Brow Beat

Screw Banana Bread. There’s a Better Use for Overripe Bananas.

Brown squares topped with rows of caramelized bananas and fluffy dollops of whipped cream.
Rocky Luten

I often bring home a bunch of bananas from the grocery store, thinking I’ll take them to work as a lunchtime dessert or midmorning snack. The very next day, I’ll forget about them, and before long they’ll blacken on the counter. My husband also buys a bunch of bananas and forgets to eat them, and our roommate too purchases enormous bunches of the fruit on his sporadic trips to the wholesale club. For some reason, everyone in our household thinks the fruit will be eaten, but it always ends up going to waste.

I wonder if this is unique to us or if it happens to other people, too.

Banana bread seems to be the be-all and end-all solution for using up overripe bananas, but almost every recipe I encounter calls for no more than a couple. I’m left wondering what to do with the remaining four to six in my kitchen that are starting to become a meeting place for flies. I certainly don’t want to make more than one loaf of banana bread. Banana bread frustrates me. A slice or two is fine, but it’s never been sweet or decadent enough for my flamboyant sweet tooth.

A close-up of a squared slice of a banana-cocoa bar topped with whipped cream. A milk substance drips from the edges, and the top is sprinkled with a fine brown powder.
Rocky Luten

One day, faced with a bunch of very ripe bananas nearing the ends of their lives, I decided to experiment with my pantry. I spread a shortbread cookie dough into a quarter sheet pan, topped it with slices of bananas, and drizzled everything with a whole can of condensed milk. I baked this until the condensed milk got sticky and caramelized at the edges and partially seeped into the cookie.

Later addenda to this recipe included: a dusting of cocoa powder for some bitterness to offset the sweetness of the cookie base, and nuts for a little crunch to contrast the gooey condensed milk and soft banana. It tasted wonderful.

The best part? I haven’t wasted a banana since.

Sticky Banana-Cocoa Bars

Makes 1 quarter sheet pan of bars.

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
• ½ cup pecans (or any type of nut)
• 4 very ripe bananas, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
• 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

See the full recipe on Food52.

More from Food52:
The Austrian Canned-Peach Cake I Ate When I Was Snowed In
The Most Useful Chicken Dish I Learned at Zuni Café Was for Staff Meal
This Slow-Cooker Chocolate Chip Cookie Should Be Served With Nothing but Spoons
For Even Better Bacon, Chrissy Teigen Does This
How Professional Chefs Hard-Boil Eggs
12 Surprising Kroger Secrets You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner