TikTok is my new obsession for quick recipes. The one I’m about to cover is a dork.
First, of course, I did it for the taste test. Later that day I did it a second time for additional photos. It’s so important to get the right lighting, you know. Of course I made it a third time so my family could taste it. I might have had a bite or two, just for solid data collection purposes (scientific method and all). And then I did it a fourth time for breakfast on Sunday morning because it’s a religious experience, friends.
Jen Jones used to be a singer until the pandemic hit the entertainment industry particularly hard. When asked what else she could do, she turned to another love: food. She has been cooking since she was a child and has always had a knack for it: “I just know what goes together,” she says. Several family members had health issues that necessitated dietary changes, so she began taking plant-based forays, and after noticing improvements in her own health, transitioned completely to a plant-based diet in the last 18 months.
All along, she’s been uploading her efforts to her TikTok and Instagram in hopes of helping others interested in trying a plant-based diet. “I wake up and think about recipes. I go insane thinking about recipes all day. I go to bed thinking about recipes!” she said, adding that she hopes her videos will empower people to prioritize their own health. “I just know that my goal, part of my own journey, is to help people.”
I agree that she just knows what flavors go together, but her ideas are refreshingly novel at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like their brilliant red pineapple juice. Some of their recipes are actually healthy too; I fret over ultra-processed ingredients and chemical additives masquerading as good nutrition, but there’s not much along those lines here. She says the most popular things on her social media are the fruit and veg juices and the sweets, and it’s easy to see why; I look forward to making some of her recipes myself.
Enter the Air Fryer banana split, made as day 14 of a 31-day plant-based challenge and lucky recipient of over 3 million views on TikTok since its release in January. I know what you’re thinking: hot ice cream doesn’t pay. Try it and you’ll see what she’s getting at.
There are many wonderful banana air fryer recipes online, but most are just sliced and caramelized. (Pro tip: unless you like scrubbing out burnt sugar, line your air fryer with foil.) Boiled bananas may sound odd at first, but you may have had banana fosters before, and bananacue (a portmanteau made of banana and barbecue) it has been an integral part of Filipino street food cuisine for decades. However, this banana split recipe is different.
First, Jones cuts a slit in an unpeeled banana, but not in the way other air fried banana recipes do; She lays it on its side and cuts a slit in the side that faces up, leaving the bottom of the shell intact like a hot dog bun. She opens it up a little, fills it with natural peanut butter, dark chocolate, and walnut halves, and frys at 400 F for five to six minutes. Then she tops it with cinnamon and plant-based yogurt (she suggests Cocojune coconut yogurt). She says her reaction to TikTok is genuine, her first taste of her own new recipe, and I think I made the same face trying it myself.
Let’s fry it and I’ll show you!
I suggest using a fully ripe banana with a few brown dots. We have nut allergies in the house, so I made mine with no-sugar-added sunflower butter, dark chocolate chips, and pumpkin seeds, but peanut butter and walnuts, which Jones used, or any nut along with almonds, pumpkin seeds, or even chickpea butter would all work just fine.
Start preheating your air fryer while you are preparing the banana. Squeezing the two sides apart with a spoon will make it easier to pour the toppings in. All you need is about a tablespoon of each.
I checked it out after five minutes, and since the pumpkin seeds didn’t burn, I opted for the extra minute for the sake of caramelization. The banana will get very soft in that last minute, so stop after 4 or 5 minutes if you want less.
As a topping, I happened to have coffee chobani Greek yogurt on hand. I also tried one with some strawberry jam to enhance the banana split effect.
The judgment? Sublimate.
It’s hot, yes, but the cold yoghurt adds to the impression of an ice cream treat. With all the toppings, creamy textures, sweetness, and temperature contrasts, it’s sort of the opposite of a hot fudge banana split. It depends heavily on the nut butter and yogurt you use, but typically this recipe is less than 350 calories. The average ice cream parlor banana split is at least 800.
Some of the people I’ve shared it with weren’t thrilled with the color change the dish undergoes within the first minute of heating (I won’t name names, but his initials are “my man”), but I find it striking and beautiful , like forbidden rice or moon drop grapes. However, people who hate overripe bananas may understandably find the color off-putting. If you’d like, it’s totally possible to separate the peel from the banana a bit before and after cooking, and you can then use your spoon to scoop it off the peel and onto the plate before topping it with yogurt.
Jones says the response has been almost universally positive, but her Day 13 air fried orange got even more traction, with 6.7 million views. Her personal favorite is their Paradise on a Plate air fried pineapple. If you’re considering adding some plant-based meals and snacks to your repertoire, Jones recommends starting with recipes that use your favorite ingredients and then making incremental changes. “It can take six months, it can take three years,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter as long as you try. Everyone has their own journey.”
Next up for me are their healthy ice cream sandwiches and pasta chips (a trend covered last summer’s TODAY). As for Jones next, she’s not doing anything small, so hang on. She has a skin care business in the works with a coffee oil treatment she developed herself and more like a body scrub. There is a new wellness blog. She has cookbooks available for download (a series of four seasonal issues called So Easy & So Good) and a YouTube channel. And of course, you can always find her quick and easy plant-based recipes on her TikTok.
My own prediction? She loves Ceylon cinnamon and has an adorable characteristic way of saying it. I foresee a Jen Jones Ceylon CIN-na-MY! sprinkle, naturally healthy and all-natural, with a classy label and a suggestion to put it on literally everything.
Some smart spice company had better grab this. I think she could go anywhere.