I had a bunch of overripe bananas and didn’t feel like making muffins, and yeasted banana bread, i.e. chocolate banana babka, seemed like it’d be amazing. It is. The soft banana dough combined with a slightly bitter chocolate filling is phenomenal and well worth trying.
This recipe isn’t any more complicated than cinnamon rolls, so if you can make those, you can make this bread. If braiding is a little out of your comfort zone, just roll it up and bake it that way instead.
The chocolate babka is very tender, and very much like a babka despite being all plant based. There’s no added oil, and the bread is very low in fat. There’s a small amount of maple syrup in the dough but it relies mostly on bananas for sweetness.
All in all, it’s a bread that looks and tastes decadent, but is surprisingly easy to make, and relies on fruit and dark chocolate for sweetness and flavour. If you like banana bread, you’ll love this.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: use light spelt flour for the best loaf and substitute plain white flour if preferred. I don’t recommend using whole wheat flour for this recipe. The original recipe called for a mix of sprouted and light spelt, which you can also use (sprouted is a bit lighter than normal whole grain spelt flour).
- Ganache: this is almost the same as a vegan chocolate ganache and very easy to make. You could use chopped chocolate instead if you want to skip this extra step.
- Add-ins: add a little cinnamon or cardamom to the bread dough if you’d like, but it’s excellent without any additions.
- Non-dairy milk: I always use oat milk. You can use another type or regular dairy milk if preferred.
This recipe skips the step of chilling the dough after the first rise to make it easier to shape into the twist. You can add a chilling step – about two hours in the refrigerator, after the first prove – and then roll out, add the filling, and shape. I never do it for this recipe but generally do for other babkas.
There is an extra step in the recipe for using traditional yeast. You can use quick rise, normal, fresh, or traditional yeast in the same quantity with the same method. The dough might rise slightly faster with quick yeast but I’ve never noticed much of a difference.
How to Store
Storage: while the bread is best the day it’s baked, it can be stored for up to three days in a sealed container. If it’s a couple days old, toast lightly in a frying pan to freshen it up a bit (the chocolate can burn in a regular toaster).
Freezing: freeze the whole loaf or individual slices in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw as usual.
- Watch the dough: this dough can over-prove quite quickly due to the added sugar in the bananas, so keep an eye on it, especially if your home is warm.
- Don’t over mix: spelt flour is more delicate than plain flour, and shouldn’t be kneaded as long. If subbing regular flour, you can quite easily double the kneading time – but watch for texture and feel the bread rather than going by timing alone.
- Choose ripe bananas: for the most banana flavour and sweetest bread, use overripe bananas that are quite spotty and brown.
More Sweet Bread Recipes
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Chocolate Banana Babka
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons yeast*
- 3 overripe bananas mashed well
- ½ cup non-dairy milk*
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
- 3 ½ – 4 cups light spelt flour
Coconut Milk Chocolate Ganache
- ¾ cup chopped dark chocolate*
- 1 cup coconut cream from the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm water and maple syrup. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let it sit for fifteen minutes to activate the yeast. If it's not foaming up, throw your yeast out and buy new.1/4 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 2 teaspoons yeast*
- Stir in the mashed bananas, milk, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla powder. Add the 1 cup of flour and stir with a wooden spoon or the stirring attachment on your mixer.3 overripe bananas, 1/2 cup non-dairy milk*, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
- Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it becomes too difficult, at which time you can turn it out onto a well floured surface and start kneading by hand. Use your dough hook for this step if you're using a mixer. Continue kneading and adding flour until a smooth, soft ball of dough forms. If it's too soft it'll be too hard to plait.3 1/2 – 4 cups light spelt flour
- Place the dough into a large greased bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. Prepare the ganache while the dough is proofing.
- Line a bread tin with parchment paper. I used a long, narrow tin, but a standard one will work just as well. You might need to bake it for an extra five minutes if your tin is quite wide.
- Once the dough has risen, generously flour a clean surface and set the dough onto it. Roll the dough out to about 3 cm thick and so that one side is the same length as your bread tin. Spread the ganache over it. Roll the dough up from the side that’s the length of your tin (like a jelly roll), then cut it lengthwise.
- Make an X with the two strands of dough, and then gently wrap each over the other until a plait forms. Gently pick the dough up and place it into the lined bread tin, tucking any messy ends underneath. Cover again and let it rise for an additional thirty minutes.
- While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden.
Coconut Milk Chocolate Ganache
- Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl over a small pot of boiling water. Don't let the bowl touch the water. Once all the chocolate has melted, whisk in the coconut cream, vanilla, and salt.3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate*, 1 cup coconut cream, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Cover and set aside to cool until you're ready to use it. There might be some extra leftover, depending on how much you want to use in your bread. If so, just eat it with a spoon or use it to ice cupcakes. I chose the spoon route.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was first published in May 2016. It has been updated without changes to the recipe as of January 2023.