Banana Bread with Cherries & Poppy Seeds

My first and forever-and-forever favorite recipe for banana bread, rich with banana flavor, very banana-y. (That's thanks to very ripe bananas, even my favorite "black bananas"!) It calls for whole-wheat flour and wheat germ, so the recipe is even half healthful. But what really makes this banana bread special? Poppy seeds and those bright-red cheery cherries!

Banana Bread with Cherries & Poppy Seeds ♥ My first and favorite recipe, such cheery color.

Homemade Banana Bread, Made from Scratch. Real Food, Fresh & Inventive. Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Potluck & Party Friendly.

Can a New Pan Fix Super-Size Portions?

Nutrition experts cite super-size portions as one reason why Americans put on pounds.

I recently purchased a "tea loaf" baking pan called a "Danish Loaf Pan" that cuts the portion size of quick breads in half – kinda magic, just like that!

The pan holds the same volume as a standard 9x5 bread loaf pan but is shallower and longer, about twelve inches long, allowing for more slices. The longer size is especially perfect for rich quick breads but when the weather cools off, I’ll be trying it for bread too.

A half-inch thick slice from the new longer pan feeds up half the calories as one from a standard bread pan!

You can accomplish the same thing – sort of – by cutting a slice baked in a standard loaf pan in half. To my eyes, somehow that feels like a spoil-sport "half slice" where the tea loaf slice feels "just right" – weird but true.

UPDATE So sorry, my new heavy, high-quality "Danish Loaf Pan" has been discontinued by King Arthur Flour. Too bad, it remains my very favorite.

King Arthur does sell a stoneware version now called a "tea loaf pan" that's a similar size. It gets great reviews!

Speaking of super-sized portions, who's seen the 2004 documentary Super Size Me? I couldn't imagine becoming LESS excited about the fast-food chains that appear at every turn. This very watchable film has even turned my teenage nephews off McDonalds drive-throughs. Check it out on Amazon Prime, Super Size Me.

What's In Banana Bread? Almost All Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • All the Usual Wet Ingredients butter + brown sugar + eggs + buttermilk
  • Ripe Bananas 3 very ripe bananas, mashed into a banana paste
  • Flour a 50:50 blend of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour
  • Wheat Germ adds a measure of protein and nuttiness
  • Leavening baking soda
  • Spices cinnamon + nutmeg
  • Cherries a jar of maraschino cherries, drained
Banana Bread with Cherries & Poppy Seeds ♥ My first and favorite recipe, such cheery color.

Why in the World Add Maraschino Cherries to Banana Bread?

The first time was a happy accident, way back in ... the late 1980s, I think?

At the time, my sister and I lived in Texas, she in Houston, I in Dallas: it was a good five-hour drive back 'n' forth on I45 but we made the trip often.

One trip was unplanned. She called in tears: they'd just had their much-beloved cat put to sleep and wanted to bury him in my yard next to my own kitty. "Of course," I said. "Come ahead."

And I moved to the kitchen to cook comfort food for the weekend.

The rest is long, long forgotten but what we then dubbed "Crisis Banana Bread" became my go-to banana bread recipe, poppy seeds, maraschino cherries and all. And so a recipe is born ...

So now you know why my pantry is rarely without a jar of cherries. You just never know when fresh banana bread will bring comfort ...

Besides, years later, I still love how maraschino cherries add both welcome texture and bright, cheerful color. In fact, when I first published this recipe back in 2003, I called it "Cheery Cherry Banana Bread"!

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Wait for Really, Really Ripe Bananas I know, I know. You've got a couple of bananas on the counter, the kids won't eat them anymore because the skins are developing a few brown spots. "Banana bread!" you think. But banish that thought because really and truly, bananas with just a little bit of brown are not yet ready for banana bread, banana cake, banana muffins or anything else baked banana, either.

How ripe should bananas get before baking? Check out the very popular Ripe Bananas for Baking: How Ripe Should Bananas Be? and get tuned into "black bananas". You needn't wait quite that long but if you do, prepare to be amazed!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for cheerful-looking banana bread hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Banana Bread with Cherries & Poppy Seeds ♥ My first and favorite recipe, such cheery color.

(formerly Cheery Cherry Banana Bread, same recipe, new name!)

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 1 standard 8x4 or 9x5 loaf, about 16 slices
  • 1/2 cup (114g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (66g) brown sugar (use 2/3 cup if not using maraschino cherries)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (80g) buttermilk (or 1/3 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon vinegar)
  • 3 very ripe bananas or "black bananas", mashed
  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (95g) whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup (28g) wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup (35g) poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt, if using unsalted butter
  • 15-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained, optional but pretty and much welcome

Set oven to 350F/175C. Butter or spray a standard-size bread loaf pan, about 8x4 or 9x5 or a tea loaf pan with the same capacity.

WET INGREDIENTS In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in the eggs, then the buttermilk and bananas, combine well.

DRY INGREDIENTS In a separate bowl, stir together the Dry Ingredients very well, really mixing them together. Watch the spices and poppy seeds, once these are evenly distributed throughout, give it all another good stir or two or three for good measure, then call it ready.

COMBINE With a spatula, gently turn the Dry Ingredients into the Wet Ingredient mixture. Once the two are about halfway mixed, add the cherries and continue to combine, just until mixed. Turn the mixture into the prepared loaf pan, gently spreading it evenly across the pan.

BAKE for 30 – 40 minutes or until a thin knife or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

COOL for about 30 minutes before removing from the baking pan and cool completely before slicing.

This bread remains moist and keeps for several days. If it's out for more than a day, it should be wrapped well and stored in the refrigerator.

BAKING TIP Why do quick-bread recipes like this say to combine "just until mixed" and caution to "avoid over-mixing""? When you over-mix a quick-bread batter, past the point where the dry ingredients are just mixed in but no more, small holes will form during baking. It's not a total disaster but not as pretty as it could be. It's why I make sure you know to really mix the dry ingredients well, also why I suggest turning the dry ingredients and the cherries in with a spatula, not the mixer.
VARIATIONS This recipe adapts well! It makes a wonderful holiday loaf with fresh cranberries, I call it Christmas Banana Bread and it's this recipe, just all dressed up for Christmas. I think fresh cherries would work well, especially sour cherries. I'm not a fan but if you like Trader Joe's Dark Morello Cherries, go for it, just drain well. I do love Trader Joe's dried sour cherries but really do love the wetness of the maraschino cherries. How about fresh blueberries? I tried this just once, the results were okay but not special. And I really missed the bright cherry color!
ALANNA's TIPS: Watch if your grocer puts out too-ripe-to-sell bananas at a much-reduced price. How ripe should bananas be for baking? See these pictures of ripe bananas. Store wheat germ and whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer to retain freshness. While it's possible to find poppy seeds in the spice aisle at the grocery store, whoah, so expensive! Instead, watch for large bags of poppy seeds at an international market with imports from the Middle East or Eastern Europe. The maraschino cherries are optional but add color and texture contrast to the bread. If you like this bread fresh, try it lightly toasted too!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, nutrition info will be added later.
FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .

More Favorite Quick-Bread Recipes

~ quick breads (sweet) ~
~ quick breads (savory) ~
Shhh Banana Bread ♥, healthy low-fat banana bread, just 1 tablespoon oil and whole wheat flour. Weight Watchers Friendly!

Zucchini Bread with Carrot & Candied Ginger ♥, my go-to recipe, plenty of zucchini, carrot for color, ginger for zing, lots of spices. Stays fresh for days!

Autumn Pumpkin Bread ♥, moist, flavorful pumpkin bread, my forever-favorite recipe.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ buttermilk recipes ~
~ banana recipes ~
~ poppy seed recipes ~
~ wheat germ recipes ~
~ cherry recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2003 (print), 2009 (online), 2014 & 2022

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. These (slices) are so cute and the bread looks so yummy! ^^ I love how the little cherries look like kissing lips!

  2. Catherine11/18/2013

    This looks good. Do you have a recipe for a maraschino cherry and walnut bread? A friend used to make it a lot and I lost the recipe she gave me.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna