I love a wholly American food invention. There aren’t that many: corn dogs, ranch dressing, dressing our animals up as pizza, hot dog cannons, Josh’s 7-Eleven Beef Wellington, and banana splits. Granted, a banana split isn’t the first thing I order when I go to the ice cream stand. I’m there to get an ice cream cone of some sort (preferably a waffle cone). And I certainly don’t want to waste a trip to a Dairy Queen on something that’s not a blizzard. In fact, I would say that a banana split is something that I never order out. However, I do find myself regularly making them at home.
By the way, I just interrupted a Sporked taste test to ask the room, “Is it still a banana split if it doesn’t have ice cream?” and immediately everybody started to yell at me. Look, I agree! But, the internet seems to think you can label something a banana split without including ice cream. To me, however, a banana split needs three things to be a banana split: ice cream, banana, and toppings. And the toppings game has been stale for years. Most splits use chocolate syrup, cherries, and then call it a day. But at home, I’m free to dream up banana split toppings and combinations as I see fit.
The wondrous possibilities inside my kitchen laboratory spark my imagination and curiosity: What else in my cupboards and fridge could make a good banana split? I’ve been on the case for months trying to find out.
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- Whipped Cream and Hershey’s Vanilla Frosting Kisses
I tried these Hershey’s Vanilla Frosting Kisses during our Easter candy rankings and I was hooked. They are deliciously milk chocolaty and stuffed with sugary vanilla frosting. Putting them on top of some ice cream and a generous amount of canned whipped cream (like you would cherries) is a big time banana split enhancement. Choose your own ice cream flavor, but I feel like a vanilla bean or a butter pecan works well here. Chocolate, creamy frosting, and fluffy whipped cream. What’s not to like?
- Biscoff Cookie Butter and Salted Peanuts
Damn, do I love a sugary, toasty, caramel-flavored Biscoff cookie. It’s the perfect thing to calm down my anxiety on an airplane. I’m a nervous flyer, so any time we hit turbulence I end up scarfing down multiple Biscoff cookies while my leg violently shakes. In addition to those little cookies, Biscoff also makes a cookie butter that is astonishingly delicious. It tastes like toasted sugar cookie batter, but with little crumbled up cookies in it. Biscoff has a distinct caramel and brown sugar flavor, and the butter itself has a bit of a crystalized sugar texture that’s slightly crunchy. I absolutely love the stuff. Putting it on a banana split with some vanilla ice cream and roasted peanuts? Buddy, we call that going Airplane Mode.
- Tahini and Sesame Seeds
People keep telling me tahini is bougie, and I hate that this Middle Eastern staple has been co-opted by trendy, NYC recipe culture. To me, it’s just a practical thing to keep around in the kitchen for snacking purposes. Tahini, made with just hulled sesame seeds, oil, and salt, has a wonderful sesame flavor. In addition to making hummus and other various dips with it, I often use it like peanut butter. The nuttiness is a perfect accompaniment to a lot of desserts. A big tahini cookie from an Armenian bakery here in Los Angeles is one of my favorite treats.
That said, tahini also goes really well with bananas. Sometimes I throw it on a banana split with some toasted sesame seeds. Nuts are a great addition to any dessert, and doubling down on that nutty, toasty flavor with sesame seeds only enhances the tahini even more.
- PB & J
Speaking of peanut butter, I would gladly eat every single peanut butter and jelly dessert. Load me up with a peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich, peanut butter and jelly cookies, and now, peanut butter and jelly banana splits. It literally comes together in seconds. I like to use the Bonne Maman Strawberry Reserve and some Jif creamy peanut butter with a banana and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sometimes you just have to embrace nostalgia.
- All Reese’s
Load up a banana split with all Reese’s products: Reese’s ice cream, Reese’s chocolate syrup, and some crumbled up Reese’s cups. Unfortunately, Reese’s doesn’t make bananas yet, but it’s 2022 and anything is possible. Hey Reese’s, start genetically engineering peanut butter cup bananas. You’re leaving money on the table.
- Nutella and Coconut
I love Nutella. I eat it by the spoonful. Sometimes that’s my dessert for the evening, just a soup spoon full of Nutella like I’m sick and it’s medicine.
Although people love to pit it against peanut butter, to me they’re two totally different things. Nutella is so intensely chocolatey, sweet, and nutty that it’s hard to keep in my cupboard for too long. Nutella and coconut are a great pairing though. If you want to get even more nuts, toast that shredded coconut in the oven to bring out some of its darker, roasted flavors. Something this rich and flavorful goes best with a neutral tasting ice cream, like vanilla bean. But if you double down with some Godiva hazelnut crunch, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.