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Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn
Freezer Week

Yes, There’s a Right Way to Freeze Bananas. Here’s Why This Method Is the Best

published Aug 8, 2020
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Bananas are a kitchen staple always on our grocery lists. Not only are they are a perfectly portable snack, but they make everything from smoothies to quick breads and cookies taste better. While bananas have a pretty long shelf life — most bunches have a week-long life, depending on their ripeness — we’ve all had spotty, brown bananas that need to be used up or frozen. Freezing bananas is brilliant because you can toss them into drinks, or churn them into an ice cream-like treat, or you can thaw them to use for baking.

There are many ways to freeze bananas, but which method hits the sweet spot of ease and makes frozen bananas blend or thaw faster? We put 5 popular methods for freezing bananas to the test, tracking the time it took to prepare, freeze and store the bananas and then tested them in a blended smoothie and in a quick banana cookie. One method came out as a very clear winner. Here’s everything we learned along the way, plus why we love the winner.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How We Tested These Banana Freezing Methods

Each of these methods was tested using a small bunch of bananas. All 5 bunches were purchased from the same store on the same day. Each method was prepared and all 5 methods were frozen at the same time in a large upright freezer.

After freezing completely for 24 hours, some of the bananas were blended into this simple smoothie and others were thawed for these quick cookies. Not a single method changed the banana’s flavor, but prep time, storage ease, and blending or thawing time helped determine the winner.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Freezing Method: Mashed and Frozen in a Single Layer

  • Timing: 15 minutes
  • Rating: 3/10

About this method: Peeling and mashing bananas for future use is a super common bakery trick. The mash can be measured and frozen in quart-sized bags for specific recipes. All the mashing work is done up front and you have frozen bananas puree at the ready.

Results: Despite being skeptical about this method, we had to give it a go. This method worked best for baking and was a complete failure for smoothies; The pre-mashed bananas couldn’t be measured out for one smoothie and gave it a slightly starchy texture (despite the original bananas being perfectly ripe).

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Freezing Method: Peeled and Frozen Whole

  • Timing: 3 minutes prep time, 2 hours freezing time
  • Rating: 5/10

About this method: Peel your bananas and pop them in a plastic bag and that’s it! There’s no slicing, dicing or mashing and the bananas are safely covered for chilling in the freezer for the next three months. Whole bananas are easy to measure for thawing and baking, so this method seems most suited for the home baker.

Results: Whole frozen bananas were hard to cut up and didn’t blend completely into smoothies, but this method worked well when a recipe called for a specific number of bananas for baking.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Freezing Method: Sliced and Frozen in a Bag

  • Timing: 5 minutes prep time, 2 hours freezing time
  • Rating: 7/10

About this method: This method has you peel the bananas but then move them to a large ziptop bag for slicing and freezing. The actual cutting is a little awkward but is meant to give you coins without freezing a whole tray and look, the bananas are already in the bag for long-term storage.

Results: As much as we hoped this method would be a big winner, freezing the sliced bananas in the same bag they were cut in resulted in a big loaf of bananas. Sure, you can massage the bag to release some of the stuck pieces and use them for smoothies and baking, but this resulted in uneven clumps that didn’t blend well; plus this method didn’t make measuring the bananas for baking easy at all.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Freezing Method: Sliced and Frozen in a Single Layer

  • Timing: 10 minutes prep time, 1 hour freezing time
  • Rating: 8/10

About this method: Peeling, slicing, and freezing bananas coins on a baking sheet is one of our favorite ways to freeze them. Thanks to cutting the bananas and freezing them individually, you can measure out banana coins in cupfuls without large clumps. The small amount of prep (peeling and cutting) means that your morning smoothie can come together faster thanks to the small pieces of banana.

Results: Banana coins are not only great for smoothies and baking, but they can also be turned into quick snacks (like these chocolate-covered bites). The prep and freezing time is relatively quick, but not everyone has room for huge baking sheets in their freezer. Plus, freezing these coins on a tray means you need to go back later and move the frozen coins to long term storage like a zip-top bag or lidded, freezer-safe container.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Freezing Method: Torn into Strips

  • Timing: 10 minutes prep time, 1 hour freezing time.
  • Rating: 9/10

About this method: This method for freezing bananas is popular with meal prepping smoothie makers who stock their freezer for daily smoothie making. We first saw it in Catherine McCord’s The Smoothie Project book. The bananas are peeled and then torn, not cut, into baton-like pieces. Freeze these pieces on parchment paper lined trays and then move to a bag or container for longer term storage.

Results: This seemingly fussy method actually proved to be the best. While it wasn’t any faster than the sliced and individually frozen method, it made measuring each (8 pieces is approximately one large banana) for baking, but it also blended the fastest in smoothie and ice cream making and made for a creamier finished smoothie. Something about the narrow shape of the batons made them thaw faster with less weeping, and perhaps gently tearing the bananas, instead of cutting them with a knife, made for a less starchy smoothie and cookie. Despite any misgivings we had about the work required for this method, it just proved to have the very best results.

Final Takeaways

Frozen bananas keep in the freezer for about 3 months and you could implement a variety of these method for a bigger batch of bananas (say when you accidentally order 12 bunches of bananas, not 12 bananas in a grocery order), but sticking with either slicing or tearing the bananas and freezing them individually is best. These easy-to-portion methods are also great for baking and can actually act as a gift to your future cooking self who needs a quick smoothie for dinner or just one banana for baking.

Your turn: Do you have a favorite trick for using up bananas or a favorite method for freezing? Let us know in the comments below.