Alternatives to cow’s milk have grown into a giant wave of wonderful beverages, and banana milk is on the rise. It’s refreshing, delicious, and works well in all types of recipes. But what is banana milk, exactly?
You might be wondering if we’re talking about those cute little Korean double triangular-shaped cups that are called banana milk. No. Those are banana flavored milk, which were introduced in the 1970s to encourage Korean people to drink more milk. They are so popular, they’ve made their way into many grocery stores.
I remember my enchantment with extremely sweet powders that I stirred up for a treat in my own childhood, but banana milk is simply one ripe, medium-sized banana blended with one cup of water, per serving. There is often a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt added in too, but that’s not essential.
If you blend it at home, you’ll need to use it immediately or it will turn brown and go off after a couple of days in the fridge. Store-bought versions have a few other ingredients such as sunflower oil that taste great and keep the banana milk fresh much longer. Since 2016, there have been several brands getting banana milk into more stores across the U.S.
Learn more about the benefits of banana milk and how to use it, such as in my delicious recipe for lemon banana milk pie!
Benefits of Banana Milk
According to one brand of banana milk, it has its origins in ancient Africa and various versions of banana milk beverages have been handed down for thousands of years. Karen Graham, a functional medicine dietitian in Scottsdale, Arizona, says that for only 105 calories in a 1.5 glass of simple banana milk, you get:
- 1.3 grams protein
- 0.3 grams fat
- 26.95 grams carbohydrate
- 3.1 grams fiber
“And a whopping 433 grams potassium, which is an important electrolyte and great for the heart and skeletal muscles,” Graham adds. “The carbs are on the higher side compared to most nut milks or coconut milk but very comparable to the carbs in most oat milks.
“Bananas in general are known for two main health benefits: their high potassium, which is a very important electrolyte (our cardiac and skeletal muscles require potassium to function properly), and their benefit to the gut,” Graham continues. “Bananas are a prebiotic. You can think of prebiotics as food for our beneficial gut bacteria. When our beneficial gut bacteria eat bananas, they ferment them and create short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are essential for a healthy gut, as they help produce a thick protective mucus layer and they reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.”
In short, bananas can help those probiotics work better, and banana milk is a fun and versatile way to get the banana benefits.
Since the fruit in banana milk is simply blended in these drinks, you are getting soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol. In the 2014 International Journal of Research, studies show huge potential for bananas to help with everything from migraines to ulcers and beyond (1).
Bananas are also good for quenching thirst, says author and nutritional advisor Rebecca Wood. This makes them a terrific ingredient for a beverage, and one of the probable reasons ancient people began making banana milk in hot climates, where bananas grow.
How to Use Banana Milk
Many people cannot tolerate cow’s milk, even the lactate-free versions. And with nut allergies, grain sensitivities, and soy aversion, banana milk offers a great option that works well for both people and recipes.
You can substitute banana milk for all other milks on morning cereal, in baked goods, or other types of desserts.
Each of the store-bought versions will have a different flavor profile, with some offering a stronger banana flavor than others.
The balance of cinnamon and sunflower oil to banana creates a very mild taste that isn’t overwhelmingly banana, but the fruitiness does come through when baking some breads, and it definitely changes the flavor more than other milks might in familiar recipes.
Lemon Banana Milk Pie Recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
This simple pie is its own thing, but comparable to a cross between banana creme and a Key lemon. The tofu cream is optional. It adds a nice touch. If omitting it, you could serve the pie with a few berries on the side.
SINGLE PIE CRUST INGREDIENTS:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup oat flour
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup safflower oil
- 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the flours and salt in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the oil and palm sugar. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones.
Gather the dough and form into a ball. (If you are in a warm kitchen, you might want to refrigerate the dough for 1/2 hr. to make it easier to roll out in the next step.) Roll out between pieces of wax paper. Peel off the top layer of wax paper and flip the crust into a prepared pie plate.
Using a fork, put a few pricks in the bottom of the crust, and track the edges. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden brown.
- 2 cups banana milk
- 6 tablespoons (that is 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons) rice syrup
- 6 tablespoons coconut palm sugar or nectar
- 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons agar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 lemon’s worth of juice (plus some of the zest)
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot mixed with a small amount of banana milk
Combine the milk, sweeteners, agar, salt, and vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the agar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and zest. Add the dissolved arrowroot stirring continuously for a few more minutes to thicken, then turn off the heat.
Cool for 15 minutes before pouring into the cooled pie crust. Place the pie in the fridge to set.
TOFU CREAM INGREDIENTS:
- 1 14-ounce package of silken tofu
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or nectar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend all ingredients. Add a dollop to your pie, if desired.
How to Choose a Banana Milk
With the growing market of milk alternatives, you will find several options of banana milk. Some have added sugar, flavors, or gums, some do not. “In my practice, I find that many of the gums found in processed foods can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, especially for people that already have digestive issues,” Graham says. “I find this to be true with my patients. Many food companies are moving away from gum additives for this reason.”
The key is to read labels and see how you feel when you introduce a new food.
Banana milk is simply a very old idea, that is now super convenient. It’s a great addition to your repertoire.