Fried plantains are the archetypal Caribbean dish, served with almost every meal.
Crispy yet super-sweet with a wonderful caramelized texture, you can fry plantains in less than 10 minutes, and you’ll need very few ingredients.
Before we break down how to most effectively fry your plantains, a few basics on this fascinating fruit.
I. Plantains 101
Plantains are commonly called cooking bananas, as this is their primary use.
You can eat plantains ripe or unripe. Either way, they are pretty starchy.
Plantains are eaten as part of main courses and as sides throughout Africa, especially West Africa.
When plantains are ripe, you can also eat them raw. This is possible as the starches have already been converted into sugars by this stage.
Doesn’t this mean a plantain is really just a banana, then?
II. What’s The Difference Between Plantains and Bananas?
While plantains and bananas come from the same family, they are not synonymous.
Plantains are bigger and longer than bananas. They are bright green in color and turn black as they get riper. When it comes to the skins, plantains have much thicker skins than bananas.
You’ll find less sugar and more starch in plantains than bananas. When unripe, both contain lots of starch, but have a mild and subtle flavor. This allows you to use plantains in savory recipes much like you would with potatoes. If a plantain is green, though, you should not consume it uncooked.
Bananas are not normally eaten before they ripen. When they become ripe and sweet, they are eaten raw. The thinner skins of bananas turn bright yellow as they ripen.
As an added kicker, fresh plantains contain more vitamins A and C than bananas, and they also contain more potassium.
How about the difference between various types of plantain, then?
III. What’s The Difference Between Yellow and Green Plantains?
You’ll find both green and yellow plantains when you’re shopping, but what does this mean?
Well, both are the same fruit, but the color of the skin indicated the level of ripeness.
A plantain with a dull yellow skin pockmarked with black patches is at peak ripeness. Sometimes, ripe plantains have completely black skins.
An unripe plantain, by contrast, has a skin ranging in color from green to bright yellow. You can also fry unripe plantains if you want to make tostones, green plantain chips.
All you need to do if you want to ripen plantains at home is to leave them on the kitchen counter for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks, according to the current ripeness levels.
IV. Are Plantains Healthy?
Plantains have a similar nutritional profile to other starchy veggies like potatoes. You’ll find they have less sugar than bananas.
Low in fat and sodium, but high in complex carbs, plantains are an excellent source of potassium and fiber, as well as vitamin C.
If you choose to fry plantains – more on that right below – the nutritional value of the food on your plate will largely hinge on the quality of the cooking oil you choose. If you’re looking for the healthiest possible option, try using some canola oil. This will withstand the super-high temperatures needing for frying without blowing your diet.
Right, let’s get down to business and show you how to fry plantains like a pro.
V. How to Fry Plantains
You can keep things extremely simple when you’re frying plantains, making them the perfect choice if you’re always crunched for time in the kitchen.
Here’s what you need and what you need to do if you want some delicious fried plantains tonight…
What You Need
- Ripe plantains (2 or 3)
- Vegetable cooking oil (as required)
- Salt (to taste)
What To Do
- Cut off both ends of the plantains using a sharp knife. This will make it easier for you to grasp the skin on the plantains
- Score a shallow line all down the plantain’s long seam. Repeat for each plantain
- Slice the plantains into medium-sized slices or diagonal pieces. Alternatively, make them smaller by slicing the pieces in half
- Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high
- To test if the oil is ready, test it with a slice of plantain. The oil should bubble upon contact with the plantain. If it does not bubble, you’ll need to wait another minute or two for it to get up to temperature
- Fry your plantains in batches until they are all the desired golden-brown color. You should fry the plantains for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Continue cooking the plantains – you should turn them occasionally – until they are soft and a deep golden-brown. This should take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the plantains. Transfer the plantains to a plate or tray lined with a paper towel
- Season with salt. Use some cinnamon sugar for an extra-sweet touch
- Serve piping hot and enjoy!
VI. Tips for Frying Plantains Like a Pro
- Use a non-stick skillet for best results with this recipe. You’ll find that sugar burns and sticks very easily, and ripe plantains are packed with sugar. Using a non-stick skillet will promote the easy release of your food
- Neutral-tasting cooking oil like canola or vegetable oil works best. Use a light touch, too. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan, as too much oil will yield soggy plantains
- Medium heat is ideal for frying plantains like a pro
- If you are frying green plantains for tostones, you can try soaking them before the second frying session. This will keep the insides moist and tender while delivering a great crunch on the outside. Always dry the plantains thoroughly before returning them to the pan. Hot oil and water is a volatile mix!
- You can store plantains at room temperature, but they will continue ripening if you do this. Plantains will last up to a week in the refrigerator, but this is not the best place to keep them. You can also freeze plantains in much the same way as you can freeze bananas. All you need to do is slice off the ends and then peel the plantain. Place them inside a freezer bag, ideally vacuum-sealed with a food sealer. Frozen plantains will last for 3 or 4 months
- If you have any plantains left over when you’ve finished frying them, you can pop them into an airtight container. They will stay good refrigerated for a couple of days, but they taste much better fresh! That said, a fried plantain will respond slightly more favorably to refrigeration than green plantains
We hope today’s brief guide to frying plantains has shown you how easy it is to whip up the iconic Caribbean dish at home.
You’ll need very little by the way of equipment or ingredients, and you’ll only need 10 minutes of your time.
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