Here's How To Tell If A Banana Is Too Ripe For Banana Bread

Banana bread is a great snack or dessert and is a wonderful way to use bananas that have become too ripe. However, figuring out exactly how ripe the bananas need to be can be a challenge. You definitely don't want them to be rotten, but you need them to be ripe enough. How do you find the middle ground?

When using them for banana bread, bananas can be far riper than you might expect (via Kitchen Parade). Bananas that have essentially turned black are still okay to use, and are actually preferred by some bakers. When leaving bananas to ripen, they should be stored wrapped in wax paper to prevent them from sticking to each other as they get softer. 

To get black bananas, they need to be left to their own devices for at least eight weeks. However, if your bananas have sat around this long, smell them before you bake to make sure they have not started to rot. If they have, they are officially too ripe and need to be discarded. Due to the wax paper, you will be able to separate them easily so you only discard the rotten banana. When you remove the skin, the banana may be syrupy. This is okay as long as it still smells like banana. If you are in doubt, though, throw the banana away.

How long do you need to ripen bananas?

When you purchase bananas, even if you buy the ripest ones available, they are likely not ripe enough for banana bread. Let the bananas ripen at room temperature for a few days to a week (or eight weeks if you forget about them or want black bananas). The darker the banana is, the better it is for baking (via King Arthur Flour).

Most people probably don't plan their baking projects weeks in advance. To get around this problem, you can keep some ripe bananas in the freezer. To do this, whenever you see a banana on your counter that is too ripe to eat, store it in the freezer using a Ziploc bag. The banana will turn dark brown or black in the freezer. That is normal. Prior to baking with frozen bananas, thaw them at room temperature.

If you buy fresh bananas and keep some in your freezer, you will be covered for both spur-of-the-moment baking projects as well as planned ones. Remember, a banana can never be too ripe for banana bread — unless it's started to get moldy, infested with fruit flies, or begins to rot.

How to ripen bananas faster

Sometimes you have the opposite problem and your bananas aren't quite ripe enough for banana bread. Thankfully, there are a couple of tricks to ripen bananas faster.

One thing you can do is put the bananas in the warmest area in your home — for example, by a window that gets a lot of sun. This method will ripen bananas within 24 hours to up to five days, depending on how ripe the bananas were to start with. Bananas ripen more quickly in a bunch, so if you can leave all of them together it will speed up the process.

Another method for ripening bananas is to enclose them in a paper bag with the top folded down. If you have any riper bananas or other ripe fruit, add that to the bag as well to speed the process. Bananas are among many fruits that produce ethylene as they ripen which increases the speed of ripening, which is why other riper bananas or another ripe fruit will speed up the process. The more ethylene in the bag, the quicker the bananas will ripen. This method should ripen the bananas within one to two days.

If you need the bananas right away, there is another method you can try. Putting bananas in the oven can get them to where they need to be to bake banana bread. 

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To do this, heat the oven to 300 degrees, then put the bananas, with the peels still on, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through the baking time, around the eight- to 10-minute mark. The banana skins will turn black. After they cool, peel the bananas and mash them to have bananas that are banana bread ready.

After all your work, you now have a delicious loaf of fresh-baked banana bread. However, it unfortunately doesn't last long before losing its freshness. To keep it fresh longer, keep it wrapped in plastic or foil. Refrigerating tightly wrapped banana bread can also extend the shelf life for up to a week (via Delishably).

If you want to keep it longer than that, your best bet is to freeze it. Store the banana bread in freezer wrap or a freezer bag and it will keep for up to three months. When you are ready to eat it, thaw it by simply leaving it out on the counter for approximately two to four hours before you plan to eat it for a loaf, or at least 30 minutes for a slice.

Regardless of how you choose to store it, make sure the banana bread is completely cooled before wrapping it to prevent condensation.