3 Ways to Ripen Bananas Quickly According to a Plant Scientist

It takes as little as 2 minutes.

January 25, 2024

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top view fresh bananas in paper bag

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top view fresh bananas in paper bag

Photo by: dvulikaia/Getty Images

dvulikaia/Getty Images

By Lesley Porcelli for Food Network Kitchen

Lesley Porcelli is an editor and recipe developer based in Syracuse, New York.

Oh, the angst of having a bunch of green, rock-hard bananas on hand when all you crave is a single ripe one. Don’t be tempted to eat one too early. Biting into a banana before it’s reached its prime is about as unappealing - pun intended - as chewing on cotton balls. Bananas ripen on their own at room temperature, but if you're in a hurry for ripe bananas, there are three different speed-ripening techniques you can try.

What’s the Difference Between Ripe and Unripe Bananas?

You can tell a banana is ripe simply by looking at the peel.

An unripe banana has a green peel. The peel will either look green or yellow green, and the whole banana will feel firm. James Giovannoni, a USDA scientist with the Boyce Thompson Institute who specializes in fruit ripening, explains that most bananas from the supermarket are slightly unripe: “Bananas sold in the States for the most part come from Central and South America, where they are harvested prematurely so that they will keep through days of transportation and storage."

Ripe bananas have a yellow peel. Sometimes the ends are slightly green, or other times there are a few brown speckles here and there. During ripening, the banana converts its starches to sugars, sweetening and softening the flesh within. Its acid levels also recede, increasing the sensation of sweetness, and the fruit develops those banana-y aromas that complete its signature flavor profile.

Overripe bananas have brown speckles all over.

How To Ripen Bananas Quickly

How to Ripen In 2 Days: Paper Bag Method

Best for: eating

If you want to ripen bananas to eat them whole, follow the paper bag method. “Close the bananas in a paper bag with another fruit that’s already ripe, like an avocado or more mature banana,” says Giovannoni. The ripe fruit will give off quite a lot of ethylene, or ripening gas, and trapping the fruits together in the bag will jump-start the process on the green bananas. “A paper bag is porous, so you’ll increase the concentration of ethylene, but it won’t create a sealed environment [like plastic would] and contribute to food spoilage."

  1. Place the unripe bananas in the paper bag with the ripe fruit.
  2. Roll up the end of the paper bag in order to trap the ethylene that’s released around the unripe bananas.
  3. Wait a day or so. The bananas might be ripe by the end of day one, but they’ll certainly be ripe by the end of day two.

How to Ripen In 10 Minutes: Oven Method

Best for: baking

This technique softens bananas and concentrates their flavor, but does make them mushy, so it's best for when you're incorporating bananas into a baked good.

  1. Heat your oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Separate the bananas and place them, unpeeled, on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake until the bananas feel soft to the touch and are darkened in spots, about 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. The longer you bake them, the softer and more concentrated their flavor will be.

How to Ripen In 2 Minutes: Microwave Method

Best for: baking

This technique softenes bananas super quickly so you can mash them ASAP. However, it doesn't sweeten them as much as the oven technique does.

  1. Prick an unpeeled banana all over with a fork.
  2. Place the banana on a plate and microwave it for 30 second bursts until it reaches your desired softness.
Classic 100 Banana Bread

Classic 100 Banana Bread

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

What If My Bananas Ripened Too Fast?

Took them too far? Pop the bananas into the fridge to arrest the ripening. Yes, the skin will blacken, but the flesh inside will stay just-right for a few days longer. Or go the time-tested route of bakers everywhere: Peel them, then freeze them in a plastic bag so that you always have a stash of bananas that are ready to be turned into something yummy (like Food Network Kitchen’s The Best Banana Bread).

What to Do with Overripe Bananas

Beyond banana bread, there are so many ways to capture ripe bananas' intense natural sweeteness.

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