Plantains look like large bananas, and can be green, yellow or almost black. They are generally eaten like a carbohydrate such as a potato rather than as a fruit, and this is how you need to think of them to cook them successfully. They are often fried as either chunks or thinner chips and served as a side dish throughout the Caribbean. They're also a staple carbohydrate in Africa, South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and in Central and South America.
How to use plantain
Unripe green plantains will feel hard, with an astringent, earthy inside. At this stage, they are most like a vegetable, and have no hint of sweetness. When plantains are green, they're very starchy and are best for slicing and frying to make chips or tostones – fried slices of plantain that are squashed flat and fried again. Green plantain can also be boiled and mashed to use as a starchy base, or sliced into stews as you would a potato. They can be very difficult to peel when green, and the sap will stain anything it touches, so take this into account when you prepare them.
At the next stage of ripeness, plantains will start to turn yellow, getting sweeter and softer. Eventually, they will turn black when fully ripe and soft. Riper plantain can also be fried (the flesh caramelises when ripe, different to the chips made with green plantain), grilled in strips or baked in its skin like a potato. Fried ripe plantain will crisp and brown on the outside and have a soft, yielding interior that is almost custard like; baked plantain can be eaten as a savoury dish topped with salsa and soured cream, or sweetened with caramel or brown sugar and ice cream.
How to prepare plantain
Green plantains can’t be peeled like bananas – the skin is liable to come off and leave all the inedible pith on the flesh. This pith won’t cook down, so it needs to be removed. The easiest way to prepare a green plantain is to cut it into chunks and then slice off the skin and pith with a knife. Work on a washable board and make sure you don’t get any sap on yourself. Cook the plantain quickly once you’ve prepared it, as it will start to oxidise. Yellow plantains can usually be peeled like a banana. Whatever colour of plantain you use, cut off both ends, as the flesh is usually tough.
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How to cook plantain
1 ripe plantain (with yellow skin)
2 tbsp oil or coconut oil
- Cut each end off the plantain and peel back the skin. Cut into ½cm slices on a diagonal to give you a larger surface area.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot. Fry the plantain on each side for a couple of mins until it starts to caramelise, ensuring it doesn't burn.
2 very ripe plantain (with black skin)
2 tbsp butter
pinch chilli flakes
1 lime, halved
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/gas 6. Slice the ends off the plantains and cut a slit along the length of each. Put the plantain on a baking sheet, cut-side up, and bake for 30-40 mins or until tender.
- Open the plantains out a little and spoon half the butter into each with some seasoning and the chilli flakes.
- Bake again for 10 mins, squeeze over the lime and serve.
Our top plantain recipes
1. Smoky spiced Jollof rice & coconut-fried plantain
This classic West African-inspired dish is filled with bold flavours and punchy spices. Our smoky spiced Jollof rice & coconut-fried plantain makes a healthy, hearty feast to feed a crowd. Even confirmed carnivores will be tucking into this veggie extravaganza with gusto.
2. Spicy vegetable stew with coconut
Pack in five of your 5-a-day with our spicy vegetable stew with coconut. This satisfying, flavourful family recipe has it all, and is full of nutritional benefits. Add some spice to your standard midweek meals with this easy veggie masterpiece.
3. Barbecued plantains
Cook up this simple side dish when the sun starts shining. Our barbecued plantains are a Latin American-inspired dish and they're super simple to prepare. A squeeze of fresh orange juice adds a touch of sweetness to these savoury slices. Ripe, black plantains are best suited to this recipe.
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