Almost Grandma’s (Whole Wheat) Banana Bread

Today I felt brave.  Perhaps it was because I hadn’t done a recipe post in over a week—and was itching to try something new.  Or the fact that I was “up north” to spend a little extra time with our oldest while my husband stayed with the younger kids.  After not feeding her in forever during her junior year abroad last year, I wanted to make something tasty and healthy and connected with family.

Making Family Recipes Healthier

I have been making my grandmother’s banana bread recipe for years.  I’d already made it a little healthier by reducing the sugar and fat.  Did you know that 1/4 cup of oil will almost always work fabulously in a loaf of sweet bread or dozen muffins (you may need to add a little other liquid if it is dry but I was never satisfied with the full applesauce switch) adding flavor and retarding staling at about a teaspoon of fat per serving?

But now I wanted to go further.

Sweat breads and muffins are excellent candidates for whole wheat flour substitution.  You don’t need (and in fact don’t want) the gluten development that white flour facilitates, sweet breads are already a bit dense and moist so any texture changes are usually acceptable, and the typical bright flavorings mean you retain balance with any wheat-y taste that is added.   But still I was nervous.

I needn’t have been.  Two loaves later…  mmmmm.  Not so brave?  Go halfsies and use half whole wheat, half unbleached flour!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread, Cooling

Whole Wheat Banana Bread


  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas mashed (or 2 larger ones)
  • 1/4 + cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)


1.  Beat together first six ingredients.

2.  Mix the dry ingredients. Add them to the first mixture.  Beat well. If batter seems dry, add 1-2 T extra milk.  Fold in nuts if using.

3.  Pour into in two 7 ½ x 3 ½ in. greased pans.  Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes, testing for doneness with toothpick.  (I often double the recipe and use 3 regular bread pans.)

4.  Enjoy!

(Grandma) Helen Wilkerson

Is there a favorite family recipe that you’ve adapted to be healthier?

16 thoughts on “Almost Grandma’s (Whole Wheat) Banana Bread

  1. Promenade Claire

    A fabulous photo of grandma Helen
    And until blogging I hadn’t thought of using oil instead of butter – I’ve tried it a couple of times and have bene delighted with the results. The bread looks perfect, I’m sure grandma would have another slice!

  2. Beth

    Substituting half whole-wheat flour in recipes is one of the easiest ways to make a recipe healthier! I don’t do it with all my recipes, but anything with oatmeal, or raisins, or fruit of any kind, is a prime candidate. No one has ever noticed the difference, and it just makes me feel a little better about the baking I do.

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      I do half whole wheat pretty much all the time myself–with a few rare exceptions. You are right, it really works well. After this, I’m wondering how many more things I could use all whole wheat flour in…

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