The tropical taste of fresh, sweet, bananas is a heavenly addition to pancakes, ice cream sundaes, or cocktails. This easy banana syrup recipe takes little effort, few dirty dishes, and minimal patience.
Rather than cooking or pureeing bananas, this syrup uses a simple, old fashioned method of extracting flavor from fresh fruits using one simple ingredient: sugar.
The “oleo” method for fresh fruit syrups
Oleo refers to oleo saccharum, a type of syrup made by combining sugar and citrus fruit peels. “Oleo” means oil and “saccharum” means sugar. The sugar draws the oils in the citrus peels out, making a rich and intensely flavored syrup. This old fashioned syrup method involves little work, but it does require some patience. In general, it takes about an hour to begin to see results.
After making oleo saccharum with lemons and oranges for various cocktails and mocktails, I realized that the process was similar to making cold process shrub syrups (vinegar-based fruit syrups). Shrub syrups involve mixing fruit, vinegar, and sugar, and letting the mixture sit for a few days until it becomes syrupy, then straining out the solids. The sugar and the vinegar break down the fruit and turn it into a sweet and sour, fruity syrup.
Sugar is really great at drawing the moisture out of fruits, and all that sweetened, flavorful liquid makes for a fantastic syrup without a lot of work. If you enjoy making fruit syrups but don’t always want the syrup to taste like jam or cooked fruit, this method is for you.
Bananas can be especially challenging to work with in drinks. Cooking or masking them into simple syrup tends to lead to a gloppy mess that’s impossible to strain. Past banana syrup failures led me to try this simple oleo-style method and the results were amazing! This banana syrup tastes just like fresh, ripe bananas and the end result isn’t too thick or chunky to use in cocktail recipes like a Banana Daiquiri. It’s also great drizzled over blueberry pancakes or swirled into oatmeal with plenty of chopped nuts.
This cold process method of making syrup can be used for virtually any fruit or vegetable that’s juicy. It’s especially great for fruits that don’t hold up well when heated, like melons. If you want perfect watermelon syrup without any strange flavors or textures, try this method next time! I have found that this process is not very successful with fruits like apples and pears, so those syrups are best made on the stovetop.
What you’ll need:
- Medium mixing bowl
- 3 bananas
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water (optional, makes an easier to pour syrup)
- Fine mesh strainer
How to make it:
Slice the bananas and add them to the mixing bowl. Next, pour the sugar over the banana slices and gently toss them to ensure they’re evenly coated. Cover the mixture and let it sit for at least one hour, or up to three.
Now, pour the water into the mixture and gingerly swirl the liquid around the bowl to help dissolve any remaining sugar crystals. This step is optional. If you add the water, you’ll have a sweetness level comparable to that of simple syrup. If you don’t add water, you’ll have a considerably thicker and sweeter syrup.
I like to add water to help dissolve the last of the sugar that’s stuck on the banana slices. It also makes a syrup that is looser and mixes readily into all kinds of drink recipes.
Carefully strain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer. For the best results, be sure not to press on any solids. Store the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Choose the right bananas
It’s important to use ripe, but not overly ripe bananas. If the fruit is too soft, it will be very difficult to strain once the sugar has broken them down further. Also, your finished syrup will become thick and very cloudy.
Look for the most firm, newly ripe bananas you can find. For maximum clarity in the final product, you want sturdy banana slices and a gentle hand when mixing and straining. Slice the bananas into thick segments rather than thin coins and they’ll be easier to manage.
For this recipe, I use about 3 medium-sized bananas. You can easily double or triple the recipe if you’d like to make a larger batch of syrup. One of the great things about this style of fruit syrup is that it doesn’t require overly exactly measures. Approximate quantities of fruit (and even of sugar!) will still result in a fantastic syrup. Just make sure that if you add water, it’s the same amount as the measure of sugar.
You might also enjoy these other syrup recipes:
Fresh Banana Syrup Recipe (No Cook)
- 3 bananas
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water (optional, makes syrup easier to pour)
- Slice the bananas into thick segments and add them to a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour the sugar over the banana slices and gently toss them to ensure they're evenly coated. Cover the mixture and let it sit for at least one hour, or up to three.
- Now, pour the water (if using) into the mixture and gingerly swirl the liquid around the bowl to help dissolve any remaining sugar crystals.
- Carefully strain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer. For the best results, be sure not to press on any solids.
- Store the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.