Chinese Toffee Bananas

Chinese toffee bananas topped with vanilla ice cream
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
4 servings

Chinese Toffee Bananas (拔絲香焦) are a textural delight consisting of ripe bananas that are battered and deep-fried until fragrant and crunchy, coated in a sticky caramel then plunged into ice water to harden into a shatteringly crunchy sugar shell (similar to Tanghulu, another Chinese dessert). Toffee Bananas are pretty quick to make but there are a few tips to heed if you’re new to working with sugar syrup. Make sure to read through the directions before starting. Toffee Bananas need only a finishing sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds to be the ultimate treat — but a scoop of vanilla ice cream is highly recommended.

Related: Crunchy Chinese Candied Strawberries (Strawberry Tanghulu)

Tip: An inexpensive candy thermometer that clips to the side of the pot greatly helps to nail the caramelization for a perfect crunchy yet light sugar shell. It can also be used to monitor oil temperature in the frying step.

Note 1: The addition of cornstarch creates a lighter, crispier batter. However, it can be substituted with all-purpose flour.

Note 2: If sugar crystallizes at any point (form solid bits), add more water (about ¼ cup) and cover with pot lid. The condensation under the lid will loosen any crystallized sugar on the sides. Keep checking under the lid until solid sugar bits have re-dissolved. Remove lid and repeat the caramelization process, letting the syrup bubble and turn golden brown.

Related: Chinese Almond Jelly is a Jiggly Delight



Toffee bananas

2 ½-3
cups high heat oil for deep frying
large bananas, diagonally cut into 6-7 bite-sized pieces


cup all-purpose flour
Tbsp corn starch – note 1
tsp baking powder
tsp salt
cup water, plus 1-3 tsp as needed


1 ¾
cups sugar
cup water

To serve

Toasted sesame seeds (white and/or black)
Vanilla ice cream


Ingredients for Chinese toffee bananas
Step 1

I recommend using a medium-sized pot with about 4-quart capacity and a thick bottom. A heavier bottom is better for even heat distribution for home deep-frying and for caramelizing sugar. I use the same pot for both the deep-frying step and the caramelization step (with a quick clean in between). Add 2 ½-3 cups of high heat neutral oil to the pot, or amount needed for oil to come up to about 1 ¾-inches deep. Set on the stove over medium heat.

Step 2

Whisk batter dry ingredients together first, then add the water slowly while whisking until smooth. If needed, you may add a little bit more water (1-3 teaspoons) to adjust to a consistency that is easy to coat the bananas yet still thick like sour cream. Add banana pieces and gently toss to coat well on all sides.

Bananas being tossed in batter
Step 3

Line a plate with paper towel. Set a small wire rack over a tray. Have ready a long-handled sieve or slotted spoon. When oil reaches 350°F or when it is shimmering on the surface and a dry wooden chopstick/handle inserted in the centre creates rapid bubbles rising up the sides, the oil is ready.

Step 4

In 2 batches, carefully slide battered bananas into the oil to fry. Move them around and flip occasionally until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes each batch. Use sieve to scoop out any loose batter bits promptly so they don’t burn in the oil. Place on paper towel for a moment to absorb excess oil, then transfer to wire rack to stay crisp. Repeat with second batch of bananas. Clean pot and return to stove over medium heat.

Bananas frying in oil
Step 5

Make the caramel: Add sugar and water to the pot. Stir until sugar is evenly saturated and make sure all the sugar is off the side of the pan, and then simply let the sugar melt. Do not stir again. Interfering the caramelization process increases the risk of sugar crystallization (solids forming) instead of melting into a smooth syrup. [Tip: A little trick I do is put the lid on for the first minute and let the condensation do the work of pushing down any sugar on the sides. I do this again if crystals form along the edge at any point, but only briefly as it’s increasingly important to keep an eye on the colour as the caramelization progresses]. As the sugar melts, the mixture will become looser and more transparent and then bubble rapidly. Keep a close eye to prevent turning too dark or burning. It will seem to take a while to change colour until all of a sudden it does, turning from white to light yellow to golden to dark brown quickly. You can gently occasionally swirl the contents to encourage even melting. Be very careful of splatter — melted sugar is very hot and clings to skin. Let it cook until it reaches 355°F or turns medium-dark golden in colour (you can usually smell it at this point too). The caramelization takes about 10 minutes for me but use your eyes and nose! See note 2 if sugar crystallizes.

Step 6

During the first few minutes while sugar is melting (when you don’t need to watch it as closely as the second half), fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes and set it next to the stove. Have ready 2 long-handled utensils, preferably silicon or wooden which tends to stick less to the caramel.

Step 7

As soon as caramel turns a deep golden colour, remove pot from heat. Working quickly but carefully to avoid splattering, place 3 or 4 pieces of fried bananas into the caramel. Using the 2 utensils (1 in each hand), toss bananas to coat in a thin layer of caramel, making sure there are no uncoated spots. Any exposed parts will get soggy in the ice bath. Avoid clumping them together as they may stick to one another. Transfer caramel-coated pieces into ice bath to harden the caramel. Repeat with the rest. Transfer toffee bananas from ice water to serving plates.

Toffee bananas in ice bath
Step 8

If desired, create sugar threads for garnish with the remaining caramelized sugar (this works best when the caramel has not cooled and become stiff so do this promptly). Dip a fork into the syrup and fling and/or twirl over the ice bath, letting it fall to harden into wispy sugar thread designs. Leave them in the ice bath until ready to garnish.

Step 9

Sprinkle toffee bananas with toasted sesame seeds. Add vanilla ice cream if using, and top with sugar garnish. Enjoy immediately for the best textures.

Toffee bananas on a plate, topped with sesame seeds

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