What are plantains?
Plantains belong to the banana family. They look like regular bananas, but are much larger. They are also less starchy and lower in sugar, as you can consume them while they are still green.
A ripe plantain will be yellow with brown spots, and overripe will be completely brown. The darker the plantain, the sweeter it will be.
In Spanish plantains are known as “Platanos or Platano Macho”. In Puerto Rico, they are known as “Platanos”. In other parts of Latin America, they are called “Platano Macho” as “Platano” is referred to as the regular bananas you find in grocery stores that are okay to be consumed raw. In Puerto Rico regular bananas are called “Guineos”. You’ll find that Spanish has different words in different countries.
Are plantains healthier than bananas?
Both plantains and bananas are healthy food sources. But, plantains, unlike regular bananas, must be cooked. They primarily grow in warm climates so they have become a big part of Latin cuisine as they grow naturally in Tropical/Latin America. You can also find plantains in other countries like Africa, India and Asia.
One great thing about plantains is that they are really versatile. You can create many different dishes and not get tired of them. They are also a great carbohydrate alternative for those on a Paleo or Vegan diet. Plantains are a potassium rich food, and are packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins like A, C and B6. Great for cardiovascular and immune support.
Plantains can be a great addition to any healthy diet. Especially if you are mindful of the way you cook them. For a healthy plantain dish, avoid deep frying in hydrogenated oils. Choose methods like baking, boiling, and even air frying. If you choose to fry them, choose healthy fats like refined coconut oil, or avocado oil.
What is the difference between a green plantain and a sweet plantain?
A green plantain is considered ripe enough to consume, however they are a bit harder and less sweet than regular bananas. These are used for tostones, mofongo, and various other recipes like in soups and stews. Sweet plantains are ripe/overripe plantains but are not consumed raw. These are yellow with brown spots and are typically mushy and sweet once cooked.
What can i do with lots of plantains?
Here are 9 of the most popular foods made with plantains in Puerto Rico and Latin America:
1. Tostones or patacones
Tostones or patacones are made with green plantains. These are fried twice. First, the plantains are peeled and cut into 2” pieces. Then they are fried until completely cooked. After taken out of the oil, they are flattened and fried again until golden brown.
2. Fried Sweet Plantains (“Amarillos ó Maduros”)
Fried sweet plantains are much simpler to make than green plantains. The plantain must be really ripe which is when the plantain is yellow with brown spots. The more brown spots the sweeter the plantain will be. For these you just peel, cut into thinner pieces, and fry.
Mofongo is typically made with green plantains, however can be also combined with sweet plantains, and even yuca for what Puerto Ricans call a Trifongo. Even though it is a Puerto Rican dish, it was influenced by the African culture. To make mofongo, you peel and cut the plantain into 1 inch pieces. Fry until completely cooked and remove from heat. In a “Pilon” aka mortar and pestle, mash some garlic, add the plantains with butter. Add some “Chicharones” aka pork rinds if desired, and mash the plantains until soft enough to form a ball. Enjoy with a bowl of chicken broth, meats, seafood, and/or a nice salad.
4. Pastelón (Puerto Rican Lasagna)
Pastelón is a Puerto Rican favorite. This is made with sweet plantains, cut into long thin strips and fried. It’s made similar to a lasagna but instead of pasta, you would add the fried sweet plantains instead. To prepare you would make ground beef “picadillo” to your liking and add layers of plantains, beef, and cheese of your choice. In order to help the plantain lasagna stick together, on the last layer (before topping with cheese), you would beat 2 eggs and add on top before baking. Then top with cheese and bake until all the cheese has melted.
Arañitas are made with green plantains. These are peeled and shredded with a cheese grater into small thin strips. Then they are smashed together and fried until golden brown and crunchy.
Canoas are made with an entire peeled ripe plantain. These are smothered in oil with a bit of salt, and wrapped in aluminum foil, then baked until cooked. After the plantains are cooked they are removed from the foil, and a slit is cut in the middle. Then they are stuffed with ground beef “picadillo” and cheese, and baked again until the cheese melts.
7. Picadillo con maduros
Picadillo con maduros is made with ground beef. It follows the same recipe as “Picadillo” but with added fried ripe plantains. To make; the ground beef is cooked with onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic, tomato sauce, and seasoned with adobo and sazón. After the sweet plantains have been fried, they are added to the meat. This is best enjoyed with a side of white rice, a side salad and a slice of avocado.
8. Empanada de Pastelón
An empanada de pastelón is made with empanada dough and filled with picadillo con maduros. The dough is made with all purpose flour, salt and warm water until dough forms. Then it is stuffed with meat and either baked or fried. Fried empanadas are also known as “empanadillas” or “pastelillos”. You can also find pre-made dough in the freezer section in the Latin area in a grocery store near you.
9. Jibarito Sandwich or Patacones
A jibarito sandwich or patacones (the name depends on where you are from) is a sandwich made with large tostones (patacones). You would cut the plantain in half, fry twice just like the tostones, and prepare it like a sandwich. You can add various meats like steak or chicken,cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, and spread with the famous mayo-ketchup which is a blend of mayonnaise, ketchup, and a touch of garlic.
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