How to Recognize a Bad Banana

moldy browning banana next to a rotten apple

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The darkening of a banana’s skin on the outside isn’t always indicative of what you get on the inside. Knowing how to tell if a banana is bad is a skill that’s worth learning. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to determine whether your banana’s good, bad ripe, underripe, or overripe.

You can tell a banana is bad if it smells unpleasant, it’s seeping liquid, it’s attracting flies, or if the skin has developed mold. A very mushy and brown banana once unpeeled also has to be disposed of, not eaten. Eating bad bananas can make you sick!

In this guide, I’ll help you identify which bananas of yours are good for baking and snacking versus which have to go straight in the trash, so check it out!


How to Tell If a Banana Is Bad

Bananas are a tricky bunch, pun intended. 

If you eat a banana too early in its ripening stage, then it’s going to be firm and taste odd. Yet wait too long and the banana is a mushy mess. Wait even longer than that and the fruit is inedible.

Here’s how to recognize a bad banana.

It Smells Bad

Do you know the smell of bad fruit? It permeates through the air in your kitchen, cutting through the refreshing, lemony scent of clean appliances. 

Rotting fruit doesn’t smell like rotting meat, so it’s distinct in that way. Rather, the banana will have a smell that’s almost musty.

It’s also been described as fermented, moldy, and mildewy. 

You needn’t get too close to your bunch of bananas to smell what I’m talking about. The odorous aroma will be distinct even if you’re a good distance away. 

Unfortunately, there is no saving these bananas. They have to go straight into your trash bin. 

Ideally, you should take the trash out right away and maybe use an air freshener to rid the kitchen of that terrible stench! 

The Banana Is Seeping Liquid

Bananas are not a food you would think could leak, and yet, that’s precisely what can happen. 

The liquid that’s oozing out of your bananas and puddling on your kitchen counter (or in your fruit bowl) is a surefire sign that your banana has overripened past any point of edibility. 

The brown liquid is no chemical or anything of the kind, just a really, really mushy banana. 

Clean it up, toss out the bananas, and start anew with another bunch. This one cannot remain in your kitchen. 

You Can See Mold on the Outer Skin

Once the bananas reach a point of over-softness, they’re more prone to developing mold on the outer skin. 

Surely, you’ve seen mold on a loaf of bread you left in your pantry for too long, right? It’s whiteish or blueish and will grow in splotches across the loaf.

Banana that has split open due to ripening

Mold on bananas looks similar

The banana peel or skin is mostly going to be brown at this point, not yellow, so being able to see white flecks of mold shouldn’t be too difficult. 

Even though the mold is growing on the outside of the banana peel and not the flesh of the banana itself (aka the part of the banana you actually eat), it’s still not wise to take a chance.

You’ll have to throw away any affected bananas, whether that’s the whole bunch or just a couple of stray bananas you had lying around. 

The Banana Has Attracted Flies 

Do you keep swatting flies in your kitchen left and right? These aren’t large flies either, but microscopic ones that are especially annoying.

What you’re dealing with are fruit flies, which adore fermenting vegetables and fruits. 

You’re likeliest to see fruit flies in the summer and the fall, but they can appear during other seasons as well. 

If your kitchen is suddenly a hotbed for fruit flies, then that’s a clear-cut indicator that something is wrong with your supply of fruit (or veggies, or even both!).

I would recommend checking your bananas first and seeing how ripe they are. If they’re a little too mushy, soft, and smelly for comfort, then do yourself a favor and dispose of them.

Once the offending fruit is gone, the fruit flies should too dissipate. 

If not, then you can always pour apple cider vinegar into a bowl, add a couple of drops of mild dish soap, and microwave to bring out the scents. Be sure to use a microwave-safe bowl.

Leave the bowl on your counter and all the fruit flies will converge and die instantly. They can’t escape the soapy surface and thus drown. 

The Flesh Is Extremely Mushy and Brown 

If you’re feeling daring enough, you can also ascertain the condition of your bananas simply by unpeeling them.

I’d recommend this if the bananas sort of smell but you don’t see any mold, and no liquid is seeping out from the fruit either.

Once you see the flesh, you’ll have an inkling of whether the banana is even a good candidate for baking.

If it’s browner then it is yellow, then the banana is no good. 

That’s also the case if the texture of the banana is extremely mushy and even a little slimy. Get rid of it! 

How to Tell If a Banana Is Too Bad to Eat

As I mentioned in the section prior, bananas go through ripening stages. If you bought your banana at its earliest stage, it would be completely green. 

Within about five days, it can be dark brown and speckled. 

Many people assume that if a banana skin or peel is completely brown that the fruit inside must be as well. 

Rather than waste what could be a perfectly good banana, peel back the skin and check the flesh. 

In some cases, the flesh will still be nice and yellow. By now, the banana has ripened to pretty much the perfect point. 

Although it won’t be its firmest, it should have the best banana-y flavor. 

Even if the flesh is brown, if it’s not slimy, then you can still eat it. 

If the look of the banana is too unappealing to you, then bake the banana instead. You can make banana bread, cover the fruit in cinnamon and bake it, or whip up some banana muffins. 

The only time you shouldn’t eat a ripe banana is if it meets the criteria I discussed in the last section.

To recap, if your bananas noticeably smell, are leaking fluid, have grown mold or mildew, have attracted fruit flies, or are slimy and brown when unpeeled, don’t eat them. 

What Can Happen If I Eat a Bad Banana? 

You wish you had seen this advice earlier because you did indeed proceed with eating a bad banana. 

In your defense, it hadn’t looked that bad, and it didn’t even taste horrible, but something wasn’t right about it. 

Are you going to be okay?

Yes, of course. Eating a bad banana is not a death sentence, at least not in most cases.

Overripened bananas are loaded with more vitamin C than only regularly ripe bananas. I still wouldn’t advise you to eat them if you can help it, but that’s something to put your mind at ease.

The biggest risk of eating a bad banana is ingesting mold. Although most mold on a very overripe banana is on the skin and not the flesh or banana itself, the mold on the peel of a banana can permeate through. 

So what happens if you eat a bad banana with mold on it? 

Depending on how much rotten banana you’ve ingested, you’ll likely end up with some degree of food poisoning.

Unfortunately, I’m speaking from experience when I say that your body will do everything it can to get the bad banana out of your body as soon as it can.

This usually involves vomiting and/or defecating for a day or two until most of the bad banana is out of your system.

If you have eaten bad bananas, stay hydrated. In addition to drinking water, I recommend trying to restore lost electrolytes with sugar-free Gatorade or Pedialyte. 

Water does not contain electrolytes, so you can only hydrate yourself so much with it!

Now, what if you have a mold allergy and you eat a bad banana? 

That’s the most dangerous scenario of all. Exposure to allergens for allergy sufferers can cause more than itchy eyes and a runny nose. 

You could have a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which could cause you to go into anaphylactic shock.  

When you’re in anaphylactic shock, your airways become constricted, and your blood pressure decreases. Your closed airways make it hard to breathe and sometimes impossible. 

Immediate medical attention is critical, or you could die.

You can tell if you or a loved one is experiencing anaphylactic shock, as they may have symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, a sudden and unexplained skin rash, and a weak yet rapid pulse. 

How to Tell If a Banana Is Too Ripe

Are you looking for a quick, efficient means of ascertaining whether your bananas might be a touch too ripe? 

Great! All you have to do is push on the banana. Not too hard now, of course, but apply gentle, firm pressure.

Does the banana feel hard? Then it’s not quite ripe enough. 

Maybe it feels somewhat soft but not very pliable under your fingers. Then your banana is at the peak of ripeness.

Bananas that feel very soft, enough so that your fingers leave an imprint, are overripe. 

How to Tell If a Banana Is Too Ripe for Banana Bread

Even if a banana looks unappetizing to eat, you can usually at least use it for banana bread. 

Bananas that are overripe but not to the point where they’re slimy and moldy are great candidates for this easy-to-bake treat! 

To tell if a banana is too ripe for banana bread it would have to qualify as a rotten banana.

If a banana is oozing liquid, emitting a foul smell, or showing signs of mold or decay then the banana has passed the stage of being ok to use for banana bread.

Thank you for sharing!

Catherine Cruzz

I first fell in love with all things kitchen when I was growing up and working alongside my father in Florida at our family's appliance service and installation company. Many years later, and thousands of miles away from family I was enjoying a wonderful experience at a culinary school in Pennsylvania. That’s when I realized that along with my passion for holidays and cooking, I was still just as interested in the appliances, kitchenware, and cookware that I grew up around.

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