Have you ever had sweet fried plantains? The first time I had plátanos maduros was when I moved to Costa Rica where they became daily staple at the breakfast table, served alongside a heaping portion of gallo pinto and some instant coffee. They quickly became my favorite – sweet, slightly mushy, with a slight crisp on the outside, what more do you want? Where had plantains been all my life? This week I’m learning to cook with plantains and sharing how it went with you!
What are plantains?
Sadly I grew up in a household that didn’t eat plantains at all. For a not insignificant portion of my life I thought that bananas and plantains were the same plant (it’s bad, I know). I’ll say it here: plantains and bananas are not the same plant, even though they look alike. Plantains are also a major food in cuisines across the globe, ranging from their origins in Southeast Asia to Central America, the Caribbean, and West and Central Africa.
Plantains do look like bananas with their yellow peels. Like the banana, they start off green, then turn yellow, then blacken. That’s where the similarities end though. Try to peel a plantain, especially one that is unripe, and you’ll have trouble. Plantains should be cooked – eating a raw plantain won’t kill you, but it will be like eating an uncooked bitter potato due to its high starch content (yuck). The good news is that you can cook the plantain in any stage of the ripening process, whether it’s green or black, and make something really delicious. Greener plantains tend to have less flavor but are great for making chips or a mash, while sweeter plantains can make a great side or dessert. No wonder they’re such a popular food globally – there’s so much you can do with them, they are plentiful and inexpensive, and it’s difficult to let plantains spoil completely.
Cooking With Plantains
Plantains are used in so many dishes. Some of my favorite ways that I’ve eaten it so far are: plantain chips, fried green plantains (called tostones or patacones in Latin America), green plantains mashed with spices (such as mofongo in Puerto Rico, mangú in the Dominican Republic, or matoke in Uganda), and sweet fried plantains (plátanos maduros in Latin America, or the spicy kelewele from Ghana). But there are so many more dishes with plantains to try!
How have you eaten plantains? What is your favorite way to eat them? Let me know in the comments!
My favorite preparation to date is plátanos maduros, which literally means “ripe plantains” in Spanish. And the biggest thing I learned is these are so easy to make – no wonder they are so popular! All you need are ripe plantains and a neutral oil with a high smoke point, and it’s so straightforward.
My most burning question was the ripeness. How ripe was ripe enough for it to be sweet? I was hoping that after a week of ripening my plantains would have much blacker skin, but my apartment is in this weird moment where it’s not summer hot anymore but not quite cold enough to warrant the heater turning on (in many NYC apartments you can’t control the heater), so the coolish temps were not super conducive to fast ripening. I forged ahead and yes, they were delicious. They should get sweeter as they ripen more and I left one plantain for later to test it out 🙂
To peel a plantain, first slice off the ends. Then carefully cut a slit along the peel and pull it away from the fruit. Be careful not to cut the fruit itself. I did slice the fruit a few times, but it had no bearing on the result, so don’t stress too much about it. Slice the plantain diagonally in pieces about 1/4″ thick. A diagonal cut will get you more surface area with the oil.
Heat up your oil. I used canola because it’s neutral and has a high smoke point. When it’s hot enough that it sizzles with water, reduce the heat to medium. Put your plantain slices into the oil and fry 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned but not blackened. I strongly recommend using tongs for flipping them without burning yourself.
Remove the maduros from the oil and place on a paper towel. They are too hot to eat right away but once they cool they’re perfect. This was one recipe that was so hard to photograph because I wanted to eat them while hot!
Sweet Fried Plantains (Plátanos Maduros)
15 minutes to slice and fry 2 plantains
- 2 plantains, ripened to the point where the skin is spotted or black
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup canola oil (see directions)
- Frying pan (nonstick recommended)
- Tongs (highly recommended)
- Peel the plantains by slicing the ends off. Then cut a slit into the outer skin and peel it off. Slice diagonally into 1/4″ pieces.
- Pour canola oil into a nonstick frying pan until the bottom of the pan is covered in oil. Heat on medium-high heat until the oil sizzles with a drop of water. Reduce to medium heat and add the plantains. Cook from 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping with tongs, until browned.
- Remove plantains from the pan when browned on both sides. Place on a paper towel. Let cool slightly before eating.