4 Healthy Ways to Cook Plantains
The Larger Bananas in the Image Above Are Called "Plantains" or "Platanos" in Spanish
In this article, I'll show you how to cook plantains the healthy way. You'll also learn how to pick out perfectly ripe ones from the grocery store.
What Are Healthy Ways to Cook Plantains?
I am a big fan of plantains and have cooked them in many different ways. These are some of the healthiest ways that I enjoy preparing them.
- Grilled or Baked Using an Open Pit
What Are Plantains, And What Do They Look Like?
Plantains are a variety of banana that are usually grown in tropical areas. They differ from regular bananas in that they are usually bigger and more firm; however, both are very nutritious.
Plantains have a lower sugar content than regular bananas and are generally used for cooking. While bananas are almost always eaten raw, these should be cooked before it is consumed. Although I have known some people who eat a ripe ones raw, this is not a good practice because they're hard to digest when they're raw. So, in this article, I'll show you some of my favorite ways to cook this delicious fruit.
How does the color of the plantain play into how we cook it?
When cooking plantains, it's important to know that how it cooks depends a great deal on whether or not it is ripe.
- Green, Unripe Plantains: Unripe ones are usually green in color, while ripe ones vary from yellow to brownish-yellow. Green, unripe plantains are not sweet. They are a bit hard, the skin can prove difficult to peel, and they are said to contain high levels of iron. Therefore, they are sometimes used as a meat substitute in some West African dishes. Raw ones are great for making chips and/or patties (you mash them, and then fry them).
- Yellow, Ripe Plantains: As mentioned above, ripe ones are usually yellow or yellow-brown. A ripe plantain is sweet, firm, and easy to slice, and the skin peels easily. They will be firm, but not as firm as the unripe ones. The skin should be easy to peel. And they'll definitely be sweeter than the unripe versions.
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You Can Cook With Ripe and Unripe Ones
Most people have seen plantains but aren't entirely sure how to go about cooking them. A great number of people don't even know that this fruit has to be cooked prior to consumption. Oftentimes, I've had people walked over to me in grocery stores and ask me how to cook these yellow powerhouses.
Different cultures prepare plantains differently. There are healthy options, and then there's a not-so-healthy options; each will be covered in detail in this article. You can then choose the option that's best for you.
1. How to Boil Plantains
Plantains can be boiled for those who do not fancy the frying method. This method only requires that plantain be cooked in water. No other ingredients are needed.
- As many plantains are you like
- To prepare the plantain for boiling, first rinse the skin to remove any dirt residue.
- Then, cut it into chunks. You want sections about 2 inches wide, and be sure to leave the skin on.
- Pour the chunks into 2 - 3 cups boiling, salted water. Cover and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain and remove skin.
These will likely taste a bit like a sweet potato. You can use these as a substitute in some soup recipes that call for potatoes. Leaving the skin on helps the fruit retain most of its nutrients and also helps keep it from getting soggy. These also taste great with scrambled eggs and/or tossed into a stew.
2. How to Fry Plantains
This is the most popular cooking method. Though most cultures use this method of cooking, more and more plantain lovers are gradually moving away from frying to either roasting, baking, and boiling them. This seems to be largely due to health reasons.
- Vegetable oil (whatever taste you prefer best)
- Remove the plantain's skin.
- Cut the fruit into chunks, cubes, or coins. Different people like it different ways/shapes.
- Set your frying pan or wok on the stove, and turn it to medium heat.
- Gently drop the pieces into hot oil to prevent oil from splashing, as hot oil can cause serious burns.
- Fry the pieces for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring or turning occasionally.
- Remove from hot oil once the pieces are golden brown.
- Remove excess oil from them by dabbing them with a paper towel.
You can serve it with scrambled eggs and salsa. This combo of fried plantains and eggs makes a great breakfast meal. It is both a sweet and healthy combination. They can also be eaten alone, with stew, or as a side dish with rice and beans.
When fried, unripe plantains are very crunchy, they are usually turned into chips. Fried, ripe plantains, on the other hand, tend to be very sweet and soft. Because of their sweetness, kids tend to like them a lot, and the fruit can be easily incorporated into any meal that kids love.
3. How to Grill or Bake Plantains Using an Open-Pit Method
Plantains can also be grilled or baked. It is said that using one of those two methods means that the fruit retains all of its nutrients, as no nutrients are lost (unlike when they're boiled or fried). This method is considered the healthiest of all and preferred by health-conscious plantain lovers. It is also an healthy option for Weight Watchers.
- A grill of some sort
- Peel the plantains.
- Place them over an open fire pit until they're golden-brown. This could take up to 40-50 minutes.
In Nigeria (my native country), roasted plantains are called boli or bole. In that part of the world, plantains make a full meal by themselves. They can be fried in oil (dodo), boiled with the skin on, or pounded in a mortar and combined with some yam variety to make a fufu-like meal (akpu) that is then eaten with soup.
Some people prefer to grill this fruit with the skin on, while some prefer to have the plantain in direct contact with the coal. A grilled plantain should be well-cooked after about 40-50 minutes of being on the grill.
4. How to Oven-Roast Plantains
If you do not have a grill or an open charcoal pit, you can roast plantains in an oven.
- 1-6 ripe yellow plantains
- Peel plantains, but do not cut into pieces.
- Set oven to about 400 to 450 degrees (depending on the oven).
- Place peeled, whole fruits in the oven. Bake them for about 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally to achieve an even roast. You know they're done when they're golden brown.
If you've never tried plantain before, will you try it based on what you now know from this hub?
Grilled or Roasted Ones Are the Healthiest
I prefer roasting or baking plantains in the oven because I don't have to deal with the smoke from the grill or pit, but I get the same result—if not better. But the good part is that whether your plantains are grilled on an open charcoal grill or roasted/baked in an oven, these methods are, by far, the healthiest way to cook this fruit. Plus, there's no oil for frying, and that means these methods are fat-free.
Grilled plantains can be eaten alone, as a snack, dipped in butter, topped with roasted Spanish peanuts (my favorite, seen above), or dipped in salted palm oil.
Here's a Video for Visual Learners
Where Can I Buy Plantains?
Plantains can be found in the produce, fruit, and vegetable isles of most grocery stores today. They can also be found at most farmer's markets that cater to Eastern Mediterranean cuisines and in some Chinese stores. But you will most definitely find them in any African store or market.
When buying your plantains, stay away from the overly ripe and mushy ones. The yellow, ripe-but-firm ones are better. These are perfect for grilling, frying, and boiling.
I like to keep a few plantains around all of the time. They are handy as a quick snack, can be made into an elaborate part of your breakfast, or used as a side dish option. Whichever method you choose to prepare your plantains, one thing is sure: you'll enjoy having them as a great addition to your kitchen menu!
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