Overripe bananas make delicious banana bread, but timing your purchase so the bananas reach the right stage of ripeness just when you want to start baking can be tricky. Growers intentionally ship underripe bananas to lengthen their shelf life, and it's not unusual to find only green bananas in stock at the grocery store.
But don't let that deter you. You can speed the process with a simple paper bag or instantly ripen bananas in your oven.
How to Ripen Bananas for Eating
To ripen green bananas for eating out of hand or baking in a few days, there are a couple of options available:
- Warm Spot: Put them in the warmest area of your home. Good locations might be on top of your refrigerator or next to a sunny window. Depending on the stage of ripeness when you bring them home from the store and how you prefer to eat them, it may take anywhere from 24 hours to four or five days to ripen a green banana without any other intervention. Note that bananas ripen more quickly in a bunch, so leave them together unless you want to delay the ripening of one or two.
- Paper Bag: To speed the ripening process, put the bananas in a paper bag and loosely fold down the top. Add an apple or a couple of already very ripe bananas to the bag to increase the amount of ethylene gas circulating around the green fruit. The bananas should ripen in just a day or two using this method.
Ripening Effects of Ethylene
Some fruits, including bananas, produce ethylene as they ripen. The invisible gas then promotes further ripening, making it a useful tool for speeding the process in fruits that get harvested and sent to market before they reach optimal ripeness. Ethylene helps convert starch into sugar, giving the fruit its characteristic sweet taste, and in the case of bananas, softening the flesh and turning the peel yellow.
How to Ripen Bananas for Baking
To immediately ripen bananas for use in banana bread, cake, or other baked goods that call for overripe bananas, you can use the oven or the microwave. The oven does a good job of developing the sweet flavor of overripe bananas, while the microwave just tenderizes the fruit.
- Oven: Put unpeeled bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake them in a preheated 300 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway, or until the banana skins turn completely black all over. Let them cool, then scoop the banana pulp from the peel and mash it for your recipe. The fruit will have the texture and flavor of an overripe banana.
- Microwave: This method softens the bananas but does not improve the flavor or increase the sweetness, so you may need to increase the sugar in your recipe to compensate. This method works better with partially ripened fruit rather than fully green bananas. Peel the bananas and place them on a microwave-safe plate or bowl. Heat them on high just until you hear them sizzling, about 30 seconds.
Frozen, ripe bananas are a good option for baking, since their soft texture makes them easy to mix into a batter. If you get overzealous ripening bananas and don't need them all at once, freezing is a great way to store them for baking another day. You can freeze ripe bananas in the peel, but they won't last much longer than a month. No matter how you freeze your bananas, defrost (and peel, if needed) before using.