Chef Marion Cunningham's Famous Kona Inn Dark Banana Bread Recipe by Chef Gigi

Chef Marion Cunningham's Famous Kona Inn Dark Banana Bread Recipe

The Kona Inn was built in 1928 to cater to the upscale traveler in Kona, Hawaii. The popular Hawaiian waterfront destination was accessed by passengers on steamer cruise ships and became known for, among other things, its delicious dark banana bread. While the Kona Inn only exists now as a historic waterfront restaurant on the Big Island of Hawaii, the legacy of Kona Inn banana bread remains. 

Chef Marion Cunningham was a culinary, literary sensation. In 1972, she took a cooking class from James Beard and became his assistant while helping him establish cooking classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon Beard's recommendation, she was hired to rewrite the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook for modern audiences.

As a young pastry chef, I would make a variation of the dark Kona Inn banana bread recipe for the Ritz Carlton's popular Afternoon High Tea Service. Through the years, I've also made a few variations to the recipe by using butter and adding vanilla extract. I hope you love it as much as I do. Marion would instruct you to use very ripe bananas for the bread – they should have brown spots covering the skin but not be blackened and mushy.

If you've never experienced the delicious cake-like Kona Inn banana bread, you are in for a real treat. Banana bread lovers will make this their new favorite recipe. It's delicious for breakfast, or as a snack or even for dessert!

To make this legendary old-fashioned banana bread recipe you will need flour, salt, baking soda, shortening, sugar, ripe bananas, eggs, vanilla extract and walnuts. Get ready for recipe requests: this is one fresh-baked sweet bread dessert that may become a family tradition!

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Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 60 to 75 minutes (ovens vary)
Total Time: 75 to 90 minutes
Servings: 24 (makes 2 loaves)


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup shortening, softened (I use butter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 6)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not in the original recipe, so OK to omit)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

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Recipe Notes

  • Feel free to use chopped pecans, if you prefer. You also could omit the nuts completely. 
  • To make this banana bread gluten-free, use gluten-free flour.
  • You can dust the bread with powdered sugar for additional sweetness, if desired.
  • Store any leftover bread in an airtight container.

Here's how to make it: 

  1. Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs, bananas and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  2. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until the batter forms. Fold in walnuts until thoroughly blended.
  3. Pour batter into two well-oiled and lightly floured 9x5-inch loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 350-degrees F until toothpick inserted in center comes clean, about 65 to 75 minutes. Start checking for doneness after 45 minutes of baking. Everyone's oven bakes differently.
  4. Allow bread to cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Turn loaves onto a rack to cool completely. Cool, and slice thin to enjoy the best flavor. Dust with powdered sugar for additional sweetness.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories: 160

Total Fat: 7.6g

Saturated Fat: 2.8g

Cholesterol: 71mg

Total Carbohydrate: 17.7g

Dietary Fiber: 0.7g

Total Sugars: 10.1g

Protein: 4.1g

Vitamin D: 8mcg

Calcium: 16mg

Iron: 1mg

Potassium: 90mg

Recipe cooking times, nutritional information and servings are approximate and provided for your convenience. However, 30Seconds is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe, nor may you have the same results because of variations in ingredients, temperatures, altitude, errors, omissions or cooking/baking abilities. This recipe has been analyzed by VeryWellFit. However, any nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and it is up to the individual to ascertain accuracy. To ensure image quality, we may occasionally use stock photography.

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Chef Gigi
She was a lovely woman. I miss her. But this one recipe is STILL so popular and lives on FOREVER!!!
Elisa Schmitz
Wow, Chef Gigi Gaggero, Our 30Seconds Resident Chef , what a lovely story. And an amazing recipe. Thank you for sharing! XOXO
Delicious recipe! 🙌🏼

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