How to Use the Good, the Bad and Ugly Bananas

How to Use the Good, the Bad and Ugly Bananas

Bananas are uniquely edible at all stages of their life cycle, whether green, yellow, or brown. Of course, you may not want to eat an unripe green one completely raw, and those mushy brown ones don’t really Instagram well on your smoothie bowl, but the #1 favorite fruit in the U.S. is as versatile as it is popular.

If you’ve been crossing your fingers in the hope your green bananas will rapidly ripen or throwing your brown ones in the compost, that’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S! We’re about to show you what to do with those bananas, no matter how ready (or not) they look.

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Does Color Matter?

As bananas ripen, their firm starchiness transforms into sweet softness. There are notable differences in their flavor and nutritional nuances — some are better for cooking, while some are better to eat raw.

“Ripe bananas have a high sugar content but may be easier to digest and contain more antioxidants,” says Colleen Poling, R.D., owner of Nutrition Translator.

Green bananas have their own benefits, says Rachael Hartley, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., C.L.T., owner of Avocado A Day Nutrition. They’re higher in resistant starch, which is indigestible and functions as a type of fiber. (Resistant starch can support digestive health and has a slower impact on your blood sugar levels. It can also promote healthy bowel function.)

No matter the color, though, bananas contain vitamins, nutrients, and plenty of fiber to promote good overall health.

Here’s how to best use bananas at each stage of ripeness:


How Do I Use Green Bananas?

Green bananas don’t taste like the creamy, sweet fruit you know as “banana,” nor will you find their signature aroma. These can be used in place of plantains (a starchy relative of the banana) and as an ingredient in international dishes. Not a butter fan? Lindsay Nixon of the plant-based blog Happy Herbivore purees green bananas and to replace the butter in pie crusts.

How to Use Them:


How Do I Use Yellow Bananas?

These are the bananas that you know and love. With or without little brown spots, they’re great as a snack or as a topping for cereal, açai bowls, oatmeal, and more. Preserve perfectly ripe bananas by slicing and freezing them for smoothies. Craving ice cream? Freeze a bunch of bananas and blend them up for vegan “nice cream.”

How to Use Them:


How Do I Use Brown Bananas?

Brown, squishy, overripe bananas are ideal for baking. They add a rich sweetness and an almost caramel-like flavor to everything from classic banana bread and muffins to pancakes and cookies. Ripe bananas are a common swap for eggs in vegan baking, so use one banana for every egg called for in a recipe. (Note: There will be a strong banana flavor.)

They can also be added to smoothies for sweetness, but at this stage, they don’t add much creaminess. Freeze them for banana bread whenever the mood strikes.

How to Use Them:

  • Ah, classic banana bread — how all brown bananas love thee. Try this gluten-free version to shake things up.
  • Forget the box-mix pancakes and make a stack of Multi-Grain Banana Pancakes.
  • If you think you don’t have time in the morning for breakfast, you’re wrong: Make Oatmeal Cups With Raisins, Bananas, and Walnuts ahead of time and all you have to do is grab and go.


How Do I Store Bananas?

Bananas are picked when they’re unripe and thus more stable to ship. As they ripen, they emit a gas called ethylene, a natural plant hormone. You can speed up the ripening process by putting your green bananas in a paper bag for a day. Or you can slow it down by separating your bunch and putting each banana in an area with good air circulation.

When your entire bunch ripens at once, refrigerate it for a few days to keep the bananas at their peak. Their skin will darken, but they’ll taste the same.

So the next time you’re confounded by a bunch of bananas sitting on your counter, stay calm and step away from the trash can — now you have an arsenal of ways to use them at every stage.