How to Ripen Bananas

Got a bunch of green bananas? Learn how to ripen them for baking, cooking or snacking.

A ripe banana can be a thing of beauty. Sweet on the inside, a ripe banana can be enjoyed as a healthy snack or transformed into a tasty baked good. On the flip side, an unripe banana can taste bland, and it's not ideal if you're looking to make banana muffins or banana bread. Luckily, there are several ways to ripen bananas quickly. Whether you want to ripen it in five minutes or overnight, we'll break it down so you know how to ripen a banana the next time you're faced with a green bunch.

What Causes Bananas to Ripen?

Bananas are a climacteric fruit, meaning they ripen after they are picked from the plant. Bananas produce high amounts of ethylene gas, a plant hormone that regulates growth and development. On the inside of the fruit, ethylene gas works to convert the banana's starches into sugars while the exterior turns from green to yellow. That's why an unripe banana is mild in flavor while a ripe banana is sweeter. Fortunately, when you have unripe fruit, you can manipulate the banana's ripening process to speed it up.

How Do You Ripen Bananas for Baking?

There are several methods for ripening bananas. While all of them work well to ripen the fruit, some methods are better for baking. These two methods will produce a softer, mushier banana, perfect for mashing and incorporating into a batter, but not ideal for snacking.

How to Ripen Bananas in the Oven

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place unpeeled bananas on the prepared baking sheet, leaving space in between. Be sure to remove any produce stickers before baking.
  3. Bake until the banana peels are black and the fruit is soft, 15 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before scooping out the flesh.

The bake time in this method will vary depending on the ripeness of your bananas before they enter the oven. You can easily adjust the time as needed. Just be sure to keep an eye on the color of the peel, as that will be the easiest way to tell when they are done.

How to Ripen Bananas in the Microwave

  1. Rinse bananas with water. Pierce unpeeled bananas all over with a fork. Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on High in 30-second intervals until the bananas are soft. Let cool slightly before scooping out the flesh.

Ripening bananas in the microwave is a quick process, ideal if you only have five minutes. It's important to pierce the peel with a fork or else the banana may explode and make a mess in the microwave.

a photo of bananas in various states of ripeness
Getty Images

How Do You Ripen Bananas for Eating?

These methods take longer to produce ripe fruit, either overnight or a few days. But they're ideal for helping the bananas retain their soft but firm texture, ideal for snacking and enjoying as is or slicing and adding to your morning oatmeal or smoothie bowl.

How to Ripen Bananas in a Paper Bag

  1. Place bananas in a paper bag. Fold the top over to close. Leave at room temperature on the counter to ripen, checking every day until they've reached the desired level of ripeness.

As mentioned earlier, bananas produce ethylene gas, which dictates the rate at which the fruit ripens. The more ethylene gas in the air, the faster the fruit will ripen. By placing bananas in a paper bag, the ethylene gas is trapped with the fruit, which will help increase the rate of ripening. To speed things up even further, you can place another high ethylene-producing fruit, like an apple or tomato, in the bag with the bananas.

How to Ripen Bananas in a Warm Spot

  1. Place bananas in a warm area, such as on the windowsill or on the top of the refrigerator. Leave in the warm spot to ripen.

Placing bananas in a warm environment encourages ripening. This method can vary in time; the bananas can take as little as one day to ripen or as many as five days, depending on how green they were to start.

How to Store Ripe Bananas

If your bananas are ripe—but you're not quite ready to use them yet—there are a few ways to preserve their peak ripeness. Place unpeeled bananas in the fridge. The cool environment will slow down the ripening process. This method is ideal if you plan to use the bananas within a few days.

If you're wanting a long-term storage solution, place unpeeled bananas in a freezer-safe bag and store in the freezer. Frozen bananas can last up to three months in the freezer. When you're ready to use, simply defrost the banana in the refrigerator. This method is ideal if you want to keep ripe bananas on hand for baking. You can also use frozen bananas in smoothies. In that scenario, peel and slice the bananas before storing, as it'll be easier to grab just the amount you want. For smoothies, there's no need to defrost the frozen fruit before using.

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