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Meet the plantain, your new favorite starch

I’ve been on a bit of a plantain kick lately. I was roaming through the grocery store on the lookout for some dinner inspiration when I stumbled upon a bunch of plantains. I’ve eaten plantains plenty of times, but I’ve never been brave enough to cook with them. I decided to take a risk and grab a handful, and I’m so glad I did! Not only are plantains absolutely delicious, but I’ve also discovered that they are surpassingly easy to prepare.

 

Plantains are part of the banana family, and from the outside, they resemble that popular fruit. However, the actual flesh itself has a unique orange hue. Unlike regular bananas, plantains are inedible until cooked. They are also considerably less sweet than bananas, making them an ideal ingredient in savory dishes.

Plantains are a food staple in parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and large parts of Central and South America. However, the fruit has become increasingly popular in the western world. It’s easy to see why: not only are plantains an interesting talking point, but the fruits neutral flavor makes it an ideal starch in many meals.

Plantains are an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be used in lieu of potatoes, sweet potatoes, or any number of other starches. The trick with cooking plantains is to understand how ripeness affects the taste and texture of the flesh. Plantains can be enjoyed regardless of the ripeness, so don’t worry if you’ve got a bunch of green underripe fruits or a couple of blackened and soft ones. However, be aware that you’ll need to pick your plantains depending on the recipes.

Hopefully, you’re now keen to try cooking with some plantains? If so here are a few ideas to get you started.

Green plantains: Chips

 

Plantains-chips

Green plantains are very firm and work best when turned into crispy chips. The hardest part about cooking green plantains is peeling them as the green skin is difficult to remove. Simply cut the ends off the fruit and slice the skin from end to end. Then slowly peel away the skin being careful not to remove too much of the flesh.

Once the fruit is peeled, cut it into thin rounds. Put the rounds into a bowl and add some salt, pepper, olive oil, and whatever additional seasoning you would like. Give it all a mix and spread the pieces on a thin baking sheet. Cook at 400°F for about 20 minutes. You’ll know the chips are ready when they are light brown and crunchy.

Yellow plantains: Roasted

 

Plantains-baked

Once a plantain has turned from green to yellow the flesh starts to soften and becomes slightly sweeter. Ripe plantains are absolutely perfect for roasting.

Just peel the plantains, coat them in a little bit of oil and roast them as you would potatoes.

Black and yellow plantains: Pan-fried

 

Plantains-fried

While they may not look it, over-ripe and black plantains are still perfectly edible, and if cooked correctly can be absolutely delicious!

Simply peel the black plantains and cut them into thick rounds. Fill a pan with about 1/4 inch deep layer of oil and cook, turning often, until the plantains are golden brown.

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