There are some things in life that just hit you, that come out of nowhere, but come on strong. The urge for a slice of warm banana bread, at least for me, is one of those things. I can never manage to anticipate it, as it doesn’t follow the pattern of the seasons, and most definitely doesn’t depend on the ripeness of the bananas sitting in my fruit basket. Whether or not you can relate to this curious personal phenomena, I’d bet there’s been at least one time when you woke up craving a banana, only to find the bunch in your basket still too green to eat—let alone bake with.
What’s taking them so long to ripen up, turn yellow, and become armed with fresh new freckles? Is there anything you can do to make them ripen faster? Well, you’ve come to the right spot, because we’ve got plenty of banana ripening tips to help you take control of your banana (bread) cravings.
The Basics of the Ripening Process
Bananas (and other climacteric fruits, like apples and avocados) produce a ethylene gas as they ripen, which breaks down the starches in the fruit and turns them into sugar—providing that taste we all know and love, softening the fruit’s flesh, and turning the peel yellow. That's why a pile of apples and bananas, stored together in the same bowl, are likely to ripen even more quickly—there’s more ethylene present. Warmth also has an effect and promotes a quicker ripening. Knowing these things can help you keep control of the environment you store your fruits in, depending on how quickly you want them to ripen.
How to Ripen Bananas Faster
When you pick up a bunch of unripe, green-hued bananas, big or small, from the grocery store, it will typically take them between two and four days to ripen on your countertop or in an empty fruit basket. If you separate the bunch, they’ll ripen less quickly than they would when left intact. If you store them in a warm place (say, the top of your fridge or near a radiator or sun-drenched window) they will ripen more quickly.
With all that being said, here are three methods, listed in descending order from the longest to the shortest amount of time to reach ripeness.
The Paper Bag Method
A classic technique for ripening fruits, the paper bag method works because it actually traps the ethylene in the bag, making for higher exposure and quicker ripening. Place the bananas in the bag with an already ripe banana or apple and gently fold the top of the bag closed. Check the bananas after 24 hours, then again after 36 hours. By then, they should be good to go.
If they're not ready to go after 36 hours in the bag, another 12 should do the trick.
The Oven Method
If you just don’t have 24 hours, let alone 48, to get your bananas ripe enough to smash into a bread, this is the trick for you. Instead of using ethylene to ripen the fruit, this method simply cooks the bananas just enough to sweeten them up and soften their flesh. Place your bananas on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes. The skins will be nearly black, and the flesh will be sweet, soft, and ready for mashing—so get to it!
The Microwave Method
Don’t want to heat up your oven just to ripen a banana? No problem. Pierce your banana all over with a fork and put onto a plate. Heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds, check it out with a little prod of the fork, and heat again up to 30 seconds more for the desired softness.
It’s ready for use as is for baking, but to eat directly (no one wants a hot banana, right?) pop into the fridge and let cool completely.
Bonus Tip: How to Slow Down the Ripening Process
It’s likely that just as many people who have the need for quicker ripening, probably have the need for slower ripening, so here’s what to do if you want to keep your bananas from ripening too fast.
- Separate the bunch once you get them home and keep them stored away from each other, heat, and other fruits.
- Wrap a small piece of plastic wrap around the stem end of each banana. This will trap the ethylene gas and prevent it from reaching the rest of the fruit, causing the ripening process to slow.
- Once the bananas are ripe, store them in the fridge. Do not be alarmed if, and when, the peel turns black—the fruit inside should still remain perfectly ripe for up to 5 days.
- If all else fails, store overripe bananas in their peels in a plastic bag in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge and they’ll be ready to use for any upcoming banana bread urges—should the need overcome you.