-to-day existence, I don’t think there’s a definitive a right or wrong answer here. If incorporating the mighty banana’s all-natural packaging into your baked goods feels like exhilarating work to you, by all means, do ya thang. You owe nobody an explanation. And if you’re of the mindset that when you spend a little extra time on something like banana bread, you want the enhancement to be somewhat flashier, that’s also valid. Might I suggest you try one of these beauties on for size:
Supposing you still feel in any way torn or confused about this whole idea, please forget that I ever brought it to your attention. It’s not worth it. Go find yourself a nice compost bucket (I like this one!), stick with the banana bread you know/love, and keep on keeping on. Everything is fine.