no sugar banana branners

no sugar banana date bran muffins //

A little while ago I had a conversation with someone who told me they had decided to give up eating refined sugar. If you’re not eating refined sugar it very likely means you’re sourcing your food naturally, and that is always a good thing. We have a bit of a situation over here with bulk candy bins every which way we turn in Stockholm, so not eating refined sugar is a conversation I frequently have with myself when I am trying to avoid them.

Talking about sugar purely in the sense of what happens to it when you put it into your body, I think there is a bit of a misconception about refined sugars being unhealthy and unrefined sugars being better for you. The thing is that when you ingest sugars, your body can’t tell whether those sugars are naturally sourced or whether they are refined. What your body knows is what type of sugar it is. A monosaccharide? A disaccharide? A polysaccharide? Then it goes about breaking it down. The more complex sugars take longer to break down than simple sugars, which absorb into the blood stream very quickly and are often though of as ’empty calories’ depending on their source.

So, am I saying go ahead and load up on refined sugars since your body doesn’t discriminate? No. Naturally sourced sugars are better for the planet, and in general I trust things that nature has made way more than I trust scientifically derived ‘food like substances’. But I like talking about food science, and I also wanted you all to understand that when I say these muffins have no sugar in them, I am lying to you.

no sugar banana date bran muffins //

What I mean when I say there is no sugar in these muffins is that I haven’t put any in. None. Not even a teaspoon.  But that’s not to say that there isn’t any sugar in them at all. There is naturally occurring sugar in the flour and the bran and the oats and the milk. And there is definitely sugar in the bananas and the dates, which is where these muffins get their sweetness.

I was experimenting with a new muffin recipe and I had some very ripe bananas on hand, so those went in for moisture. I also had some dates, which I boiled and then mashed a bit to break them down, and those went in for sweetness. And I did add a few tablespoons of brown sugar. When we ate the muffins it was difficult to tell that there was so little sugar in them, and it made me wonder if they needed it at all. Then I remembered an old recipe I used to make for sticky date pudding (yum!) where dates are boiled with water and then a teaspoon of baking soda is added to the pot. The reaction between the baking soda and the hot water first causes a fun foamy reaction, and then, once it’s sat for a while, the reaction causes the dates to break down into almost a paste. Or a jam. A jammy paste.  So I decided to try that technique with this muffin recipe, and the results were good. Really really good.

no sugar banana date bran muffins //

I didn’t tell Paul that the muffins were free from added sugar until after he’d eaten a few. He couldn’t tell. I made another batch and had the same results. Then I emailed the recipe to my sister in law for testing outside of my own kitchen, and the report was positive. The thing I love about these muffins is that not only is all of the sweetness derived naturally, but they are still low in fat, high in fibre, have a nice lightness to them, and they taste fantastic. Let me tell you in all seriousness that this has become my New Favourite Muffin Recipe. It truly has usurped all others, and I really hope you will try them, and let me know how they go!

no sugar banana date bran muffins //

Sugar has a tumultuous history marked by slavery, child labour, and ongoing disastrous economical and environmental consequences for sugar producing regions of the world. I’m not going to go into that aspect of sugar deeply here, but I do think that educated consumerism is important so I’ll point you over here for some interesting reads about sugar. And bananas. And more.

no sugar banana date bran muffins //


Bananas are a great source of concentrated energy and potassium. They are also a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese.

Dates are a great source of natural sweetness, are rich in antioxidant polyphenols, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese.

Walnuts are a rice source of monounsaturated fats (good for your heart) and a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts also have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties which are protective against cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. Remember that like all nuts, walnuts are calorie dense, so we’re consuming them in moderation.

5 from 1 vote

no sugar banana branners

No sugar banana date bran muffins - naturally sweetened, packed with dietary fiber, and delicious to boot! Keep a batch of these in your freezer for healthy breakfasts on the go.
Course muffins
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 12
Author The Muffin Myth


  • 200 g 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 2 Tbsp of soft butter OR olive oil I've used both with the same results
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 banana diced
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped


  1. Grease your muffin tins, and preheat your oven to 200°C/ 400°F.
  2. In a small (but not too small!) pot, combine the dates and water and heat to boiling on high heat. As soon as the water boils, add the tsp of baking soda, and stir to combine. Marvel at the foamy science that is happening and do not be alarmed, just make sure your pot is large enough that it won't foam over. Set mixture aside to cool.
  3. In a stand mixer, whip together mashed bananas and butter or olive oil until it is light and frothy.
  4. Add the eggs and whip to combine them.
  5. Stir in milk, bran, and oats, and set aside.
  6. In a small bowl sift together flour with baking powder and salt.
  7. Add the dates to the wet mixture, and stir to combine.
  8. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and mix by hand.
  9. Mix in diced banana and walnuts.
  10. Spoon into prepared muffin tins.
  11. Bake for 20 - 25 min, until tops are golden and a knife inserted into the middle of one of the muffins comes out clean.

Recipe Notes

This recipe uses 200g of chopped dates, which, crammed into a measuring cup equaled about one and a half cups. You'll want to chop the dates before you measure them, otherwise you won't have enough. I like to cut dates with my trusty kitchen scissors rather than a knife. 




  1. Thank you so much for this Katie! I started “clean eating” a couple of weeks ago, and have really been missing my muffins:) This is exactly what I have been looking for:)

    • Ack! I can’t believe I forgot to write down the eggs. Oh well, looks like everyone figured out there were supposed to be two based on the instructions. I’m glad you made them, Tara, and glad they turned out 🙂

  2. Just made my second batch of these and added 2 big handfuls of frozen organic cherries. They are truly the best muffins to date (and that’s saying a lot).

  3. Dennis is hinting that I should make these to replace his ‘staple’ Capers bran muffins … and he knows that’s asking a lot. You know I don’t ‘bake’.
    Did I read right, no need for a mixer?

    • I don’t have a stand mixer here, I just used an electric hand mixer that I picked up at the second hand store across the street. It helps get the banana fluffy, but you could achieve the same thing with your uber cute All Clad whisk and elbow grease. I’d say these would kick the Capers muffins out of the ballpark.

  4. Re: the mixer, I actually just “whipped” the banana and oil by hand and they turned our perfectly. Also, I’ve heard a lot of guys asking their wives to make these, do they know that men can bake too?

  5. I just made these muffins today and they were awesome. It was a labour of love – after I made the mixture I realised that I only own 5 single silicone muffin cups, so could only bake 5 muffins at a time.
    Now having to hide them from myself so I don’t eat the whole batch at once.

  6. I finally got around to these when a bunch of very freckly bananas were staring me down. Amazing! Just the perfect amount of sweetness.

    • I’m so glad you got around to trying these. They’re totally my favourite standby muffin recipe now. I buy extra bananas every week so I have some for them. Paul likes to add an extra banana, diced, and a handful of walnuts as well. Yum!

  7. I just read your ‘muffin myth’ page and agree completely with everything you said! I’ve started trying to bake a healthy muffin/bread to take for lunch each day and last week I made a carrot/date cake which was an absolute disaster. I still love the idea of using dates as the sweetener though, so I’m going to try this recipe next I think! Is there anything that I could substitute the wheat bran for though? I’m not too sure what it is and it’s definitely not something that is regularly in the pantry. Thanks!

    • Hi Lisa,

      There isn’t really a good substitute for bran in a bran muffin 🙂 Wheat bran is the outer husk of the wheat kernel, which is removed (along with the germ) when wheat is refined into white or all purpose flour. Whole grain flours have the bran, the germ, and the endosperm all ground up together. Adding extra bran into the muffins adds texture and dramatically increases the dietary fiber, which is part of what makes these muffins so nutritious. You should be able to find wheat bran (it might just be labeled ‘bran’ though you can also find corn bran, oat bran, etc) in the baking aisle of your local grocery store, or sometimes with cereal grains like oats. Just ask! I hope you try them, let me know how they turn out.

    • I’ve never tried using oat bran in this particular recipe, so I can’t say for sure. Wheat bran is a softer texture than oat bran, so the texture may be rougher if you sub it in. Give it a go and let me know how they turn out!

      • Ok, tried with the oat bran, and I used skim milk. They came out fine. From your nutrition info I thought it seemed a big recipe for 12- obviously it does make more than 12! I would be interested in a more precise measure for the bananas.

        I had two medium bananas, from frozen. I didnt include the “meltd liquid” in the bowl after they thawed. I wasnt getting any banana flavour in the batter, just an extreme bitter tang aftertaste. I added two more bananas, the same issue remained, and I was certain i would have altered the liquid/solid ratio too much. (and I wont even tell you how I messed with the directions as my daughter had taken over my ipad. Lets just say, simple dump method.) The muffins were done in 20 minutes and as I said, they came out great. They seem like they will freeze very well. There is no bitterness now that they are baked, but still, I’m not getting any banana flavour. (True confession: given my bitter batter concern, I threw choc chips in the kids’ muffins. (so good, but not what I was going for!) They liked these muffins alot, and they are not on no sugar tastebud train, so huge potential for movement here!) Husband gives thumbs up as well, but says tastes just like bran, not banana. I’m thinking carrot pineapple… Hmmm. Thank you!

        • Hi Christine,

          It does make 12 large muffins. You can certainly make more smaller muffins if you prefer.

          When using frozen bananas I always include the liquid that comes out when they thaw. Remember that liquid would have been in a fresh banana and we definitely want it in the recipe for both moisture and flavour.

          I find these muffins freeze really well, and are usually a little sweeter after they’ve been frozen and thawed (just like bananas are).

  8. Hi there – Love your blog. I live in Switzerland – do you have any idea what wheat bran is called here? Or even what wheat bran is called in German? Our packaging has ingredients/names/titles/whatever in French, German and Italian.. I know that I can get whole wheat flour here with no problem.. I’m always a bit confused though about what things like wheat bran are. Thanks for your help.

      • So I haven’t actually tried these banana muffins yet because I don’t have bran, but I tried using your boiled date/baking soda technique in another recipe (to make bean blondies) and it worked like a charm. Thanks for that cool trick!

        • Oooh, good idea! The original idea actually came from a sticky date pudding recipe, so I imagine you could use it in many different desserts or other baked goods successfully.

  9. I just made a batch of the delicious banana branners and after I gave a few to the neighbours the rest disappeared overnight they were so good and nutritious! Great blog, too. I”m really enjoying all of the recipes and links. Congratulations on a fantastic idea. Cathy

  10. You wouldnt happen to know how many grams of carb are in each muffin? My boyfriend is T1 diabetic, I am always looking for healthier options of typically non-diabetic friendly food.

  11. Quick question after looking in my cupboard: Could I substitute wheat germ for the wheat germ for wheat bran?

    • Good question, I’ve never tried that before. I don’t think it would impact the texture all that much, but it would definitely impact the nutritional composition the muffins quite considerably. Wheat bran is high in insoluble fiber, whereas wheat germ is quite oily and rich in healthy fats. If you try it out, let me know how it turns out.

  12. Just for reference, you probably shouldn’t use olive oil in this recipe. Its smoke point is only five degrees warmer than the oven temperature, and at that point it forms trans fat molecules and pretty much all health benefits of the oil are lost. Grapeseed oil’s smoke point is slightly higher if you want an oil with similar flavour, and some oils like sunflower and safflower (both of which I’m allergic to) have super high smoke points so you don’t have to worry about using them in baking.

  13. I made these this weekend after watching FED UP and looking for some low sugar breakfast options, which, after you start reading labels is VERY hard to find! I feel like the cereal companies have been pulling a fast one on me for years.
    Great muffins, healthy, but still tastes like a MUFFIN (and not like cake either).

    My husband and my guests loved them. Will try your ginger/carrot ones for my Dad’s visit this weekend.

    ?? Have you ever used vegan egg substitutes? I am trying to move away from animal products but am always leery in baking. Thanks, Ava

    • Hi Ava, I usually just use the best eggs I can get my hands on rather than using an egg substitute. I haven’t tested any of my muffin recipes with flax or chia eggs, but you could give them a try and let us know how they turn out!

  14. Thanks soooo much, these are brilliant. My first batch I followed the recipe to the letter except that I didn’t have walnuts so left that out. I was scared they wouldn’t be sweet enough, but they were superb. I was a bit ambivalent about the bits of diced banana so on my second batch I added some chopped apple, chopped almonds and some raisins – heavenly. Such a great recipe to experiment with adding things – but also perfect just the way you first made it. Delicious! Thanks a million. Will be making the third batch tomorrow morning. My family can’t seem to get enough.

  15. I love these muffins. I’ve made several batches so far and have been bringing them to work for a post-workout breakfast. I just realized today that I’ve been using 1 tbsp baking soda instead of baking powder, and they still have turned out wonderfully! So, if you’re out of baking powder, just use baking soda and the world will not explode. Secondly, I also realized today while preheating the oven that I didn’t have enough dates to make the 200g, so I subbed in some dried, chopped figs. The muffins aren’t quite as sweet this time around, but they are still good and the flavor has become pleasantly figgy. Thanks for the recipe, I love it!

    • Glad you like them! I’ve also tried dried figs, apricots, and even prunes in the past, and like you I find that they don’t turn out quite as sweet as with dates, but they work in a pinch!

  16. I found this recipe and made them when my first baby was starting solids as a great sugar free muffin. I am now making them for my second baby and thought I would let you know how much the whole family loves them! Thanks!

  17. As someone with a super-sweet tooth, and a long-time fan of a ridiculously fattening banana bran muffin recipe that I’ve used for years, I was sceptical on how these would turn out, but I have to say, they weren’t bad at all! I’m already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow (the meal I tend to skip the most), and it helps so much with my daily calorie intake! Thank you!

    Just one question – once you put the baking soda in with the dates, are you supposed to keep it cooking on the stove for a while, or take off the heat immediately once combined?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Justine! That’s high praise from someone with a super sweet tooth! My recommendation is to turn off the heat just before adding the baking soda, but keep the pot on the burner for a couple of minutes longer. The residual heat will do just fine to create the date paste.

  18. Recipe sounds amazing!!
    Do you use fresh dates or dried dates for this recipe? Just want to ensure I buy the right sort.
    Thank you, Natalie

  19. Thank you! Appreciate the swift response.
    Will update you here when I’ve made my first batch 🙂
    All the best, Natalie


  1. […] Know what you’re eating: what’s good about this? Oats are rich in indigestible carbohydrates called beta-glutens which help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats are also host to a number of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties, are helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, and are a good source of dietary fiber and protein. Whole wheat flour, with the bran and germ intact, is a significantly better source of fiber and nutrients than all purpose flour, which has had those parts of the grain removed. But! Don’t be fooled! These scones have some great components, but that doesn’t make them scones any less. The butterfat content is very high, as is the proportion of all purpose flour. These are treats, and should be eaten with moderation. Damage control: Enjoy your scones as a weekend treat! Then do some weekday damage control. How about a batch of these no sugar banana bran muffins? (source) […]

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