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We Baked Betty’s Best Banana Bread with a Simple Substitute and Couldn’t Stop Eating It

Created March 23, 2020
How to make banana bread with applesauce
We bet you can’t spot the difference! MORE+ LESS-

First of all, we want to make it clear that Betty’s banana bread is PERFECT the way it is. With more than 1,000 positive reviews, it’s obvious we’re not the only ones who adore this recipe. It consistently turns out nicely browned on the outside, sweet and moist within, and perfumed of banana. Added to its list of attributes is the fact that it’s made with basic ingredients, which means we get to enjoy this recipe frequently.

However, as passionate bakers, we do occasionally find ourselves short on butter (and long on overripe bananas). Not too long ago, one of our editors found herself in that position on a snowy winter weekend. Instead of trudging out to buy butter, she decided to bake the banana bread with only half the amount called for, plus a creative substitute to make up for the other half.

The Substitute

So, what’s this all-star substitute? Play a bit of “spot-the-difference” in the photo below (hint: turn your attention to the loaf pans). See that nondescript ingredient in the measuring cup on the lower right-hand side? It’s applesauce!

ingredients for making banana bread with applesauce

Applesauce is the ingredient that can save the day when you want to make banana bread and there’s not enough butter in the house. It adds moisture and tenderness, two of butter’s most important jobs in this recipe. And while it doesn’t have the same richness as butter, butter is not the only ingredient flavoring the bread. Don’t forget about the bananas, nuts, sugar and the baking process itself, which leads to further flavor development. So, don’t underestimate what this kid-friendly, shelf-stable ingredient can do for your banana bread!

The Method

In the name of science, we took our fellow editor’s experiment to the Betty Crocker Kitchens. For proper comparison, we made two loaves: one following the recipe as written with ½ cup butter, and the second with ¼ cup butter and ¼ applesauce.

The question that we wanted to answer was: “Would the loaf with the applesauce substitute still hold its own in a side-by-side comparison?”

Even with only ¼ cup butter, we found it was possible to use the creaming method, i.e. mixing butter and sugar until fluffy. This is one of the first steps in this recipe, and it’s crucial for a well-mixed batter that bakes up into a loaf with nice texture and shape. The action creates lots of tiny holes in the butter so that when you add the wet ingredients, and then the dry ingredients, they easily integrate into the butter-sugar mixture. Adding the ingredients in this order helps rule out the risk of over-mixing your dry ingredients, which can lead to gluten development and a chewy, tough loaf. Our batter turned out moist, well-mixed and not overworked, and it baked up into a lovely, golden-brown loaf that looked no different from the one baked with ½ cup butter. (Remember that picture at the top of the story?)

The answer to our question turned out to be a resounding yes! But one question remained (the most important one!): How would it taste?

The Results

Our team of editors gathered around the cooling racks as soon as our loaves were out of the oven, lured by the intoxicating smell of fresh banana bread. After what felt like the longest-ever wait for it to cool, slices were shaved off and doled out for a side-by-side taste test. There were muffled “mmm”s, brows furrowed with concentration, and more than one person asking, “Which one is which?”

The end result? The loaf made with applesauce held its own. These were our biggest takeaways:

  • Creaming is the key to texture. Thanks to the creaming method, both loaves baked to an ideal shape and had similarly tender textures and moist crumbs.
  • Flavor difference was minimal. Using a full stick of butter offered a more distinct buttery flavor and richness, as expected. But it was richness that we wouldn’t have missed if we hadn’t been eating the two loaves side by side.

Now that you’ve got this handy hack in your back pocket, a perfect loaf of banana bread is nearly always an option! Ready to give it a try?

How to Make Banana Bread with Applesauce

Follow the banana bread with this adjustment to step 2:

Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in applesauce and eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.

No applesauce? No worries! There are even more butter substitution options! You could also try it with ¼ cup sour cream or ¼ cup Greek yogurt in place of the applesauce—just remember, you’ll still need ¼ cup butter for that all-important creaming step.

And if you need more emergency substitution advice, check out the suggestions from our Test Kitchens.