Admit it: when buying fresh produce, sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, especially if it ripens as quickly as a banana. Fanatics like myself know all too well the stress of this elusive fruit changing from a young, bright green to a dark, mushy brown in the blink of an eye, making it nearly impossible to eat every banana in the bunch in their scarce moments of peak ripeness. The real tragedy of it all lies in the fact that when faced with this situation, many people will merely discard the seemingly inedible remains, wasting their money, wasting food, and wasting new opportunities to utilize this incredibly versatile fruit. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur, I am delighted to elaborate upon this versatility with some recipe ideas that'll allow you to take full advantage of your overripe bananas.

Flourless Mug Cake

Lauren Farkas

Mug cakes are a quick, simple way to get a for-you-only serving of a classic dessert, and, with the following recipe adapted from Buzzfeed, you can get your fix with a healthier twist: mash an overripe banana in a small bowl, and mix in two tablespoons of a nut or seed butter, two tablespoons of cocoa powder, and an optional dash of maple syrup (which I usually do without because the sweetness of the banana is strong on its own, but you do you), and salt. Transfer the batter into a greased mug or microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on high for about 60 to 90 seconds.  

Banana Pancakes

Jack Johnson was really onto something. Banana pancakes make a fun and nutritious breakfast (or any meal, I won't judge), and the riper the banana, the more its flavor comes out in the final product. While there are many variations, this base recipe is definitely my favorite: in a blender or food processor, blend an overripe banana with half a cup of rolled oats and a splash of the milk of your choice to make a batter. Throw in whatever mix-ins you want (chocolate chips, blueberries, etc.) and cook. Sometimes I also blend in fresh spinach for additional nutrients and a pop of color.

Baked Oats

This is not your average bowl of oatmeal but rather its more decadent cousin. Mashed bananas are an essential ingredient in this dish as they bind everything together to make the dish sturdy and add a natural sweetness to make it indulgent. For a serving of this healthy yet heavenly breakfast treat: in a small bowl, mash half of an overripe banana and mix with half a cup of milk, half a cup of rolled oats, and a teaspoon of baking powder. Add in the flavorings of your choice (vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa powder, espresso powder… you're free to get creative) and transfer to a greased oven-safe bowl. Top with sliced banana (totally optional, but a good way to make use of the remaining half), and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Enjoy it while it’s hot, and thank me later.

Banana Ice Cream

A healthier twist on a classic frozen treat, banana ice cream, or "nice cream," as the cool kids say, is as simple as blending up frozen bananas until the dessert reaches the creamy consistency you know and love. I was a skeptic of this hack for a while, but after trying it for myself I have become a believer. What's more, it can either be enjoyed on its own or blended with other ingredients to create fun flavors like chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, you name it. Again, creativity is key. Pro tip: chop up your bananas before freezing them so that they blend more easily.

Banana bread

And of course, I must conclude with the most classic option of them all. Even though it seems like everyone is a banana bread expert these days, some people still make the mistake of using the star ingredient prematurely. Waiting until your bananas have browned will make for a naturally sweeter, fluffier, and all-around more delicious bread. Trust me, it’s well worth the wait (and is a tasty way to improvise with bananas you didn't intend to let brown). 

So, I hope you're feeling hungry, inspired, and ready to show your bananas the love they deserve by letting all of them—regardless of their condition—have their shining moment. And remember: your overripe bananas don't need to go to waste. Instead of tossing them, you can have fun, get creative, and get cooking.