People are always trying to make bananas be ice cream, and who can blame them. Ice cream really is that bitch. She’s sweet and rich, cold yet comforting, and one of the first things to go when the diet starts. These approximations aren’t bad — the frozen banana “soft serve” that nearly crashed Pinterest is admittedly delicious, and this air fried banana split from TikTok user Jen Jones went viral for a reason. Bananas taste good, but they are not ice cream.
All that being said, there is beauty in an air fried banana. Jones slices and stuffs hers with natural peanut butter, walnuts, chocolate, and sprinkles it with cinnamon, before cooking it in a 400-degree air fryer for “five to six minutes.” She finishes it with yogurt and calls it a “healthy version of a banana split.”
While there is no ice cream involved, the final product is inviting, like an air-fried version of the campfire banana boats that were so popular on Pinterest a few years ago. (What is it with Pinterest and bananas?) I (obviously) had to make my own air fried split banana, but before I tried Jones’ recipe, I wanted to dial it back and let the banana speak for itself.
All you need is a spoonful of sugar
As Heather Martin of USA Today notes in her writeup of Jones’ recipe, hot bananas can take a moment to get used to. “Cooked bananas may sound odd at first blush, but maybe you’ve had bananas Foster before, and bananacue (a portmanteau of banana and barbecue) has been a staple of Filipino street food cooking for decades.” The caramelization you get with a dessert like bananas Foster is what appealed to me about an air fried banana, so I sliced one in half, sprinkled it with sugar until it glittered, then popped it in a 200-degree air fryer for 10 minutes.
I finished it with cinnamon and served it with a little whipped cream. It was great. I ate the whole thing. The air fried banana was softer and sweeter than its raw counterpart, and the sugar on top did indeed caramelize. And while it wasn’t as crackly as a torched brûlée, there was enough textural contrast to keep it from reading as “mushy, warm banana.” I’d eat it again, especially as the base for a real banana split (with ice cream).
There’s no need to gild the banana lily
I followed Jones’ recipe fairly closely when making my first air fried banana split. I smooshed in a spoonful of peanut butter, then sprinkled in some chocolate chips and pecans, and finished with a little cinnamon. I then cooked it in a 200-degree air fryer for seven minutes.
When I pulled it out, I noticed that portions of the pecans were burnt black, and some of the chocolate chips appeared to be burnt as well (one bite confirmed this). The banana underneath was also not as soft nor as sweet as the sugar-only banana, which made sense since that banana had been split completely in two, exposing more flesh to the heating element.
Unsatisfied with burnt nuts and chocolate, I made another one, this time stuffing the filling down further into the banana slit, and covering it with a layer of brown sugar to protect the nuts.
There was less burning but, as you can see from the photo right above this sentence, still some burning. (This is where the foil-wrapped campfire bananas have a slight advantage — the foil protects the fillings so they can melt and meld without burning while the banana fully softens.) The banana was also still a little firm and “raw” tasting at the bottom, which is fine I guess, especially if you’re not that into the idea of a warm banana in the first place. I did not have any yogurt, so I ate my split with whipped cream (and sprinkles).
It was fine, enjoyable even, but I longed for that first, sugar-only banana. I do think cold yogurt would have helped give it that ice cream vibe, but adding the chocolate, peanut butter, and nuts obscured the beautiful banana underneath and kept it from reaching its full air-fried potential. The fillings blocked the heating element from most of the flesh, leaving only the edges exposed, so only the edges caramelised.
If you want to try an air fried banana, I recommend starting simply. Halve the banana, sprinkle some sugar on top, and let that sugar get browned, bubbly, and caramelised in a 200-degree air fryer. If may not be as flashy as a “split,” but you can always build a real split on top of it. I do, however, encourage you to try it sans ice cream, at least once. I think you’ll be surprised by how wonderful a banana can be, especially when you let it be itself.