Banana Split Ideas

Options to vary the basic banana split abound.

The banana split is the ultimate sundae, an elaborate concoction of contrasting colors, flavors and textures that elevates the ice cream eating experience to the point of near-delirium. It typically consists of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream scooped onto a split banana and topped off with one to three toppings. Whipped cream and the ubiquitous cherry on top finish the dessert. Though the origins of the treat are not certain, it has existed since the early 20th century. Children and adults consume banana splits at creameries and soft-serve places. But making your own at home is also a delight. Add this to my Recipe Box.

Ice Cream Flavors

As the banana split often features three separate scoops of ice cream, the opportunities to vary the dessert seem endless. Instead of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, consider butter brickle, mocha and cherry. Other ice cream flavor options are butter pecan, maple, caramel, dark chocolate, peppermint stick, mint chocolate chip, coffee, black raspberry, strawberry or chocolate marble, cheesecake, rocky road, cookies & cream and sweet cream.

Fruit Toppings

Though the banana split is typically assumed to be a riot of sugary indulgence and nearly empty calories (excepting the calcium in the ice cream), including fresh, unsugared fruits can add a note of contrast. Try all of the following unsweetened: chopped or sliced peaches, pears, plums or apples. As for berries, consider the usual ingredients, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. You can also try less-common varieties, including lingonberries, gooseberries or mulberries.

Nut Toppings

Chopped or ground peanuts are a frequent choice for sundaes and banana splits. But give a thought to using coarsely or finely chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds. Or venture further with such choices as pine nuts, macadamia nuts, filberts or hazelnuts. Raw or toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are other options.

Chocolate Sauces

Prepackaged chocolate or fudge syrups and sauces are certainly a tasty treat. But crafting your own sauce from premium dark or milk chocolate can add a gourmet element to the banana split experience. Using a heavy saucepan, whisk 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup of sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth. Finish the recipe by reducing heat to low and stirring in 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. Alternatively, you can substitute solid baking chocolate for the cocoa powder, adding 6 oz. of premium or imported dark chocolate to the sugar-water solution with the butter. When chocolate is nearly melted, remove the pan from heat and stir until blended. As the assortment of dark chocolate brands and varieties is so broad, the potential for variety in sauce flavor and mouthfeel is enormous.

Toppers

Instead of the classic sugary maraschino cherry at the peak of the dessert, try using pitted fresh black or Montmorency cherries. A trio of fresh blackberries or raspberries is also a refreshing change. Departing from the fruit option, consider using popular candies, such as mini-peanut butter cups, filled or hollow chocolate kisses, pastel pillow mints or brightly colored fruit chews.