Feb 262008

Note: While I have decided to leave this recipe on here for posterity’s sake, I really can’t endorse it anymore. This was posted six years ago, and I’ve since decided that low-fat diets are bad juju. If I were to make it again today, I’d replace fat-substitutes (such as the applesauce) and processed fats (such as the canola/safflower oil) with whole-foods ingredients and natural fats. Vive real food! — Stacey, April 2014

Muffins get a bad rap, and none more so than bran muffins. See, regular muffins are sugar-and-oil fests, full of empty calories, and most bran muffins are healthy but, well, made of twigs. Can there be a happy medium between these two extremes?

Of course there can be! Enter my breakfast-on-the-go juggernaut, the 150% whole grain banana nut muffin! Now, you may be asking yourself how the hell something can be 150% whole grain, and here’s your answer: grains are made up of the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. White flour and other processed grains get poo-pooed (and deservedly so) because the nutritious and tasty germ and bran are removed, leaving behind the starchy endosperm which, while semantically being a complex carbohydrate, is treated by your body just like sugar, a simple carbohydrate. While most muffins are made of only white flour, this recipe is made up of whole-wheat flour (germ, bran, endosperm), oats (again, germ, bran, endosperm), wheat germ, and oat bran. Lots of good-parts-of-the-grain yumminess, see?

Muffins like ducks in a row

An astute reader like yourself may have picked up on the fact that while a couple of those ingredients are the fiber- and nutrient-rich parts of the grain, they do not in fact contain all three parts. So I guess it’s not technically whole-grain, but really, when you’re only removing the bad stuff and keeping the good stuff it’s easy to see that it has way more of the good stuff than the bad stuff, so it’s like an endosperm with twice the bran and twice the germ, and hence, 150% whole grain! Don’t argue with me on this one, I majored in math and I’ll come up with some convoluted argument to prove that It Is So.

So that’s enough science geekery, let’s stop talking nutrition and start talking yumminess!
This recipe is awesome because it manages to be low-fat without tasting overly low-fat. Yes, when you bite into these muffins you can tell that they are healthy and nutritious, but they are still wonderfully moist and flavorful. That’s because applesauce, oil’s favorite understudy, has gotten its chance to shine in this recipe, and when it teams up with the bananas you get a moist, remarkably un-twig-like consistency. When you add in things like toasted pecans, flax, raisins, and the grains, you get a complex flavor profile that keeps your tastebuds happy.

These are ideal for early-morning athletes and snooze-button-hitters since they are easy to take with you and eat, ensuring you get those morning calories your metabolism needs to function properly throughout the day. I always eat one on the way to swimming in the morning and if I think there’s a chance I won’t get to eat my daily oatmeal I always bring along a couple extra to tide me over until lunch. That’s another benefit to this muffin’s ingredients: in addition to being flavorful, they also keep you full for a long time. So what’s not to love? Skip that chemical delight breakfast you were going to grab on your way out the door and eat one of these instead!

Be wary of pretty muffins my Dad makes, but I swear these are good!

150% whole grain low-fat banana nut muffins
Heavily adapted from a family recipe given to me by my Mom
Makes about 15 muffins


  • Recipe last modified on 11 May 09 for changes in sweetener, raisins, and cooking time.
  • If a banana or two in your fruit basket is past its prime for out of hand eating, put it in the freezer and save it for this recipe or another recipe calling for very ripe bananas. To get started peeling a frozen banana, cut the top off, insert a kitchen shear blade in between skin and flesh at one of the corners, and use the blade like a letter opener.
  • Double this recipe if you eat one or two of the muffins every day (like I do) or if you just need to always have some on hand. There are no preservatives in these muffins, so freeze what won’t be eaten within three days.
  • Since I’m constantly modifying this recipe, it’s really still being developed. What’s listed below is a fantastic starting point. I’ll post follow-on modification below in the variations section.

You will need:

  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant oats) OR 1/4 cup steel-cut (Irish) oats
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup milled (not whole) flax seed
  • 1/2 cup natural applesauce
  • 1/3 cup honey (preferred for texture reasons) or molasses
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) canola or safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup raisins (preferably golden raisins)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans or walnuts

To prepare:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mash up the bananas. Add the oats, oat bran, wheat germ, flax, applesauce, molasses, and milk. Let stand a few minutes for bran to soften.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the raisins and work them into the flour by hand so that each raisin is coated with the flour. This will prevent the raisins from clumping together. Stir in the pecans.
  3. Beat the egg and oil together. Add to the banana mixture and combine. Stir the wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  4. Prepare a muffin tin (regular-size muffins, not mini-muffins) by spraying it with cooking spray or by lining it with paper muffin cups. Scoop the muffin batter into the tin in 1/3 cup scoops. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a wooden tester comes out clean.

  7 Responses to “150% whole grain low-fat banana nut muffins”

  1. I’ve found a chemical-free, whole-grain rich breakfast to be a super important part of keeping a happy Adri. I prefer steel cut oats (if you don’t have time to do them in the morning, Alton Brown *choir of angels* has an overnight recipe) with a hard boiled egg or whole wheat toast with peanuts-only peanut butter. Whole grains + protein = win!

  2. Yes, I’m a big fan of steel-cut oats and have already extolled their virtues. I have them every day for breakfast after swimming (I have one of these muffins before practice so my metabolism isn’t running on empty). Like I said in my Irish oats post, I cook a week’s worth at a time and reheat, adding different yummy toppings. I can’t do the overnight because I go straight to work from the pool. Reheating works like a charm though.

  3. I just have to say that I do indeed love bran muffins, but I’m weird and was raised by senior citizens so I’m predisposed to like them…so I’ll be looking forward to these in the Watch πŸ™‚

  4. Dude, you’re an abandoner, going off to the land of Never Having To Work Watch. Who says you get food? πŸ™‚

  5. I found your site while I was searching for whole grain, healthy muffins. I have made this amazing recipe over and over again with a bit of my own twist on it, changing things a bit each time. As I type a double batch is cooling on the counter, this time made with craisins. I have yet to see the post about your pumpkin variation. I thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes for me to share with my family and friends!

  6. Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you like the muffins! They are very adaptable so I’d love to hear more about what you’ve done with them!
    I really, really wanted the pumpkin variation to work out, but it was an unmitigated disaster. It happens sometimes when you’re experimenting! I may try again later though, and you’ve definitely put it back in my mind!

  7. I just made these muffins today and they are PERFECT!! Thank you so much for such a wholesome and tasty recipe. It’s so hard to find baked goods recipes that are low fat AND low sugar and whole grain too. And that taste great! These are delicious and feel great. Thank you!

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