Is there any point in keeping banana peels around after they’ve served their purpose of protecting the soft fruit? (Beyond the old slipping on a banana peel gag, of course.) They’re bitter and sometimes coated with pesticides. Monkeys won’t eat them, so why should we? Yes, yes, it’s true that there are new banana varietals with thinner peels that are, in theory, more edible than the standard Cavendish. And yes, it is true that in some parts of South India, banana peels find their way into curries and stir-fries. But most of the world’s banana peels end up in the trash. Oh, the waste!
A few years ago, though, Claire Lower, the culinary genius at our sister site Lifehacker, had the brilliant idea of turning banana peels into bacon. She fried them, coated them in lots of sweet- and umami-flavored ingredients to simulate the taste of bacon, and finished them in the oven. “While I don’t think banana peels will ever replace bacon for me,” she concluded, “they will definitely find their way into more salads, snack mixes, and sandwiches.”
She was an inspiration to others, including Charles Hunter III of the blog The Salted Table and Tabitha Brown of TikTok. Brown concluded that banana peel bacon, which she prepared in an air fryer, “ain’t right in my spirit,” but Hunter decided that the bitterness was a challenge to be overcome for the sake of the world’s vegans, vegetarians, and zero-waste proponents.
Emily Heil of The Washington Post tried out Hunter’s recipe. It requires that the banana peels sit in marinade for several hours to soak in enough flavor to negate the bitterness. Cooking them was a challenge. “They’re easier to scorch, since unlike real bacon, the peels have no fat (duh) to render, and the sugar in the marinade goes from caramel to char in seconds,” Heil wrote. The banana peel bacon in her second, unscorched batch turned out all right and tasted very strongly of the marinade, “though there was a bitter note you don’t find in the real deal.” The texture was also chewy, which might be off-putting to those who prefer crispy bacon.
Across the pond in the UK, Nigella Lawson has been combining banana peels with cauliflower, while Nadiya Hussain has been using them as a substitute for pulled pork or chicken. The New York Times looked more deeply into this phenomenon and discovered that Lawson, Hussain, and other cooks in India and beyond who use banana peel tenderize it first or cook it for a long time to make it more palatable. Have any of you tried any of these preparations? Let us know.