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