One of the trickiest fruits to shop for are bananas. Why? Well, they can take multiple days to ripen after you purchase them, especially when they’re still green and firm to touch. So much for eating or cooking with those bananas the same day you bought them (or the day after, and possibly even the day after).
But before you get discouraged, though, we want to let you in on some insight. There are two ways you can ripen a banana if you just can’t wait on mother nature to do her work on her own time. There are two ways you can easily escalate the ripening process. We spoke with head chef at HelloFresh, Claudia Sidoti, for safe ways on how you can ripen a banana quickly so that you can whip up a banana smoothie, a loaf of banana bread, a skillet full of banana pancakes, or just eat one that’s actually ripe.
What can I do to quickly ripen a banana?
For instantly ripe bananas:
Place the unpeeled bananas in the oven at 300º F. “This method helps bring out the fruit’s sugar from the oven’s heat,” says Sidoti. “Check frequently, because time will vary based on the banana’s initial stage. You’ll know they’re ripe when the peels are shiny and black.” Sidoti notes that this trick will not work for overly green bananas, as that’s a sign that they haven’t matured yet.
If you’ve got a bit more time:
“One of the most classic ways to ripen a banana is to place the banana in a brown paper bag and loosely shut,” says Sidoti. “Ethylene will start to build up and circulate around the bag, speeding up the ripening process. Be sure to consistently check within the bag to obtain the optimum ripening level.”
However, if you want to speed up the process even further, Sidoti suggests tossing a ripe fruit into the bag along with the banana, such as a ripe apple. The apple will emit even more ethylene within that confined space, and ultimately, it’ll increase the pace at which the banana ripens. Note, this trick will ripen the banana within 12 to 24 hours, so if you need a faster method, the oven trick may be the best bet for you.
How do bananas become ripe on their own?
“Bananas that stick together ripen together,” says Sidoti. “Keep your bananas close together. because the closer they are, the more ethylene [they produce]; therefore the faster they will ripen.”
Let’s take a step back and discuss the role ethylene plays in maturing a banana to its most nutritious state—when it’s ripe. Ethylene is an airborne hormone that reacts with bananas, enabling them to shift from their acidic and hard interior form (when the peel of the banana is green) to their desirable, sweet, and soft form (when the peel is yellow). When a banana turns brown, or even black, that’s indicative of a process known as enzymatic browning, which occurs when the banana produces too much of its own ethylene and becomes overly ripe.
What kinds of recipes call for a very ripe banana?
“The best recipes to use overripe bananas with are things like bread and muffins, smoothies, pancakes, and ice cream,” says Sidoti. It doesn’t always mean they are in bad shape. In fact, when bananas have a brown peel, they still house antioxidants and are in their sweetest form. You hear that? Don’t throw away bananas with a brown peel! You could be missing out on the good stuff.