Plantains are the less sweet cousin to bananas. Belonging to the same family as bananas, plantains are larger, firmer and have a lower sugar content than bananas. Also unlike bananas, plantains are generally used for cooking and should not be eaten raw for they can be difficult to digest. In this guide, we’ll show you the different ways to cooking plantains.
Plantain’s Stages of Ripeness
Unripe plantains are usually green in color but can be a yellow-brownish color. At this stage, they are very hard, super starchy, and their skin is difficult to peel. Unripe plantains are not sweet so they are best for making baked plantain chips, and crackers.
Semi-ripe plantains are a solid yellow color and are softer than unripe ones. They are ideal for making plantain tortillas, plantain waffles, and mangú.
When plantains are fully ripe, they are yellow with dark brown spots. They are soft and their skin is very easy to peel. Additionally, ripe plantains are much sweeter than those of the previous stages. At this stage, they are savory and are ideal for frying and roasting.
Super Ripe Plantains
While they may look like they have gone bad, super plantains can still be eaten. Super ripe plantains are black, soft, and much sweeter than ripe ones. Therefore, they can easily be used in dessert dishes like caramelized plantains.
Methods for Cooking Plantains
Frying is the most common and straightforward methods for cooking plantains. In addition, frying brings all of the natural sugar to the surface which causes it to browns easily and caramelizes. For best results, choose ripe plantains that are a dull yellow or brown color.
- Remove the plantain’s skin and cut it diagonally. Cutting the plantain diagonally provides a larger surface for caramelization (and it looks better). However, the shape in which you cut it is all based on personal preference.
- In a large frying pan or deep fryer, heat 1 1/2 inch inches of vegetable oil, or any other neutral tasting oil, on medium heat. With this amount of oil, you should be able to fry 10-15 plantain slices at once.
- Gently drop in the plantain slices in one at a time. Fry each slice for 4 minutes on each side or until they are golden.
- Use a slotted spoon or skimmer and transfer the cooked plantains onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt.
Like other fruit and vegetables, plantains can be grilled. Grilling them adds a smoky flavor to the plantains and you can even add extra sweetness with a butter-sugar glaze.
- 2-3 plantains
- cooking oil of your choice
- Preheat your grill and set it to medium-high heat.
- Peel the plantains, cut them lengthwise, and brush them with cooking oil. Grill for 4 minutes on each side.
- You can eat them by themselves or serve as a side dish.
Another healthy method for cooking plantains is by baking them. Baking plantains gives them a crispy outside while maintaining their creamy and tender texture. Ripe and extra ripe plantains are best for this method for unripe or semi-ripe plantains are too starchy and will result in a crispier and dry texture.
- 2-3 Plantains
- cooking oil of your choice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack on the top third.
- Peel plantains and slice them in medium sized chunks. In a large bowl, toss them with oil and sea salt.
- Spread the plantains in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast for 30 minutes, 15 minute for each side. Then, change temperature to broil.
- Broil them for 1 to 2 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
Pictured below is roasted plantains with Jollof rice and beef.
This is the most simple and straightforward method. There is no special preparation required, all you need is a pot of water, salt, and milk. Ripe plantains are best for this method.
- 2-3 plantains
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Peel and cut plantains in half.
- Bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of milk, and a dash of salt to a boil.
- Carefully drop in the plantains one at a time.
- Boil for 15 to 20 minutes and remove from heat.
- Serve as a side dish as is or mash it for savory and sweet mashed plantains.
Pictured below are oiled plantains with Nigerian spicy vegetable soup.
Not that you’re an expert in cooking plantains, try out some of these mouth-watering dishes.
Canoas (Stuffed Plantains)
Get a taste of Puerto Rico and Central America with Canoas de Plantano Maduro, or stuffed plantains. This dish is made by frying a plantain, baking it, and stuffing a baked plantain with minced meat and cheese. Yum! Additionally, it can be eaten as an appetizer or made into a meal when served with rice and beans.
Hornado (Roasted Pork) with Plantains
Your mouth is probably watering right now and for good reason. Ecuadorian slow roasted pork is a dish that is cooked in a beer marinade with garlic, cumin, and annatto. Portions of this tender and succulent pork are best when served with plantains.
Roasted Plantain Ice Cream Sundae
Put a twist on the usual ice cream and swap out a borning banana with a sliced caramelized plantain. Feel free to add any kind of ice cream or topping you would like to this delectable dessert.