No Sugar Banana Bran Muffins! These refined sugar-free banana muffins are sweetened with nothing but bananas and dates. Made with whole wheat flour, oats, lots of bran, and studded with walnuts and banana chunks, this healthy bran muffin recipe make a great breakfast, snack, or lunchbox treat.
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What comes to mind when you think of bran muffins?
Is it cardboard? Wait, it's sawdust, isn't it?
I get it. Put the words "healthy" and "bran muffins" together and it conjures up images of dry, tasteless health food. What if I also tell you that these banana bran muffins are made without any sugar?
Before you start running for the hills, let me assure you that *this* healthy bran muffin recipe is in fact the BEST bran muffin recipe you'll ever taste. Yup, I said it. I went there.
There's a hint of banana and a lovely caramel flavor thanks to the addition of dates. Trust me, you're going to love these muffins!
What is bran?
Every whole grain has three components - the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Bran is the outer husk that encases the grain, and is removed (along with the germ) to produce white or all-purpose flour.
Adding bran back into your baking has a ton of benefits!
In addition to providing dietary fiber, bran absorbs liquid in baking, which makes these muffins incredibly moist. Holding moisture is actually a function that sugar has as well, which is why we're able to make a muffin without any refined sugar and still have it turn out so tender and delicious.
Additionally, bran breaks up strands of gluten as they form, which means your muffins won't become tough, even if you overmix the batter.
In this recipe we're using wheat bran, which is different from oat bran or bran cereal.
You'll find specific quantities of ingredients in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here's a quick overview. If you want to make delicious No Sugar Banana Bran Muffins, you're going to need:
- Bananas --> The browner the better!
- Oil --> Only a few tablespoons, so any neutral-flavoured oil will do. Or use softened butter if you prefer.
- Dates --> This is where we're getting our sweetness from.
- Bran --> Bringing the fiber game big time.
- Oats --> Bringing more fiber and texture.
- Flour --> Going in with some white whole wheat flour today.
- Milk --> Regular or plant-based milk is fine. I don't recommend buttermilk in this recipe.
- Eggs --> Two large eggs, please and thank you.
- Baking powder / baking soda --> Leaveners joining the party.
- Salt --> For a little bit of balance.
- Walnuts, raisins, and banana chunks --> The texture support crew.
Although I like to use my trusty Kitchen Aid Mixer to bring this recipe together, all you really need is a large mixing bowl and a spoon.
You will of course need a muffin pan as well.
Is there really no sugar in these muffins?
Well, yes. And no.
There's no sugar in that we're not adding any refined sugar, maple syrup, honey, or any other kind of sweetener. However, we're sweetening these muffins with dates, and dates contain a LOT of naturally-occurring sugar.
So if your definition of no sugar is no refined sugar, then yep, these muffins are sugar free! But if you're diabetic or trying to control your blood sugar, be warned that there is indeed a mighty amount of sugar from the dates.
We'll discuss why it's still a better choice than refined sugar below!
Tips for making the best bran muffins
Before you do anything else, pre-heat your oven and grease up your muffin tins! I use butter to grease my tins, but cooking spray is fine too.
When you make the date mixture, when the baking soda hits the hot water it will fizz up in a super fun way, and cause the dates to break down into a paste. The fizzing part only lasts a minute or so, and though it looks like your pot might boil over, it won't. Give it a good stir, and set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
I like to make large, coffee-shop sized banana bran muffins. You may look at the amount of batter you have and the size of your muffin tins and think oh heck no, this isn't going to work. But it is. It does. Trust me.
How can I tell when these muffins are done?
When the bran muffins are done baking they're nicely domed and golden on top. I've made these muffins approximately one million times, so I can tell whether they're done or not just by pressing my finger into the top.
Feel free to also stick a toothpick or skewer into the centre of one muffin - some crumbs should cling to it, but it shouldn't be wet or gooey.
I like to let them cool for about 5 minutes in the muffin tins, then twist the muffins out of the tins and lay them on their sides to finish cooling. Alternately, you can remove them from the tins and onto a cooling rack.
If you're wondering whether you can freeze muffins - you can and you should!
I actually prefer these banana bran muffins once they've been frozen. I think they're a little bit sweeter and a little bit more moist that way.
To freeze, simply wait until the muffins are completely cool, and then throw them into a freezer bag. They'll last about 3 months in the freezer.
When you're ready to eat them you can defrost them in the microwave, or just leave your muffins at room temperature until they have thawed.
Hey Nutrition Lady, what's the deal with dates?
Glad you asked!
Dates are wonderful things. They truly are nature’s candy. They’re sweet and caramelly, and they are jam packed with sugar.
100g of dates contains roughly 265 calories, 75g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and only traces of fat. Of that 75g carbohydrates, about 90% is sugar, which is mostly in the form of glucose and fructose.
This means that of those 265 calories, about 240 come from sugar. So when we’re baking with dates and saying ‘this recipe has no sugar!’ what we’re really saying is ‘this recipe has no REFINED sugar!’
Dates are also an excellent source of dietary fiber (about 7g in that 100g serving), and are especially rich in soluble fiber, which is the kind that helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Plus dates are rich in a host of different vitamins and minerals (more info after the recipe), so eat ‘em up!
Other recipes you might enjoy:
Whole Wheat Muffins with Cinnamon Roasted Apples
Healthy Cherry Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks
Carrot Pineapple Muffins
Orange Earl Grey Muffins
Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
Savory Cottage Cheese Muffins
No Sugar Banana Bran Muffins
- 1 ½ cups chopped pitted dates about 200g dates
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large very ripe bananas mashed
- 3 Tablespoons of soft butter OR neutral-flavoured oil I've used both with the same results
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk regular milk or plant-based milk both work fine
- 1 ½ cups wheat bran
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 banana diced
- 1 cup walnuts chopped
- Grease your muffin tins (I use butter), and preheat your oven to 200°C/ 400°F.
- 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 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.1 ½ cups chopped pitted dates, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon baking soda
- In a stand mixer, mix together mashed bananas and butter or olive oil until it is light and frothy.2 large very ripe bananas, 3 Tablespoons of soft butter OR neutral-flavoured oil
- Add the eggs and mix to combine them.2 large eggs
- Stir in milk, bran, and oats, and set aside.1 cup milk, 1 ½ cups wheat bran, ½ cup rolled oats
- Add the dates to the wet mixture, and stir to combine.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until just combined.2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- Mix in diced banana and walnuts.1 banana, 1 cup walnuts
- Spoon the mixture into prepared muffin tins.
- Bake for 20 - 25 min, until tops are golden and a knife inserted into the middle of one of the muffins comes out clean.
- Nutrition values are an estimate only
- I prefer using white whole wheat flour or whole grain spelt flour for this recipe, however, you can also use all-purpose or a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour with good results.
- Spotty or brown bananas are best for this recipe. The riper the better!
- Muffins can be frozen once completely cooled. Pop them into a freezer bag and they'll be good for up to three months in the freezer.
This recipe was originally published November 17, 2010. It was retested, rephotographed, and updated March 22, 2019. Most recently updated to include video and better instructions on August 17, 2022.
Oh my gosh, these are DELICIOUS.
Hi Katie, I am from South Africa and I made these for my daughter's friend who suffers from Lupis, She is not allowed to eat any sugar and we have sort of adopted her as her mom and brother had both passed asway from cancer. She loved the muffins. She said they were her saviour when she was very ill and couldn't do anything. This was her only ready food source to heat and eat. The muffins came out great and they do taste better after a couple of days like all banana recipes the flacour matures and intensifies. I didnt have wholewheat flour when I made it the first time. But the second batch was even more of a winner with her and she said it was the best muffins she ever tasted. I want to bake more items for her to freeze so she has healthy options that will sustain her when the disease gets the upper hand at times.
Oh that makes me so happy to hear, Alta. Sometimes the gift of food is the best, especially if someone isn't feeling well. How lovely that you have been making these for her.
Made these in smaller size, less time for cooking - absolutely delicious. Have frozen some for use when hubby out of hospital post back surgery. Added dried cranberries instead of the walnuts. Wonderful easy recipe and great instructions for the method.
Delicious muffins. I love to add a handful of frozen blueberries at the end.
These are the best muffins ever. All my family, including a one year old grandchild, vacuum them, so I am constantly remaking, trying to keep up with demand!
They freeze brilliantly, if on the rare occasion a day ends with any left.
definitely 5 star nutritious treat.
These look very promising. I have two questions: 1) I have some All Bran cereal I'd like to use up. Do you think I could substitute it for the bran? 2) I have some homemade date paste already--how much of it would I use to substitute for making the amount you have in this recipe? Thanks!
Hey Jessica, I've never tried this with All Bran cereal so I have no idea what the result would be, or how to change the quantities. You could try it, but proceed with caution. Same answer for the date paste. I'm not sure how you made it or how concentrated it is so really can't make a recommendation. The date paste in this recipe is 200g dates + 1 cup water, which results in about 2 cups of date paste, but it's quite a "loose" paste. If you do try any of these substitutions, please let us know how it turns out.
HELLo I want to bake without dates so only banana as the sweetener. How would I modify your recipe? Kind regards
Hi Ma, this recipe contains 200g of dates + 1 cup of water, and leaving them out would alter the recipe significantly. I haven't tested this recipe without the dates, and do not recommend making this modification.
I've just made the recipe without dates.. I still added the 1 cup of water to the batter and added a handful of sultanas and dried cranberries.. they have come out tasting great!
Next time I think I'd add a little honey too if I wasn't using dates. Just for that bit of sweetness.
I make these every week. I love them! I have to hide my browning bananas because my husband will eat them.
Hi Katie! I am so glad I found you - I noticed most of the comments were from 2014 - I'm in my late 60s and after a long battle have been diabetes free for 4 years now. Please don't Post this but I really want to get more recipes from you - God's Blessings to you and your family! 💟☺
OMG! The dates in water instead of sugar! Soooo good! I wonder where else I can substitute them for sugar.
I didn't have bran so I used oatmeal. But this weekend I'm picking up some bran to try again.
Unbelievably sweet and no sugar!
Definitely try with bran, it's quite a different texture! I've used this date paste to make sticky date pudding (though also with added sugar) and I know some other people who have used it to make blondies.
I love these and always feel slightly antsy when my freezer supply runs low. Lately I've been leaving out the walnuts and throwing in a small amount of chopped dark chocolate to give them an extra indulgent feel.
Absolutely delicious! Mr Faucks loves them too!
Can’t believe this has been around for 9 years! One of my all time fave recipes, and a go to! Need to go buy some bananas!
I love this recipe! I have made it MANY a time since you first posted it way back when and they always turn out perfect and delicious! Plus they make the house smell wonderful!
Yay! Glad you're a fan of the OG banana bran muffins!
Like Heather (above) I've been making these delicious, nutritions muffins since the recipe first appeared, which I gather was in 2010. So delicious, and frequently requested in my house! Thanks for always steering me to nutritious and healthy options!
If I could give this recipe 10 stars I would! I’ve been making them since 2010. They’re a stable in my freezer. Lately I’ve been adding frozen blueberries along with the walnuts. Sometimes I muck with the recipe a bit and use applesauce but the date mixture always stays the same.
Thank you! Appreciate the swift response.
Will update you here when I’ve made my first batch 🙂
All the best, Natalie
Made this last night replacing the dates with cranberries. They are delicious and will definitely make it again.
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
I use dried dates for this recipe. Save the fresh ones for smoothies and snacks!
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?
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.
Awesome! Thanks again - they really are so yummy! ????
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!
Thanks great, Leah! Thanks so much for letting me know! No sugar banana branners are the best!
Wow!! These are everything you promised they would be!! So sweet and delicious! For the flour I milled 120 grams spelt and 120 grams soft white winter wheat together. For the bran, every time I baked bread for the last while I would sift out the bran from my freshly milled flour (usually spelt) and store it in the freezer till I had enough bran for these muffins. Thank you for this amazing refined-sugar-free recipe!
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!
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.
So glad you like them! They are definitely a blank canvass for adding whatever you like. I've never added apples, but raisins, dried figs, blueberries, etc. Yum!
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!
Hi just wondering if anyone had tried making these with different flours like rye/spelt/potato?
Hmmm. I've used spelt before with no notable difference, but I think potato would be pretty different.
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.
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.
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.
I'm not sure of the grams of carbohydrates. But there are good online recipe calculators which, if you plug the ingredients in, should be able to give you that info. This is one I use often: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp
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
I absolutely love the concept of your blog and these look wholesome and delicious! I can't wait to try them.
Thank you so much! I hope you try them out, and please let me know how you like them!
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.
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.
Hi Devi, I'm not sure what wheat bran is called in German - in Swedish it's called vetekli or vetefiber. I've got a Swiss German friend I'll ask, though, and I'll let you know if I come up with anything else 🙂
Thanks a lot - I really appreciate it. I don't even know how to explain it to people. Any info would be great.
Hi Devi, according to my Swiss friend wheat bran = Weizenkleie.
Thanks again for this info - I finally found weizenkleie and the muffins are in the oven now.. I've tasted the first batch - delicious! It will be breakfast for the next few days for the family..
Really glad you found it! It's my favourite muffin recipe, I'm glad you like them. They store really well in the freezer, and come out a little bit sweeter than when they went in.
Just got my 'babies' in the oven - I didn't have wheat bran so I used oat bran instead - do you think it'll make a significant difference? Same consistency, just a different grain - not sure. One thing I did notice was when I was stirring in dates, flour, etc.. the mix smelled strongly of beer- is that unusual? I loved your blog - made cooking a happy, interesting place to be
Could i sub oatbran for wheatbran? Thanks!
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!
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).
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!
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.
Fair call hahah. Thanks for the explanation, I'll have a look for it next time I'm at the supermarket!
I will certainly let you know how mine turn out - didn't realise there was a difference in texture. 😊
Well, verdict is they are delicious!! Not sure if instructions said to cook them on lower oven shelf, but I definitely found those that did were more moist - I will be doing this again and having the second trial muffin for breakfast!! Yum!
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!
Loving your muffin recipes!! 🙂 Can't wait to try this one too.
These ones are my absolute favourite! I'm working on a new recipe with an apricot base, rhubarb, and candied ginger. Coming soon!
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.
I wasn't going to get into that, but I also noticed, and yes, men can bake too. Paul can bake, and is scheduled for some muffin baking lessons before I leave Stockholm.
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?
These look great and so simple.... Any chance of sharing your sticky date pudding on here. Its my absolute favorite dessert!
Mine too! It's so good. Maybe I'll post it one day 🙂
Me too for the Sticky Date pudding recipe please.
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.
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).
Katie, I guessed on the eggs (2) and made these tonight. They are wonderful!!!!! Keep your awesome recipes coming:)
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 🙂
This sound so yummy I must go home and make some. Love the idea of dates.
Let me know how they go!
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:)
The kids enjoyed the foamy dates! Two eggs worked well. Tasted awesome! Thanks
Good guess. It was supposed to be 2 eggs. I'm glad you made them!