How To Tell If A Banana Is Ripe With Pictures! (A Yellow Banana Is Not Ripe Enough)

by on October 23, 2011


Low Fat Vegan Chef's Ripe Spotted Bananas

So you want to know how to tell if a banana is ripe and if the ones you have are ripe enough.

One of the most troubling things I find when promoting fresh fruits and vegetables to people is that they don’t understand that many fruits have to ripen before being eaten.

You cannot just assume you can simply pick the fruit up from the grocery store display, take it home and eat it right away like a frozen dinner, a box of pasta or a can of beans. (There are a few exceptions like apples and oranges.) As society gets more and more out of touch with fresh whole foods and the majority of people are unable to identify the ingredients they are eating in processed foods, they don’t know what fruits and vegetables are supposed to taste like in general, let alone when they are unripe, ripe or overripe.

Someone may have a bad experience with a mango, eating it rock hard and unripe and declare “I hate mangoes! They’re all sour and stringy. I’m never eating them again” or “Bananas make me bloated and constipated so I don’t eat them anymore.” (I promise you, you will not get bloated or constipated from eating ripe bananas, only unripe bananas that are starchy. Think raw potato starchy. Gross.)

Really the issue is not that the fruit tastes awful in general or they are a fussy eater, they just don’t have any knowledge about how a plant food grows, ripens and then starts to rot. It has a whole process, unlike sterilized pasteurized packaged food from the dry goods or refrigerated section that is ready to go from cart to pan to plate.

The photo above shows 3 different bananas from 3 different bunches of bananas all in different stages of ripeness.

Bananas are one of the most important fruits for people to learn how to eat properly because people eat them so frequently and don’t often enjoy them. They eat them because they have to for a snack or on top of cereal as they think it’s good for them.

In my recipes you will see that I stipulate RIPE bananas all the time. I want people to stop thinking that a ripe banana is simply a banana that is not really green anymore. A yellow banana that is rock hard and pale inside is NOT a ripe banana. This banana should not be eaten, not be put on your cereal, not be used in a smoothie and certainly not used for raw banana ice-cream. It tastes awful, mostly pasty, starchy and not very sweet. It’s going to ruin your breakfast or your recipe.

When you see bananas starting to get a few brown spots (and you think oh my gosh, but it’s rotting, it looks so ugly… maybe I should throw it away) please please wait. This banana is only starting to begin to ripen and not be so starchy and pasty. Before you eat a banana I want you to notice that it has LOTS and LOTS of brown spots, dark brown spots all over it. The peel is softening, the “neck” of the banana is no longer rock hard and it’s starting to wilt. Now you don’t have to wait for your banana to be all black, bruised and squishy. No no. If you have bruised or squishy bananas you don’t have to keep those on the counter. You can however peel them and freeze them for banana bread or for use in baking later if you wish (as this makes them taste better, not worse).

Low Fat Vegan Chef's Ripe Spotted Bananas

Let’s take a look at these 3 bananas again.

I have arranged them from least ripe to most ripe, bottom to top. So the banana on the bottom has a few brown speckles spread out all over the banana. The one in the middle has a few more speckles both small and larger but over more surface area than the one below and the one on top has the most and darkest brown speckles.

So when I am talking about eating and using ripe bananas in recipes and smoothies I am talking about the middle one and the top one at least. The one on the bottom is still not really sweet enough (good enough tasting) to use in a smoothie. When we make vegan smoothies without sugar, we generally rely on ripe bananas for it’s natural sugars and sweetness to bring a balance to the flavours of more tart fruits like frozen berries or frozen mango (which are less ripe and frozen immediately).

At home, we actually have several bunches of bananas in varying degrees of ripeness on the counter so I have a steady supply of bananas to use for smoothies or eating. As soon as you have “too many” dark speckled bananas you can simply peel and freeze them and use them in smoothies or raw banana ice-cream later. (If you don’t have a Vitamix, I recommend breaking them into chunks and freezing them so it’s easier to blend).

So please make sure that when you are eating bananas from now on you give them a chance to ripen (sweeten up, lose the starch) and the peels will be a little softer and it will smell nice and fragrant like a banana. Your banana will open easily and not make an awful cracking plastic sound (like a hard yellow banana).

The easiest way to open a banana is also from the “bottom”. The bottom is actually the top of the banana though in how it grows, and the stem is actually at the bottom and is harder. Try it next time! This is also how monkeys open bananas because they know it’s easier to open from the “bottom” (what we perceive as the bottom).

Low Fat Vegan Chef's Ripe Spotted Bananas

Bottom: starting to ripen
Middle: medium ripe
Top: ripe enough to make a tasty smoothie or snack

So that, my friend is how you tell if a banana is ripe.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tee June 5, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Great article!!
I just had some delicious ripe bananas and I’ve had some disgusting ones in the past (because of my impatience for them to ripe).
This article is not only informative but so very accurate!

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2 mable April 12, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Is there a way to SLOW down the ripening process in the home, especially in the summers when it is hot and humid where I live. My husband is not a fan of bananas that have been in the fridge (I think it is just a mental block!). Like you, I would like to have a range of ripeness, but I find that they tend to over-ripen too quickly, going from under ripe to too soft for enjoyable eating. If there is a way to do it (does some other fruit or veg hinder the speed of ripening?) I would like to keep some in the eating stage for longer.

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3 Veronica Grace April 16, 2014 at 9:50 PM

If bananas are super hard and green I still find they take over a week to ripen. What I do is buy bunches of bananas in varying degrees of ripeness so I have different bunches ripening at different times. Once they are perfectly ripe I just peel them and then freeze them in bags or containers.

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4 joanna July 28, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Hi. Another way to lengthen the ripening process is by hanging a bunch of bananas by their stems, as they would be hanging in nature. This ‘ makes them think ‘ that they are still on their tree and growing, so they slow down ripening.

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5 Veronica Grace July 29, 2014 at 4:03 PM

I am not sure about that. Banana stems face down and the “end” faces the sky when they are actually on a bunch, so hanging them by the stem is still hanging them upside down the same as they’d sit upside down on a counter. So i’m not sure.

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6 Helen December 29, 2013 at 5:20 PM

What about bananas with larger spots that literally turn into holes? lol
I have a few of those who have been sitting around for a week,they’re nice on the inside, but the holes are odd.

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7 Veronica Grace December 29, 2013 at 6:11 PM

I am not sure what you mean by holes. Indents? As long as the bananas are fine on the inside don’t worry. Each banana looks a little different as they are picked very early and then gassed to not ripen during shipment So different batches sometimes have different spotting

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8 Rae August 14, 2013 at 12:04 PM

When they have the brown spots and you peel them, they’re mushy and brown on the inside. Is that good or bad? I’ve never liked the mushyness of the banana, it tastes ‘off’ somehow. Maybe it’s just me and I’m picky about the “textures’ of foods too. Just wondering about it though. Thanks!

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9 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica August 14, 2013 at 12:24 PM

When they are yellow on the outside with little brown speckles on them they are not brown and mushy on the inside. The only time they are mushy on the inside is #1 if they are bruised or #2 when they are fully brown or black on the outside with no more spots then they are mushy on the inside and can be used for baking. Yellow with brown speckles or spots means ripe and if you peel them they will be slightly firm still, be sweeter and can be eaten or used in smoothies. Hard yellow or green bananas cannot be used in recipes as they are too starchy and sticky with little flavor.

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10 Anon June 22, 2013 at 11:22 PM

what does it mean if a banana is still green but it has brown spots? is it ripe or unripe?

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11 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica June 22, 2013 at 11:25 PM

It depends, if it’s still green it means it was likely picked too unripe and then gassed to ripen later during shipment/storage. I find bananas that are spotted and green are still fairly hard and not as sweet, i let them get more spots until I use them. Yellow spotted bananas have ripened properly and are better.

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12 Mindy April 13, 2013 at 11:56 PM

Hi there,

Certainly no offense intended here, however, you never really mention WHY we should wait until a banana is ripe other than taste, etc. What about the drawbacks of not waiting until ripe or the benefits OF waiting. ??

Thanks so much!

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13 Sara May 9, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Unripe bananas are too starchy, ripe bananas are higher in sugar, meaning they digest easier (sugar is easier for your body to break down than starches). This is why many people feel sick to their stomach after eating a banana, they eat them when they’re unripe and hard to digest!
Nutrients are also higher in ripe bananas.

And you can learn a lot from animals in nature. :) The ones that can see in the UV range can easily tell which bananas are ready to eat because the brown spots stand out with glowing ‘halos’ around them. So if wild animals eat spotty bananas, that’s a sign we should do the same. :)

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14 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica September 10, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Why? Because it’s easier to digest – the enzymes have broken the unripe starch down into simple sugars, it’s easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrition. Eating unripe fruit or vegetables is harder on the body and it does more work trying to break it down. It causes some people constipation, bloating and upset stomach.

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15 Dicky April 10, 2013 at 1:14 AM

Thanks Veronica, great article. I love ripe bananas, and overripe too. You have mentioned that you use ripe bananas in your recipes (smoothies, banana ice cream, etc.). But what about eating them as a snack? I typically eat one banana as a snack every other day. Are there any disadvantages due to higher sugar content of ripe or overripe banana such as increased blood sugar, weight gain, etc.?

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16 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica April 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM

I usually use bananas in recipes I don’t like to snack. Of course ripe bananas as a snack is an option. I don’t know about disadvantages of eating ripe fruit. If you eat them underripe it’s usually harder to digest and can cause stomach aches or constipation. There’s so much fiber in fruit and vegetables you actually don’t get 5-10% of the calories in it. Having fruit as a snack should be fine as long as you’re not overeating at meals. You can gain weight from eating any extra calories. But I wouldn’t recommend eating unripe fruit to eat lower sugar and have compromised digestion. That doesn’t make sense.

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17 Nikki February 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Another thing to note is that in colder weather, a banana that looks like your ripest in the picture will not taste as ripe as it will in warmer weather. So that means you may want to wait until your bananners are even more speckly and brown during the winter. (Driving me up the wall right now as I can’t find ripe bananas anywhere and all the ones I have at home are still green-tipped to just barely starting to form pin-point spots!! WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO??!! GAH! Paper bags with apples for now!

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18 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica February 4, 2013 at 10:25 PM

They tend to be a bit firmer in canada that speckled but they are very sweet and ripe. They are softer of course inside in tropical places when they are that speckled.

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19 Rita January 22, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Thanks for the great information. I was writing a banana bread recipe for my blog and linked to your article about ripe bananas. We’re always picking out the perfectly yellow bananas…but the ones with a few spots are so much more flavorful!

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20 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica January 22, 2013 at 7:29 PM

No problem Rita! Thanks for the link back. :)

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21 K. Edwards January 8, 2013 at 9:56 AM

These bananas in these photos are far too ripe for me. I like bananas that are at a perfect yellow. No brown spots, no green spots.

Thanks for the information it was quite informative.

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22 Duchess January 3, 2013 at 4:28 PM

This is a GREAT website with great knowledge. I HATE bananas and ONLY eat them when I don’t feel well or tired. But I see NOW that ive been eating the wrong ones. I THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge and I will give bananas another try. I have one left and will wait until its spotted.

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23 Rhonda September 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Can we get a follow-up on that last banana please?

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24 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica September 10, 2013 at 3:11 PM

?

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25 Kyle September 11, 2013 at 8:18 AM

I am also VERY curious. I NEED to know whether or not Duchess ENJOYED her last banana when she gave bananas ANOTHER try.

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26 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica September 11, 2013 at 5:05 PM

lol

27 Hilder December 5, 2012 at 8:13 AM

Thanx for photo example,i totally agree with you,i used to feel bloated after eating bananas,but not anymore since i accidentally ate a brown spotted banana,before this i considered them overipe,now i eat a banana everymorning before breakfast,apart from loving this new discovery,i have realised i dont get so tired,am able to do my work with so much zeal.

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28 Linda October 29, 2012 at 11:28 AM

I received some very green bananas from a friend. How do I get them to ripen.

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29 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica October 29, 2012 at 9:36 PM

Hi Linda

Green bananas will take about a week and a half to two weeks to ripen to where they have lots of brown cheetah spots on them. You can place them in a paper bag to help them ripen a little faster if you like. I find banana with lots of brown spots taste much sweeter and are best for smoothies and recipes. If they don’t have spots they are too starchy and bland and can make for sour smoothies.

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30 Heather March 24, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I love this! Just linked to it on my Facebook biz page:

http://www.facebook.com/my.healthy.eating.secrets

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31 Em January 26, 2012 at 2:55 AM

Wow! What a great post Veronica!

I’ve always eaten my bananas ‘rotting’ as other people say – though I always smile to myself, knowing that they have no idea how delicious bananas can taste. You’ve really broken it down for me here – thanks so much for all the detailed info. I love this website sooo much. I can (and do) spend hours wandering around here. I’ve not seen anything quite like it…

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32 Veronica January 26, 2012 at 4:45 AM

Bananas are a real key to a low fat raw vegan diet and SO many people eat them underripe. Even my family after I showed them this info still eat unripe bananas that are still green on the ends and rock hard. They are actually frightened to eat riper bananas because they’re afraid they might be bad, taste different/stronger and not be so mild and bland.

I explain you need to have ripe bananas or else your smoothie taste sour and starchy and they understand that, but they still want to eat unripe ones for a snack or on cereal, cuz it’s just one. But obviously most vegans and raw foodists eat more than 1. :)

I had a really clear idea what I wanted for this site, I wanted to have great pictures and lots of information to be very clear in how to make tasty vegan food. I’m so glad people are liking it and coming here. :D

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33 derek January 18, 2012 at 2:51 PM

I am Derek from Malaysia.
I love your website, it’s really broaden my fruits knowledge.
By the way, how do i to build up my muscle by vegetarian and fruitarian???
Thanks a lot

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34 Veronica January 18, 2012 at 4:22 PM

To gain weight and muscle you have to do 2 things. First you need to eat a LOT of calories. If you are not eating a ton of fruits and veg, your body doesn’t have the tools it needs to build muscle. If you under eat you’ll just stay skinny and trim. Secondly you have to lift heavy weights for only a few repetitions. Bigger weights less repetitions a few times a week. You’re basically going to work out like body builders do, but instead of eating meat, eggs and protein shakes you’re going to eat tons and tons of fruit, green smoothies and some nuts and seeds. Try googling some raw guys that build muscle on a raw food diet. Their key is to eat a lot of food and work out regularly. Don’t do a lot of cardio, just do some, and the rest should be weightlifting if you want to build muscle.

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35 Catherine Forest October 23, 2011 at 2:17 AM

Super interesting, Veronica! I could not see the difference in those 3 stages before! I thought that as long as there were brown speckles, they were ripe! Thanks!

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36 Veronica October 23, 2011 at 7:06 AM

This is what I have noticed when sampling bananas. I use them a lot in smoothies and in banana ice cream. And if you use them just when they go speckled right after being yellow they’re still not sweet enough. I find if you let them sit a day or two past when they first get speckles they taste much better, so it’s worth it.

I always make sure the food I eat tastes good or else it seems kind of like a chore and then you might feel unsatisfied and want a snack instead. So best to make sure your fruit is truly ripe and sweet. Especially when using multiple bananas in smoothies or ice-cream or else it can ruin it and be starchy, or blah tasting.

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