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ATK Kids

The Reason Artificial Banana Flavor Tastes Nothing Like Real Bananas

Learn the reason why below, and listen to Mystery Recipe for more fun, fascinating food facts.

Published Oct. 27, 2021.

Fruit? Good. Artificially flavored fruity candy? Also good, but it never seems to taste very much like the fruit it’s trying to emulate. In general, that’s fine by me—just try to pry the Sour Patch Watermelon from my sticky, sugar-crusted hands. But there’s one artificial fruit flavor that’s always struck me as the furthest away from the original fruit: banana.

It’s not that it’s a pale imitation of the flavor; it’s more that it’s such a specifically wrong flavor. When I eat a banana-flavored candy, my tastebuds send a signal to my brain: “Not banana! This is definitely NOT a banana!” It tastes like disappointment. I was resigned to living with the mystery of why artificial banana flavor tastes nothing like real bananas. But luckily for me, season 2 of Mystery Recipe, a podcast from America’s Test Kitchen Kids, answered a question that’s burned me up since I lost a tooth in a banana Laffy Taffy (i.e., the probable source of my bananamosity) when I was a kid.

Mystery Recipe

Mystery Recipe helps kids AND their grown-ups uncover the fun, fantastical, and fascinating sides of food. Each ingredient-themed episode builds to a grand finale: a mystery recipe cook-along. Get excited about cooking (and eating) by digging into the deliciously silly and unexpectedly educational.   

The alleged reason why artificial banana flavor doesn’t taste like the Cavendish bananas we typically buy in the grocery store is because artificial banana flavor wasn’t developed based on that variety of banana. It was developed based on a variety called the Gros Michel, or the Big Mike. This variety of banana was the standard in America until the 1950s, when a fungus essentially wiped out the Gros Michel. The milder-tasting Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel as our go-to banana. 

There’s admittedly some disagreement about whether artificial banana flavor is actually based on the Gros Michel, or if its flavor profile is just more similar to the artificial stuff. But even if the answer is closer to the latter, I’m comforted to know that artificial banana flavor is actually reminiscent of a real banana (just not one I’m used to eating). 

For more food facts that will intrigue kids AND adults, subscribe to Mystery Recipe. Currently in its fourth season, there’s plenty of fun, fantastical, and fascinating content to catch up on.

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