For anyone who has never seen a plantain before, they could be mistaken for a regular banana. That is until you really look and hold a plantain banana. And while the plantain is in fact part of the banana family, it is a lot different than your traditional dessert banana. A plantain banana is a cooking banana. The peel of a plantain is very different from the dessert banana. Not only is it thicker and a lot harder to peel, but it is also not completely ripe until the peel is almost black. Plantains have a more boxy shape than a dessert banana as well.
Despite being widespread throughout the Caribbean and Central America, plantains were not historically indigenous to these regions. Southeast Asia’s tropical areas are home to plantains. They traveled to Africa via trade routes before being transported to the Caribbean by Spanish and African slave dealers. In the end, the plantain became a common food in the Caribbean.
What Is the Difference Between A Plantain And A Banana?
Everyone loves a good banana. Not only is it sweet and enjoyable to eat, but it is also very healthy for you. In fact, many households include this fruit in their weekly shopping regimen. After all, once the banana gets too ripe and soft, it can be easily turned into delicious banana bread.
Believe it or not, bananas are more popular in America than they are in other regions of the world. You will generally find that most households outside of the United States prefer plantains. These boxy-looking bananas, are very starchy and are generally cooked before consumption. They can be eaten raw, however, but only after the peel turns a dark brown color.
One of the biggest differences between a banana and a plantain is the peel. The peel is thicker and will need to be cut off. We generally consume bananas when the peel turns yellow. However, when a plantain’s peel turns yellow, that is when we can cook them.
The two also taste very different. While it is possible for you to substitute a plantain for a banana, it will alter the final taste of the recipe. While most bananas are considered to be very sweet, the plantain is a little less so, even after the peel has turned brown. Plantains contain more starch and less sugar therefore frying them brings out the sugar when caramelizing.
In general, plantains are either boiled, fried, or baked. Because of their starchy composition, they can generally be prepared similar to sweet potatoes. It’s not uncommon in Southeast Asia to see boiled plantains being sold by street vendors. And in other parts of the world, they are boiled and then mashed just like potatoes.
Do Plantains Taste Like A Banana?
When it comes to a banana, they are not considered ripe and cannot be eaten while the peel is still green. Although it’s possible to eat a banana once it first starts turning yellow, it can taste very different to someone who is used to eating completely ripe dessert bananas with their sundae.
Plantains, on the other hand, are also considered unripe when they are green, but they are also regularly used in recipes even in this state. Eating an unripe and uncooked plantain does not actually taste very good. Although a green plantain is very starchy, and it can be prepared similar to a potato. Fufu de Platano is a perfect example of green plantains being used like a potato. Just like a traditional banana, as a plantain ripens it will turn yellow and brown spots will begin appearing all over the peel. This is the best time to prepare a plantain for a recipe. But if you want to consume it just like you would a traditional banana, then you are going to have to wait until the peel has turned completely brown.
While dessert bananas are soft when the peel is yellow, a plantain is a lot stiffer. And although plantains sweeten up as they ripen and the peel begins to turn dark brown, they are not quite as sweet as a traditional banana. As a result, they have far less sugar than a banana which makes them an excellent choice for those who are trying to reduce the number of sugars they consume on a rate basis.
Are Plantains Good for You?
We all know that a traditional banana is very good for you. They are high in potassium and other vitamins and minerals that the body needs in order to function properly. But plantains are also very good for you. Not only are they high in carbohydrates, but they are also an excellent source of fiber.
Plantains are known to contain antioxidants, which are important for fighting free radicals within the body. They also have a lot higher levels of vitamin C than a traditional banana does, which means that they are better for the immune system. They are also an excellent choice for those who are prone to cardiovascular disease, thanks to their higher content of vitamin B6. For complete nutrition facts see them here.
Are Plantains Good for Diabetics?
One of the biggest advantages of consuming plantains on a regular basis is that they are extremely high in starch. This resistant starch is a very important dietary fiber that will help you to feel fuller without increasing your blood sugar levels. Likewise, starch is also excellent for maintaining an active digestive system.
Over the years, there have been a number of studies surrounding the use of green plantains as a way to manage diabetes. These studies have shown that the consumption of plantains on a regular basis, provides the body with a hypoglycemic effect that helps them to better manage their sugar levels. For anyone suffering from diabetes, it is important to consume fiber on a regular basis in order to maintain those healthy blood sugar levels.
What Are Plantains Used For?
While traditional bananas are great for desserts, plantains are better for meals. If you are looking to prepare a delicious banana split sundae, then you are going to need to use a traditional banana. But you cannot use a plantain in a sundae. Instead, the most popular way of consuming plantains is to slice them and fry them as a healthy and nutritious alternative to the very greasy potato chip.
When it comes to cooking plantains, because of their level of starch, they are generally fried, boiled, or baked. It’s not uncommon to boil plantains before mashing them just like a potato. As the peel begins to turn yellow, you can slice them and grill them in order to create a sweeter snack. But, if you want to use a plantain as a dessert, then you are going to have to wait until the peel turns dark brown.
Maduros is a very popular dish that is prepared with ripened plantains. In order to prepare maduros, you will need to start with the ripest plantains you can find. The riper a plantain is, the more that it will caramelize when it is fried, which adds to the overall sweetness. As such, it’s always best to find plantains whose peel has already turned brown.
Start by cutting off both ends of the plantain, and remove the peel entirely. Start slicing the plantain into thicker slices at an angle, then fry them until each side turns a golden brown. If you want them a bit sweeter, then you can fry them a little bit longer. Remember, the more caramelized they are, the sweeter they become. Once they are the perfect color, you can then just sprinkle a little bit of salt over top and eat them.
Unlike the maduros, tostones start out life as a green, unripe plantain. In a similar fashion, you start by cutting off the ends of the plantain and peel it. Then you go through the process of slicing the plantain into thicker chunks. You do not want thin potato chip-like slices, rather you want slices that are at least an inch thick. From there, you will fry them in a skillet until both sides are slightly golden. This softens up the starchy fruit so that you can flatten them out.
Once you have finished cooking the plantains, lay them out and press them down until they are flat. Because tostones are double fried, you will need to them dip them in water before adding them back into the oil to fry a little bit longer. After about a minute of frying, pull them out, salt, and serve.
Plantain Chips (mariquitas)
One of the most popular ways of eating plantain’s around the world is by turning them into chips (mariquitas). Different regions of the world prepare their chips differently, and while some are very thin, many others are fairly thick. Depending on how thick or thin you prefer your plantain chips, you will need to adjust your cooking times.
Start with a slightly ripened plantain, cut off the ends and peel it. Next, you’ll need to slice the plantain to the thickness you prefer. The thinner the slice, the crispier it will become. But, be careful because it’s more difficult to slice a plantain into extremely thin pieces. From there, you simply fry it until it has reached a crispy texture. You’ll need to pay close attention, because if you do not fry them long enough then they will be very chewy.
Fu Fu De Platano
Fu fu de platano is a very popular dish that is made from unripe plantains. In order to make this treat, you will need to start with a green plantain, and cut off the ends before peeling it. From there, you will cut the plantain into 3 pieces keeping the peel on. These slices will then need to be boiled, but only until they are tender enough to be mashed.
Once tender, the plantain is then mixed with pork cracklings and some garlic paste. The combination is then thoroughly mashed until it sets up enough that it can be rolled into balls. In general form, fu fu de platano can be served either as a ball or as a half of a ball. This treat can be eaten as is, or it can be served with any number of popular choices such as shrimp, chicken, or beans.
If you love bananas, then you will fall in love with platanos tentacion. After all, the name of the recipe is loosely translated to bananas of temptation. And, without a doubt, this dish is all that and more. In this recipe, we start off with a very ripe plantain, that is then mixed with some rum, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Once it has been thoroughly mashed, it can then be baked until it reaches a delicious golden color.
Once the platanos tentacion is finished, it can be removed from the oven but still needs a little bit of love before it can be served. When ready, sprinkle the top of the platanos tentacion with a little bit of powdered sugar and just the right amount of cinnamon. But, don’t wait till the end of the meal because this dish is not a dessert.
Platanos tentacion is generally served on the side of a traditional meal of meat and rice. Similar to how Americans prefer having mashed potatoes with their steak, the platanos tentacion is served with just about any meal, only it’s a little sweeter than your traditional potato.
In the end, there are many benefits to eating plantains. Not only are they healthy for you, but you have a lot of options when it comes to their preparation. While the traditional dessert banana is better left for dessert, plantains are great as a healthy snack, or as a side dish to your favorite meal.
Noelle fell in love with Cuban food at first bite. She has been cooking, learning and crafting Cuban food for over 25 years. She was taught by her Cuban husband’s mami and abuela. They taught her everything using the “by eye” method. She took those “by eye” recipes and turned them into measured recipes. This website is where Noelle shares her love of Cuban food with the world.