If you ask us, ripe bananas don’t get enough credit for being a flavor goldmine. At their peak, bananas are loaded with natural sugars that add a sweet touch to just about everything. So when we came across a drink called Korean banana milk, we had to try it — and we weren’t disappointed! It’s creamy, fruity and completely delicious. This milk hails from South Korea, where it’s considered a nostalgic drink, and is growing in popularity elsewhere. Keep reading to learn why banana milk is beloved by so many and how to make it at home using five easy ingredients.
What is Korean banana milk?
Korean banana milk is a drink consisting of fresh bananas or banana flavoring blended with milk and/or water. You can make banana milk from scratch or buy a commercial variety like Binggrae Banana-Flavored Milk online (Buy from Amazon, $12.99).
Why banana milk is popular in South Korea
Banana milk’s popularity in South Korea, especially among older generations, largely boils down to nostalgia. Prior to the 1970s, milk wasn’t a staple part of the country’s diet like it is today. “Traditionally dairy cows were not common at all, and drinking milk was practically unheard of for most people,” says chef Ji Hye Kim, owner of the restaurant Miss Kim in Ann Arbor Michigan.
Things changed in the 1970s when the government began encouraging citizens to drink more milk to boost their calcium intake. The only issue: Many people found plain milk to be bland. So Binggrae, a South Korean food and drink manufacturer, took matters into their own hands by launching banana milk in 1974 — receiving a positive consumer response that continues to this day.
This drink’s formula hasn’t changed much as it still contains 80% milk and uses banana flavoring because the fruit wasn’t always widely available in the country. Kim fondly calls banana milk “a ubiquitous childhood snack” and even makes it in her restaurant
Store-bought versus homemade banana milk
The flavor and nutritional potential of banana milk will vary based on whether it’s store-bought or homemade. Why? Because store-bought banana milk is full of calories and added ingredients like artificial banana flavoring. One single-serve carton of banana milk contains 160 calories and 24 grams of sugar. In addition to this, Kim notes the banana flavoring tends to give this commercial milk an “overly sweet fake banana flavor.”
On the other hand, banana milk that actually contains the fresh fruit is full of essential nutrients. “Bananas are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber and manganese,” explains Lori Walker, RD, registered dietitian and recipe developer at Easy Kitchen Guide. “They’re also packed with beneficial antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress and disease.” (Click through to read our stories on how bananas are a potassium powerhouse and the other health benefits of consuming them.)
Moreover, the sugars in ripe bananas give this drink a naturally sweet and fruity flavor — eliminating the need to add tons of sweetener. Plus, you can blend the drink to your liking for a completely smooth or slightly chunky texture. (Click through for tips on how to quickly ripen bananas so you can make this drink in no time.)
How to make Korean banana milk
Making your own banana milk is simple. Just follow this recipe shared by Farwin Simaak, founder of Love and Other Spices, who promises that “even if you don’t like bananas you’ll enjoy this delicious milk.” Yum!
- 1 ripe banana, peeled and roughly chopped
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 to 2 tsp. sugar (to taste)
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Yield: 1 serving
- Add banana, milk, water, sugar and vanilla and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed.
- Pour into tall glass and enjoy.
- Regular whole milk gives the richest flavor. But if you’re using 2% milk , add 1 cup and skip the water.
- For a warming twist, sprinkle in a dash of cinnamon and blend.
Need more ideas for using up leftover bananas? Keep reading!
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at email@example.com