Bananas are a staple in many kitchens. They’re probably one of the most frequently purchased produce items at the grocery store, but we don’t do much cooking with the bunch. For most bananas, their destiny is simple: to be eaten whole or sliced raw over yogurt. Otherwise, they’re baked into a loaf of banana bread, or served in this banana split dessert recipe.
Well, we have good news for banana lovers everywhere! Cooking banana is perhaps the best-kept kitchen secret you’re missing out on—until now.
Why cook bananas?
Cooking bananas is a great way to amplify their flavor. When bananas cook, their sugars begin to caramelize, which brings out their natural sweetness and enhances their overall flavor. It helps make a healthy treat or quick dessert. Plus, if you don’t eat a banana every day, this might convince you to start.
How to choose the best bananas at the store
When shopping, be careful not to confuse bananas with their cousin, the plantain. These two fruits look similar; however, they taste different. This is mostly because plantains contain less of a naturally occurring hormone found in bananas (and other fruits) called ethylene. This plant hormone is responsible for converting a banana’s starches to sugars and for changing the color of a banana’s peel as it ripens.
How do you know if a banana is ripe? Look for bananas that are bright yellow and starting to show just a few brown spots on the peel.
How to cook bananas
It seems they’re green one day and then brown and mushy the next. Not to worry! There’s a way to cook bananas at just about every stage. For some methods, green or underripe bananas are best because they retain their shape better throughout the cooking process. In other instances, ripe bananas are ideal because they contain more sugar and, thus, have a sweeter flavor.
How to roast bananas
To roast bananas, preheat your oven to 300°F. Then place four to six unpeeled, ripe bananas on a lined baking sheet. With a fork, pierce the skin of each banana a few times on all sides and then bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bananas when the skin has turned black and shiny. Let cool and then split open the peels and scoop out the roasted banana. Once you’ve got the fruit handled, here’s the secret to getting perfectly crispy, caramelized roasted veggies.
How to bake bananas
To make baked banana chips, preheat your oven to 200°F. Then peel and thinly slice six to eight slightly underripe bananas. Next, toss the banana slices in lemon juice and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for two hours and then gently flip with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 60 to 90 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
How to sauté bananas
For quick bananas Foster, sauté bananas. Simply peel and slice slightly underripe bananas either in half lengthwise or into thick coins. Next, in a medium skillet, melt 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Then, add the sliced bananas and coat them gently with the caramel sauce. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the bananas are tender.
Editor’s Tip: Adventurous cooks can also flambé the bananas with a few tablespoons of dark rum.
How to boil bananas
You can make a powerful sleeping tonic from bananas. Research shows that magnesium-rich bananas may help you sleep more soundly. To make a cup of banana tea, bring a pot of water to a boil. Then, leaving the peel intact, cut off both ends of a banana and carefully place it in the boiling water. Let the banana steep for about 10 minutes, and then strain the tea through a colander into a mug. Drink at least 60 minutes before bed.
How to grill bananas
To grill bananas, preheat the grill to medium-low. Meanwhile, with the peel intact, slice each banana in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides of the bananas with lemon juice and then generously coat them with brown sugar and cinnamon. Place the bananas on a well-oiled grill cut-side down and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bananas when they’re tender to the touch and caramelized. Serve warm with ice cream and sundae toppings. Here are another 22 things you wouldn’t think to grill—but should.
How to pan-fry bananas
To fry bananas, warm a skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Then add 1/2-inch thick slices of banana to the pan. Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side and remove when the slices are golden and caramelized. Eat plain, as a snack, or on top of toast with peanut butter. Don’t worry about buying too many bananas: Here are 20 clever uses for bananas (besides eating them).