The Complete Guide to Caramelized Bananas
Caramelized bananas are amazing on ice cream, French toast, cheesecakes and more. But, what is the best recipe? I tried three different methods – made in a skillet, oven, and microwave – and share my results here.
If you’ve never had caramelized bananas, you are in for a treat! Bananas are naturally sweet, but once they are caramelized, they take on a more robust flavor and form a banana-flavored sauce that you can pour over just about anything!
What Are Caramelized Bananas?
Caramelized bananas are bananas that are cooked with butter and sugar. Two main transformations happen during that process:
- The bananas soften and are coated with with the caramel sauce.
- The caramel sauce thickens and takes on a banana flavor.
How Are Caramelized Bananas Served?
Caramelized bananas are delicious served in so many ways:
- I love warm caramelized bananas over vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
- They are perhaps most famous as an ingredient in Bananas Foster where rum is added to the mix. The alcohol causes flames to shoot up while the caramelized bananas are cooking, making the dessert famous for showy table-side preparations at restaurants.
- The sweet and buttery bananas are also amazing on French toast (like my brioche French toast) or as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal.
- Make a filled cupcake using a banana cupcake and caramelized bananas as the filling.
- Fill puff pastry or, even better, chocolate puff pastry, with them.
Should You Use Overripe Bananas ?
When you bake with bananas like in my banana cupcakes or my banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins, using overripe, almost black bananas is really important. When you make caramelized bananas, the banana peels should be yellow with just a few brown specks. If the bananas are overripe, they will turn to mush when you cook them.
How to Make Caramelized Bananas
There are three different ways to make caramelized bananas: fried on the stove top, in the oven, and in the microwave. Each one uses the same ingredients of butter, brown sugar, and bananas, but the methodology is different.
We found that the stove top method produced the best results. It was the only method where the sauce truly thickened up. That said, the other two methods both produced delicious results. Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Stove Top Fried Caramelized Bananas
Using a skillet on the stove top is the most common way of making caramelized bananas. It’s a tried and true method and produces outstanding results.
To make stove top caramelized bananas, start by melting butter in skillet on medium heat. I use unsalted butter, but in this case salted butter would also work just fine.
Next, add sliced bananas and brown sugar to the skillet.
Keep the heat at medium and start stirring. The sugar will melt and start to coat the bananas almost immediately. Keep on stirring until the sauce starts to thicken – about three minutes.
Tip: Keep a close watch on the sugar. You don’t want it to start boiling. If that happens, it can burn within seconds.
Oven-Baked Caramelized Bananas
I love the ease of making caramelized bananas in the oven. They come out perfect every time and they don’t need to be closely monitored like the caramelized bananas made on the stove top.
The downside of oven-baked caramelized bananas is that the sauce doesn’t thicken as much as the stove top version because the heat isn’t as high and direct. The dish tastes just as good, but the texture isn’t the same.
To make oven-baked caramelized bananas, place bananas in an oven-safe baking dish and dot with small pieces of butter.
Tip: As you see below, I sliced these bananas in long halves. You can slice the bananas any which way and the recipe will still work.
Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter and bananas. It doesn’t matter if some of it ends up in the pan and not on the bananas; there will be sauce in the pan at the end no matter how you sprinkle the sugar.
Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. When you remove the bananas from the oven, use a spoon to cover all of the bananas in the caramel sauce.
Microwaved Caramelized Bananas
There is do doubt that the microwave is the EASIEST way to caramelize bananas. Caramelized bananas made in the microwave are so quick to make for a last-minute topping for a breakfast or dessert dish. However, like the oven-baked variety, the sauce on the microwave bananas doesn’t thicken. Additionally, the bananas get mushy in the microwave. Microwaved caramelized bananas taste fantastic, but the texture just doesn’t stack up to either of the other two versions.
To make microwaved caramelized bananas, place sliced bananas in a microwave-safe baking dish, dot with butter, and top with brown sugar.
Microwave on high for two minutes. Add more time if needed based on the power of your microwave.
How to Slice a Banana Lengthwise
It’s easier to slice a banana lengthwise before you peel it. This helps to keep the banana from cracking. Slice through the whole banana, then cut off the ends and peel carefully.
Caramelized Banana Variations
Caramelized bananas are perfect with just three ingredients. However, if you want some variety, there are several ways to vary the recipe:
- Add a couple of tablespoons of rum, brandy, or other liqueur. We love it with Grand Marnier around here!
- If you are making the bananas in the oven or microwave, just pour the alcohol over the other ingredients before cooking.
- If you are using the stove top method, add the alcohol last. To give a great show, step back and tip the skillet over the stove’s flame or use a culinary torch to set the alcohol on fire for a moment or two.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of orange or pineapple juice. The juice adds depth to the caramel sauce.
- Try adding some spices like cinnamon or cardamom.
- Go for a major twist and make honey caramelized bananas like the ones from Fifteen Spatulas.
Best Tips for Making Caramelized Bananas
- If you have the time, use the stove top method. The results are the best!
- Use bananas that are just ripe – without too many brown spots. This helps to ensure that the bananas don’t turn to mush.
- When using the stove top method, don’t step away from the stove while the bananas are cooking. The sugar can burn really quickly.
If You Like Caramelized Bananas, You May Also Like…
- Strawberry banana bread (While this recipe doesn’t call for caramelizing the bananas first, it would be amazing it you did!)
- Banana cupcakes (You could top them with some caramelized bananas!)
- Bananas Foster cheesecake from Restless Chipotle (This sounds incredible!)
Fried Caramelized Bananas
- 2 tablespoons butter unsalted and salted both work
- 4 ripe bananas sliced in small rounds or in halves lengthwise
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- Melt butter in a small skillet on medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, add the bananas and brown sugar.
- Stir continuously to coat the bananas in the brown sugar and butter. The brown sugar should melt almost immediately.
- Keep stirring for about three minutes or until the caramel sauce thickens. Remove from the heat as soon as it thickens as it can quickly burn if kept on the heat for too long,
- Serve immediately.
- If you have the time, use the stove top method. The results are the best!
- Use bananas that are just ripe - without too many brown spots. This helps to ensure that the bananas are sweet, but don't turn to mush.
- When using the stove top method, don't step away from the stove while the bananas are cooking. The sugar can burn really quickly.
- Use the same ingredients.
- Place bananas in an oven-safe or microwave-safe baking dish, cut the butter into small pieces and distribute them evenly over the bananas.
- Top with the brown sugar.
- Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes or microwave on high for two minutes (microwave time may vary based on the power of your microwave).
- Use a spoon to cover any bare spots on the bananas with caramel sauce before serving.
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