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Are Plantains Just Green Bananas? The Answer Might Surprise You

Plantains vs. Bananas: what is the difference? Well, all plantains are bananas, but not all bananas are plantains. Find out more from this article.
Are Plantains Just Green Bananas? The Answer Might Surprise You
Are Plantains Just Green Bananas? The Answer Might Surprise You
Anna at SideChef
Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.
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Anna at SideChef
Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.

If you're like most home cooks, "plantain" and "banana" probably mean the same thing to you. But did you know that plantains are very different from bananas?

While bananas are among America’s most beloved fruit (an average American consumes about a hundred bananas every year), plantains are not as popular. Many of us have seen those big green things at the store, wondered what to do with them, and never dared to add them to the shopping cart.

You are about to find out all about the delicious and nutritious plantains and how to add this excellent ingredient to your diet.

Plantain vs Banana: What's The Difference

Plantain is usually larger than an average banana size and has much thicker, tougher skin. Plantains can be green, yellow, or dark brown when overripe. Green plantains contain much more starch than bananas and are not very sweet. The darker plantain's skin is, the sweeter it gets. Cooking a ripe plantain intensifies its already sweet flavor.

Bananas and plantains both belong to the Musaceae family of plants. And even though you probably learned that bananas grow on a banana tree, they are classified as a perennial herb!

Technically plantains and bananas are fruits that are often used in cooking, but there are several significant differences between them. Here are some of the most important ones to know:


  • Ripe bananas are usually easy to peel. They are sweet, starchy, and can be enjoyed uncooked. Bananas are also a very common ingredient in many desserts besides everyone’s favorite banana bread

  • Plantains are better enjoyed cooked. They are not a common ingredient to add to a dessert but are absolutely delicious in various savory dishes. Plantains are very common in Latin American, Caribbean, and African cuisines.

  • Plantains are much starchier and less sweet than bananas. You can use them in cooking at different stages of ripeness - from unripe green to overripe black.


  • Plantains are longer and thicker than bananas and have tougher skin. They can be very green, yellow, or very dark when overripe. The greener the plantain, the more difficult it is to peel.

  • Plantains and bananas are very nutritious. But plantains have higher levels of potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. They are also slightly higher in calories.

To sum up, plantains and bananas have different flavor profiles and are suitable for different dishes. Just like the tomato, which is a fruit we usually consume as a vegetable, the plantain is also consumed as a vegetable. It is best for dishes like soups, stews, savory appetizers, or sides. Sweet bananas are perfect for various desserts.

Different Ways to Cook With Plantains

Plantains are incredibly popular in Central America, the Caribbean, and West African countries. There are many delicious dishes you can make using plantains, so let’s look at some of the easiest ones to begin with.

Fried Plantains and Plantain Chips

Simply fried plantains are a popular dish cooked everywhere plantains grow, from West Africa to East Africa, Central America, and South America, the Caribbean, and many parts of Southeast Asia.

This dish has different names in different cuisines, and cooking techniques may vary, but frying plantains is a great way to enjoy this nutritious fruit.

For this dish, it is best to use unripe green plantains. You can start with some classic fried plantain recipes from the Caribbean:

Patacones or Tostones

In Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Peru, plantains are often cooked into a dish commonly known as patacones. The same dish is also popular in Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and Haiti, but there it goes by a different name - tostones.

It is a delicious savory snack or side dish everyone loves. You can find many street vendors selling patacones at any hour of the day as everyone has their favorite way to enjoy them.

Patacones are twice-fried smashed plantains. Here’s how to make them:


  1. Peel and cut green plantains width-wise into 4 to 5 equal pieces.

  2. In a pot, heat enough oil to cover the plantain pieces in a single layer.

  3. Fry the plantains for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden and easily pierced with a fork.

  4. Cover a cutting board or any even surface with plastic wrap, and place one piece of fried plantain on it vertically. Place another layer of plastic on top of the plantain and smash it into a flat pancake-like oval using a dish, a pan, or a cutting board.

  5. Transfer the smashed plantains back into the hot oil and fry again until golden brown.

  6. Season with salt and enjoy with guacamole, hogao (tomato, onion, garlic sauce), queso, or by themselves. Patacones also make a great side dish.

Some Other Recipe Ideas to Use Plantains

There are many other ways you can enjoy plantains. You can start with these:

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