It’s the most delicious time of the year! Since families all over are hunkering down for the holiday season this year, we wanted to make sure you can still get a taste of one of the most popular sweet treats at Great America’s WinterFest—even at home. Today, we’ll teach you how to make our scrumptious deep-fried banana bites with Bananas Foster sauce in this brand-new copycat recipe.
Every WinterFest, Great America goes through a truly massive amount of bananas. More than 1,000 every year, in fact.
Since most home chefs don’t have mountains of bananas laying around, I asked the park’s executive chef, Erick Ponce, to help adapt the park’s tried-and-true banana bites recipe for an at-home cook. With Chef’s help, we can now share this copycat recipe with you! The new recipe is scaled back and uses only items that most casual cooks already have in their pantries. And best of all? It whips up in about 30 minutes.
Let’s get started! Skip to the bottom for the full recipe.
The first step in the process is to get cooking on your Bananas Foster sauce. It’s surprisingly easy to make using these shortcut ingredients—and they’re so common that you likely won’t have to make an extra trip to the store to get what you need.
You’ll start with some butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, bananas, spiced rum and heavy cream.
It honestly took less than five minutes to fill the entire kitchen with an amazingly sweet, caramel-y, banana-y scent that transported me right back to WinterFest! (For me, the memory it conjures up is standing in front of Sally’s Sweet Treats, under the glow of the oversized Christmas lights in Planet Snoopy, with Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies zooming by. Can’t wait for 2021 to experience it again in real life.)
Start by melting the butter, then add the rum so it cooks off while you finish the sauce. Then add the sugar, whisk to dissolve, and let it simmer for a moment. Toss in the vanilla, cream and sliced bananas—then let it simmer on the back burner while you turn your attention to the banana bites.
Rich, sweet Bananas Foster sauce in less than five minutes? Check! On to step two...
Next up was the ho-ho-ho-so-easy batter for the banana bites. Again, we’ve come up with the perfect copycat substitution so you can make this delectable dessert without an added trip to a crowded grocery store. The trick? Boxed pancake mix.
I used Bisquik, which has all the necessary dry ingredients conveniently packaged in one box. The mix I used called for milk and eggs, so I added those and stirred everything into a medium bowl until smooth. Then I added a dash of cinnamon. If you want it to be extra sweet, you can add an optional pinch of sugar. The only part that’s not optional is making sure that whatever pancake mix you use includes at least one fresh egg. Chef Erick says that some mixes don’t call for an egg, so you’ll need to mix one in to get the perfect batter consistency even if your mix doesn’t require it. Once the batter was finished, I chopped my bananas up into bite-sized pieces and gently dunked them all into the batter.
Next up was the big moment: time to fry the banana bites! I deep fried mine in a large pot with peanut oil; you’ll want to choose a cooking vessel that has high sides and a thick bottom so you can heat about three or four inches of oil to 350°F. You can use peanut, canola or generic vegetable oil. Chef Erick says you can heat your oil up while you’re making your batter so it’s ready to go by the time you’ve coated your bananas. If you don’t have a baking thermometer to check the oil’s temperature, you can drop a small spoonful of batter into the oil. If it rises to the top quickly, it’s ready to go.
Here’s where the real fun begins. Your banana pieces have been swimming in that delicious batter, and now it’s time to dunk them into the cooking oil. I used a fork to pluck each banana bite out of the batter and then very delicately placed them into the hot oil. I made sure to split my frying into small batches (about one banana’s worth at a time) so I didn’t drop the temperature of the oil by too much. It took about 3–4 minutes to achieve that perfect golden brown color.
PRO TIP: use a slotted spoon to collect your fried banana bites just a moment before they look done. The batter will continue to cook and darken as it cools.
When you take your banana bites out of the oil, let them chill out on a paper towel lined plate for a few moments. That way, the outside will crisp up a tad.
After they’ve drained and cooled for a minute or two, it’s time to plate your delicious dessert. Use a small bowl to serve some of your Bananas Foster sauce, and then dust your bites in a flurry of powdered sugar if you’re feeling extra jolly. We won’t judge if your “flurry” turns into a full-on blizzard.
Voila! Dunk your warm banana bites in a generous helping of Bananas Foster sauce and you’ll have a WinterFest classic fit for Santa himself. When I say these are amazing, I really mean it. Don’t forget to share—it’s a guaranteed way to get on the nice list this year.
California’s Great America Banana Bites with Bananas Foster Sauce
Makes 2–3 large servings of banana bites, plus extra sauce in case you’re craving added sweetness or an incredible dessert topping! The recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. Safety note: be sure to keep children away from stovetop and hot oil.
Bananas Foster Sauce
Make the sauce first so it has time to simmer while you make your banana bites.
- 0.25 cup unsalted butter
- 0.75 cup dark brown sugar
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp spiced rum (or whatever rum you have on-hand)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 sliced bananas
- Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
- Once melted, add spiced rum and stir.
- Add brown sugar to mixture and stir until dissolved.
- Heat until mixture begins to simmer around edge of pot.
- Add heavy whipping cream to mixture and stir to combine.
- Add sliced bananas and vanilla to mixture and stir.
- Reduce heat and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the banana bites.
- 1 cup prepared pancake mix (made according to mix instructions)
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 large bananas, sliced into 1.5” pieces
- If your mix does not include a fresh egg, add one to the batter
- Oil for deep frying (enough to cover banana pieces, about 3” deep)
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- In a thick-bottom pot with high sides, preheat oil to 350°F. To test oil temperature without a thermometer, drop a small spoonful of batter in oil. If it rises to surface quickly, oil is ready.
- In a bowl, prepare the pancake mix according to the mix instructions. If your mix does not include a fresh egg, mix one into the batter. Stir until smooth.
- Add cinnamon to batter mix. Stir to combine.
- Peel bananas and cut into 1.5-inch, bite-sized pieces.
- Place banana pieces into batter bowl. Gently stir to coat.
- Using a fork, carefully transfer banana pieces into heated oil. Fry in small batches to ensure even cooking.
- Once just shy of golden brown, remove banana pieces and place onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain and cool. (Batter will continue to cook for just a moment as banana bites begin to cool, so pull them right before they look done.) Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all bananas have been cooked.
- Transfer bananas to a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar.
- Serve with Bananas Foster dipping sauce.