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.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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.