Yes, You Can Eat Banana Peels—But Should You?

We investigate a Nigella Lawson recipe for curry with shredded banana peels

Published May 7, 2021.

Banana peels are American cartoon shorthand for garbage, the quintessential kitchen discard. But at a time when reducing food waste is a headline-making topic, maybe there’s a way to rethink these peels. Globally, many people cook with banana peels, which are packed with potassium, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fats, and essential amino acids.

So my ears perked up when food celebrity and cookbook author Nigella Lawson boasted that she cooks banana peels in her coconut curries. Color me intrigued. I watched as she soaked the banana peels, sliced them into thin ribbons, and added them to the simmering vegetable curry.

I’ll admit—and Nigella does, too—that the banana peels don’t look great. In her video, they’re brown, soft, and . . . limp. But, she promises, “I can’t say that you can detect any pronounced banana flavor. It’s really about the texture. These really go so velvety and swell and soften with the flavor of the curry sauce.” She says most people to whom she’s served them assume the banana peels are bits of eggplant.

Nigella had convinced me to at least give this a try. My household eats a lot of bananas, and we cook a lot of curries to make use of the vegetables that are abundant in our garden from spring through late summer. Maybe banana peels could find their place in these meals.

I cooked up a yellow coconut curry with carrots and spinach—and banana peels. Per Nigella’s instructions, I placed them in boiling-hot water to which I’d added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric and a healthy dash of salt, letting them soak for about 30 minutes before draining. I added them to the pan once the carrots had begun to soften but before I added the spinach. They looked better covered in sauce and alongside the other vegetables, almost passing for caramelized onions.

But now, the true test: How do they taste? I detected a faint banana note when I took a bite of just the skins, but this was well masked on a forkful with other vegetables. The banana flavor was subtle, and the texture was similar to that of cooked eggplant or mushrooms. I served a bowl to my unsuspecting husband, eyeing his first few bites to see what he’d detect. Shortly thereafter, the jig was up: “Is this banana?” he asked. Still, we both finished our bowls.

Ultimately, the banana peel curry is a neat trick if you’re hyperconscious about reducing your food waste. The peels don’t bring much to the dish, nor are they distracting. Given our plethora of fresh produce going into summer, though, I think I’ll continue to direct my banana peels to the eco-friendly place they’ve always gone: the compost.

Photo: Svehlik, Getty Images (top); Kate Bernot (bottom photos)

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