How To Ripen Plantains

Trying to ripen plantains can be frustrating.

They'll become delicious just like their close relative the banana (but with a sweeter flavor and a hint of pumpkin pie), but plantains do it in their own good time. Think of them as a more genteel fruit if it keeps you from hurling them into the trash in frustration.

I've actually been told you can't eat raw plantains because they spoil before they ripen, which is nonsense.

Head to your local supermarket. The fruit you'll most commonly find in the overripe bin is the plantain. Its peel will often be more than half green still, but most stores consider them to be spoiled after yellow and black starts creeping in because people who cook them want them very starchy.

The funny part is that at this time they're probably still two or three weeks away from true ripeness.

Ripen Plantains TreeYou ripen plantains by letting them sit, and sit, and then sit some more until the peels are completely black and wrinkly. When you poke them, they should yield easily to pressure (but don't prod them a lot, because you'll bruise the flesh and cause them to ferment).

are ripe when their yellow peels are spotted with brown, but the lack of moisture in plantains means that they ripen slower.

A plantain averages 65 percent moisture, but bananas average 83 percent.

Hydrolysis, the process by which starches are converted to sugars, acts fastest in fruit of higher moisture content, so bananas easily lap plantains.

Bananas go from very green to ripe in 7 to 11 days, depending on temperature and other factors. Plantains often take as long as three or four weeks to become completely ripe.


You ripen plantains just like you ripen bananas, in a warm, preferably well-ventilated place. Especially if it's humid and hot in your climate, you should avoid throwing them in a stack because plantains are prone to mold/mildew as their skin becomes blacker. If small amounts accumulate, it won't penetrate the skin. Just don't let it get out of control or they'll go bad.

I've gotten a few emails asking me what to do with the mold and about when they're really ripe, so I put together some photos to give you a better idea.


How to Ripen Plantains: The Picture Guide

Ripen Plantains 1

This plantain on the left and the banana next to it have been ripening for about a week. The banana is spotted and ready to eat, but the plantain is still quite a long time away from edibility. Eat it now and it will be starchy and hard to digest.
Ripen Plantains 2

Here are two plantains next to each other four days on from the first picture. "Surely, Andrew," you tell me, "this plantain is in danger of going bad. Look how much black is on it. Should I eat it?"

No. It's still a long way from ripeness.

Ripen Plantains 3

Somewhere in week two.

No. Put down the plantain.
Ripen Plantains 4

Our plantain with two bananas for comparison. It's getting black, but it's not completely black and it fails the yield to pressure test. Leave it.

Ripen Plantains 5
See what you did, Andrew, you say. You made me wait so long that it's gone moldy.

Actually, it probably went moldy because you had it in a humid or unventilated environment. I bunched a few plantains together in a bag to produce this mold to show you.

The mold doesn't mean that it was overripe or even that it's gone bad. This is just a bit of mold on the skin, but it hasn't gotten inside. Wipe it off with a cloth and ripen it some more.
Ripen Plantains 6

Now this, this my friends, is a ripe plantain. It's totally black and yields to pressure. The mushier the better. In doubt? Leave it a few more days. It's unlikely to go bad unless you've prodded it too much and bruised the flesh, or you've let it get moldy.  
Ripen Plantains 8

The last step of my guide on how to ripen plantains is the best, of course, because you get to dig in. Enjoy.

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How to Ripen Plantains: Following Up

Learn about ripening and managing other fruit here.

Eat plantains as part of a healthy raw food diet.

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