If you ever sang the “Go Bananas” song while on a school field trip or at summer camp, then you might be of the belief that, in order to enjoy this yellow, potassium-packed fruit, the first step is to “peel bananas (peel, peel bananas).” But when you realize your bundle of bananas is still not quite ripe, what started out as a cheerful chant might quickly devolve into a taunting chorus in your head as you struggle to literally pull back the lime green flesh of your unripe banana. Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can help to accelerate the speed at which your banana ripens—but what are the fastest ways to ripen a banana?
To find out how to ripen a banana so you can enjoy your healthy snack ASAP, we sought the advice of a handful of experts. Keep reading to find out more about how to ripen bananas fast, and to learn more about this fruit, be sure to also check out 11 Science-Backed Benefits of Bananas.
How to ripen bananas fast
Store them with other high-ethylene-producing fruit
“To accelerate the ripening process of a banana, Dole recommends placing your banana near other high-ethylene-producing products since ethylene is a trigger to tell bananas to start the ripening process,” Bil Goldfield, the director of corporate communications at Dole Food Company, Inc., tells Eat This, Not That!
What exactly is this magical ripening-inducing compound, ethylene? “Ethylene gas is a natural plant hormone that stimulates ripening in fruits like bananas,” says Jennifer Pallian, BSc, RD, a registered dietitian, food science expert, and recipe developer at Foodess. “This gas is produced by the banana itself and is released at higher concentrations as the banana reaches peak ripeness. When ethylene gas from already ripe fruit is present, the banana will produce enzymes that break down its cell walls, which results in softer flesh and sweeter flavor.”
High ethylene-producing fruits include apples, avocados, tomatoes, and melons (cantaloupe and honeydew), according to Goldfield.
“Generally, one or two apples or tomatoes should be sufficient to trigger the process and help a green banana ripen,” he advises.
Use the paper bag method
A more concentrated iteration of setting your bananas with ethylene-producing produce, the paper bag method involves tightly brown-bagging your bananas, which subsequently traps these gasses inside and stimulates the ripening process.
“One of the easiest and most natural ways to ripen fruit is to place it in a paper bag on a warm counter,” explains Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian. “To speed up the process, you can have your other ripe fruits help ripen others. Put the fruit in the bag with a ripened fruit like a banana, pear, or apple. These fruits release a gas called ethylene, which helps to ripen other fruits.”
Zap them in the microwave or bake them in the oven
“Use a microwave to zap them ripe,” suggests Geiger. “With a toothpick, poke some holes in a banana and microwave it for 20–30 seconds, checking it each time until it reaches the desired texture.”
Briefly baking a banana in the oven will also help ripen your banana in a flash.
“Baking or microwaving a banana is a lightning-speed method to quickly ripen a banana,” says Pallian. “To bake it, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) and then place the banana on a baking sheet, still in the peel, but use a fork to poke a few holes in it. Then, bake it for about 30 minutes.”
Toss them in the freezer
“Both very high and low temperatures cause the cells and starches in the banana to break down, resulting in the soft and mushy texture that is associated with ripe fruit,” adds Geiger. Though not the fastest method, it is this logic that also explains why freezing a whole banana—peel included—and then defrosting it to enjoy (hours) later can also effectively ripen your banana, according to Geiger.
The next time you’re eager to sink your teeth into a delicious banana, you don’t have to allow its lack of ripeness to deter you from getting what you want. Try out any of these creative hacks to help you ripen a banana fast, and see which method works best or most a-peels to you!