While a brownish, blackish banana may not be the most appetizing on its own, it is the best time to use a banana when you are wanting to bake it in something. Bananas that are unripe and yellow or green are not ideal for baking. They are often still very firm at these stages and will leave a lumpy, clumpy mess in your baked good. For banana bread or other goodies, you want a banana that is super mush and you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat on its own.
The problems with this being the ideal stage are, we either throw bananas away once they reach this point, and then we do not get to use them when we want to bake something or we want to bake something and our bananas are not ripe enough yet. It can be terribly frustrating when you want or are craving homemade banana bread, but the bananas you have are too firm for baking.
The great thing is, there are ways to ripen them on your own, on your own time. And if you have time to plan ahead, there are ways you can predict when your banana will be ripe enough for baking. Let’s take a look at how to ripen your banans using our methods.
How To Ripen Bananas
1. Brown Bag Method
Similar to ripening avocados, you can use this method for your bananas.
Stick your unripe bananas in a brown paper bag. To help speed up the process, it helps to have another fruit with a high amount of ethylene in the bag as well. This could be an already ripened banana or an apple. The ethylene from the extra fruit will help speed up the ripening process.
Loosely close the paper bag. This process is much more gradual than sticking your bananas in the oven, but it will speed up the process of ripening. This process is not ideal if you are planning on baking or using the ripened bananas that afternoon, but they will be perfectly ripened in a day or two if you are able to plan your baking ahead of time.
2. Baking in the Oven
If your bananas have perfectly and naturally ripened, great! Get started on your banana bread or dairy-free brownies. If not, you don’t need to put your spatula away just yet. There are a couple of surefire methods to get your banana bread baking started this very afternoon.
One easy way to ripen a banana? Bake it.
Yes, this requires you to simply bake a whole banana. No peeling required. If you have decided to bake something last minute, this is the quickest, most reliable way to ripen those bananas to the perfect level.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Then place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking or cookie sheet. You can use foil if you’d like. This is important as the bananas may pop open and leak during this baking process. The sugary juice leaking out can burn on to the pan and is extremely difficult to clean off.
Place your bananas on the sheet, evenly spaced apart and stick them in the oven for thirty to forty minutes. After this period of time, they will likely be black in color and perfectly soft.
You will need to let them cool completely before you use them for baking, but you can carefully peel them and mash them up to speed up the cooling process. Mashing helps any heat escape the banana much more quickly than if it is left inside of the peel to cool.
3. Microwave Method
Using a fork, poke through the banana peel numerous times right around the fruit. Turn on the microwave for 30 seconds. Allow the banana to cool down and ensure it has reach a certain level of softness. If the right level softness has not been reached, then continue to microwave.
Stages of Ripening
1. Early Removal from Trees
You may think that producers and farmers remove bananas from the trees when they are ripe, but that assumption is not even close. Bananas are removed from the tree when they are still green and firm. If they are left on the banana plant, it will split open and the fruit will become extremely dry. This early removal helps bananas ripen the way that we like to consume them. After they are removed from the plant while they are still dark green, they are placed in refrigeration and shipped to wholesalers and retailers.
2. Banana Solitary Confinement
Ethylene gas is a gas the speeds up the ripening process. Bananas have plenty of this gas. After bananas are removed from the trees and shipped to wholesalers, they are placed in a room with a set temperature and humidity. The temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. When they are in this room (around four days) the ethylene gas circles around the fruit and helps it ripen evenly. This process is carefully monitored so that the fruit does not scar and has the most optimal flavor at the end. An even ripening is crucial.
3. Turning Yellow
The banana will ripen in this environment for up to four days and will turn to a lighter green color. Some may begin showing hints of yellow. The starch in the banana is being transformed into sugar and is softening the fruit. This is what helps it have that sweet taste and soft interior.
4. Bananas for Sale
Before bananas leave wholesalers, their ripeness is measured on a scale from 1 to 7. Dark green is 1 and 7 is a yellow banana with brown flecks. When bananas are determined to be at level 3 to 5, they will be transferred to a retailer or sale area. Many are still light green or half green when they are transferred to be sold.
5. Ripe Enough to Eat
Bananas are ripe enough to eat as soon as they arrive at the store, but green bananas often have a firm, chalky texture. It’s always better to wait until they turn yellow and sweet before you consume them. Bananas with a few brown flecks are seen as the optimal time to eat the banana alone.
Once you take your bananas home, you usually have a week or so before they start turning really brown. Some say the best time to eat a banana is when it’s mostly brown. It’s all up to your preference.
However, when it comes to baking, your preference for bananas may not match the best stage for baking. As mentioned before, brown and black bananas are the best stage to use for baking. Anything earlier will not taste the same and may add a lumpy texture. After you take your bananas home, you likely have up to 14 days before they turn as brown as you want. This is also dependent on what stage they were at when you took them home, the temperature of your home, and how large the bananas are. They could turn black or brown sooner or later than you would expect.
A few methods for natural, but slightly speedier banana ripening:
-Place them in a warm spot in your home, near a bright window or heating vent
-Keep the entire banana bunch together. This will help speed the process along.
These methods are not ideal for baking something last minute as this will only slightly speed up the ripening process. They will still ripen somewhat naturally.
What about ripening your bananas in a microwave?
Well, you technically can soften them, but it does not ripen them the way the the oven, paper bag, or natural methods do. When a banana ripens it not only gets softer, but sweeter as well. The texture and the flavor changes. This is what makes a ripened banana perfect for baking. They are soft enough to mush into any recipe and they are sweet and flavorful enough to round out the flavors of your baked good.
So, while sticking your bananas will make them soft enough to use in a recipe, it will not improve their sweetness or flavors as it does not truly ripen them.
If you are desperately in need of a softer banana and are opposed to sticking them in the oven, peel your bananas and place them on or in a microwave safe container. Cook for thirty seconds and check on them. Cook for another thirty seconds or until you hear the bananas sizzling from inside the microwave. They will be soft and perfect for mushing into any recipe.
Do bananas ripen faster in the fridge?
No, when you place an unripe banana into the fridge it will be kept preserved and slow down the ripening process.
Do bananas ripen faster in bunches or when separated?
When following our methods above, it doesn’t matter they can be bunched or separated. Especially when using the brown bag method.
Storing Ripe Bananas
If through one of these methods, whether naturally or unnaturally, you have more ripened bananas than you need for your task, you can easily save them. Peeling these bananas and storing them in a freezer bag will help keep them perfect for use for 6-8 months.
Peel any extra ripe bananas you have, stick them in a freezer safe container or bag, and seal them away for 6-8 months. If you plan on using them in a baked good, take them out the night before and stick them in your fridge. They need to thaw out and soften before you can use them in a recipe. If you do not feel like softening your bananas, you can make many different goodies out of frozen bananas:
- Stick them in your smoothie or protein shake to make it smooth and creamy
- Blend the bananas up with your milk of choice to make a soft serve banana ice cream
- Chop up the frozen bananas into slices and dip them in dipping chocolate for an easy, healthy, and chocolatey snack.
Recipes for Ripe Bananas
Magnolia bakery banana pudding is one of my favorite recipes.
Now that you have all of these ripe bananas, what are you to do with them? Maybe you purposefully ripened your bananas and intend to bake them into banana bread. Great! But- maybe you have a significant amount of bananas that ripened naturally that you aren’t sure what to do with. Maybe you ripened more bananas in the oven than you need for the original task you intended them for. Either way, there are plenty of ways to use ripe bananas outside of banana bread. Take a look below for recipe ideas you can seamlessly add your ripe bananas to:
Banana Brownies- Simply google banana brownies and you will find a numerous amount of methods to cook your extra ripe bananas into this classic chocolate dessert. Ripe bananas add the perfect amount of sweetness to any baked good and banana and chocolate go great together.
Banana Nut Muffins – You’ve probably had this from a store, bakery, or box mix, but homemade banana nut muffins are to die for. The recipe will be extremely similar to a banana bread recipe, but the batter will be cooked in muffin or cupcake tins instead of a bread pan. The cook time and temperature will slightly vary as well, but these muffins are an easy way to take banana bread mess free and on the go.
Banana Pancakes – Bananas help sweeten and hold together anything that they are added to. Search for banana pancakes and you will find numerous flap jack recipes to add your extra ripe bananas to. Chocolate or peanut butter chips go extremely well with this sort of recipe as well.
Ripe Bananas as a Substitute
Bananas are not only used in recipes like this for flavor and sweetness, but they can often be used as substitutes in recipes if you are out of certain ingredients. If you are out of eggs, you will need something to help hold your baked good together. In a recipe that requires eggs, a mashed, ripe banana can be substituted for every egg. If the recipe calls for two eggs? Two bananas. The bananas will help keep your baked good together just like an egg will, but it will add banana flavor, so keep that in mind.
If you are out of oil or are wanting to use something in your recipe outside of oil, you can substitute a banana. Use 3/4 of whatever amount of oil your recipe called for. If your recipe called for 1 cup of oil, use 3/4 cup of mashed banana. If your recipe calls for butter, but you do not have any, use half the amount. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use a 1/2 cup of mashed bananas.
These substitutions are only viable if the recipe you are making does not already have banana in it. If your recipe already calls for banana, adding more instead of the required ingredient, will greatly impact the structure of the recipe.