When you cannot wait for banana bars, but all of your bananas are underripe, what’s a baker to do? Here’s how to ripen bananas for pancakes, muffins, and more.
How do bananas ripen?
Ideally, a banana, apple, or other fruit left alone will ripen naturally. As it ripens, it releases ethylene, a natural plant hormone in the form of a gas. Some types of fruit and vegetables release more ethylene than others. Similarly, some fruits and vegetables are more sensitive to ethylene than others.
Here are just a few examples of ethylene producing foods (when ripe):
You can use that ethylene to your advantage when you have a bunch of green bananas that you’re hoping to eat sooner rather than later.
Best way to ripen bananas naturally:
- If you want to let the bananas ripen slowly, place them in a warm spot; maybe a sunny window, or near a heating vent.
- Keep the bunch of bananas together—their friends will help speed the process along.
- Depending on how green they are—and where on the banana ripeness spectrum you prefer them—they should take 24 hours to 5 days to ripen.
If that’s not fast enough, don’t fret. You have speedier options!
Ripening bananas with a paper bag:
- Place the unripe bananas in a paper bag (a brown paper lunch bag, grocery bag, etc) along with a high-ethylene producing fruit, such as a ripe banana or apple.
- Then loosely fold the paper bag closed and let the ethylene gas from the fruit encourage the banana to ripen. This process is gradual, but definitely faster than leaving the banana out in the open. They should be ready to eat in a day or two. (By the way, this is a great way to ripen stubborn avocados, too!)
Need them riper, mushier, and even faster? Use the oven.
How to ripen bananas in the oven:
When you need super ripe bananas NOW, an oven is your BBF (banana’s best friend). No prep, nothing. You don’t even need to peel them.
- First, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Place the unpeeled bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes.
- When ready, they’ll turn completely black.
- Let the baked bananas cool, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon and mash.
Can you use the microwave to ripen bananas?
Technically, yes, but according to experiments, microwaving bananas doesn’t improve the flavor of the unripe bananas. Furthermore, it doesn’t make them any sweeter. And that sweetness is exactly what you want them for!
So, it’s more like softening than ripening.
If you’d like to try it, it tends to work better with a semi-ripe banana than a fully green one.
- Peel the bananas and place them in a microwave-safe container.
- Cook for one 30-second increment, (and maybe just one more if you’re cooking multiple bananas) until you hear the bananas sizzling inside.
Storing ripe bananas:
If you’ve hit your limit with bananas for breakfast, or the bananas you bought are past their prime, just peel them and stow them in a zip-top freezer bag in the freezer for later.
Frozen bananas keep in the freezer almost indefinitely, but are best within 6 to 8 months. Just label your bag and you’ll always have the main ingredient in banana bread handy.
When you’re ready to make something, let the frozen bananas thaw before adding to the recipe.
If you plan on making a smoothie or blender ice cream, add frozen banana chunks right into the blender—no need to thaw.
How to Ripen Bananas
- Unpeeled bananas
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
- Arrange unpeeled bananas on prepared baking sheet. Bake until banana skins are completely black all over, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cool. Scoop banana pulp from peel and mash.