How Long Do Bananas Last and When They’re Bad?

Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life of bananas. Learn how long they last, whether or not you should refrigerate them, and how to tell when they’re bad.

Bought a big bunch of bananas and worried they’ll go bad? How long do bananas last?

The Short Answer

Unripe bananas last about 2 to 7 days on the counter until they ripen. Once ripe, bananas keep for 2 to 3 days at room temperature or 7 to 10 days in the fridge.

That’s the gist of it, but there’s obviously much more to the shelf life and spoilage of bananas than that. Here’s what we cover below:

  • how to tell if bananas are ripe
  • the shelf life of bananas, depending on if they’re ripe and how you store them
  • signs of spoilage

Sounds interesting? Read on.

Bananas
Image used under Creative Commons from =ChevalieR=

When Are Bananas Ripe?

Bananas go from green to yellow to brown to black as they ripen.

Green bananas are unripe, and while edible, they’re quite firm and not particularly sweet. Over time, they turn yellow, and when the whole fruit is deep yellow (instead of pale yellow), it’s ripe. At that point, the banana is somewhat soft and pretty sweet – a peak quality for most of us.

As time goes by, brown areas start to appear on the peel. While some browning is okay and acceptable flavor-wise, if the whole banana is brown, it’s overripe. That’s when the fruit is soft and the flesh tastes super sweet. At that point, it’s probably best to use it in baked goods (e.g., banana bread). If it sits in storage any longer, it’ll turn black and you’ll have to discard it.

That’s how things work if you leave bananas on the counter.

If you refrigerate a banana once it reaches ripeness, things are different. The peel turns black in the fridge quite quickly, but the flesh stays white and reasonably firm for much longer. Hence you might have a bunch of bananas that look bad on the outside but are actually okay.

(Which is why you should always peel the banana that was refrigerated before deciding to toss it.)

Knowing that, let’s talk about the shelf life of bananas.

How Long Do Bananas Last?

 PantryFridge
Banana (green or unripe)2 – 7 days, until ripe 
Banana (ripe)2 – 3 days7 – 10 days
Banana (cut or peeled) 3 – 4 days
Banana shelf life estimates

Unripe bananas need 2 to 7 days on the counter to ripen. Once ripe, they keep for 2 to 3 days at room temperature and between 7 and 10 days if you refrigerate them. Cut or peeled bananas last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

The numbers I give you are only rough estimates. When you buy a bunch of bananas in the grocery store, the best you can do is to estimate how long they may last based on their color and overall quality.

If the bunch is deep green, it’ll surely need a few days, maybe even a week to ripen. But if there already are some yellow patches, that period shrinks to maybe 3 to 4 days. If the bananas are pale yellow, they only need a day or so to reach peak quality.

If you’re buying ripe bananas, the story is similar. Deep yellow ones without any brown or black patches give you a couple of days on the counter or more than a week in the fridge. But if there are already some dark spots, it’s probably more like 1 to 2 days of peak ripeness at room temperature and 3 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

You get the idea.

Cut or peeled bananas stay safe and last in decent condition for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, similar to most cut fruits and leftovers.

Now, let’s talk about when a banana is bad.

Banana sundae
(credit: Ashwin Vaswani)

When Are Bananas Bad?

When fully ripe, bananas have firm flesh and bright yellow peel. As the bananas over-ripen, brown spots start developing on the peel. Please note that dark spots on the peel alone do not mean the fruit is bad.

The once-firm flesh will start turning mushy and brown, and that’s the time you should start thinking about discarding the fruit. If the banana starts to leak liquid, it’s time for it to go.

In other words, the quality of the banana depends entirely on the quality of the flesh.

If you refrigerate your bananas, the peel will turn brown quickly, but the flesh will stay fine much longer. The only issue with that is that you don’t really know if the banana you store in the fridge for a week now is still okay to eat or if the flesh is soft and browning. And you can only learn that by peeling the fruit.

Bunch of yellow bananas

How to Store Bananas

Main article: How to store bananas?

Let’s start with choosing bananas when you’re at your local supermarket. If you need the bananas the same or the next day, go for yellow, ripe bananas.

If you have no plans to consume or use the fruit right away, go with green bananas or ones that are about to ripen. This way you have a couple of days before the fruit ripens.

Now let’s talk about what to do with the fruit when you get home.

How To Store Unripe Bananas

When it comes to unripe bananas (same with unripe plums), the best place to store them is in the pantry, but the kitchen can work too. You can place the banana either on the counter or in a fruit bowl. Just set the bananas in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, and leave the fruit to ripen slowly over time.

Related: How Long Do Plums Last?

Warning

Don’t put unripe bananas in the fridge, as they will have trouble ripening and probably won’t turn out as good as they usually do.

If you, however, are in a hurry to ripen the bananas, there is a trick that helps with that. Place the fruit in a brown paper bag and fold the opening. This traps the ethylene gas the fruit emits which is responsible for the ripening process. That’s why it’s often not recommended to store bananas near other fruits or veggies. Within a couple of days, the bananas should be perfectly ripe.

Banana half wrapped using a silicone food saver
A silicone food saver works great with banana halves

How To Store Ripe Bananas

Now let’s talk about ripe bananas. If you plan on consuming or using them (e.g. in banana bread) within a day or two, you can keep them at room temperature. For longer storage time, refrigerating is the better choice.

Related: How Long Does Banana Bread Last?

Sure, you can leave them at room temperature, but within a few days there will be brown or black spots on the skin and the quality of the fruit will quickly degrade. Therefore, the fridge is the go-to choice for ripe bananas. That’s because cool temperature slows down the ripening process, and that’s why we store many fruits and veggies in the fridge.

No need for any fancy packaging, just chunk the bunch into the fridge, and you’re good to go. Please note that refrigeration will make the skin of the banana black, but the flesh will remain unharmed.

Storing peeled banana leftovers
Storing peeled banana leftovers

If you peel the banana and cut it up in preparation for a smoothie or a baking project, you need to wrap those slices tightly and refrigerate. An environment-friendly way to do that is by using a resealable freezer bag, but a plastic wrap will do the job too. Those slices will brown quite quickly unless you sprinkle them with some lemon or lime juice (Does lime juice go bad?).