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12 Different Types of Bananas – An Overview

Yellow bananas

Bananas are some of the most popular tropical fruits in the world. Interestingly, a banana isn’t technically a fruit but a berry because it’s formed by a flower with one seed and ovary.

These fruits (or berries) have the versatility to make up part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner and can be eaten as a snack as well. Bananas complement many dishes and are used widely in salads and cooking applications.

While there are many varieties of bananas, they all have a thin skin, starchy texture, and sweet flavor when ripe. Still, they have their differences. The following are 12 common types of bananas and their characteristics.

divider - blender banana strawberry

The 12 Different Types of Bananas

1. Cavendish Bananas

Cavendish Bananas
Image Credit: itaci, Shutterstock
Appearance: Long, slightly curved, cylindrical, and pointed ends
Size: Medium-sized, about 7 inches in length
Color: Bright green before ripening to firm yellow
Presentation: Cooked or served ripe
Availability: Available year-round

Cavendish bananas are long and have an under-ripe green, which transforms into a mellow yellow with minimal brown spotting when fully ripened. They’re common and make up most of the sweet banana varieties sold in grocery stores.

While the perfect ripeness depends on your taste, too much makes the Cavendish banana go squashy. Their ripening is quick and continuous after picking, especially at room temperate or if wrapped in a paper bag.


2. Burro Bananas

Burro Bananas
Image Credit: PKKoala, Shutterstock
Appearance: Short and stubby
Size: 6 inches on average
Color: Deep yellow with black spots outer
Presentation: Cooked or served raw
Availability: Available year-round

Also called the Orinoco, Hog, and Horse Banana, Burro bananas resemble the Cavendish variety. However, they’re shorter and squat in shape and size, differing from their sweet-fleshed cousins in flavor and texture when ripe. Burros are acidic and have a lemon-tang flavor.

Besides their savory taste, Burro bananas have a soft flesh that’s creamy yellow and firm in the middle. A favorite for banana fritters, they’re native to the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and widely cultivated in Latin American plantations.


3. Lady’s Finger Bananas

Lady's Finger Bananas
Image Credit: Thanu Garapakdee, Shutterstock
Appearance: Short and shaped like a cigar
Size: Approximately half an inch in diameter and 5 inches long
Color: Bright yellow skin with freckles when ripe
Presentation: Cooked or served fresh ripe
Availability: Available all year round

Exceptionally sweet, Lady’s Finger bananas are shorter in size than an average Cavendish and thrive in tropical rainforest climates. At maturity, this fruit turns bright yellow while the flesh is firm and sweet, softening further with ripening.

Lady’s Finger bananas grow from tall banana trees towering from five to 25 feet, but the fruit itself rarely exceeds six inches in length. They’re sweeter than most banana varieties and perfect for smoothies and baked goodies. Since they resist oxidation longer, they are a common condiment in salads but also suited to banana bread when over-ripe.


4. Red Bananas

Red Bananas
Image Credit: MelissaHuang, Pixabay
Appearance: Squat and short with maroon-red or purplish skin
Size: 6 inches or shorter
Color: Maroon or purple red that turns bright orange-yellow
Presentation: Cooked or served raw and in juices
Availability: All year round

Red bananas are the easiest to identify due to their maroon or thick reddish-purple skins. However, they’re only in these hues before maturity, after which they turn a bright yellow-orange.

Red bananas are sweeter than Cavendish, with some varieties having raspberry or earthy flavors. The banana is native to regions of Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East, where it’s often consumed raw or in smoothies.


5. Blue Java Bananas

Appearance: Short, plump, stout, and rectangular shaped
Size: Half an inch in diameter and five inches in length
Color: Silver blue sheen when younger and canary yellow once ripe
Presentation: Cooked or served raw
Availability: All year round

The Blue Java gets its name from the unique silver blue hue of its baby plantains, which turn a canary yellow color on ripening. In contrast to common varieties, this fruit is rectangular shaped, small and plump and has a delicate peel.

Blue Java bananas are creamy and have a sweet custard flavor, hence the name ice cream banana. Despite their delicate appearance, Javas are hardy and can withstand high temperatures or winds.


6. Pisang Raja Bananas

Pisang Raja Bananas
Image Credit: lisyl, Shutterstock
Appearance: Smaller than Cavendish bananas but shaped similarly
Size: Between four and six inches in length
Color: Green, then yellow to orange when ripe
Presentation: Cooked or served raw
Availability: All year round

Another favorite for making banana fritters is the Pisang Raja banana. This variety originates from Indonesia and is also called Musa Belle. The banana’s flavor is reminiscent of custard with a honey tang, and its texture is slightly grainy.

Pisang Raja translates to Banana King and is the main ingredient of sought-after Indonesian street snacks.


7. Rajapuri Bananas

Rajapuri Bananas
Image Credit: barmalini, Shutterstock
Appearance: Medium-sized, slightly curved with pointy edges
Size: Six inches long on average
Color: Bright green when immature to golden yellow
Presentation: Served raw, ripe and cooked or frittered
Availability: All year round

Hailing from India, Rajapuri bananas are delicious and have a flesh that’s dense, creamy and fairly firm. They’re curved, cylindrical and have pointed edges. Their skin is thin, smooth and easy to peel when ripe.

Rajapuri bananas are suited to cooking and raw applications as they are high-sugared bananas, even when green and unripe.


8. Manzano Bananas

Manzano Bananas
Image Credit: kariphoto, Shutterstock
Appearance: Chubby and short with spotted skin
Size: Length of an adult’s finger
Color: Yellow, spotted skin turns black when ripe
Presentation: Served raw
Availability: All year round

The term manzano translated from Spanish, means apple trees. Manzano bananas are called Apple bananas for their sweetness which has hints of apples, strawberries, and pineapples. They’re short, thick-skinned plump fruits with a creamy flesh of a velvety texture.

These bananas taste best when their skin has blackened with ripeness. Cultivated in central and south America, they regularly feature in pies, ice cream and puddings or eaten raw.


9. Thousand Fingers Bananas

Thousand Fingers Bananas
Image Credit: Vrlibs studio, Shutterstock
Appearance: Gentle curve shape similar to Cavendish bananas
Size: Average 1–1.5 inches in length
Color: Bright green that turns into yellow on ripening
Presentation: Served raw, blended or cooked
Availability: All year round

Thousand Fingers look like Cavendish bananas but only grow to about one and a half inches long. This seedless fruit has a green skin before ripening but turns bright yellow when fully ripe.

Thousand Fingers bananas grow in their hundreds per cluster, thus the name “thousand.” Their pale yellow flesh is sweet and has a hint of brown sugar. You can eat them raw on ripening or cut them up into baked recipes and salads, together with other tropical fruits.


10. Pisang Mas Bananas

Pisang Mas Bananas
Image Credit: Ika Hilal, Shutterstock
Appearance: Small, stout, and stubby
Size: Between one and two inches in length
Color: Green skin, when unripe, which turns bright yellow when ripe
Presentation: Served raw, in salads, or cooked, sautéed, and caramelized
·Availability: All year round

Pisang Mas bananas are short, squat, and slightly curved. Their flesh, which ripens to a pale creamy color, has a fruity aroma and a honey-like taste.

Banana connoisseurs favor Pisang Mas bananas for their oxidation resistance, meaning they don’t readily turn brown when sliced. They’re used in baking and sautéing applications, in fruit salads, or you can consume them raw.


11. Hopa Bananas

Appearance: Elongated or squat with curved, blunt edges
Size: 5 inches long on average
Color: Bright green skin that ripens to golden yellow
Presentation: Cooked green or eaten raw when ripe
Availability: All year round

Depending on the variety, Hopa bananas will vary in shape and size, but they’re generally bulbous and have a cylindrical shape with square curved edges. Further, their thick skin is waxy and smooth, with angular ridges extending along the length.

When unripe, the flesh of Hopa bananas is firm and has a starchy texture consistent with potatoes. It turns subtly sweet and creamy when cooked but ripens into neutral flavored, soft pulp due to the conversion of starch to sugar.


12. Saba Bananas

Saba Bananas
Image Credit: Pun foto gallery, Shutterstock
Appearance: Short, blocky with sharply angled edges
Size: Between two and five inches long
Color: Bright green when unripe that turns golden yellow
Presentation: Cooked when green and eaten ripe raw
Availability: All year round

Short, thick, and angled, a bunch of Saba bananas can weigh up to 80 pounds, and each hand contains over twenty fruit. While their sizes vary depending on maturity, they’re typically between two and five inches long.

Besides a blocky shape with sharp angles, Saba bananas have a thick skin that helps protect them during harvesting and shipment. These bananas have dense, white flesh and are cooked to sweeten spicy food. They are also eaten raw when ripe.

divider - blender banana strawberry

Final Thoughts

While there are differences in the appearance and taste of bananas across different varieties, these fruits are very close to each other and have the same nutritional value. Cavendish bananas are the most common in local markets, but other varieties are available as well. Next time you go shopping, don’t just say banana; call it by its name.


Featured Image Credit: Peggychoucair, Pixabay

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