If you’ve got ripe bananas and no immediate plans to eat them, you can let them rot away on your counter, whip up some banana bread on the spot, or throw them in the freezer for later.

There are many ways to use frozen bananas, but some of the best uses are baking. Read on to learn how to freeze and defrost bananas – and the best ways to use frozen bananas in baking (and beyond).

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Freezing bananas is a great way to avoid food waste, as freezing them can maintain their flavor and freshness until you’re ready to eat them.

Because bananas are a versatile ingredient that’s great for baking, you might find it easier to have frozen bananas on hand than getting them to the right stage of ripeness on your counter when you want to bake. Bananas can stay fresh in your freezer for about three months, while you might just get a week or so out of fresh bananas on your counter.

Some fruits don’t hold up well to freezing, but bananas hold up beautifully. It’s not a good idea to try to bake with bananas that are still frozen. But once defrosted, bananas can be used for baking without a problem. In fact, frozen bananas come out a bit more soft than counter-ripened bananas that have never been frozen, so they can add extra moisture to baked goods.

Peel them, or don’t – either way is fine. There are a few different ways to freeze bananas:

Peeled: You can peel bananas and place them in a bag. If they’re still fairly fresh, they may stay pretty well separated. But more ripe bananas may end up squished together.

Mashed: Ripe bananas can be easily mashed together. You can store them flattened in a bag.

Sliced: If you want to use sliced bananas when you defrost them, it’s best to slice before you freeze. Spread them out on a baking sheet on parchment paper to freeze, then place in a bag.

Whole and unpeeled: Leaving bananas in the peel protects the fruit, but it’s tougher (though not impossible) to peel them later. The sight of frozen banana peels may be unappealing, as they turn dark brown or black when frozen, but the fruit inside will remain its normal color and stay fresh.

Most recipes call for defrosted bananas, so plan for time to thaw them. It will take about two hours for bananas to defrost at room temperature, or a few minutes in the microwave.

On the counter: Place bananas on a counter in a bowl or on a plate. They’ll be a little watery, so you’ll want to contain the mess. If they’re still in the peel, give them a few minutes to thaw and remove the peel with a knife.

In the microwave: You can microwave your bananas on low for three to four minutes, or on the defrost setting. Use a bowl or plate to catch liquids that may run off.

In a bag: If you froze bananas in a bag, you can defrost them there, too. You can submerge the bag of bananas in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.

You’ll notice defrosted bananas may have runny juices. It’s up to you if you want to save them. The juice can add more moisture to baked goods, but if you’re concerned about throwing off liquid ratios in your recipe, just go for the fruit and let the rest drain off. It may help to put bananas in a colander to drain excess liquid.

There’s a lot you can do with frozen bananas; here are some of our favorites:

Banana Bread

A classic choice for baking with frozen bananas, banana bread is a sweet way to use up about three medium fruits. You can step up your banana bread game by stuffing it with cheesecake, peanut butter, or other fillings. See these stuffed banana bread recipes for inspiration, or go for mix-ins.

Banana Muffins

With fruit, honey, and whole grains, our Banana Muffin recipe is as healthy as it is tasty, but try our Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffin recipe too.

Caramelized Banana Cupcakes

Decidedly less healthy but a worthy treat to indulge in on occasion, our Banana Cupcake recipe welcomes defrosted banana in the batter. (However, it’s best to use never-frozen bananas for the topping so it has the best texture.)

Banana Pancakes

If you keep ripe bananas in your freezer, you can start any day off right with our Banana Pancake recipe, or our Banana Waffle recipe if you prefer.

Banana Smoothies

You don’t even have to defrost them first for this one, but to make blending easier, it’s best to slice the bananas into small pieces before freezing. Get our Banana Smoothie recipe.

Banana Ice Cream

Same goes for “nice cream” made from frozen bananas; just give the frozen slices or chunks a whirl in a food processor for a creamy, vegan treat you can top however you like (we went with caramel sauce and flaky sea salt). Get our Banana Ice Cream recipe.

Bananas Foster

Fire and ice: You can even flambe defrosted frozen bananas for a classic Mardi Gras dessert anytime. Get our Bananas Foster recipe.