These banana pecan muffins are a naturally sweet start to your day

Ripe banana is one of my go-to ingredients for adding sweetness more healthfully. I add slices of it in peanut butter sandwiches instead of jelly, mash it into pancake or waffle batter, and blend frozen chunks of it into smoothies — no additional sweetener needed. I typically buy a couple of bunches at a time, let them get very ripe with plenty of brown spots, then peel them, break them into chunks and freeze them so I always have some on hand.

Bananas contain sugar — that’s what makes them taste sweet — but their sugar is naturally “packaged” with fiber, antioxidants and essential nutrients, so using the whole fruit is a significantly better way to add sweetness than refined sugar. The fruit also brings its quintessential banana flavor and a measure of moisture, so while it isn’t optimal for every recipe, when it works, it really works. These muffins are a prime example.

Get the recipe: Banana Pecan Muffins

Mashed, ripe bananas are these muffins’ driving ingredient, built to make the most of the overripe fruit. The fruit is mashed, then bound into tender muffin form with whole-wheat flour and egg, perfumed with cinnamon and vanilla, and textured with a crunch of pecans, for a cakelike experience that is nourishing, too.

They do need a dose of sweetness beyond the banana, and I offer two options for achieving that. One is date sugar — a whole-fruit sweetener made of ground, dried dates — which makes the muffins free of added sugar and imparts a more subtle sweetness. (The other option is regular light brown sugar, which yields a more traditional but still-subtle level of sweetness.)

Whichever sweetener you choose, you’ll wind up with an alluring batch of muffins, ideal at breakfast or with an afternoon tea or coffee, to sweeten your day in just the right way.

Get the recipe: Banana Pecan Muffins

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