We’ve all been there: we find the perfect recipe for banana bread, we gather our ingredients, we preheat the oven, and go to check our frozen ripe banana stash only to find that it’s empty!
All we have left are the bananas on the counter that are still firm and not great for baking.
You might think that this would be the end of your banana bread baking adventure.
However, there is a trick you can use to soften your banana that takes almost no time at all: pop it in the microwave! I know this method sounds silly, but it can effectively soften your bananas in as little as 2 minutes.
So, how do you microwave a banana? First, you want to poke it all over with a fork or toothpick to create holes. This allows the steam to escape and prevents it from exploding. Next, place it on a microwave-safe plate and heat for 1 minute on high. Repeat until soft, about 2-3 minutes.
Read on to discover why you would want to microwave a banana, what to watch out for, the best method for microwaving a banana, and how to ripen a banana in the oven!
Why You Would Want To Microwave A Banana
The main reason I microwave my bananas is when I want to make them softer and easier to mash, specifically when I’m baking something like banana bread.
Microwaving a banana doesn’t convert the starches to sugars in the same way roasting does, but it makes it a lot softer.
The best way to ripen a banana quickly in terms of converting starch to sugar (that’s what makes bananas sweet) is by slowly roasting them in the oven.
However, we don’t always have the time to spend waiting for the 20-40 minutes to pass.
If you are short on time and want to soften your banana quickly so that you can use it in baking, then you can try the microwave method.
This method works best for bananas that are already starting to turn yellow since they will have some of their starches already converted to sugar.
By microwaving your banana you can soften it up in as little as 2-3 minutes! That’s way faster than the 20-30 minutes in the oven or the several days on the counter.
I’m not sure I would recommend eating a microwaved banana plain since the texture would be squishy and the flavor won’t be as sweet as if you let it ripen naturally.
That said, it’s a great trick for bananas that are too firm to mash for banana breads, cookies, muffins, or other baked goods.
How To Properly Microwave A Banana
If you want to properly microwave a banana then I suggest using ones that have already started turning a little brown, since that means they will already be sweet.
This method doesn’t impact the sweetness much since it doesn’t convert the starches to sugar. It’s great for softening them up to mash though.
Follow these instructions to properly microwave your banana:
- Using a fork, toothpick, or pointy knife, poke many holes all over your banana. This technique can help prevent your banana from exploding in the microwave and making a big mess.
- Place your bananas on a microwave-safe plate (they sometimes leak a bit as they soften) and pop them in the microwave.
- Microwave the banana on high for one minute.
- Open the microwave, flip the bananas over, and microwave on high another minute. Repeat until soft to the touch, about 2-3 minutes total depending on the size and ripeness of the banana.
- Once softened, remove from the microwave and let the banana cool before using in your recipe- the flesh inside the peel can be hot!
Note: To cool your banana faster you can place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
Does Microwaving A Banana Make It Sweeter?
If you want to ripen a banana and convert the starches to sugar for a sweeter treat, microwaving is probably not your best option.
While microwaving your banana can help soften it, this method doesn’t actually make your banana taste much sweeter than it already was.
This method is best for bananas that are already a little ripe, but still firm since they will have some of their starches already converted to sugar.
This process is what gives bananas their sweet taste. By breaking down complex starches into simple sugars they hit the palate differently and give more sweetness.
That being said, if you decide to microwave your bananas to soften them for baking, you can always add a little more sweetener to your recipe to make up for the lack of sweetness in the banana.
I love adding a little maple syrup or honey to the mix if my bananas aren’t as sweet as I’d like.
What To Watch For When Microwaving A Banana
Since bananas contain a high amount of potassium (a type of metal, and an important mineral for health), the microwave can react to it.
This reaction can cause the microwaves to bounce of the potassium, causing arcs. These arcs can create sparks and potentially even catch your banana on fire!
If you start to see your banana creating an interesting light show, your best bet is to turn the microwave off, let the banana sit for a couple of minutes, then remove it. Do not continue microwaving your banana if you start to see sparks!
In some rare cases, your banana may even catch on fire due to these reactions. In this case, you want to unplug your microwave.
If the flame is quite large, leave the door closed so that it can burn out. Opening the door allows more oxygen into the microwave, which can make the fire get bigger.
What Is The Best Way To Ripen A Banana Quickly?
If you have a craving for banana bread or banana muffins, but your bananas are still firm and a little green, then you might want to give them a helping hand to ripen them quickly.
Technically, this process doesn’t actually ripen the banana, but it breaks down the sugars, so they are soft and sweet.
To soften your bananas for use in baking or cooking, you can slow roast them in the oven until the skin turns black.
The final result is pretty much the same as a ripe banana so it’s a great method to use.
While microwaving your bananas can help soften the texture a lot faster, it doesn’t actually allow the sugars to develop in the same way, so they won’t be quite as sweet.
This result can be a positive or a negative depending on preference.
However, if you have the time, I recommend trying to roast your bananas in the oven. This method not only softens the banana but allows the sugars to develop so you get a soft and sweet banana perfect for mashing and baking.
How To Ripen A Banana In The Oven
This method works best with bananas that have started to turn a little yellow-green. To change your bananas from green to yellow, place them in a paper bag for a day or so.
To properly soften your banana in the oven follow these instructions:
- Preheat your oven to 300°F. The goal here is a slow and low roasting that allows the sugars to develop. Don’t try to crank the temperature since this doesn’t allow as much of the starch to convert to sugar.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lay your bananas in a single layer on the baking sheet with an inch or two of space between each banana.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the bananas to roast for about 20-30 minutes. The skin should turn completely black. The baking time can vary depending on the size and current ripeness of your bananas.
- Once baked through, remove your bananas from the oven and let them cool before using.
Note: If you want your bananas to cool faster, you can place them in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
If you want to soften your bananas to make them easier to mash up and use in baking, then popping them in the microwave is a great idea. Just poke them all over with a toothpick or a fork to create holes to allow the steam to escape.
Once they’ve been poked, pop the bananas onto a microwave-safe plate and heat them on high for 1 minute at a time until they are soft. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
Let the banana cool and then you can use it any way you like in your recipe.
One thing to remember is that this method won’t make your bananas taste sweeter, since the quick process doesn’t allow the starches to convert to sugars.
You might want to add a little extra sugar or sweetener to your recipe to make up for it.