As I was wandering around the produce section of my grocery store this past weekend, the basket of plantains caught my eye. I absolutely love them, but rarely have them, so when I realized how long it had been, I quickly grabbed one and put it in my cart.
Though closely related to bananas, plantains are much bigger, greener, and starchier. They cannot be eat raw like bananas and must be boiled, fried, or baked for consumption. They have three stages of ripeness – green, yellow and black. Green plantains are the starchiest and most like potato or yucca root, and are therefore used in a lot of savory dishes. As they turn yellow, they become semi-ripe and are just slightly sweet, but still pretty starchy. The final stage of ripeness is when they turn black, which is their sweetest stage. They can take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to fully ripen and go from green to black, and sometimes even longer in the winter.
Plantains are loaded with health benefits, including:
- High in potassium, fiber, Vitamin A, C, and Magnesium
- Low in calories, sodium, and fat
- No Cholesterol
- Help promote digestion
One of my favorite ways to have plantains is in the form of tostones. Tostones involve taking green plantains, frying them, smashing them, and then frying them again. Most of the time this is done using a large amount of oil, and while delicious, they are not the healthiest. I decided to experiment a bit and used only nonstick spray, water, and salt, and these turned out incredible. The trick here is adding water to steam and sodten the plantains during the first stage of cooking, so they still soften and get crispy, but require no oil.
The first step with any preparation is to peel the plantain. You start by cutting off both of the tips.
And then slice through the skin down the length of the plantain.
Next, carefully peel back the skin with your fingers to loosen it from the flesh of the plantain.
Continue to loosen the skin until the plantain is fully peeled and separated from the skin.
Though it looks very similar to a banana in this stage, you’ll notice that the plantain is a LOT firmer than a banana and stands up quite well to a knife. Slice it up into equally sliced pieces.
And then transfer it to a heated pan over medium heat, coated with nonstick spray.
Your goal in this first phase of cooking is to get the plantains both browned and soft, so keep the heat over medium and turn it down a bit if you need to. Once one side is browned, flip them over.
To avoid using oil, add about 1/2 a cup of water to the pan and cover it, letting the steam soften the plantains.
Once the water has evaporated away, uncover the pan and check the softness of the plantains. You should be able to press down a bit without much resistance. Total time for this stage is about 8-10 minutes in the pan.
Salt the plantains at this stage, and then remove them from the heat.
Now comes my favorite part – flattening the plantains. I used the flat side of a knife and the fleshy part of the palm of my hand to flatten them (similar to how you flatten garlic), but you could also use a tortilla press, a heavy pan, or anything else that’s flat.
They should look like this once flattened:
Repeat until all of the plantain pieces have been flattened.
Now comes the last part – pan frying the plantains one last time. Return the pan to the heat and coat with more nonstick spray, and place all the flattened plantains back in. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, and then cook both sides evenly.
The goal this time around is just to crisp and brown them up a bit more. Cook for ~2 minutes on each side, and then you’re done!
They are ready to be eaten now, so you can just serve them as a side like this, or eat them like chips with some sour cream. They are totally delicious, and this entire recipe is 6 pts+ (depending on the side of your plantain – I weighed mine at it was 170 grams).
I decided to make a quick wrap with the tostones, so layered three on a whole wheat tortilla.
I added 1/3 cup of brown rice and 1/2 cup black beans on top.
Plus 2 tbsp of light sour cream, and that’s a wrap. Bad joke, I know.
This entire wrap was 8 pts+ and completely delicious.
The crispy plantains paired well against the creamy sour cream, and were a perfect addition to the rice and beans in the wrap.
While the flavors and textures were spot on, next time I’d either use less filling or more tortilla, because it was a bit messy to eat. Personally I enjoy getting a little dirty when I’m eating something as delicious as this, but if you’re in public or are more proper than I am, you might want a bigger tortilla.
Have you tried plantains before? Ever cooked them at home? Are you a fan or not so much?