For the first half of the 20th century, types of bananas fell into the exotic fruit category, and they’ve continued to gain in popularity. You can purchase bananas in most grocery stores throughout the United States at a relatively low price. These are very versatile fruits in their ripe and unripe form, and they have easy storage requirements. They have a higher nutrient content, particularly vitamins and potassium, minerals and protein to make them an ideal fruit for your health.
Botanically, types of bananas get classified as a berry, and they’re a product of a larger flowering plant under the Musa genus. They come in different sizes, colors, and firmness levels, but you can usually recognize different types of bananas by their elongated shape, curved look, and starchy flesh with a rind. They usually don’t have any seeds, and you can get them in two categories, including the Musa Balbisiana and the Musa Acuminata. Throughout the world on an annual basis, more than 100 billion bananas are sold.
There are currently more than 1,000 types of bananas with 50 subgroups, and you can separate them into two broad divisions of cooking bananas and dessert bananas.
Green vs. Yellow vs. Red Bananas
Generally speaking, bananas have skin colors of red, yellow, or green, and each one varies in texture, shape, and the overall taste. Cooking or green bananas as people call them, are mostly a green color in the semi-ripe or unripe form. They are a great choice for people who want to cut down on their sugar intake.
Yellow bananas are the most popular type of banana that are found in many gardens, are commonly eaten raw. They are sugary, sweet, and soft. Many green bananas come in dark or bright yellow when they get ripe, but some are yellow throughout.
Red bananas are a triploid cultivar with wild varieties, and they’re usually sweeter, smaller, and softer than the yellow ones. They also offer a higher nutritional value.
Health Benefits of Bananas
Bananas have a host of health benefits associated with them. The yellow fruit is a very good source of magnesium or potassium, and your body uses this for muscle and nerve function. It also uses it to help maintain your pH and fluid balance. The starches will turn into sugar as they ripen. If you eat your banana before they have time to ripen fully, you’ll get health benefits associated with healthy starches.
All types of bananas have an easily digestible starch that gets metabolized into glucose, and your body can use this to create a quick burst of energy. They also have slowly digestible starches that act like a longer-lasting fuel form to help stabilize your blood sugar levels. The resistant starch content in different types of bananas gets fermented in your large intestine, and this is what feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Also, there are phenolic compounds, antioxidants, and carotenoids in types of bananas that can help shield your cells from oxidative damage. Bananas also have higher levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These are neurotransmitters that regulate your blood pressure, heart rate, and mood.
20 Different Types of Banana with Their Uses
The first category on the list is the dessert banana, but we’re also going to cover popular types of bananas that fall into the cooking banana category below. This way, you’ll get a good feel for each category and decide which ones will work best for your needs.
13 Types of Dessert Bananas
The dessert banana isn’t a distinct type of banana category. In America and Europe, yellow bananas that you make into dessert or eat raw usually get put into this particular category.
1. Apple Banana
The apple banana is a term that you can use to refer to anything with an apple-like flavor, but it’s also a very distinct type of banana. You may hear it called the Candy Apple Banana, and they’re native to Hawaii’s tropical rainforest area. They have a notable sweetness to them with a firmer flesh that is pink hued. You can easily eat these bananas fresh, and they make an excellent component for desserts and snacking. They also won’t brown as quickly as other bananas.
This type of banana comes with a yellow body with tiny black dots on it, and the flesh inside doesn’t have any seeds and it features a white color. It’s very sweet to the taste with a more mild flavor profile. This allows you to eat it raw. In the tropical regions of the world, it’s extremely popular as a dessert banana.
3. Blue Java
Better known as ice cream bananas because this type of banana is great at replicating the flavor of vanilla ice cream, the blue-colored peel will slowly turn to a pale yellow as it ripens. The white flesh is very creamy and sweet, and you can eat it fresh. Also, it’s possible to add this type of banana to custards, cook, or freeze it and add it to ice cream. It’s tolerant to cold and hardy, and this banana is very popular to gro in Northern Australia, South East Asia, and Central America.
This is the most familiar and popular type of banana on the market, and you can find it sold in most grocery stores throughout the United States. This banana goes through ripening stages with green at the beginning that slowly turns to a light yellow before going deep yellow with a few brown spots. If it gets overripe, it’ll turn completely brown and get very soft.
These bananas are very creamy and sweet if you eat them raw. You can bake them, slice them into salads, and use them in fruit compotes. It’s common to refrigerate these bananas and make them into smoothies and bread. There are several cultivars, and the best known ones are Dwarf Cavendish and Gran Nain.
5. Dwarf Cavendish
This type of banana doesn’t get the name from the size of the fruit, but it gets the name from the height of the pseudostem. They come with maroon or purple spots on them when they’re young, and they slowly turn yellow as they ripen. This is the most common variety out of the Cavendish bananas. The leaves come with very short petioles, and this makes them very stable, resistant to wind, and easy to manage if you cultivate them. Each plant will give you roughly 90 fingers at once, and this makes them viable for mass production.
These bananas are some of the most popular and recognizable in the world, and they’re available in virtually every grocery store across the United States. Bananas – Cavendish Bananas by ajay_suresh / CC BY 2.0
In 1988, scientists in Honduras developed this type of banana to be a very unique dessert hybrid variety that has pest-resistant properties. It is initially green in color, and this will gradually change to yellow as it ripens. The banana comes with a very sweet taste with apple flavors. When it’s green, you can cook it and make it into chips. However, when it ripens, this type of banana is widely used in desserts or eaten raw. It has a huge popularity in Australia, but it’s not very common in North America or Europe yet.
7. Gros Michel
Also called Guineo Gigante, Banano, and Big Mike, this is a yellowish-green type of banana with a thicker skin, and they were extremely popular until the 1950s. Production went down quickly at this point because the plants had massive issues with Panama disease, and the Cavendish eventually replaced them. They have a strong scent with a creamy and sweet taste, and they’re excellent for making pie. They’re harder to find today.
8. Lady Finger
Chubby, small, and short, this type of banana is also called baby bananas. However, you may hear them called fig bananas, date bananas, and sugar bananas. They don’t get more than five inches long, and you get a very thin, light yellow peel on them with white flesh. They are creamy and sweet with a honey-like flavor to them. You can eat them raw or add them to desserts, bake them, or put them into smoothies. Overripe ones make great banana bread, but they’re more expensive than other banana varieties.
In Spanish, manzano means apple trees, and these types of bananas get referred to as this because they have an apple-like flavor. You may also hear them called apple bananas too. They’re chubby and short, and they have a very yellow, thick skin that turns black as it ripens. This is when they taste the best. You’ll find them growing in South and Central America, Mexico, and in the Caribbean Islands. They make a nice addition to desserts, or you can eat them raw. They’re rich in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Locally, this type of banana is called the Nanjangud Rasabalehannu or as Nanjangud Banana. It’s a very thin skinned banana with a fat and short stature that has a sweet taste with tangy notes. You can eat it raw, but the unique flavor profile also makes them extremely popular in desserts. Currently, it can only be grown in Nanjangud and the surrounding areas since the black soil in these regions gives the bananas their distinct flavor and aroma.
11. Pisang Raja
This type of banana is extremely popular in Indonesia, and you may hear it called Musa Belle bananas. They’re one of the biggest components in a street food called Pisang Goreng or banana fritters. They have a firmer texture, and they have a very sweet honey-like taste to them with colors that range from orange to yellow. Despite the great taste, this type of banana isn’t as popular in other regions of the world. It’s also difficult to find outside of Indonesia.
12. Praying Hands
This type of banana gets the name from the appearance because they look like two adjacent hands that stay fused together. The bananas are green at first before they ripen to yellow with black spots. The flesh has a whitish-yellow coloring with a starchy, firm texture and a semi-sweet vanilla flavor. You can bake them, stir-fry them, add them to rolls, or make them into chips. The best time to cook them is when they turn yellow. If they get overripe, they’ll get very soft.
13. Red Bananas
Finally, red bananas come with a maroon or reddish-purple skin that slowly fades to an orangish-yellow color as it gets ripe. The pinkish-orange flesh on this type of banana is sweeter and softer than you’ll get with most Cavendish yellow banana varieties. A few names you could hear this banana called include the Red daca, Jamaican red banana, and Claret. You can eat them raw, or you can chop them up and add them into desserts or fruit salads. You can also bake, fry, or toast them without a problem. They also have a higher nutritional profile than most yellow bananas, and you get a longer shelf life.
7 Types of Cooking Bananas
Cooking bananas are typically used to cook because they have much more starch. However, you can eat them raw when they’re ripe. You’ll commonly hear them called plantains or green bananas, but not each banana in this category falls into the group.
This type of banana is a green cooking banana with a straight and large appearance. It has very firm flesh with a salmon-like flavor and a lot of starch. You can eat them raw when they’re 100% ripe, but it tastes best when you fry them, bake or roast them, or put them into curries. It’s very common in Burma, Thailand, East Africa, or in the southern parts of India.
2. Burro Banana/Orinoco
Depending on the region, these types of bananas have many names. You can hear them called Hog, Horse, or Orinoco bananas. They have a very tangy, lemon-like flavor to them, and this makes them one of the most unique bananas available. They have a squatty and square shape to them, and these bananas come with a yellow color and black spots that could have a slightly crisp texture in the center.
In subtropical and tropical areas, these types of bananas are available all year-round. They have potassium, magnesium, fiber, and Vitamins B and C. You’ll use them like you would plantains when they’re green, and you can eat them raw when they’re completely ripe. In Indian, Latin, Thai, Filipino, and Caribbean cuisines, they’re savory ingredients you’ll find used with pork, chillies, lines, chicken, cream, berries, and more.
3. Fe’i Banana/Fehi
This type of banana comes with an orange or red skin, especially when it’s ripe. The pulp is orange or yellow. They are well-known for their nutritional value, and they have higher amounts of beta carotene. They’re high in starch and low in sugar, and you can’t eat them raw due to the astringent taste. It gets a very good flavor profile when you bake, boil, or cook them.
4. Macho Plantain
You’ll commonly find this type of banana grown in Florida, and it’s widely grown throughout the United States. They have a very sour-sweet taste to them, and they’re good for sauteing, roasting, or stir-frying.
Plantains have an extremely high starch content to them, and they’re used as a vegetable a lot of the time. When you allow them to ripen, they go through the same color changes as you’d get as bananas. They’re never as sweet as bananas, and this is why they’re popular in savory dishes.
North America and Europe tell the difference between plantains and bananas based on the use. In North America, plantains are considered to be different from bananas. The plantain isn’t nearly as sweet, and it has a higher starch content. They’re more popular in cooked dishes than they are eaten raw.
6. Rhino Horn
Rhino Horn is the largest type of banana, and you can hear people refer to it as the Rhino Horn Plantain or the African Rhino Horn. It has an elongated, curved shape with a golden-yellow body. They can get up to two-feet long, and you can eat them raw, bake, cook, or steam them.
The final type of banana on the list is a critical part of Philippine food, and it has a big angular or square look. It starts off with a thicker green peel that will turn a bright yellow as it matures. The flesh is very dense with a starchy texture and a white color. It is also softer than plantains.
Once this banana ripens, you get a sweet taste with touches of citrus and peach. The cooked banana tastes like a sweet potato. In the Philippines, this type of banana gets processed to make banana ketchup. In Singapore and Indonesia, dishes like pisang goreng aren’t complete without these bananas.
How to Ripen Bananas
Dessert bananas that companies grow for export get harvested when they are still unripe or green and roughly 75% mature. They get treated with ethylene gas because this is a natural ripening agent right before they get delivered to the store. At home, you want to keep them on the counter and let them ripen at room temperature.
You can put almost ripe bananas in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. The skin will turn black if you do this, and the fruit will stay fresh for many days. If you want to speed up the ripening process, put them in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple. You can peel and freeze ripe bananas to use them in banana bread, smoothies, and non-dairy ice cream.
Bananas can get ripe very quickly in warmer temperatures, so it’s a good idea to keep them in colder spaces without direct sunlight.
How to Store Bananas
People who like bananas like to stock up on the fruit because they make a good snack or fit into a host of dishes. However, you have to know how to store them correctly to keep them as fresh as you possibly can.
- Keep Them Cool – You should store your bananas at cooler temperatures because they ripen quicker if they’re too warm. Put them in a darker room without any direct sunlight if you can. You want to avoid storing them at room temperature in a warm kitchen.
- Put Them in the Refrigerator – To store your bananas correctly, you can put them in your refrigerator. However, you want them to be ripe when you put them into the refrigerator because they won’t get any more ripe with the cooler temperatures. The skin can turn brown due to the cold, but this shouldn’t impact the taste.
- Use the Juice Trick – Once you cut a banana and expose it to the air, it’ll turn brown very fast. If you want to keep your banana slices fresh, sprinkle some pineapple or lemon juice on them. You should also wrap them and store them in an airtight space.
- Exert Pressure – If you want to store your bananas correctly, leave the skin alone. Hanging them up instead of allowing them to sit will prevent brown bruising.
- Store Them Right by Other Fruit – Other fruits like apples and avocados can speed up the ripening process of your bananas if you don’t leave a gap between t
- Wrap Them Completely in Plastic – Never put an entire banana in a plastic bag. This creates a moist and warm environment that will make them rot faster.
You can even freeze your types of bananas to keep them fresh for longer periods. It’s best to use ripe fruit to freeze them. Peel your bananas so the skin doesn’t get mushy as they thaw and cut them into slices or puree them. Freeze your slices on a trap to stop them from sticking together. Banana puree is best when you freeze it on ice cube trays.
Put them in a freezer bag. You can keep your frozen bananas for up to six weeks. Ideally, you’ll divide them up into portions when you freeze them. Add your frozen portions to your food or smoothie when you want to use them.
There are several banana recipes that work with a huge range of types of bananas. Most of them work well when the bananas are ripe or slightly overripe.
Banana bread is one of the most popular recipes to make in the world. You make this bread using mashed bananas to get a very cake-like, moist texture. National Banana Bread day is on February 23rd each year, and you can find different recipes published in thousands of cookbooks around the world. You want to use an overripe banana for this bread since it has a denser texture that is easier to mash.
The Banoffee pie is very popular in England,and it combines cream, toffee, and bananas with a biscuit base that is very buttery. The name comes from combining the words banana and toffee together. The toffee usually gets made by caramelizing condensed milk until it’s a bitter, silky, and sweet caramel.
This is an extremely popular Indonesian dish that is very similar to banana fritters. This is a very popular snack and street food that has fried bananas or plantains. You’ll usually find time sold by street vendors, and they get battered before you fry them in palm oil. You can eat them plain or pair them with cheese, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla ice cream, and a host of other toppings.
We’ve outlined 20 types of bananas for you to consider cooking with or eating raw as a healthy snack. You can mix and match different types of bananas to see which ones you like the best.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.