Banana split
Banana split with three flavors of ice cream
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateLatrobe, PA
Serving temperatureCold
Main ingredientsVanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, bananas
Ingredients generally usedWhipped cream, maraschino cherry
VariationsCaramel topping, strawberry topping, pineapple topping, chocolate syrup, nuts

A banana split is an American ice cream-based dessert consisting of a peeled banana cut in half lengthwise, and served with ice-cream and sauce between the two pieces. There are many variations, but the classic banana split is made with three scoops of ice cream (one each of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry). A sauce or sauces (chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple are traditional) are drizzled onto the ice cream, which is topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. Crushed nuts (generally peanuts or walnuts) are optional.[1]


The original banana split was made with three scoops of different flavored ice creams, topped with fruits, and served over a banana that was split vertically down the middle. The original recipe used strawberries, raspberries and crushed pineapple with marshmallow syrup, chopped nuts, and pitted black cherries.[2][3] The banana split is traditionally served in an elongated glass dish called a "boat".

Strickler's marshmallow sauce is no longer used as a topping. The traditional toppings used in today's banana split include pineapple, strawberry and chocolate sauce, whipped cream, nuts, and cherries. Caramel sauce, on the other hand, is a non-traditional topping used in later variations of the classic banana split.[4]

Variations on the classic may use grilled bananas, experiment with different flavors of ice cream such as coconut or coffee, or sauces like salted caramel and warm butterscotch.[5]


Banana splits and ice cream sundaes served at a soda fountain at the 1st U.S. General Hospital in Paris during World War II

Cold beverages and ice cream were a novelty in the mid-1800s when soda fountains began selling ice cream concoctions. A popular recipe published in 1907 called for a lengthwise split banana, two scoops of ice cream at each end and a spoon of whipped cream in between with maraschino cherries on top, with one end covered with chopped mixed nuts and another with chopped mixed fruits.[6] The Spatula Soda Water Guide published in 1919 contained recipes for 25 banana split varieties.[3]

The origin of the banana split is disputed, but most historians believe it was first created in 1904 by an optometrist in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, named David "Doc" Strickler.[3][7] Strickler was inspired by the fruit laden sundaes he saw while vacationing in Atlantic City in the summer of 1904, and aspired to create something similar when he returned to Latrobe using the banana fruit, which, in those days, was shipped to Pennsylvania by way of New Orleans.[2] The sundae he concocted originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. News of a new variety of sundae quickly spread by word-of-mouth and through correspondence and soon progressed far beyond Latrobe.[8] Strickler went on to buy the pharmacy, naming it Strickler's Pharmacy, while keeping his office on a top floor.[9]

Wilmington, Ohio, also claims an early connection dating to 1907 when Ernest "Doc" Hazard created a dessert in hopes of attracting students from Wilmington College to his shop during the slow days of winter. The dessert he came up with was the banana split: three scoops of ice cream served between the two halves of a split banana, topped with chocolate, strawberry and pineapple sauces, whipped cream, maraschino cherries and nuts.[3]

However, most historians believe the evidence for Strickler's 1904 debut is more convincing, and, in 2004, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as the birthplace of the banana split.[8][4] Both towns hold an annual festival in honor of the dessert.[10]

Banana royale shown topped with banana slices

Latrobe and Wilmington are not the only towns to claim the distinction of inventing the banana split. In Boston it is said the dessert was created at the Butler Department Store by the head soda jerk who, in 1905, served a banana split with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, topped with peaches, walnuts and pistachios.[11] Davenport, Iowa, claims it was invented by a local Davenport confectioner in 1906, and similar claims have been made by Columbus, Ohio, where the banana split is said to have been created by Letty Lally when a customer at Foeller's Drug Store asked for "something different."[3] (Food writer Mike Turback considers Lally's creation the first banana royale, a sundae made with banana slices.)[8] The lack of evidence presents an obstacle to proving any of these claims.[4][12]

Walgreens is credited with spreading the popularity of the banana split. The early drug stores operated by Charles Rudolph Walgreen in the Chicago area adopted the banana split as a signature dessert. Fountains in the stores proved to be a draw, attracting customers who might otherwise have been just as satisfied having their prescriptions filled at some other drug store in the neighborhood.[7]

Banana split pie

The banana split pie was created by Janet Winquest, a 16-year-old resident of Holdrege, Nebraska. In 1952, she won a $3,000 prize in Pillsbury's Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest for the recipe.[13][14]

In popular culture

Louis Prima played a song called "Banana Split for My Baby"[15] at the Casbar Lounge of the Sahara Hotel in 1956.[2]

The banana split is reputed to have inspired the longstanding debate between residents of the counties of Devon and Cornwall in England about how to correctly assemble a traditional cream tea.[16] With food rationing imposed after WW2, ice cream was in short supply, so the split's usual ingredients were partly replaced by scones made with locally grown ingredients. Local traditions developed quickly within each county about how best to meet the tastes of their respective tourist trade, leading to differing applications of the cream in the assembly of the dish.[17] This situation was famously satirised in a BBC 1970s mockumentary Bunfight at the O.K. Tea Rooms. This divergence[18] continues into the modern day.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "All-American Banana Split Recipe". Taste of Home. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Turback, Michael (2002). A Month of Sundaes. Red Rock Press. ISBN 9781933176536.
  3. ^ a b c d e Arnold, Shannon Jackson (2004). Everybody Loves Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop on America's Favorite Treat. Emmis Books. ISBN 9781578601653.
  4. ^ a b c Baggett, Nancy (June 6, 2007). "Late, But Great, Banana Split Centenary". NPR.
  5. ^ "Everyone will love this hot banana split". Santa Cruz Sentinel. February 4, 1970.
  6. ^ Merck's Report: A Practical Journal of Pharmacy as a Profession and a Business. Ed. by Theodore Weicker. Volume 16, June 1907, p. 164.
  7. ^ a b Turback, Michael (March 2004). The Banana Split Book. Camino Books. ISBN 094015983X
  8. ^ a b c Steele, Bruce (August 25, 2004). "With a Cherry on Top-Pitt fetes alums creation of banana split". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved on September 3, 2007.
  9. ^ Smith, Rachel (June 22, 2006). "Latrobe's banana split a sweet 'Taste of America'[permanent dead link]". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved on September 3, 2007.
  10. ^ Baggett, Nancy (2005). The All-American Dessert Book. Houghton Mifflin. p. 301. ISBN 9780618240005.
  11. ^ "Happy birthday, banana splits!". The Dispatch. October 5, 1994.
  12. ^ Summers, Greg (July 7, 2008). "Who is the top banana?: Towns split over birthplace of banana split". The Lancaster News. Archived from the original on October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  13. ^ The National Rural Letter Carrier; National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, 1952; Volume 51, p.257.
  14. ^ Farm Journal; Farm Journal Incorporated, 1953; Volume 77, Issue 11, p.138.
  15. ^ Banana Split For My Baby, Louis Prima, 1956
  16. ^ "Cream Teas: Devon vs Cornwall". Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  17. ^ "Do You Know the Difference Between a Cornish and Devon Cream Tea?". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  18. ^ "A Tale of Two Cream Teas: Why the British Are Still Arguing Over Their Scones". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  19. ^ "How we should actually eat scones, according to the Queen". The Independent. 2018-03-22. Retrieved 2023-08-10.