If you’ve ever gone to a supermarket and seen large green bananas, they’re probably not what you think they are. These vegetables, although they look very similar to bananas, are actually called plantains.
Plantains are a tropical fruit that have a starchy, savory taste when unripe. Or, when eaten overripe, they have a sweet and sticky flavor.
What Are Plantains?
Plantains are a tropical fruit that, much like tomatoes, are usually thought of as vegetables. Plantains have a tough outer skin, especially when they’re green, and are usually prepared cooked.
Plantains are grown around the world in warm climates, including Indonesia, Egypt, the Caribbean, Africa, and the tropical regions of the Americas. They’re a very versatile vegetable and tend to be pretty cheap.
One major benefit of plantains is that you can use them no matter how ripe they are. Regardless of whether they’re slightly unripe or very overripe, you can use them in a wide range of dishes.
What Do Plantains Taste Like?
The way plantains taste varies depending on how ripe they are. In general, however, they have a starchy flavor that is quite distinct from their cousin, the banana.
Green plantains are fairly bland and are quite starchy, similar to a yucca root or a potato. These plantains taste best cooked into salty, savory dishes.
When plantains ripen a little bit, they become yellow or yellow with black spots. Plantains at this stage of ripeness are much sweeter than green plantains.
When plantain’s skin turns black, it’s very ripe. Black plantains are sweet and aromatic and are a delicious ingredient to add to desserts or sweet treats. They taste like caramel or dark brown sugar!
The Health Benefits of Plantains
Even though they have a high starch content, plantains are still pretty healthy. These delicious fruits are packed full of important nutrients, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-6
They’re also a great source of fat and protein. That makes them a healthy addition to a balanced diet!
How to Peel Plantains
If you want to enjoy the deliciousness that plantains have to offer, you’ll first need to peel them. Peeling plantains is a very different process from peeling a banana, especially when a plantain is green and unripe!
To peel a plantain, you’ll need to find a paring knife. Using the knife, chop the ends off the plantain and throw them away.
Then, score the skin. Be careful not to cut into the flesh of the plantain. You should score the plantain along the seams of the fruit, roughly four times.
Next, wedge the knife into the scores and use it to pry the skin away from the fruit. Once again, be careful not to break into the meat of the fruit while you’re cutting.
After you’ve removed a section of peel, you should be able to remove the remaining pieces by lifting the skin off the fruit with your fingers. The skin should come off in four big chunks.
When you pull the skin off the plantain, be patient. Trying to tear the skin off too fast can injure your fingers, so it’s best to go slowly and take your time.
How to Eat Plantains
The real reason why plantains are so popular is because there are tons of different ways that you can prepare this unique fruit. Let’s take a look at a few ways to prepare plantains.
The easiest way to prepare plantains is to fry them. Green plantains taste great as twice-fried plantains. They’re typically sliced thinly and then plopped in hot oil to make thin chips.
A popular dish in the Dominican Republic is mashed plantains. This dish is made out of sweeter plantains, which are boiled and then mashed into a sweet paste, much like mashed potatoes.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of peeling plantains, you can bake them in their skins! Once they’re ready to eat, top them with salt and pepper and a generous helping of butter.
You can also boil plantains. To boil them, simply remove the skin and cook them in salted water. Boiled plantains taste great sliced up and added to stews, soups, and stir fry dishes.
Where to Buy Plantains
The good thing about plantains is that they’re pretty easy to find, even if you don’t live in the tropics. Most specialty food stores like Whole Foods or Moms sell plantains at a fairly affordable price.
You can also find plantains in Hispanic and African markets. These vegetables are staples for many latino and tropical diets, which is why they’re often stocked in these types of markets.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve still got questions about plantains you’re not alone. We’ve got a couple of answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about plantains.
Are tostones and plantains the same?
If you visit a latino restaurant, you’ll likely see tostones on the menu. Despite the fact that some people think these are different from plantains, tostones are a way of preparing plantains. They are double-fried plantains that are eaten in the same way as potato chips.
Can I fry bananas instead of plantains?
If you don’t have plantains on hand, you might be wondering if it’s possible to fry bananas instead. While you can absolutely fry bananas, it’s important to know that they have a higher sugar content and more starch, so the flavor is quite different.
Are raw plantains poisonous?
There’s no danger in eating raw plantains, unlike many fruits and veggies which contain toxins. However, raw plantains don’t taste very good and are best eaten cooked.
What goes well with plantains?
Plantains are a very versatile food that can be eaten with just about anything under the sun. If you’re eating salty plantains, rice is a great side dish to eat with them. If you’re eating sweet plantains, cheese, sugar, and cinnamon make great accompaniments.