Anyone that knows me knows how much I love plantain. Plantain is a fruit mostly grown in tropical regions. It is part of the banana family and its origin can be traced to South East Asia.
When plantains are fully ripe, they taste like regular bananas that are less sweet. The green ones are normally bland and starchy.
How to cook plantain
There are four healthy ways of cooking plantain; boiling, grilling/ baking, frying, and oven-roasting.
Boiling plantain is quite easy. All you need is water and salt. The first and obvious step is rinsing the unpeeled plantain and removing dirt residue.
Once clean, chop the plantain into 2-inch chunks and then add the plantain to salted boiling water. Let the plantain simmer for approximately 20 minutes and then turn off the heat.
Drain the water, allow them to cool, then peel the skins and enjoy. Boiled plantains have a flavor similar to that of sweet potatoes.
It is important to leave the plantain skin on while boiling for the plantain to retain its nutrients and also to ensure that it does not get soggy.
I am a fan of grilling and baking because the plantain does not lose any of its nutrients. Grilling plantain is quite easy. Just peel the plantains and place them over a grill until their color changes to a golden brown.
The plantains will be well cooked after approximately 40 minutes. If you prefer, you can grill the plantains with the skin on.
Frying is one of the most popular ways to enjoy plantain.
I personally love fried plantains most. All you need to do is peel the plantains and slice them the way you prefer, heat some vegetable oil in a pan, and then gently drop in the plantain.
Fry the plantain for approximately 8 minutes. Make sure you occasionally turn the plantain so that it does not burn. Once the plantain is golden brown, remove them from the pan and then dab with a paper towel to remove the excess oil.
In case you do not have a grill, you can just roast plantain in the oven. Which this method, you do not need to slice the plantain. Just peel it and leave it whole.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees and then place the plantain inside the oven. Bake them for approximately 35 minutes. Occasionally turn the plantain so that they cook evenly. Once they turn golden brown, they are well cooked.
You may once in a while need to replace plantain with something else in your recipes. In case you run out or your local grocery store does not stock plantain, you can always use substitutes.
Yuca root, unripe bananas, potatoes, breadfruit, yam, sweet potatoes, and jackfruit are some of the substitutes that you can use in place of plantain. Most of them give you similar results.
If you are wondering what a yucca root is, it is part of the cassava plant. Its size and shape is very similar to that of sweet potatoes.
Yuca root generally has a sweet and nutty taste. Its grainy texture is slightly different from that of plantain, but it is hardly noticeable once cooked.
The yuca root has very rough skin, so you’ll have to peel it before use. Its flesh is white in color and when cooked its flavor is very similar to that of plantain. This makes it a perfect addition to savory dishes.
You can bake or fry yucca root and you can also use it to make chips.
Unripe bananas are arguably the best plantain substitutes. Unripe bananas are usually green in color and they are not sweet, hence can’t be eaten raw.
Green bananas are starchy and bland. This makes them an ideal replacement in most recipes that call for plantain.
Green bananas are softer compared to plantains hence take a shorter time to cook. Keep this in mind when you decide to use it as a substitute.
Never use ripe bananas as a plantain substitute.
Potatoes are another substitute that you can use in place of plantain.
There are several different varieties in the market, but I have discovered that the floury potatoes work best as a plantain substitute. The waxy potatoes will not give you desirable results.
The only downside with potatoes is that they do not have the same sweetness that plantain has. Otherwise, they work just fine.
Breadfruit is a very popular tropical fruit. It is normally oval in shape and once cooked, it tastes like bread. Most people use breadfruit as a vegetable. It is added to curries, mashed, or sautéed.
As breadfruit ripens, it becomes much sweeter since the starch converts to sugar. Therefore, I recommend that you do not use the ones that are too ripe as plantain substitutes.
The results would not be desirable.
Yams are a potato-like vegetable that is super delicious and nutritious. They are also starchy.
Yams have a slightly sweet flavor. This combined with the starchiness makes them an ideal plantain replacement. Another advantage is that they are rich in fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C.
You can use yams in most recipes that call for plantain since it is versatile.
Sweet potatoes are another substitute you can use when you do not have any plantain on hand. Sweet potatoes are mildly sweet and starchy.
Just like plantain, you can bake, fry, or roast them. You can even use them to make chips that you can eat as snacks.
You can easily incorporate sweet potatoes into your savory dishes. Its flavor is quite similar to that of plantain when cooked.
If you do not have any of the substitutes we have discussed above you can always use jackfruit.
Jackfruit belongs to the same family as breadfruit. When cooked, its texture is similar to that of meat hence its popularity in vegan diets.
You can use jackfruit in most recipes that require you to use plantain. It has a mild flavor that blends in perfectly with most ingredients.
Interesting facts about plantain
- Plantains are fruits, but most people use them as vegetables in cooking.
- You can buy plantain when green, but it will turn yellow and eventually turn black. Black plantains taste sweeter compared to the green and yellow ones.
- Bananas are much sweeter compared to plantains. Consequently, you can easily incorporate plantain into savory dishes.
- Plantain is a staple in the Caribbean, African, and Latin cuisine.
Where to buy plantain
Plantain has recently become very popular. You can find it in the produce aisle of most grocery stores. You can also buy plantain from farmers’ markets that are close to you.
Go to farmers’ markets that stock produces for Eastern Mediterranean cuisines. You can also get plantain in Chinese farmers’ markets.
Choosing the best plantain
You can only enjoy plantain if you choose the best ones, and I am here to tell you how to go about it. You should always choose the yellow and firm plantain.
These ones are ripe, but not overripe. Do not choose the ones that are mushy. Mushiness is a clear sign that the plantain is overripe and it won’t give you good results.
Green plantains are usually unripe. They are relatively difficult to peel and are less sweet. In West African cuisine, green plantains are used as a meat substitute.
You can also use them to make chips, but you first have to mash them.
- Can you eat plantain raw?
You can eat plantain raw, but I do not recommend it since, in its raw state, plantain is not easily digestible.
- Are green plantains sweet?
Green plantains are not naturally sweet. However, if you are making chips you can always add a little bit of sugar to them to enhance the flavor.
- When is the best time to eat plantain?
You can enjoy plantain at any time of the day. Eat it for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner.
- What are the healthiest ways to cook plantain?
The healthiest ways to cook plantain are boiling, grilling, and oven roasting. Follow the recipes we discussed above for the best results.
- Are plantains the same as bananas?
No. Although plantains and bananas have a similar appearance, they are very different. Plantains have low sugar content, are usually cooked before being eaten, have thicker skin, and are firmer compared to bananas.
Plantains have a very similar appearance to bananas. If you are not keen, you can easily confuse one for the other.
Plantains are a popular ingredient in savory dishes. Most grocery stores stock them, but if you are not lucky enough to find any you can always use the substitutes we have discussed above.
My go-to substitute is green bananas because the bananas match the visual appearance, texture, and flavor of plantain. All the other substitutes have a unique flavor, but once added to recipes they do not taste out of place.
Try using the substitutes today and let us know how your dishes turn out.