Ingredient Spotlight: Plantains

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?

42 Comments on Ingredient Spotlight: Plantains

  1. Katie Photiadis
    March 31, 2011 at 8:33 am (9 years ago)

    WOW, Beth that looks delicious and used up your remaining points exactly =)

    I guess there is a difference between bananas and plantains, haha =)

  2. Victoria (District Chocoholic)
    March 31, 2011 at 8:42 am (9 years ago)

    I totally love plantains, especially with salt; I discovered them when I was in college and one of my hallmates, who was from Nicaragua, fried some up 3-4 nights a week. It smelled amazing.

    And he was a hot physicist. Win all around.

    I also enjoy a chocolate bar from Vosges that features salted plantain chips. Incredible.

    • Beth
      March 31, 2011 at 9:59 am (9 years ago)

      Haha why does it not surprise me that you found a chocolate bar with salted plantain chips in it. That sounds AMAZING!!

  3. Kristi
    March 31, 2011 at 8:48 am (9 years ago)

    I love plantains! I’m going to have to get one today if I remember.

  4. Holly @ The Runny Egg
    March 31, 2011 at 9:00 am (9 years ago)

    I have never tried plantains — but I see them use them on Top Chef all the time! I remember one of the episodes featured them all making tostones!

  5. Megan Tiscareno
    March 31, 2011 at 9:04 am (9 years ago)

    That looks interesting and delicious. I’ve never had plantains before, but I think that it looks like something that I could definitely enjoy!

  6. Gabrielle @ Weightless
    March 31, 2011 at 9:12 am (9 years ago)

    I’m not usually a banana fan, but this looks really amazing! Will have to try, if for no other reason than I need to start getting more potassium.

    • Beth
      March 31, 2011 at 9:25 am (9 years ago)

      They taste really different than bananas so you’d probably like them even if you’re not a banana fan! The flavor is pretty subtle and just a tad sweet, and they are totally delicious in my opinion. I do love bananas too but they’re really different tasting.

  7. Lori
    March 31, 2011 at 9:12 am (9 years ago)

    Love plantains, but have never cooked them before myself. So excited to add this to my “must try recipe” folder!

  8. Liz
    March 31, 2011 at 9:27 am (9 years ago)

    Love the tutorial Beth! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Jennifer
    March 31, 2011 at 9:54 am (9 years ago)

    I am SO excited to try this! Thank you for the tutorial. I love plantains, but the versions I’ve had are not healthy. I cannot wait to try this. That wrap looked awesome too.

    • Beth
      March 31, 2011 at 9:58 am (9 years ago)

      Oh yay! Let me know how they turn out. The wrap WAS awesome. 🙂

  10. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt
    March 31, 2011 at 10:16 am (9 years ago)

    Its so strange how food worlds are so much the same some times. I just had plaintains at my church this weekend and was thinking that it was time I did some frying at home with those bad boys.

  11. Barb
    March 31, 2011 at 10:28 am (9 years ago)

    Never tried them but definitely will be now! Thanks 🙂

  12. amanda june
    March 31, 2011 at 10:36 am (9 years ago)

    I have never bought or made a plantain because I have no idea what they’re like or what to do with them. Thanks so much for the recipe. I’d love to branch out and try my hand at this soon! 🙂

  13. Amanda
    March 31, 2011 at 10:39 am (9 years ago)

    I love plantains and haven’t had them in years! I am going to the store right now to get the stuff to make this exact meal for lunch! Sounds like a winner for me and my baby girl! Thanks for posting!

  14. Natasha
    March 31, 2011 at 10:41 am (9 years ago)

    I’ve tried alot of things but never a plantain. Now I’m curious! I will have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Liz
    March 31, 2011 at 11:23 am (9 years ago)

    I studied abroad in Ecuador in college, and got addicted to tostones. In my attempt to make a lower points version, I baked them with a little bit of oil and salt. Not smashed or re-fried, but still pretty close to the original taste and texture, and much lower in calories.

    I eat them in the place of french fries usually. I’ll have to try your method, it totally looks doable. Thanks for the tutorial!

  16. Megan
    March 31, 2011 at 11:42 am (9 years ago)

    yum! i love plantains! i didn’t think i’d like them (i’m a former picky eater, although some people would still say i am) but sprinkle a teence of sea salt on them and it’s a perfect after dinner treat! (:

  17. Can You Stay for Dinner
    March 31, 2011 at 12:06 pm (9 years ago)

    Delicious! I love the cheesy, oozy shots at the end 🙂

    I will absolutely get over my fear of plantains and give them a shot. Thanks for the help Beth!

  18. Sharon
    March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm (9 years ago)

    I read your blog from time to time great recipies!! The tostones look great , i usually make platain chips to avoid the oil, usually slice them very thin chip like and bake them w. pam and some salt until they are crispy and make my own guac and eat them like chips and dip! im soo going to try to make tostones now that i dont have to use oil and ill have them w. some guac! Great idea!!!

    • Beth
      March 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm (9 years ago)

      Hi Sharon! Thanks so much for reading and commenting today. I’ve actually never tried making my own baked plantain chips, but I LOVE that idea! I’m going to have to try it!

  19. Joy
    March 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm (9 years ago)

    I have lived in Panama for the past 3 years and LOVE LOVE LOVE plantains… well, depending on how they’re fixed. Thanks for a new healthier way to make patacones (what we call tostones here). Can’t wait to make them!

    • Joy
      March 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm (9 years ago)

      Also, I’m currently eating lentil taco salad inspired by your lentil mushroom taco recipe! Yum!

      • Beth
        March 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm (9 years ago)

        Ohhh so glad you tried it! That filling is awesome for anything you’d use taco filling for! I’ve been wanting to try baking tortillas into taco bowls and using them for taco salads.. you’ll probably be seeing that soon! =)

  20. Amy @ Conquering Self
    March 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm (9 years ago)

    mmmm! Looks delish like always. I don’t have any plantains around to attempt that but you totally are making me want a wrap now for lunch!

  21. karenlovescardio
    March 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm (9 years ago)

    Will be trying this next week! They look so good. And I want to eat them with sour cream:)

  22. Matt
    March 31, 2011 at 7:32 pm (9 years ago)

    Looks great! I remember having this plantain and salmon dish at a mexican restaurant once. SO GOOD.

  23. Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean
    March 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm (9 years ago)

    loved this post. i’ve never had these and had no idea how to cook them. i love that you smash them!

  24. saara
    March 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm (9 years ago)

    Yum I love plaintains! I like them boiled and baked as well as ‘fried” like you did them. I have never put them in a burrito though,,,,Hmmmm might have to try that.

  25. Erica
    March 31, 2011 at 10:36 pm (9 years ago)

    My boyfriend is half cuban and we makes these alot!!! I am def going to try your trick if adding a little water to the pan! Seems healthier! yum!

  26. cindylu
    April 1, 2011 at 2:57 am (9 years ago)

    I like plantains and definitely eat them up when I go out for Cuban or Salvadorean. But, I wouldn’t eat them in a burrito or taco.

  27. The Teenage Taste
    April 1, 2011 at 7:17 am (9 years ago)

    Thanks for the information about plantain, Beth! I’ve never had one before, but I always thought you just ate them like you would eat a banana. I think I like this way better. That wrap looks delicious! 🙂

  28. sarahsscrumptioussamplings
    April 3, 2011 at 10:10 am (9 years ago)

    Wow that wrap looks delicious! I’ve never tried plaintains before but I might after reading this recipe!

  29. Monica
    April 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm (9 years ago)

    I love how creative you are in the kitchen! Yum yum! Thank goodness my appetite for normal foods is starting to return!

    I love plantains, but have never been able to make them turn out the way I love them most – when served with breakfast in Costa Rica and Jamaica. So yummy and sweet!

  30. rachel
    April 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm (9 years ago)

    that looks fantastic!

    question: do you keep rice and beans pre-cooked for when you’re feeling creative? or did you whip those up on the side?

    • Beth
      April 6, 2011 at 8:12 am (9 years ago)

      I always keep canned beans in my pantry so that I can use them in a pinch. I also had picked up a packet of precooked brown rice from Trader Joe’s last time I was there, so this meal came together REALLY quick. I made it after i had worked at WW so it was necessary that it come together in less than 20 minutes. =)

      That was the first time I’d purchased that precooked brown rice, and it was pretty good. I also have instant brown rice that cooks in 5 minutes which I’ll use if i don’t have the precooked kind.

  31. Darryl Zoller
    March 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm (8 years ago)

    Would it work if I steamed a plantain in a steamer basket?

    • Beth
      March 31, 2012 at 10:15 pm (8 years ago)

      Hi Darryl! I am honestly not sure because I’ve never tried it, but I bet it would work!


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