If you're looking to change up your reliance on wheat flour there's no shortage of options. Quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat, legumes, nuts and seeds galore—all are ground up into meals and powders known as “alternative,” “grain-free,” or “wheat-free” flour. A lesser known non-wheat flour has gotten my attention lately, and it’s actually made from a fruit: green banana flour.
Also known simply as banana flour, green banana flour is a powder made from peeled unripe bananas that are dried and ground. Commonly used in Haitian, Jamaican, West African, and Central American cooking, green banana flour can be used as any other grain-free flour, in anything from pastas to breads to cakes.
Considering that banana isn’t exactly a neutral flavor, it’s easy to brush past green banana flour in the grocery store for fear of its flavor overpowering the dishes it’s cooked into. Does green banana flour work like a fruity King Midas, turning everything it touches into a banana-flavored food?, you might wonder. Nope, not at all. Straight from the container, green banana flour has a very mild banana flavor, and no flavor at all when cooked.
If you’ve ever done any vegan baking you’re probably already familiar with the notion of subbing in mashed bananas for dairy-based fat like egg yolks and butter. Turns out, when in flour form, the fruit does a bang-up job mimicking go-to binding agents and thickeners like white and wheat flour. Like most recipes made with alternative flours, recipes made with green banana flour may require the addition of ingredients like xanthan gum, guar gum, and psyllium husk in order to mimic the spongy, sticky qualities of gluten. However, most green banana flour can be used alone to substitute wheat.
Additionally, because of green banana flour’s high starch content (once bananas ripen, much of that starch is converted into sugar), it can be used in smaller quantities than standard wheat flour. Consult each individual package for percentages of how much less green banana flour one should use when adapting a wheat flour recipe, as each may vary slightly.
So next time you're reaching for the almond meal to prep your weekly batch of breakfast cookies (other people do this too, right?), consider changing up that flour for a fruitier option.