How to Use Plantains

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Plantains can be used to make sweet and savory dishes.
Plantains can be used to make sweet and savory dishes. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A cousin of the banana, plantains are popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as well as some Asian countries. Unlike bananas, plantains are not meant to be eaten raw. The fruit tastes better when fried, baked or grilled. Plantains go through three stages of ripeness. Green plantains are the least ripe and are especially starchy, almost like a potato. Yellow plantains are less starchy and have a slightly sweet taste. When plantains are at their ripest, they turn black and become soft - more like a banana. Plantains at any stage are easy to use and prepare. The versatile fruit can be used a snack, side dish, dessert or accompaniment to a main dish.

Things You'll Need

  • Green, yellow and black plantains
  • Knife
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable, canola or coconut oil
  • Salt
  • Slotted spoon
  • Large spatula or wooden spoon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Butter

Cutting and Peeling Plantains

Cut the ends off the plantain. Always store and cut the fruit at room temperature.

Use the tip of a knife to cut a slit, lengthwise, down the skin. Cut through the skin. Leave the flesh intact.

Peel the skin away.

Fried Plantains

Cut two green or yellow peeled plantains, crosswise, into 1-inch thick sections. Bring 1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit in a large saute pan. For a healthier option, use coconut oil. Fry the plantain pieces until they turn a golden yellow, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried plantains to a dish topped with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

Double-fry the plantains to make tostones, a classic dish. Instead of transferring the plantains to a paper towel, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Stand the plantains on their side, and use a large spatula or wooden spoon to flatten them to half their original size. Add the flattened plantains to a bowl filled with 2 cups water. Soak for 1 minute and return to the 325 degree oil.

Fry for an additional 2 to 4 minutes on each side until the pieces are golden brown. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish topped with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Add a dipping sauce to the fried plantains. They can also work in shrimp or chicken dishes, porridge or desserts.

Baked Plantains

Cut the ends from two black plantains. Cut each plantain lengthwise, creating two halves. Instead of peeling the fruit, make a couple of gashes in the flesh side.

Mix 1/4 c. brown sugar, a pinch of allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl. Gently push the mixture into the gashes of the plantain. Top with dots of butter.

Place the plantains in oven at 400 degree Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 minutes. If desired, place under the broiler until brown. To eat, remove the flesh from the skin. Serve with ice cream.

Grilled Plantains

Peel four black plantains and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Brush the pieces with vegetable oil.

Place the pieces on a preheated grill. Cook until caramelized, about 30 seconds to two minutes on each side.

Remove the pieces from the grill. Serve with ice cream or coat with a glaze.

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