People are always trying to make bananas into ice cream, and who can blame them. Ice cream is really that bitch. She’s sweet and rich, cool but comforting, and one of the first things to go when the diet starts. These approximations are not bad – the frozen banana”light duty” that nearly took down Pinterest is admittedly delicious, and this TikTok user’s air-fried banana Jen Jones went viral for a reason. Bananas taste good, but they are not ice cream.
All that said, there is beauty in a fried banana. Jones cuts and fills hers with natural peanut butter, walnuts, chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles, before cooking it in a deep fryer at 400 degrees for “five to six minutes.” She ends it with yogurt and calls it a “healthy version of a banana split.”
Although there is no ice cream involved, the final product is inviting, like afried version of bonfire banana boats that were so popular on Pinterest a few years ago. (What’s up with Pinterest and bananas?) I (obviously) had to make my own fried plantain, but before trying Jones’s recipe, I wanted to dial back and let the banana speak for itself.
All you need is a spoonful of sugar.
As USA Today’s Heather Martin notes in your writing of the Jones recipe, hot bananas can take a while to get used to. “Boiled bananas may seem strange at first, but maybe you have Foster bananas beforeand bananacue (a combination of banana and barbecue) has been a staple of Filipino street food cuisine for decades.” The caramelization you get with a dessert like Foster bananas is what attracted me to a fried banana, so I cut one in half, sprinkled it with sugar until it shimmered, then put it in a deep fryer at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Finished with cinnamon and served with some whipped cream. It was great. I ate everything. The air-fried banana was softer and sweeter than its raw counterpart, and the sugar on top did indeed caramelize. And while it wasn’t As cracked like a burnt brûlée, there was enough texture contrast to keep it from being read as a “soft, hot banana”. I would eat it again, especially as a base for a real banana split (with ice cream).
No need to brown the banana lily
I followed Jones’ recipe quite closely when making my first fried banana split. I put a spoonful of peanut butter, sprinkled on some chocolate chips and walnuts and finished with a little cinnamon. Then I cooked it in a deep fryer at 400 degrees for seven minutes.
When I pulled it out, I noticed that parts of the nuts were burnt black, and some of the chocolate chips looked like they were burnt too (a bite confirmed this). The banana underneath was also not as tender or as sweet as the banana with sugar alone, which made sense as the banana had been completely split in two, exposing more flesh to the heating element.
Dissatisfied with the burnt walnuts and chocolate, I made another one, this time tucking the stuffing deeper into the crack in the banana and covering it with a layer of brown sugar to protect the walnuts.
There was less burning, but, as you can see in the photo just above this sentence, still any Burning. (This is where foil-wrapped campfire bananas have a slight advantage – the foil protects the fillings so they can melt and melt without burning while the banana fully softens.) Inferior, which is fine I think, especially if you don’t like the idea of a hot banana in the first place. I didn’t have any yogurt, so I ate my split with whipped cream (and sprinkles).
It was good, even pleasant, but I longed for that first banana with only sugar. I think cold yogurt would have helped give that ice cream vibe, but adding chocolate, peanut butter, and walnuts obscured the beautiful banana underneath and prevented it from reaching its full frying potential. The fillings blocked the heating element of most of the meat, leaving only the edges exposed, so only the edges caramelized.
If you want to try a fried plantain, I recommend starting simple. Cut the banana in half, sprinkle some sugar on top and let the sugar brown, bubble and caramelize in a deep fryer at 400 degrees. It may not be as flashy as a split, but you can always build a real split on top of it. I do, however, encourage you to try it without ice cream at least once. I think you’ll be surprised how wonderful a banana can be, especially when you let it be itself.