You may have seen plantains before and thought, “Aren’t plantains just fancy bananas?”
Well, the truth is…yes and no, they sort-of are and sort-of aren’t. They sort-of are in that they come from the same family and genus as bananas, they have a similar look and they grow and peel just the same as your typical banana. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The most important difference between the two is that unlike a banana, plantains are not a peel and eat fruit. You may be tempted to peel back the thick skin of these banana look-alikes and take a bite, but in order to get the most out of your plantain you’ll need to give them a quick cook.
Higher amounts of starch and less sugar content make plantains slightly less palatable than a banana, that is, until they’re cooked. In fact, un-ripe, raw plantains tend to taste more like a potato than a banana but don’t be dissuaded, it’s easy to bring out their magnificent flavor with simple cooking methods.
Compared to bananas, plantains contain more immune boosting vitamins A and C and even contain more potassium than the average banana. Looking for a low-glycemic treat? You found it in the friendly plantain as well as a significant source of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.
Plantains are harvested in a not-quite-ripe stage with bright green skin, similarly to a banana. From there, the fruit will continue to ripen through two additional stages of ripeness: a yellow or yellow and black stage and finally into a black stage. The plantain takes on different flavor and sweetness characteristics depending on the level of ripening. Take a look at what you can expect from each stage:
Starchy with a hint of sweetness. Tastes similarly to a potato. Use in savory dishes.
Try this: Baked Plantain Chips
– 2 plantains
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Toss sliced green plantains in a bowl with a sprinkle of olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt. Arrange on baking sheet in single layer. Bake 15 minutes, turn slices after 8 minutes. Keep an eye to make sure they do not burn.
Yellow – Yellow/Black Plantains
A little sweeter and less starchy than green plantains. Can be used in savory and sweet dishes.
Try this: Grilled Plantains
– 4 Ripe Plantains (yellow black to black)
– ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
– ½ tsp Cinnamon
– 1 Tbsp. Honey
Cut off stem and tip. Score plantain from stem to tip. Grill plantains on medium high heat until peel cracks (10-15 minutes) Peel and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and honey
Sweet and Soft. Used exclusively in sweet dishes.
Try this: Sautéed Plantains
– ¼ Cup Peanut or Canola oil
– 2 Tbsp. Butter
– 3 Ripe Plantains, Cut into 1 inch slices
– 3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
Heat oil and butter in large skillet (medium high heat) until butter begins to sizzle. Gently toss plantain slices in brown sugar place in skillet. Fry until the plantains turn golden brown then turn over and continue frying until they have caramelized (about 2 minutes per side). Place on paper towel plate to drain.
The best plantains have tight fitting peels intact and are free from cracks, breaks or major blemishes. Green plantains should be quite firm and heavy and will yield slightly to light pressure. Ripe, black plantains are much softer, almost squishy but should still have the peel intact.
Un-ripe, green plantains can be left to ripen at room temperature away from direct sunlight for up to a week or more. Ripe plantains can be stored uncovered for 2-3 days at room temperature but keep clear of sunlight and be sure to turn them daily. Once you’ve achieved your desired ripeness, your plantains can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.