How to cook plantains

These pan-fried sweet plantains make for the most delicious side dish or starchy addition to your favorite protein bowl!

How to cook plantains

GOODNESS, I love plantains! To start, they’re perfectly crispy + caramelized on the outside and soft on the inside, and they have a sweet, satisfying taste that makes them seriously crave-able and a really nice complement to a breakfast plate or a crispy carnitas bowl. Basically, if pan-fried plantains are on the menu, I’m down!

What are plantains?

Plantains are commonly used in Latin American cooking and look remarkably close to a banana, but it don’t taste like them at all! Plantains are much starchier than bananas and have much thicker skin than bananas do. While you can eat a banana raw, plantains need to be cooked prior to eating and are typically served alongside a savory meal (basically, if you can eat it with a potato, you can eat it with a plantain). Plantains can be enjoyed at each of their three stages of ripeness – green, yellow, and brown. As a plantain ripens, the starch converts to sugar, leading to a sweeter, less-firm plantain. At the green stage, plantains can be made into chips, fried into tostones, and even boiled and mashed! As they ripen, they become better suited for frying, and can even be used in desserts.

Are plantains good for you?

I first came around to plantains when I was on a grain-free, Paleo-style diet. I quickly got tired of relying on potatoes and sweet potatoes for my carbohydrate intake, so I decided to experiment with different starches, and plantains quickly became my favorite! But, are they healthy? Of course, whether or not something is healthy for you depends on your overall health and tolerances, but plantains are a great healthy option.

Plantains are a great source of healthy carbohydrates and fiber, and green plantains contain resistant starch, which can help stabilize blood sugar and feeds the good bacteria naturally present in your gut! Plantains are also rich in potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins A, B6, and C.

What type of plantains are best for frying?

Good question! If you’ve never picked out a plantain before, the range of plantain color and ripeness at the grocery store can be pretty intimidating. Here’s the low down: green plantains are the least ripe and the starchiest of the bunch (these are the most the potato-like), yellow plantains are sweeter, and brown spotted or fully brown plantains are the sweetest option (though still nothing like a banana).

When it comes to pan-frying, we love the sweeter variety of plantains because they get a nice crispy caramelization on the outside!

How to cook plantains

What is the difference between fried sweet plantains and tostones?

The first difference between plain fried plantains and tostones is that fried plantains utilize sweet plantains, while tostones use green plantains. The other difference is the method! For regular fried plantains, you’ll simply fry them on both sides and eat as-is. For a tostone, you’ll fry a sliced plantain until browned, then smash it and fry it again, which creates a thinner, more crisp result.

How to Buy Sweet Plantains

Sweet plantains range from yellow to brown (almost black) in color, getting progressively softer as they darken. For this reason, we don’t want totally brown plantains (they’ll look more like the bananas you use for banana bread) – they’ll be too soft, making it difficult to slice and fry. Opt for yellow (or yellow with brown spots) plantains – perfectly sweet, and firm enough to easily prepare!

How to Peel a Plantain

Thanks to that thick skin, plantains don’t peel easily like bananas do! In order to peel a plantain, you’ll need to score the plantain lengthwise four times, along the seams. Using a knife, make a cut from the top of the plantain to the bottom, just deep enough to penetrate the peel, not cut into the plantain), then slide your finger under the peel to break it off. You can see a video demonstration for how to do this in our plantain chip recipe.

How to Make Fried Plantains

Though pan-frying can sometimes be intimidating, these plantains are anything but! Here’s what you’ll need to do to get the perfect pan-fried plantains:

  1. Peel + slice the plantains. Peel your plantains (reference peeling directions above) and slice them crosswise into ¼-inch-thick discs.
  2. Heat the oil. Heat oil or butter (enough to skim-coat the bottom of your pan – about a tablespoon) in a large skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the plantains. Add the plantains to the pan in a single layer and cook for 4 minutes. Note: if your plantains don’t all fit in the pan at once (as is often the case here), you’ll need to work in batches. Be patient here – you want to make sure your plantains reach a perfect golden brown.
  4. Flip the plantains. Using tongs or a spatula, flip the plantains and continue cooking for 4 more minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
  5. Transfer the plantains + season. Transfer the golden brown plantains to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle the tops with salt.
  6. Serve warm + enjoy!

How to Serve Fried Sweet Plantains

I love eating pan-fried sweet plantains with breakfast (think: fried eggs, perfectly crispy bacon, pan-fried plantains, and a spoonful of lemony kale…YUM!) If you’d rather go egg-free, this DIY breakfast plate and this bison breakfast bowl are also super yummy options!

Pan-fried plantains are also a delicious starchy side dish for dinner! Crispy carnitas, sweet plantains, roasted brussels sprouts, and a drizzle of homemade ranch is a ridiculously tasty combo! Truly, plantains will go great with any meal that you’d typically enjoy roasted cubed potatoes with!

How to Store Fried Plantains

If you somehow resisted the urge to eat all of the plantains (not an easy task!) and you have leftovers, store the cooled plantains in an airtight container (this glass set is a great option) in the fridge. They’ll save for up to 5 days! To reheat, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and once hot, add the plantains and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until warmed through.

We hope you enjoy these crispy, caramelized pan-fried sweet plantains as a fun twist on your typical starchy side!

How to cook plantains

Fried ripe plantains have a crispy, caramelized texture and irresistibly sweet taste. It's a ubiquitous Caribbean dish that is served with almost every meal, and it's enjoyed in other parts of the world as well. This is a quick and easy recipe that is sure to bring the taste of the Caribbean into your home.

Plantains are a member of the banana family. Unlike a banana, plantains are starchy and need to be cooked before eating. As a plantain ripens, its starches are converted to natural sugars, resulting in a sweeter taste. Frying a fully ripe plantain quickly in oil coaxes all the sugar to the surface where it’s caramelized. This creates a delicious chip that’s simultaneously crisp and sweet. After the first taste, you’ll realize why this is one of the best ways to eat plantain.

The keys to successful fried plantains are choosing ripe fruit and using the right pan, oil, and heat. A ripe plantain's skin should be almost black or, in some cases, have a dull yellow color with patches of black. In addition to being sweeter, ripe fruit peels easily and cooks in no time.

Serve fried ripe plantains as a side dish or snack. They’re excellent alongside island favorites like red beans and rice and Jamaican jerk chicken and can be added to soups or stews. In the South American country of Guyana, they’re traditionally served with a national dish called cook-up rice (rice, beans, and meat cooked with coconut milk).

How to cook plantains

How to cook plantains

Cooking should be fun, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so without breaking the bank or dirtying up too many dishes. This two ingredient recipe for fried sweet plantains is affordable, delicious, easy and the perfect way to bring food from all over the world right to your dinner table.

Plantains are a starchy fruit, but much like tomatoes, they’re treated and cooked as though they are a vegetable. Plantains look like large, spotted bananas and are a staple in Caribbean, Central and South American, West African and Southeast Asian cuisines

The key to letting plantains really shine is to make sure they’re very ripe before cooking. The fruit has the most starch before it ripens, so you should look for plantains that have a mix of yellow and black coloring when buying them at the grocery store. The sweet Caribbean staple is perfect when paired with a spicy or charred entree, like jerk pork, grilled chicken or any number of the best-ever grilled dishes.

To make basic plantains, you’ll need just two simple ingredients: plantains and butter. Start by peeling and cutting the plantains into small, diagonal pieces. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and then place the plantains into the skillet. Cook the plantains for a few minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown. See the full technique below, via The Daily Meal’s YouTube channel:

Once the plantains are done let them drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve them over a bed of rice as an easy and affordable vegetarian dinner option.

Fried Sweet Plantains

Ingredients:

3 very ripe plantains
3 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Step 1: Peel and cut the plantains into diagonal 1-inch pieces.

Step 2: Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Step 3: When the butter is almost melted, place plantains into the skillet. You may need to cook in batches as you don’t want to overcrowd the skillet.

Step 4: About 2-3 minutes into cooking, add another tablespoon of butter.

Step 5: Cook another 2-3 minutes, until the bottoms of the plantains are very golden.

Step 6: Flip and add another tablsepoon of butter.

Step 7: Cook for 4-6 minutes on the second side.

Step 8: Remove the plantains when the second side is very golden. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and serve hot.

These fried sweet plantains, or maduros in Spanish, are plantains in a ripe state that are sliced and fried until they’re tender in the middle and crispy and caramelized around the edges.

How to cook plantains

Maduro in Spanish means ripe, so maduros refer to the ripe state of a plantain. If you’re ordering sweet plantains in a Latin restaurant you can ask for platanos maduros or simply say “maduros”.

Plantains are a staple in the Caribbean and are used in an array of food. Green plantains are used in savory recipes like this sopa de platano and ajiaco. Ripe ones are usually used for desserts and sides. Their applications are varied and delicious!

In Cuban cuisine, fried sweet plantains are one of the most popular sides, rivaled only by fried green plantains, or tostones in Spanish. The interesting thing is that these two completely different dishes are made from the same ingredient – a plantain. For tostones, it’s in the green stage, before it starts to ripen. For the maduros, it’s as ripe as it gets!

How to cook plantains

How do you know they’re ripe?

The best plantains to use for platanos maduros fritos are super ripe ones. Make sure the peel is yellow and black or completely black. They should also be fairly soft and give when pressed with a thumb. The darker it is, the sweeter the plantain will be. Serve them as a side to your favorite Cuban meal. If you need inspiration try this ropa vieja, or this picadillo recipe.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Ripe Plantain
  • 1½ cup Oil, or enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet with ½ inch of oil. Use a neutral (flavorless) variety with a high smoke point – we used canola oil and a 10 inch skillet.

Prep work

The only prep work required here is peeling and slicing the plantain. Maybe that’s why it’s such a popular side dish, simple prep and a quick cook time.

Place the plantain on a flat surface and cut off the ends. Score the peel by running a sharp knife tip down the length of the banana. Try not to cut deep into the flesh. Gently remove the peel; it should come off in one piece or in long strips.

How to cook plantains

Slice it at a slight angle into roughly 1 inch pieces. Each plantain will yield approximately 6-8 pieces.

How to cook plantains

Instructions

Add the oil to a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat (we used a 10 inch skillet). Let the oil get hot, but not too hot. If the oil is too hot the plantains will start caramelizing and even burning on the outside without cooking on the inside. We want the oil to bubble gently around the pieces. Use a test piece to make sure the oil is hot enough.

Carefully place the sliced plantain pieces in the oil. You should be able to fit about 6-8 pieces depending on the size of your skillet. Do not overcrowd the pan, fry in batches if necessary. Try to leave enough room between them so that they don’t touch. They tend to gravitate towards each other and will stick and clump together if not separated. Use tongs, or a plastic spatula to keep them in their own space.

How to cook plantains

Fry the plantains for 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip each one and cook another 2 minutes or so, until golden brown on both sides.

How to cook plantains

Flip again if necessary and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Once they start to brown and caramelize it will happen really quickly. Keep an eye on them.

How to cook plantains

Remove the plantains from the skillet using tongs or a slotted spoon to allow as much oil to drain as possible and place on a plate or platter for serving. Cook’s note: Let the oil cool off a little between batches. If the oil is too hot the outside will brown too quickly and could burn.

How to cook plantains

Storing and reheating

Store leftover plantains in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a day or two. They reheat really well in the microwave; just give them about 30 seconds on high heat.

You may also like these Cuban side dishes:

  • Pure de Malanga
  • Yuca Frita
  • Malanga Chips
  • Cuban-Style Red Beans
  • Frituras de Malanga

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How to cook plantains

Plantains are the fruit of the plantain plant, and – along with bananas – are members of the genus Musa. In appearance, plantains look like larger bananas. Plantains are eaten ripe and unripe.

The taste of plantain is hard to describe, but the closest to the taste of unripe plantain is unripe banana, which – if you’ve never tried plantains – you’re probably also unfamiliar with. Ripe plantain tastes like a much starchier banana.

The difference between ripe and unripe plantain shows in their color, flavor, and texture: Unripe plantains are green and very firm, whereas ripe plantains are yellow – with black spots as it gets riper –and also mushier and sweeter. Neither should be eaten raw (though eating raw ripe plantain is not harmful, just not tasty).

Picture of plantains

Names for plantain

Plantains are eaten ripe and unripe. Unripe (or green) plantains are known in Spanish as “plátano verde”, and in some places “plátano macho”.

Benefits of plantains

Plantains are very low in fat and sodium, are cholesterol-free, and are a very rich source of fiber. One-half cup of cooked slices contains about 89 calories.

Plantains are an excellent source of vitamin C and A, having 20 times the vitamin A, three times the vitamin C, twice the magnesium, and almost two times the potassium in a banana.

Where are plantains from?

Plantains and bananas come from Southeast Asia and flourish in tropical areas. Alexander the Great is credited with bringing plantains westward from India to Greece. From there it spread to the Middle East and East Africa thanks to Arab sailors.

How to cook plantains

Plantains are versatile and can be cooked in many ways, but most commonly they are boiled, fried, roasted, or added to stews. Sweet plantains (ripe) can even be made into a dessert we call mala rabia.
The leaves are used in our cuisine to wrap pasteles en hoja and panecicos.

– How to peel plantains
Peeling an unripe plantain is entirely different from peeling a banana – or a ripe plantain, for that matter. The peel is scored and removed in sections. Lucky for you, we’ve written an entire guide on how to peel and slice plantains, complete with a handy video

– How to boil plantains
One of the most common ways to eat plantains is boiled. Plantains are peeled and boiled in salted water. You can follow along with our mangú (plantain mash with sauteed onions) recipe for the world’s best plantain recipe. I may be a bit biased.

– How to fry plantains
In its most basic form, plantains are peeled, and deep-fried, but different recipes will call for different sized pieces, and frying time. Check our recipe for tostones (the world’s best side dish or snack), or mofongo (fried plantains with a garlic flavor), for just two examples of what can be made with fried plantains.

Many fresh ingredients go from unripe (inedible) to perfectly ripe (fantastic) to overripe (again, inedible)—and sometimes this all happens in the blink of an eye. (Looking at you, avocados.) But plantains, which are related to bananas but much more versatile, are an exception: They’re tasty from when they’re picked (rock-hard and green as grass) until they reach peak ripeness—you’ve just got to know how to use them at each stage.

Let’s start with unripe plantains, which have rigid green skins. (The skin of a green plantain is so tough that it’s not easy to peel. You’ll need to score the plantain along its ribs, then pull of the skin strip by strip.) The interior is firm, starchy, and not at all sweet—more similar to that of a raw potato than a banana.

Fry thin slices of green plantains to make plantain chips, or cut thicker circles or ovals for tostones, the crispy, twice-fried snack eaten across Latin America and the Caribbean. Smash fried green plantains with garlic, olive oil, and fried pork skin for mofongo, a beloved dish in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Green plantains can also be grated and turned into fritters, braised in broth, or cut into pieces and added to soup, which they’ll thicken with their natural starches.

Green plantains are destined for tostones.

Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Yekaterina Boytsova

As plantains ripen, they turn yellow, then develop some brown spots, and eventually (really, this can take weeks) reach peak ripeness, at which point they’re very dark brown, nearly black. The change in color indicates that the starches on the inside are converting into sugars and the flavor is getting progressively sweeter, though still earthy and vegetal. Their insides soften, veering into sticky and even syrupy territory, and the skin thins, making the peeling process slightly easier.

Caramelize ripe plantains to make maduros.

Photo by Laura Murray, food styling by Judy Mancini.

When a plantain is anywhere from decidedly yellow to deeply black, you can still deep-fry or pan-fry them, but what you’ll get is something entirely different: maduros (which translates to “mature” or “ripe” in Spanish). Because their sugar content has increased, the plantains will have caramelized edges and pudding-soft insides. Ripe plantains can be simmered or roasted, then mashed, or sliced and grilled, or roasted whole, then split open and topped with butter and herbs or brown sugar.

How to cook plantains

Perfect Baked Plantains – An “oven fried” baked plantains recipe for ultra moist and tender plantain slices, perfect to serve as a side dish or enjoy as a healthy snack with dipping sauce!

How to cook plantains

Are you as obsessed with plantains as we are?

We recently made Magic Plantain Tortillas and Paleo Chinese Dumplings with a green plantain (underripe plantain) dough as the base. This is a fool-proof (and delicious) method for creating starchy, carb-like foods for paleo and grain-free diets.

However, today I want to show you the absolute best way to prepare ripe sweet plantains. Which, in my humble opinion, is simply to bake them to perfection.

Baked or “oven fried” plantains are not the same as plantain chips. While chips are thin and crispy, these baked plantain slices are thick and tender. However, they can be used for dipping in a variety of delectable sauces.

How to cook plantains

Our Perfect Baked Plantains are thicker than plantain chips, allowing the soft sweet centers to stay tender, while the exterior surfaces turn golden and crispy around the edges.

They make an easy and addictive gluten free snack, a comforting Caribbean and South American side dish, or a unique appetizer to dunk in salsa and creamy dips.

Get the Full Perfect Baked Plantains Recipe Below!

How to cook plantains

What You Need to Make “Oven Fried” Plantains

This healthy and delicious plantains recipe only requires 3 simple ingredients:

  • Ripe plantains
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

You will know your plantains start to ripen when the skins turn from green, to bright yellow, to dark yellow with black spots.

Once the spots start to show up and the skin darkens, the starches have turned to sugars, so the plantains are now sweet and perfect for baking.

How to cook plantains

How to Make Perfect Baked Plantains

  1. First, carefully peel off the skins, making sure not to squish the plantains. Then slice them into 1/4 to 1/3 inch strips.
  2. Next, coat the plantains strips with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Finally, bake the plantains in preheated 425 degree oven. Baking at this high heat will ensure that they become crispy around the edges before absorbing all the oil.

How to cook plantains

Once the Perfect Baked Plantains come out of the oven, just try to keep your hands out of them. You won’t be able to do it!

The sweetness of the ripe plantains creates the perfect salty-sweet snack.

We love baked plantains warm, but they also taste great at room temperature, so don’t be afraid to make them ahead of time.

They will keep well stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. You can reheat easily by baking for a few minutes at 350 degrees F, until the plantains have become slightly hot.

How to cook plantains

The plantains is a relative to the common banana. It can be a healthful dietary staple with just 232 calories, 62 carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of fat in a 1-cup serving of mashed plantains. Many plantain recipes call for frying the fruit, but this nearly doubles the calorie content and adds around 12 grams of fat per serving. Healthier cooking methods allow you to make this fruit a part of your regular diet.

Steam

Steamed plantains cook quickly with minimal effort. To steam whole plantains, cut off both ends of the fruit, exposing the flesh within the peel. Slice the plantains lengthwise, splitting the peel so steam can escape. Steam the prepared plantains for 8 minutes, or until tender, and let them cool in the peel for about 5 minutes.

To flavor your steamed plantains, peel and slice the fruit before steaming it. Toss the slices with your chosen flavorings — cinnamon and honey work well — and place them in a parchment-lined steaming basket. Sliced plantains steam in approximately 5 minutes.

Boiled plantains make an easy side to lunches and dinners. Boiling works best for savory plantain recipes. Rinse the plantains and cut off both ends of the fruit to expose their flesh. Cut the lengths in half horizontally. Make a small cut in each half’s peel — this makes it easier to remove the peel after boiling. Boil the plantains for 15 minutes, or until their peels begin pulling away from the flesh. Keep the boiled plantains in their peels until you’re ready to serve them.

Baked plantains are an excellent alternative to fried plantains. They have a crispy, lightly browned exterior without added oil, keeping them lower in fat than fried plantains. Line a baking pan with parchment paper to prevent the plantains from sticking. Peel and slice the plantains and arrange them in the pan. Bake them at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until they turn golden. Let them cool in the pan for about five minutes. If you layer the plantain slices, you create a casserole-type side dish, which might require up to 25 minutes to bake. Sprinkle any seasonings you enjoy, such as ground black pepper or cinnamon, over the plantains before baking them.

Grill

Grilled plantains have a light, smoked flavor that complements both sweet and savory seasonings. Scrub the exterior of the plantains. Slice the washed plantains in half lengthwise and rub the exposed flesh with seasonings. Grill the plantains for about five minutes per side, or until their flesh is soft with a crisp exterior. Cool them for five minutes before serving. To prevent sticking, coat the plantains in a thin layer of olive oil or butter. Use the oil and butter lightly, as they add up to 40 calories per teaspoon.

  • United States Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
  • The University of California, Los Angeles: Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden: Bananas and plantains (Musa spp.)

Serena Styles is a Colorado-based writer who specializes in health, fitness and food. Speaking three languages and working on a fourth, Styles is pursuing a Bachelor's in Linguistics and preparing to travel the world. When Styles isn't writing, she can be found hiking, cooking or working as a certified nutritionist.