5 Ways to Ripen Bananas Fast for Banana Bread and Smoothies

Use the microwave, the oven, or even the sun to soften your bananas.


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We love a fresh, sweet, barely ripe banana to enjoy at breakfast, use to make bananas Foster or a banana split for dessert, or to eat after running a race or another tough workout to help us replace potassium. But sometimes, you don’t need a fresh banana as much as you need ripe banana mush. Very ripe, soft bananas are essential to banana bread, banana challah fritters, banana brioche bread pudding, or a banana smoothie, among other things. But overripe bananas are almost impossible to find in stores (understandably), and there are no real substitutes. If you know you’ll need bananas for smoothies or bread in the future, keep a few bananas in the freezer; they thaw in just minutes, and are the perfect soft texture for baking and making smoothies and pudding. But what do you do when you need a ripe, soft banana and your freezer is empty? If you don’t have ripe or overripe bananas available, you can speed up the process with a few different methods — here’s how.

If you can wait two or three days, place a bunch of ripe bananas together in a warm or sunny spot. The heat and sun will encourage ripening, but this will take a few days. 

To cut a day off that ripening time, place the bananas (still in their peels) in a paper bag alone, or along with an apple or two. The bananas will give off ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process for bananas, avocados, and other fruit. Adding an apple to the bag helps speed up the ripening process. For extra points, keep the bag in a sunny spot.

If you have at least three hours, place ripe bananas in the freezer. The peels will darken and the fruit will soften somewhat after you thaw the bananas.

If you need your bananas to ripen even faster, turn on your oven. F&W’s Justin Chapple explains in this video how to roast your bananas in the oven. He roasts peel-on bananas at 350°F for five to seven minutes to transform them into the dark mush that makes banana bread so special. 

If you can’t wait, you can also microwave bananas still in their peels; simply poke them with a fork a few times, and microwave them on high for a minute. Check your bananas, and if they aren’t quite soft enough, microwave them for another 30 seconds. You're that much closer to the banana dessert you've been craving.

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