A few months ago we examined what has become the almost ubiquitous pairing of macadamia nuts with white chocolate. This week we're pondering another nutty dynamic duo—walnuts and bananas!
The grocery store abounds with products that pair walnuts and bananas. There is Banana Walnut ice cream and of course Banana Walnut muffin mix along with the Seinfeld-popularized muffin top, not to mention various energy bars, cereals, and granolas.
But how did this iconic combo come to be so popular? It's hard to say, but increased use of baking powder in the 1930's helped to popularize the baking of "quick breads" at home. Banana bread is the most popular of these quick breads, and the major produce shipping companies distributed millions of free recipe pamphlets featuring bananas in the early part of the 20th century. The Joy of Cooking is credited with the bringing banana bread recipe to prominence in the 1960's and encouraging experimentation with different spices and nuts, including walnuts.
But what is it about these two ingredients that has made them such an enduring food pairing? Here are some thoughts:
- We love texture. Smooth, creamy bananas and crunchy walnuts are an explosion of difference that makes our mouths happy (it's a shame that we can't seem to find as much happiness with this kind of contrast in our national politics!).
- We like some bitter with our sweet. Bananas can be very sweet, too sweet, even, but the nutty notes that walnuts bring to the table, in particular the bitter notes, tamp down the sweetness and offer balanced layers of flavor.
- We like nutrition. Bananas are a rich source of carbs and potassium, while walnuts offer protein, polyunsaturated fats. Eating bananas and walnuts together is good for us (in moderation, of course!).
In honor of this epic pairing, I created this Banana Walnut smoothie. Peanut butter and almond butter both seem to get so much smoothie love, that it seemed time to spotlight a walnutty version. The cinnamon and toasted wheat germ make this really delicious—almost like a Banana Walnut Muffin Shake.
Do you have a favorite way of combining bananas and walnuts?
Get the Recipe
About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.