25 November 2023

Here’s everything you need to know about storing bananas. Learn how to store unripe plantains, what to do with ripe ones, and how to deal with peeled or halved plantains.

Do you have a large bunch of bananas that you want to keep fresh for as long as possible? Or maybe you have a leftover banana half or a peeled one and need to know how to save it for later.

If that sounds like you, this article is for you. In it, we cover the following

  • storing immature and ripe bananas (and how to tell if yours is ripe or not)
  • options for preserving a leftover half or quarter banana
  • how to treat peeled bananas and how to prevent browning
  • storing dried plantains (or plantain chips)

How to store a banana

An unripe banana should sit at room temperature until it turns yellow and fully ripens. That usually takes 1-5 days. Once ripe, you can leave the plantain on the counter for 2-3 days or refrigerate it for 7-10 days.

As you probably know, unripe bananas are green and turn yellow when ripe. And while immature bananas are edible, the difference between them and fully ripe ones is huge.

As bananas ripen, their starch content is converted to sugars. That causes the pulp of the banana to soften and sweeten, turning it into the smooth, sweet fruit everyone knows and loves.

Knowing this, you can decide to buy green bananas if you need them to last a long time or stick with the ripe yellow ones if you need them soon. Or buy a few of each type.

Related: How long do bananas last?

Bunch of old bananas
Bunch of old bananas

unripe green bananas

Store unripe bananas at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, until ripe. Don’t refrigerate unripe bananas, as this could disrupt the ripening process, which means you may end up with a firm banana that isn’t as sweet, regardless of the ripening time.

The entire ripening process usually takes between a day and 5, maybe 7 days, depending on the color of the fruit. The green ones take much longer, while the ones that are mostly yellow with some hints of green only need another day or two to finish ripening.

To speed up the ripening process, place the plantains in a brown bag and fold down the opening. Add another ethylene-producing fruit, like an apple or pear, to the mix to speed things up even more.

This works because the ethylene gas the bananas produce helps them ripen, and sealing them in a bag helps trap that gas. Adding another fruit to the bag simply helps increase the ethylene concentration.

(As a note, don’t use a plastic bag if possible. That’s because it traps all the moisture, which can cause the banana to rot.)

If you want to slow down the ripening process, there is also a trick for this: wrap the stem of the banana with plastic or aluminum foil.

The stem emits most of the ethylene, so when you wrap it, the gas is trapped and access to the rest of the fruit is limited, slowing down the ripening process. With this trick, you can prolong the immaturity phase for a couple more days.

Ripe bananas

Ripe plantains keep for 2-3 days on the counter and 7-10 days in the fridge. While the banana peel quickly darkens when refrigerated, the pulp maintains its quality for much longer.

In other words, whether or not you should refrigerate ripe plantains depends on when you plan to eat or use them.

If you’re going to use them soon, leaving the bananas on the counter is fine. But if you need them to stay fresh for more than a few days, refrigeration is the best option.

As for where exactly you should put your bananas in the fridge, there are at least two options.

The first is to put them in the produce drawer, where you probably keep other fruits and vegetables.

The problem is that even fully ripe bananas produce some ethylene. It’s not as much as the maturing ones, but it’s something. And that something will speed up the ripening and spoilage of other ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables. Which is something we’d like to avoid, of course.

(Here’s a list of ethylene-sensitive products, if you’re looking for it.)

The other option is to simply place the bunch of bananas on a shelf in the fridge. This way, the ethylene gas it produces won’t affect other fruits and vegetables, assuming you don’t put any near it. And that’s what I recommend.

Again, if you refrigerate bananas for more than a few days, be aware that their skin will turn brown and eventually black. That means those bananas will look awful on the outside, but the flesh will still be nice and white for a week or so.

This is what the shell looks like after a week:

Banana peel darkened
Banana peel darkened

It doesn’t look so good, does it? But this is what one of them looks like inside:

Banana white flesh dark skin
Banana white flesh dark skin

Unfortunately, you don’t know ahead of time whether or not that black-skinned banana will be perfectly fine on the inside.

But if the flesh turns out to be dark and overripe after peeling, you can still use such a banana in baking. A popular option for using overripe bananas is banana bread.

Related: How long does banana bread last?
Related: How to preserve banana bread?

Baked Banana Bread
Baked Banana Bread

How to store half a banana

Let’s say you’ve cut your banana in half (or quarters, or whatever), and you want to save the leftover part.

This is how a partially eaten banana is stored:

  1. (Optional) Dip the cut end of the fruit in lemon juice. This will prevent it from darkening during storage. If you don’t have lemon juice available, lime, orange, or even grapefruit juice can do the trick. And if you don’t mind it getting dark or you don’t have fruit juice on hand, feel free to skip this step.
  2. Cover the cut end of the banana with plastic wrap.. Make sure any split parts of the shell are covered as well. What we are looking for is to prevent the banana pulp from coming into contact with the air. You can use a silicone food protector (or food hugger) instead of plastic wrap, but don’t use aluminum foil if you dip the cut end into the fruit juice (acid reacts with aluminum foil).
  3. Place the banana in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Some people recommend placing that half banana in a freezer bag or airtight container to further protect it from air, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You can store a whole banana as is in the fridge, so it should keep well as long as the flesh of the naked banana is well covered.

You can also place half or third of the banana in a freezer bag or airtight container without covering the cut end and leave it that way. Keep in mind that the flesh of the plantain that is not covered will start to brown and become slimy in a day or so.

Regardless of which option you choose, unless you spray the cut end with fruit juice (or another acidic solution), it will brown slightly. Nothing happens and you don’t have to worry about it; just be sure to cut off that deteriorated piece before using the rest.

Storage of peeled bananas

Bananas keep their quality much better with the skin on, so if you know you’re only going to use half, cut off the other half and store it using the guidelines above.

But let’s say you’ve already peeled that banana and you’re left with a whole or partially eaten peeled banana. This is how peeled plantains are stored:

  1. (Optional) Drizzle the banana with lemon juice. Banana flesh tends to brown when stored, and if that bothers you, cover it with something acidic, like the juice of a citrus fruit like lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit. The way of applying the acid solution to the banana is not important. It does not matter if you have a spray bottle, a vaporizer, if you use a brush to cover the pulp or if you dip the fruit in the juice.
  2. Place the banana in a resealable bag. Squeeze out any excess air before sealing the bag tight. I recommend the use of bags especially since there is little air left in it compared to containers. And less air means less oxidation and a somewhat slower loss of quality.
  3. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 days.

If you don’t spray the plantain with an acidic agent, the flesh will start to brown in a day or so, especially near the cut ends.

This is what the beginning of pulp browning looks like:

Banana pulp browning
Banana pulp browning

As you can imagine, you can substitute the bag by wrapping the banana in plastic wrap. However, I recommend storage bags simply because they are reusable and a much more environmentally friendly option than plastic wrap.

Last but not least, if you have doused the banana with something acidic, do not use aluminum foil to wrap it. This is because the aluminum foil reacts with the acidic agent, and you probably don’t want to eat extra aluminum.

(You most likely won’t get sick if you eat a banana drizzled with citrus juice and wrapped in aluminum foil, but it’s best not to in the first place.)

Storing leftover peeled panana
Storing leftover peeled panana

How to store dried bananas

The pantry or kitchen is the best place to keep dried plantains (or plantain pieces); you just have to choose a cool and dry place. So they should easily last at least a couple of weeks past the best before date.

If you live in a hot and humid climate or just want to extend the shelf life of dried bananas, the fridge is a better option.

Once the package is opened, seal it well or put it in an airtight container if it is not possible to seal it.

A good seal is essential if you store dry bananas in the refrigerator or if you live in an area with high humidity. In either case, your dry product, if not properly sealed, can pick up moisture from the environment and possibly develop mold.

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