It’s not always easy to find saba bananas in the U.S., so here’s our list of saba banana substitutes.
If you don’t have an Asian market close by or a delivery service like Weee! to help provide you with saba bananas for your recipe, you’ll need to find a saba bananas substitute like one of these:
- Green (unripe) bananas (typical banana found in the USA is called the Cavendish)
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
Depending on whether your recipe is sweet, savory or somewhere in between, you may even want to try a combination of these ingredients to find the perfect substitute for the mildly sweet and more exotic flavor of the saba banana.
What is the flavor of saba bananas?
Saba bananas, when ripe, have a rich, sweet, and tangy flavor that is unlike any other banana.
The sweetness of saba bananas is not overpowering like regular ripe bananas; instead, it has a more subtle taste, making them a perfect ingredient in various recipes. The flesh of saba bananas is also firmer and less mushy, adding great texture.
When ripe, they have deep yellow skin with brown spots, and their flavor becomes more intense and complex. Imagine biting into a fruit with a subtle taste of pineapple and honey with a tinge of citrusy zing at the end. Saba bananas‘ unique flavor is also the reason why they are a favorite ingredient in many Filipino dishes like turon, banana cue, and ginataang bilo-bilo.
Ways that saba bananas are often used in cooking
One of the most common ways to use saba bananas is to cook them in syrup and serve them as a dessert. This popular Filipino dish, called banana cue, consists of skewered and fried saba bananas, which are then coated in caramelized brown sugar.
Saba bananas can also be used in savory dishes, such as stews and curries. Their firm texture and subtle sweetness make them a perfect ingredient to balance out spicy or salty sides.
Saba bananas can be mashed and used as a thickener in soups or sliced and added to stir-fries for a pop of sweetness.
And, of course, saba bananas are a perfect ingredient in baked goods and Filipino snacks.
Substitutes for saba bananas
If you’re looking for a substitute for saba bananas, plantains are a great option. Plantains are a close cousin of bananas, but they have a firmer texture. Unripe plantains are very starchy and bitter, while ripe plantains are dense but sweet with a lemony finish.
Plantains can be used in various ways in the kitchen, from savory dishes to sweet treats. One popular way to use plantains is to fry them and serve them as side dishes or appetizers.
Like unripe plantains, green bananas (the unripe Cavendish variety commonly found in the U.S.) are still versatile: you may boil them, fry them, mash them, bake them, and even pickle them!
Green bananas are an excellent choice for a healthy snack since they are rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamins B6 and C. If you are searching for a healthy snack, green bananas are a terrific option.
Butternut squash has a texture that begs to be roasted or blended into a soup, featuring a mild earthy, sweet, and deeply nutty flavor of a root vegetable but is very much in the squash family.
It can take center stage in a savory meal, such as a risotto or pasta, or it may play a more undercover role in a sweet dessert, such as a pie or a cake. Butternut squash can even be baked into a sweet treat, such as brownies or muffins, adding fiber and nutrients.
Sweet potatoes have a similar texture and mild sweetness of the saba banana—and a different color, depending on the kind of sweet potato you choose as a substitute.
The bottom line
There’s no one-size-fits-all substitute for saba bananas.
These unique and delicious bananas have a firm texture and a slightly tart flavor that’s hard to replicate with any other fruit.
However, if you’re in a bind and can’t find saba bananas at your local market, there are a few alternatives you can try.
Plantains, for example, are similar in texture and can be used in savory dishes like stews and curries.
For sweet dishes, you could try using regular bananas, which are softer and sweeter than saba bananas but still delicious.
- Green (unripe) bananas
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Choose one of the more commonly found ingredients above to replace your saba bananas in your recipe.
- The moisture level of the top four ingredients is approximately the same as a saba banana, so feel free to use a 1:1 ratio (aka cup-for-cup ratio).
- Depending on whether your recipe is sweet, savory or somewhere in between, you may even want to try a combination of these ingredients to find the perfect substitute for the mildly sweet and more exotic flavor of the saba banana.