You know that silly old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, we’re pretty sure that’s bogus. You can – and should – totally judge a plantain’s stage of ripeness by inspecting the brown-to-yellow ratio of the fruit’s skin.
While plantains may simply look like bananas on steroids, the way you prepare & eat the two fruits are very different. For starters, plantains are much harder to peel (especially when green) and, while they can be prepared at any stage of ripeness, generally should not be eaten raw.
There are definite perks to taking the extra time to prepare this cousin-of-banana, but let’s cover the 3 basics to be sure your plantain experience is as delicious as possible.
1. Choosing the right plantain
Young plantains are green, with a starchy, bland flavor similar to yucca. If you’re still deciding how to prepare your plantains, you can always buy at this stage and let them sit for around 10 days until fully ripened.
When plantains are medium-ripe, the skin is mostly golden and may be speckled with a little brown. At this stage, the fruit is only slightly sweet, and will fully ripen in about 3 days.
The skin of fully ripened plantains are mostly brown with yellow undertones. If comparing to a banana, you may think it’s overly ripe, but at this stage, a plantain’s flavor is actually sweet, aromatic, and perfectly balanced.
2. Peeling the plantain
To start, grab a paring knife and chop off the ends of the fruit. Hold the plantain firmly in one hand and, keeping your fingers well out of the way, slit the plantain skin lengthwise along the natural ridge on the peel. Try not to cut into the flesh of the fruit.
Protip: If you’re using a green plantain, you may need to place the unpeeled plantain in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
3. Cooking the plantains
Since plantains are so versatile, there are a ton of recipes out there, like this recipe for Spicy Baked Plantain Chips from The Kitchn. If you’re preparing them as a side, check out our super easy tostones recipe. Need an exotic dessert idea? Serious Eats shows you how to pull off a sweet plantain casserole with this Maduros en Gloria recipe!
– Emily Grant