Sunday Cooking Class: Ripe Bananas

by Dorothy Reinhold on September 19, 2010

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Executive summary

Bananas on left, not ripe enough for bread. Bananas on right, perfect!

If you want to make banana bread or banana cake, banana bars or any other baked banana item, you want ripe bananas.

Really, really ripe bananas. Super duper ripe bananas will deliver the most banana flavor possible, and ensure a very banana-y treat.

They should be so ripe you may have to fight off squadrons of fruit flies. I’m serious.

Sunday Cooking Class: Ripe Bananas

Pinkie promise!

Let’s call them dead black bananas. Ideally, there should be no yellow showing on the skin a’tall. This will take an agreement in your house that no one should throw the bananas out, ever. Make a pinky promise with your spouse/partner and children that they will never, ever throw a black banana out. If you let someone else be the decider on when a banana is dead as a doornail and actually needs to be thrown out, you will likely miss out on the best banana bread of your life. Have I made myself clear? Man up, and be in charge of your own bananas!

In the photo above, the bananas on the left are not ready; they have a couple more days to go. Many people think they are ready, but those people are wrong. The black bananas on the right are ready.

The bananas below are rotting, and you can see spots of fungus or mold or other delightful colonies of non-edibles, and those little things that look like rice grains? Those are maggots growing on them. This bunch of bananas, I give you permission to throw out. 

Sunday Cooking Class: Ripe Bananas

There’s a fungus amongus…and that’s not rice, it’s maggots!

So, what I need you to do is let the bananas get dead black (yes, flies will circle), but make the bread BEFORE the flies lay their eggs and the maggots hatch.

I’m all for being *thisclose* to the earth, but you don’t need that kind of ecosystem in your kitchen.

I would never, ever, not in a million years, use these maggoty bananas, except if I were desperate and then I might scrape off the fungus, rinse off the maggots, peel them and make the best freakin’ banana bread in the universe. No, I would never, ever do that. And I would slap anyone who might imply I would. 

Sunday Cooking Class: Ripe Bananas

Toss bananas in freezer jumble, skin on


All right, so what if the bananas are dead black ready and you don’t have time to make banana bread? Simply put them in the freezer, peel and all. In you go, Mr. Black Banana, to be retrieved a week or two later, when there is time to bake. Simply defost the rock-hard frozen banana and squeeze out the liquidy pulp.

How to measure

When bananas are dead black super duper ripe, you can slit the top and just squirt them out of their skin like toothpaste, into a 1-cup measuring cup. (How’s THAT for an image?) If they are slightly less ripe, peel bananas and put them in a wide, flat bowl. Mash with a potato masher, and scrape the banana mash into the measuring cup to make sure it measures 1 cup. Bananas differ greatly in size, so it is worth measuring the mash to make sure you get the amount right.

Got that? Let’s make banana bread.

Recipe is here. 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

June Richards January 23, 2024 at 5:27 am

Thank you so much for this article, one for making me laugh & two for clarifying with photo. I always stick over ripe bananas in the freezer for smoothies & baking, but when they look like the bananas on the left of your pic. I always throw them out if they get truly black, so this photo is really helpful. In future I shall let them blacken further. Thanks again Dorothy. 😊


Dorothy Reinhold January 23, 2024 at 11:18 am

Never throw them out! Well, only if they are covered in mold or something truly awful. If they are black, cut the top end off and squeeze out the innards like a tube of toothpaste. You can freeze that banana puree if you’re not ready to use it that day. Happy banana baking!


Therese August 31, 2020 at 10:26 am

What do they look like inside the black skin? I’m making banana muffins and my black bananas are soft, afraid to look .


Dorothy Reinhold September 1, 2020 at 8:13 am

They look a little less white…they are more tan than a yellow banana. Don’t worry…use them!


krystal May 22, 2015 at 4:17 pm

I put a bunch of black bananas in my freezer to make a huge batch of bread, when i took them out today i noticed a few did have a tiny bit of mold on the skin and some had a little bit on the banana under the skin, now they were frozen and i never noticed the mold before i froze them, is it okay to cut it off and use the rest of the banana?


Dorothy Reinhold May 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm

I say YES, USE!


Norma, Holly Springs, NC May 4, 2014 at 7:07 am

What a wonderful tutorial, showing pictures that displayed proper ripeness. Decades ago I tasted another banana bread recipe that was extremely good; However, the lady that baked the bread would not share her family recipe. She did hint to use really ripe bananas all the way to the point that the white spots are starting to show on the peel. Somehow I could not fathom this idea; Therefore, I never believed in using really ripe bananas. I’ve always used spotted bananas instead but have never achieved a moist bread. Thanks to this tutorial, I finally understand and believe how ripe a banana should mature. I can’t wait to try your recipe. I do have a question, when a nice yellow banana is peeled, sliced and placed in the fridge, it will turn brown almost immediately. Is that type of ripeness equal to the waiting process? Thank you so much for sharing your baking secrets/knowledge with everyone.


Dorothy Reinhold May 4, 2014 at 9:32 am

Thanks! Yep, the key to baking with bananas is a nice, disgustingly ripe, fully black banana. No, unfortunately, the banana simply turning brown from being in the refrigerator doesn’t indicate ripeness, but merely oxidation. You need to let it ripen on the counter, let the fruit flies buzz around it, and then you know it is ready to go! Once you have 3 or so bananas really ripe, you can always squirt them out of their skin into a measuring cup, and then freeze them in 1-cup portions so you can make this bread whenever you like.


Kate November 13, 2015 at 2:45 pm

It probably saves time to squirt them out of the skin too, instead of having to peel and mash them! I usually make banana bread when they’re just yellow with black dots though since I don’t trust myself to use them in time if I let them get all black (and I’ll never find them in the freezer).


Dorothy Reinhold November 14, 2015 at 6:28 am

It DOES save time! I totally understand the problem of losing black bananas in the freezer. Oh yeah, I’ve been there.


Janelle March 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Thank you – that was exactly what I needed to know! And I got a good laugh out of it too.


Dorothy Reinhold March 20, 2013 at 5:58 am

So happy to amuse you!


Lentil Breakdown September 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

That was funny and informative! I’ve never let my bananas get black—only my plantains. Who knew? (besides you). Thanks for the info.


Paula {} September 19, 2010 at 5:53 am

Had to laugh when I read this article. Made banana muffins for a school brunch and a boy ran up to me and said, “These are the BEST banana muffins EVER!” I used close to dead black bananas, but not quite. Have a bunch ripening in the kitchen right now. I think I’ll go unearth the recipe and go to town. BTW, where did you get the maggot photo? Between that and the “squirt them out of the skin like toothpaste” line, I think I’ve had enough visuals for a while! LOL Looking forward to your recipe. 🙂


Dorothy September 19, 2010 at 6:39 am

Thanks, Paula! The maggot photo I got the honest way…took it in my kitchen, with bananas I let go too far. I kept walking by them, day after day, saying, “Just one more day and they’ll be ready.” Apparently the fruit flies had established them as a nursery before I took a close enough look to say, “Hey, what are those little rice grains on my bananas?”


Paula {} September 19, 2010 at 7:21 am

Oh! And here I thought the response was going to read, “stock photo!” LOL Wouldn’t the bananas ripen faster if you put them in a brown paper bag?


Dorothy September 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Paula, yeah, but where’s the fun in THAT? Actually, with me it is out of sight, out of mind, so if the bananas are in a bag, I will walk right by the bag for 3 weeks. If they are on the counter in a bowl, in all their yellow, then brown glory, I must confront them!


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