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How to Ripen Bananas

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It’s happened to everyone at least once or twice – you go to the store, pick up some bananas for your breakfast or as a healthy snack, only to realize that they are still rock hard and practically inedible.

Bananas will ripen all by themselves, but sometimes they seem to take a literal age to get in the right place. What are you supposed to do if you want to get your bananas ripe way faster?

How do you actually ripen bananas themselves?

Yellow and green bananas - how to ripen bananas
Yellow and green bananas

Why Do Bananas Ripen?

While it might seem practically magical that bananas seem to turn from hard green to supple, soft yellow all by themselves, the ripening process of bananas is actually a purely biological one.

Bananas, much like tomatoes, get picked while they are still green. This keeps them fresh long enough to get transported to your local supermarket but means that they tend to be a few days away from edibility still.

Amino acids within the fruit become gradually converted into ethylene gas through a hormonal process that starts occurring as soon as the fruit is picked.

This process then kick starts other enzymes that work to change the texture, color, and even the base flavor of the banana.

The chlorophyll in the skin breaks down, turning the peel from green to yellow, while another enzyme called amylase starts to tear apart the starch in the banana fruit. After being broken down, it turns into glucose, a simple sugar compound. This is why ripe bananas taste so much sweeter than under-ripe ones.

Finally, pectinase starts to disintegrate the cellular walls within the fruit, making the banana softer and causes it to fall apart when squeezed.

To help try and make your bananas riper, you simply need to mess around with the biological reactions in the fruit and encourage it to happen a bit faster.

banana ripening chart

What Can You Do To Ripen Bananas

Plenty of people have their own secrets and methods to ripen bananas at home, but a lot of them involve all kinds of strange and oddly clinical ways.

The most natural methods require only a few simple tools and a little bit of patience.

Method #1 – Covering & Waiting

Due to the fact that the ethylene gases ripen bananas that the banana makes, you can easily make the fruit ripen faster by making sure those gases don’t go anywhere.

To keep those gases around the fruit, simply put the bananas in a sealed container. One of the most common methods is to put all the bananas you want to ripen into a paper bag.

The brown paper will insulate the bananas and keep the gases working on the bananas. The brown paper also absorbs the gases, helping ripen them a lot faster.

Simply leave them in their paper bags for about three days, and they should begin to soften enough to be able to eat them.

The only thing you have to keep in mind is that they can very quickly become overripe and turn to mush, so make sure you check them every day and take them out as soon as they reach your desired ripeness.

Method #2 – Cooking

Cooking the bananas doesn’t actually ripen them, but it does make them the way, way softer.

Remember that ripening bananas isn’t some secret process, but really just about mimicking the chemical processes that naturally ripen the bananas. Softening and making them sweeter is what it is all about so, and cooking them helps emulate that.

By gently baking bananas in a 180c / 350f oven for about half an hour, the bananas will soften and start to turn black. This makes them look pretty gnarly, but they get a lot sweeter and much softer, allowing for them to be used in baking quickly.

Only use this method if you need bananas right now – it is going to be far better just to use the paper bag method if you have a few days spare, but if you are in a pinch and need bananas for a recipe, then this will work as an emergency method.

Methods #3 – Freezing for Baking

This last method isn’t really useful for ripening bananas at all, but it is a good trick if you desperately need some bananas for something tomorrow. Say you really need to take a nutrient-rich snack for a hike the next day, but all your bananas are still under-ripe? What are you supposed to do?

Simply pop them in the freezer for about 8 hours or overnight. Once they’ve sat in the freezer for a good long time, the cell walls of the fruit begin to break down, just like how amylase affects the fruit when it ripens naturally.

Once you take it out of the freezer and let it defrost, it will still be pretty hard but will be a lot softer to eat if you cut it up into pieces. This makes it perfect for things like baking oatmeal cookies.

The only other thing you can do is the one thing no one ever wants to hear: wait patiently. If you are patient, tasty, freshly ripe bananas are just a few days away.

Or a week; bananas can be weird.

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Sam Eskenazi

Sam is a writer from the UK with a strange fixation on making as many things from scratch as possible and eating all of it.

Whether it’s brewing beer, making hot sauce or tending his bees, Sam is determined to try and make everything himself, as well as writing or making videos about it as he goes. Follow him on Twitter @Aldrahill.

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  1. Kate Pigula says

    Is there a method to stop bananas from getting ripe to quickly?

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