Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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A vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free banana bread that’s perfect for the fall! With baked kabocha squash and pumpkin spices, it’s cozy and warminging, but also made with wholesome ingredients like almond flour and sweetened with just bananas and coconut sugar. Plus, an easy tip to (almost) instantly ripen bananas!
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 15 mins

As you might be able to tell from my recent recipes, I am no stranger to pumpkin recipes. The last three recipes I published have all been pumpkin-flavored:
  • Pumpkin Bread with Cashew Buttercream Frosting

  • Pumpkin Sheet Pancakes

  • One-Pot Pumpkin Alfredo

BUT, if I am being perfectly honest, my absolute favorite fall vegetable is kabocha squash, hence this Vegan, Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Banana Bread! In fact, I even made a whole Youtube video about kabocha squash—how to cut it, how to cook it, and how to incorporate it into your meals. If you want a savory idea for kabocha squash, the video features the creamiest kabocha squash curry recipe!

Since my recent pumpkin bread was not gluten-free, I wanted to ensure this bread was gluten-free for all my gluten intolerant followers. If you read the blog post, you know it can be very difficult to make a vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, AND oil-free baked good, especially a quick bread or loaf cake, which tend to bake unevenly.

That’s why this bread is three of those things: vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free. There is some oil in the bread (1/4 cup) and some in the optional streusel (2 tablespoons). While I love creating healthified, veganized goods, taste is my #1 criteria in delivering recipes. If the cake doesn’t taste good, it’s not going up on the blog or Youtube channel. Occasionally, I’ll receive comments/questions along the lines of “there’s too much sugar in this cake.” My answer (if I choose to answer):

“Duh, it’s CAKE. If you don’t want to eat sugar, eat a head of kale.”

That said, this banana bread gets most of its sweetness from very ripe bananas. Which is why it’s important to use very spotted, very ripe bananas when you bake!

Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

How to Quickly Ripen Bananas

Too impatient to wait for those bananas to ripen? Just pop them in the oven! Sounds crazy, but here’s how you can (almost) instantly ripen bananas!

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C.

  2. Place whole, unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet (line it with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up).

  3. Bake the bananas for 15-35 minutes, or until the skins turn black all over. The time range depends on how ripe your bananas already are. If they’re already somewhat ripe, stick to the lower range. If they’re not ripe at all, bake them for the longer time range. For reference, the bananas on the left were baked for 20 minutes.

  4. Strain them over a strainer to get rid of excess moisture, as baked bananas will have more moisture than naturally ripened bananas.

how to quickly ripen bananas for banana bread

If you were to ask me, what do I look most for in a banana bread, I would say a moist texture, and this banana bread is incredibly moist (I know, it’s a weird word, but it’s the truth).

Tips for a Moist Banana Bread

  • Use very ripe, blackened bananas (see above). Using bananas that aren’t as ripe will mean your bread is not only less sweet but also less moist.

  • Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a wooden spoon, taking care to not over mix the two. Mix until the batter is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. About 15-20 light strokes by hand should do the job (avoid using an electric mixer). This is a banana bread and the batter is meant to be a bit rustic, so there should be some lumps in the batter. Overmixing can cause the cake to become dry instead of moist.

  • Oil helps to bring a moist texture to this banana bread. Butter (even vegan butter) doesn’t belong in banana bread!

  • Use dark sugars. I use coconut sugar, but if you don’t mind using refined sugar, use organic brown sugar instead of white sugar. It brings a rich moistness to the banana bread. Not surprising since brown sugar feels more moist than granulated white sugar and since brown sugar contains a touch of molasses, which adds moistness.

Okay, now that you know how to (almost) instantly ripen bananas for banana bread AND bake a moist banana bread, let’s talk about the ingredients used in this Vegan, Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Banana Bread.

Dry Ingredients

  • Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour: I tried to use oat flour and almond flour, but I found that oat flour is not a good match for dense baked goods such as banana bread loaves, since oat flour itself is very dense. Hence, I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour. I used this variety from Bob’s Red Mill.

  • Almond Flour: I love baking with almond flour because it lends a light texture to baked goods, which is especially helpful when you are making a dense baked good like banana bread. I used Anthony’s blanched almond flour.

  • Homemade Pumpkin Spice (sort of): In my healthy pumpkin bread, I used my homemade pumpkin spice blend (a 4:1 ratio of cinnamon to nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice). But since this is a kabocha squash bread, I wanted to vary things up, just a little. I omitted the allspice, used less cloves, and used freshly grated nutmeg for a more prominent nutmeg flavor. Of course, you can use my homemade pumpkin spice recipe if you prefer!

  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda: I typically like to use a combination of both in my quick bread recipes.

Wet Ingredients

  • Homemade Kabocha Squash Purée: This is what makes this banana bread unique. You might have had a pumpkin banana bread before, but have you had a kabocha squash banana bread before? Probably not! Kabocha squash, when you bake it, develops this velvety texture and slightly sweet chestnut-like taste, so it brings a really nice, unique flavor to baked goods.

  • Very Ripe Bananas: It’s important to use very ripe bananas in banana bread because (1) they are the sweetest, so you can use less sugar, and (2) they are easy to mash and incorporate into the batter. If you are using naturally ripened bananas, you wan them to have dark spots all over. If you want to quickly ripen them, see the technique listed above.

  • Avocado Oil: A little bit (1/4 cup) goes a long way to keeping this bread moist, which is important in gluten-free baking, which can often yield dry results.

  • Coconut Sugar: My favorite banana bread recipes have some brown sugar in them, but to keep this recipe refined sugar-free, I used coconut sugar. That said, brown sugar is moister than coconut sugar (which is pretty dry), so if you want the *moistest* (asterisked because I’m sure everyone loves the superlative of moist), I’d recommend using brown sugar. Or, you could even do half brown sugar, half coconut sugar.

  • Almond Milk: I use almond milk because it’s not too thick, and a thick plant-based milk might make the batter quite thick. If you do use a thicker milk such as oat milk, I recommend thinning it out just a bit with a spoon of water water, then measuring the amount called for in the recipe.

Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Now here are some tips to help you nail this recipe. I recommend reading them through because when you bake with specialty ingredients or for specialty diets, it is extremely important to follow the instructions very closely.

Tips for Baking This Vegan, Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Banana Bread

  • Calibrate your oven. Make sure your oven temperature is accurate! You can buy an old school oven thermometer for $5-8 and it is so worth it! If your oven temperature is lower than stated, it will take longer for your banana bread to bake.

  • Weigh your ingredients using a digital scale. I find it’s the most accurate way to ensure consistent results with baked goods, especially when the recipe is made with specialty ingredients, as is the case for this this vegan, refined-sugar-free, gluten-free banana bread. Since everyone has a different set of measuring cups and there are different methods of measuring ingredients like flour and sugar, I weighed everything on a digital kitchen scale, down to the gram. This is the digital kitchen scale I have. I’ve included the weights below and recommend you stick to them instead of relying on measuring cups.

  • I recommend sifting together the dry ingredients and mixing well before adding them to the wet ingredients for three reasons. First, this means you have less mixing to do when you combine the dry and wet ingredients (which is important, as you’ll see in the next bullet point). Second, this ensures that the baking powder and baking soda are distributed evenly, which will help your cake rise evenly. And finally, this means fewer lumps in your batter.

  • Make the streusel ahead. As soon as you’ve mixed the batter, pour it into your prepared loaf pan and top it with your streusel (the streusel is optional but recommended). You want to be able to get the batter in the oven as soon as possible because as soon as the baking soda is mixed with the liquid ingredients, it starts reacting and releasing carbon dioxide, thus beginning the leavening process. You want to capitalize on that leavening process and get to baking right away. If you don’t make your streusel ahead of time, you’ll have to spend some time making it after you’ve mixed your batter.

  • Bake the bread uncovered for the first 35 minutes, then put a loose tent of foil on top of the bread for the remainder of the baking time. This ensures that the top of the banana bread doesn’t get too brown (or burn) before the middle of the bread has enough time to cook.

  • If your loaf pan is an 8×4-inch pan (instead of the standard 9×5-inch pan), your loaf will be even thicker due to the smaller pan size, so you might need to bake the loaf a bit longer, up to 70 minutes.

  • To test if the loaf is baked, I recommend inserting a toothpick in two spots: the center, as is customary, but also the top-center of the loaf. The latter spot can sometimes be a better indication of whether a loaf is fully baked. If the toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs, the cake is done. If you see wet batter, you need to continue baking the loaf. Check again after five minutes.

Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Finally, let’s talk about the Cinnamon Walnut Streusel! It is optional but also highly recommended. A streusel topping is my favorite way to finish a banana bread—it adds such a nice textural contrast to the moist, dense banana bread.

It’s incredibly simple and takes less than 5 minutes to put together. Just mix together chopped walnuts, coconut sugar, almond flour, sea salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Then cut in two tablespoons of coconut oil at room temperature (not melted) and mix together with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. To be honest, I prefer making this streusel with brown sugar because, again it’s quite moist, but to keep it refined sugar-free, coconut sugar works well too.

That’s all you need to know about this Vegan, Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Banana Bread! If you enjoy the recipe, be sure to leave a comment below or on Youtube!

Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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A vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free banana bread that’s perfect for the fall! With baked kabocha squash and pumpkin spices, it’s cozy and warminging, but also made with wholesome ingredients like almond flour and sweetened with just bananas and coconut sugar. Plus, an easy tip to (almost) instantly ripen bananas!
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Baking
Diet Vegan
Keyword: banana bread, gluten-free, kabocha squash, refined sugar free, soy-free
Serving size: 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (170g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used this brand)*
  • 1 cup (112g) almond flour**
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg***
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cloves (optional but recommended)
  • 4 small or 3 medium very ripe bananas (340-360g)****
  • 1 cup kabocha squash puree (240g) (instructions to make puree can be found in step 1)
  • 1/3 cup almond milk or other plant-based milk*****
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil******
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar (use coconut sugar to keep refined sugar-free)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cinnamon Walnut Streusel (optional but recommended)

  • Cinnamon Walnut Streusel
  • cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar (use coconut sugar to keep the recipe refined sugar-free)
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons solid coconut oil (use refined oil to avoid coconutty taste)

Instructions

  • Make the kabocha squash puree. Preheat the oven 400°F/205°C. Cut a kabocha squash in half and lightly brush with a neutral oil. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, flesh side down, and bake for 45 minutes until very tender. Once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor, discarding the skin, and blend until completely pureed. Position a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the squash into the sieve. This removes the excess liquid and ensures your puree isn’t too watery. Then measure out 240 grams, or about 1 cup, of the puree. You can also make the kabocha squash puree in advance.
  • Reduce the oven temperature 350ºF and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan well or line it with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Position a rack in the middle of your oven.
  • Make the Cinnamon Walnut Streusel (if using): Mix all of the ingredients except the coconut oil in a small bowl. Then add in the solid coconut oil and mix together with your fingers until it resemble coarse crumbs.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the gluten-free flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves (if using). Stir well to incorporate.
  • In a large bowl, mash the bananas. It’s fine if there are some lumps left. Then add the kabocha squash puree, almond milk, avocado oil, coconut sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined.
  • Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet, and mix until the batter is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. About 15-20 light strokes by hand should do the job. Overmixing can in a tougher or denser texture and irregular “tunnels” or air holes in the loaf.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the Cinnamon Walnut Streusel (if using) evenly on top of the banana bread batter.
  • Bake the banana bread for 35 minutes. Then loosely tent the loaf with a piece of aluminum foil to ensure even cooking and prevent premature browning. Cook for another 20-30 more minutes (for a total of 55 to 65 minutes), or until a toothpick comes out of the center and top clean. I recommend checking at 50 minutes just to be sure, since all ovens are a bit different. If the bread is too moist when you check it, bake for another 5 minutes.
    1. NOTE: If your loaf pan is an 8×4-inch pan (instead of the standard 9×5-inch pan), your loaf will be even thicker due to the smaller pan size, so you might need to bake the loaf a bit longer, even up to 70 minutes.
  • Transfer the banana bread to a wire rack and cool before slicing. To store, wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 1-2 days, or in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Notes

*I recommend weighing your flour on a digital scale for precise results in baking, especially when you are baking specialty recipes, such as this gluten-free banana bread.
**I recommend also weighing the almond flour.
***If you use freshly grated nutmeg, like I did in the video, you really only need about 1/4 teaspoon, as it’s more potent than pre-ground nutmeg.
****I recommend weighing the bananas as well because everyone gauges banana sizes differently. Plus, I’ve noticed that bananas register as different weights depending on how ripe they are.
*****I don’t recommend using a milk that is very thick, otherwise the batter might be too thick.
******If you don’t have avocado oil, you can use olive oil or a neutral oil like sunflower seed oil or grapeseed oil.

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4 comments on Kabocha Squash Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

  1. Julie Culshaw

    can you substitute pumpkin for the squash?

  2. Barbara

    Hi Nisha. I’m really excited to try this! I’ve had a kabocha squash sitting on my counter for a week. We are not gluten free. What typeS of flour can be used if I do not have gluten free flour?Thanks,Barb in Boston

  3. Tina

    What a flavorful and delicious cake!! The streusel definitely is a must to complete the cake. My kitchen was filled with the wonderful aroma from the spices. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe!

  4. Amber

    This sounds perfect for Thanksgiving! Can you recommend how to modify into a cake? Would you think a vegan cream cheese frosting may work in between layers? I can’t wait to try it in various forms.

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