Banana bread is the quintessential American quick bread. Its rise in popularity began during the Great Depression when overripe bananas were repurposed into this now classic treat. This hearty vegan banana bread uses rye flour and molasses for a rustic presentation and unique taste. Pair it with a 4-ingredient vegan cream cheese frosting for a healthy-ish sweet treat!
This recipe was originally non-vegan (it contained eggs) when I first published it. Turns out, converting it to a vegan recipe is as easy as swapping the eggs with vegan yogurt.
Banana Bread with Rye Flour
Last week my produce box came with four bananas, and I knew immediately that I wanted to turn them into some kind of baked goods. Whenever I get bananas, my first thought is to use them in a recipe, rather than eat them fresh. I guess it’s because bananas are so versatile and used in so many ways, that it almost seems boring to just peel and eat ’em.
Another reason: these bananas were yellow and ripe when they arrived, and I really hate eating ripe bananas! I like bananas best when they still have a tinge of green. (Surely I’m not the only one, right? Who’s with me??)
I’ve been looking for excuses to use my loaf pan more often, so I decided to make banana bread. But not just any banana bread—a rye flour molasses banana bread. I had some rye flour left in the pantry that needed using up, so I figured why not? Rye flour has such an interesting, nutty taste that is perfectly suited for a hearty loaf like banana bread. Let’s see if using rye would make a noticeable difference in the taste and texture.
What You’ll Need
To make rye flour banana bread with cream cheese frosting, you’ll need the following ingredients:
Banana Bread Batter
Bananas (self explanatory, right?) For the banana batter, you’ll need 1½ cups of mashed banana (around 3 large bananas or 4 smaller ones). Don’t worry about mashing too carefully, the stand mixer will help mash the bananas when you’re mixing up the batter. If you have an extra banana lying around, you can leave it whole for decorating the top of the loaf.
Vegan butter or margarine. I’ve experimented with all kinds of fancy butters but really, a cheapo margarine will do just as well in this recipe. You won’t taste the difference in the end result.
White granulated sugar. Since we’re using molasses in this recipe, which has a strong caramelized flavour, you should use granulated sugar instead of brown sugar here. As written, this recipe has a good amount of sweetness but is less sweet than a banana bread you’d typically buy from a bakery or restaurant. If you prefer a sweeter banana bread, increase the amount of sugar by 1/4 cup (50g).
Fancy molasses add a nice caramelized, brown sugary flavour in addition to ensuring the banana bread stays moist. I don’t recommend subbing out the fancy molasses with blackstrap molasses which tastes way too strong. Maple syrup is a better alternative. Maybe corn syrup would work too but I haven’t tested this recipe with corn syrup yet.
Vegan Yogurt is acidic, which reacts with baking soda to help the banana bread rise nice and fluffy. It also adds the necessary moisture to prevent the banana bread from drying out in the oven.
For more ways to use up vegan yogurt, check out the Coconut Yogurt Recipes roundup. Most of these recipes can be made with any type of plant-based yogurt, not just coconut.
There are many types of spice blends you can use in banana bread. Typically you want something cinnamon-based. Here are some options:
- Apple pie spice (British-American)
- Chai masala (Indian)
- Koekkruiden (Dutch)
- Mixed spice (English)
- Pumpkin pie spice (American)
- Spekkoek (Dutch-Indonesian)
- You can also use just 1 tsp of ground cinnamon or cardamom. Or leave out the spices entirely.
Rye flour—I am using dark rye flour to really bring out the unique taste of rye here. I do not recommend substituting with white flour or whole wheat flour, because they absorb varying amounts of moisture and your banana bread may come out overly dry, or underbaked. This recipe is specifically formulated for rye flour.
Baking powder and baking soda to help the banana bread rise.
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
There’s a banana bread I used to buy from my high school cafeteria that was sold in little saran-wrapped bundles with cream cheese frosting sandwiched tightly between two slices. (In fact, it’s still my favourite banana bread ever! Not sure if that’s because it was one of the first banana breads I remember eating, or because it really was that delicious…) Anyway, I decided to make my own veganized cream cheese icing to emulate that good old taste of nostalgia. You only need four ingredients:
Vegan cream cheese—I tested different brands of vegan cream cheese and my favourite for cream cheese frosting is Sheese Creamy Original Spread. Other brands like Earth’s Own and Daiya have a bit of an overpowering coconut flavour. On the other hand, cream cheese from brands like Humble Seedz and Spread’em Kitchen are a bit too salty and are more suited for savoury applications. You might want to experiment with which cream cheese product works for you, or just go with my recommendation for Sheese.
You must use powdered sugar, aka confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar, to get the correct texture of cream cheese frosting, otherwise it’ll come out very gritty. (Both regular powdered sugar and sugar-free alternatives like Swerve will work.)
Cream Cheese Frosting Taste Test
Vegan cream cheese frosting is one of the easiest frostings you can make imo. You don’t have to worry about it splitting or the sugar not dissolving properly, it doesn’t get hard and gritty in the fridge, and it takes less than five minutes to whip up from start to finish. Since I’ve never really paid attention to the particulars of cream cheese frosting, I decided to take this chance to do a mini taste test.
I started by mixing up a basic batch of frosting with just three ingredients: vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, and icing sugar, and spread it on one slice of the banana bread. Then I added a splash of vanilla extract, and spread it on a second slice. For the third slice, I mixed in half a tsp of cardamom powder with the icing.
- Frosting #1: Pretty good. Together with the banana bread, it almost transported me back to my high school days.
- Frosting #2: I immediately noticed the difference made by the vanilla extract. Even though frosting #1 tasted great before I tasted the second frosting, it now tasted flat and just plain sugary, with not much depth beyond that. Frosting #2 definitely enhanced the taste.
- Frosting #3: Couldn’t taste a difference between #2 and #3. I tried hard to see if I could make out the extra kick of cardamom, but I couldn’t. The banana bread was probably already so heavily spiced that the extra cardamom just blended into the background.
Then I fed all three slices to Kevin for a truly blind taste test, and the results were anticlimactic. All three slices tasted the same to him. He thought Frosting #3 tasted a little less sour (so maybe the cardamom and vanilla flavours toned down the tanginess of the cream cheese). But overall, he couldn’t tell them apart.
Kevin did like all three, though, which is enough for me. When I first mentioned pairing cream cheese and banana bread together, he was grossed out. But after tasting it for himself, he admits that it’s a yummy combination!
Start by preheating the oven to 350 °F, and mix together the batter:
Beat together bananas, butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, and yogurt on high for 2 minutes. It will look kind of split and curdled, but that’s normal.
Add spices (optional), rye flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together on medium-low speed until just combined; a few streaks of flour here or there is okay.
Transfer banana bread batter into a greased or parchment paper-lined loaf pan.
For optional decoration: arrange the two halves of the reserved banana, sliced side up, on top of the loaf.
Bake the banana bread at 350 °F (175 °C) for 1 hour. Once baked, turn onto a cooling rack.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat butter and cream cheese together, starting at slow speed to incorporate. Then ramp up to high speed to whip some air into the mixture.
Add sugar in two batches, blending slowly to start then gradually increasing speed to medium until fully incorporated.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Once the banana bread has cooled, slice and spread with frosting.
It’s best to cool bread completely before slicing, but quick breads don’t suffer as much if you cut into them sooner. As for us, we waited a little over an hour; the bread was still warm, but it was getting late at night and I didn’t want to have to wait until morning to try the bread. Nothing better than tasting a loaf still warm from the oven!
Make Ahead & Storage
This vegan rye flour banana bread can be kept for five days at room temperature. Keep it tightly wrapped with plastic or in an airtight container. I like to spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting over each slice to keep it super moist and soft! In fact, the frosting gets better the next day.
Banana bread can be frozen. I recommend cooling it down completely, slicing it, then sticking a piece of parchment paper between each slice. This allows you to take out only as much as you need each time. Wrap up the whole loaf tightly. In the freezer, it will last for several months. Freeze the cream cheese frosting separately and let it thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
What’s the best way to reheat banana bread? For bread at room temperature, you can either eat it without reheating, or toss it straight into the toaster. (I like to eat banana bread cold personally.) For frozen bread: microwave for 10 seconds at room temperature to soften up, then finish in the toaster.
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Vegan Rye Flour Banana Bread
Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.
- Electric mixer (stand mixer or hand mixer)
- Large mixing bowl
Banana Bread Batter
- 1½ cup mashed bananas approx 3 large bananas
- 1 small banana *optional; slice it in half lengthwise and leave for decorating the top of the loaf
- ½ cup vegan butter, softened
- ¾ cup sugar see Note 1
- 2 tbsp fancy molasses see Note 2
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup Homemade Vegan Yogurt *can sub with any plain yogurt of your choice
- 1 tsp spice mix of your choice *optional; see Note 3
- 2½ cups rye flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup vegan butter
- 8 oz vegan cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2½ cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Beat together bananas, butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, and yogurt on high for 2 minutes or until everything is mixed together.
- Add spices (optional), rye flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix on medium-low speed until just combined; a few streaks of flour here or there is okay.
- Optional decoration: lay the two halves of the reserved banana, cut-side-up, on top of the loaf.
- Bake at 350 °F for 60 minutes. Turn out onto a wire cooling rack and let stand for at least 1 hour.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat butter and cream cheese together, starting at slow speed to incorporate. Then ramp up to high speed to whip some air into the mixture.
- Add sugar in two batches, blending slowly to start then gradually increasing speed to medium until fully incorporated.
- Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Do not spread frosting onto the banana bread until it has fully cooled, or else the frosting will melt!
- As written, this recipe has a good amount of sweetness but is less sweet than a banana bread you’d typically buy from a bakery or restaurant. If you prefer a sweeter banana bread, increase the amount of sugar by 1/4 cup (50g).
- Fancy molasses add a nice caramelized, brown sugary flavour in addition to ensuring the banana bread stays moist. I don’t recommend subbing it out with blackstrap molasses which taste way too strong. Maple syrup is a better alternative. Or just use more sugar in its place.
- There are many types of spice blends you can use in banana bread. Typically you want something cinnamon-based. Here are some options: