How to Quickly Ripen Bananas

Bananas save snack time, sweeten quick breads and pack a lot of potassium and nutrients for good measure. Find out how to ripen bananas quickly with simple tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.

Bunch of bananasch_ch/Shutterstock

How do Bananas Ripen?

The supermarket is stocked with green bananas, but you need sweet, ripe ones today. So, how do you make a banana ripen faster?

First, understand how bananas ripen. Ethylene, a gas found in lots of fruits and vegetables, is responsible for the ripening process, which can take 24 hours to one week. Green bananas are under-ripe and haven’t yet turned all their starches into sugar—that’s why biting into one tastes more like a raw potato than a tropical fruit.

How to Ripen Bananas Quickly?

To make bananas ripen faster, boost the effects of ethylene by enclosing the fruits in a folded paper bag. Extra points if you have other ripe fruit, like apples, you can add to the bag, which also release ethylene.

Your thick-skinned green bananas will soften and turn yellow, then develop brown freckles, and finally turn brown or black. Yellow bananas with brown spotting are sweet and delicious to eat fresh. Dark bananas are ultra soft and sweet, ideal for baking cakes and breads. Check on them daily to see if they’ve ripened enough.

How to Ripen Bananas Even Faster

First, you could use the oven. Warm unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet in a 250° oven for 15-20 minutes. It’s not quite as effective as letting bananas ripen naturally, but it will soften and sweeten your fruit in a pinch.

Alternatively, put your bananas in the freezer for a few hours. Their peels will blacken, but the fruit won’t get quite as soft or sweet as if they ripened at room temp.

These methods are ideal for recipes that call for extra-ripe bananas, which can take a few days to ripen with the bag method. These types of bananas are ideal for the best-ever banana bread recipes. They’re also handy if you want to ripen bananas without a paper bag.

How to Store Ripe Bananas

One bunch of three yellow bananas.

Perhaps your fruit is at the elusive perfect yellow stage. Keep it from bruising by keeping them on a banana hook. Avoid stacking or crowding. And use them up in these brilliant banana desserts.

How to Slow Down the Ripening Process

If your bananas are ripe but you’re not ready to use them, put them in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. Their peels will brown but the fruit inside won’t. You can keep them there for an extra 4-5 days. If they already overly ripe, use them up in these overripe banana recipes.

How to Freeze Bananas

One half-peeled ripe yellow banana partially cut into slices.

Your extra ripe bananas don’t have to go to waste just because you don’t have time to bake. Save them for later by peeling and mashing them, then stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice per banana. Measure and freeze in 1- or 2-cup airtight containers for up to 6 months. When you need them for a recipe, keep in mind that three medium (or four small) bananas weigh about one pound and yield roughly 1-1/3 cups mashed.

How to Choose Bananas at the Store

Save yourself some trouble and cherry pick the best bananas at the market. If available, choose plump-looking bananas with an even yellow color. Brown flecks are a good indicator of ripeness (and sugars). If you want to eat fresh bananas all week, grab a mix of yellow and green.

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Elizabeth Harris
Liz is an unapologetic homebody who loves bowling and beers almost as much as food and fitness. The highlight of her week is making cheesy popcorn for her family on movie night. She's been hooked on Taste of Home since interning for the magazine in 2010.