Sunday, October 12

A Plantain is Not a Banana

a very ripe plantain

The above picture is not a super ripe banana. (Though I have a couple of those on my counter begging to be baked into a banana bread.) It's actually a perfectly ripe plantain.

Though used primarily as a vegetable, a plantain, like a banana, is a fruit that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes depending on its level of ripeness. When still green, a plantain is hard and starchy, like a potato. As it ripens, the peel turns nearly black, while the flesh becomes yellow and sweet. Fully ripe plantains are soft and creamy in texture, emit a mild banana fragrance, and are supremely sweet. Plantains take several days to ripen, so if you want to cook some soon then buy ones that are already blackened in the supermarket.


How is a plantain different from a banana?

1. Plantains are much firmer and heavier than bananas.
2. Plantains have a lower sugar content than bananas, making them less sweet.
3. Plantains should be cooked, whereas bananas can be eaten raw. Note: My friend Aparna who lives in India, noted that certain sweet plantains can be eaten raw. Thanks, Aparna!
4. Plantains can be cooked when still green and not fully ripe, for a starchier consistency and less sweet flavor, or when blackened and fully ripe, for a softer consistency and sweeter flavor. Bananas, however, cannot be eaten when green or unripe, unless you want to experience a distinctly unpleasant chalky aftertaste.

Plantains are a staple in many South American, African, and Asian countries; fortunately, they're gaining status in the US as well. That's a good thing since they're so versatile: they can be boiled, baked, sauteed, and fried and work in dishes ranging from appetizers to desserts.

In the States, many plantain recipes are Cuban or Mexican in origin and feature ingredients such as chiles, honey, lime, and brown sugar. Plantains make an easy and delicious side dish especially with Baja style fish tacos.

peeling a plantain

Here's how to peel a plantain:

1. Cut off the top of the plantain.
2. Using a sharp knife, gently cut lengthwise along the plantain, being careful not to cut into the fruit (as shown above).
3. Using your hands, open the skin, remove from the plantain and discard.
4. Slice plantain into equal sized pieces (as shown below).

plantain slices

You'll notice when you slice a plantain, that the fruit is a pinkish-yellow. As it cooks, however, it will magically turn a deep, rich gold color, while the flesh becomes creamy.

I usually saute plantain slices in a little olive oil or butter until lightly caramelized and douse them with some Tabasco sauce and lime juice. Today, however, I opted for a slightly sweeter take. Caramelized plantain slices are drizzled with warm, rich honey, and sprinkled with cayenne pepper and lime juice, for a singular sweet and tangy flavor.

plantains with honey and lime

Caramelized Plantains with Honey and Lime

Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

2 fully ripe plantains
2 teaspoons olive oil
2-3 teaspoons quality honey
1 lime, cut in half
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

Pour olive oil in a large non-stick skillet until evenly coated and place over medium-high heat. Add plantain slices in a single layer (do two batches, if necessary). Cook plantains for 1 minute, flip over, and cook 30-60 seconds, or until browned. Keep your eye on the plantains as they'll brown very quickly. Remove from the pan, and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Cover with foil until all plantains are cooked.

Place plantains on a serving platter. Drizzle with quality honey, then sprinkle with lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

You might also like:

Fresh Pineapple Chutney

Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple Sage Glaze

Elote, or Mexican Grilled Corn

Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza

Anna's Bajan Plantain Pikelets (they're like pancakes) with Rum-Butter Sauce at Morsels and Musings
Suganya's Plantain Rice Mix at Tasty Palettes
Gretchen Noelle's Baked Plantains in Orange Sauce at Canela & Camino

I'm sending my plantains to Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full, this week's hosts of Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

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Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

I love plantains, especially the way Brazilians cook them. This is a nice simple recipe Susan!

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

These look so good. Growing up, we had a few Cuban neighbors and they always made these.

The Italian Dish said...

Wow. I love plantains. This is a little twist on the usual. I'm going to try it. Thanks.

Mishmash ! said...

Susan, this preparation is a fav of many Keralites, includin me.....we use ghee (clarified butter) for roasting and either drizzle honey or sprinkle is heavenly....i am so surprised to see this here :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love making tostones -- in fact, I bought a little tostone press at the Latino market in South Providence, just for the fun of smooshing the tostones with it!

Manggy said...

We do have bananas that are very similar to plantains here; I hope to share a few great ways of cooking them in the future! (But of course, fried is always a popular option! ;)

Susan @ SGCC said...

I just love plantains, though I usually make them the way my old Cuban roommate taught me. I really like what you did with them.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love plantains. They are so versatile and interesting! Your dish looks really good!

Cheers and have a nice week,


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You've done them just the way I love them!
Very gorgeous. I love lemon but somehow lime with these is so perfect.

Núria said...

How interesting Susan! Here we have bananas and plátanos and also male bananas (used for cooking only). I wonder how translations would go here: would a plantain be a plátano? We eat plátanos and are better than bananas.
What a mess!!!!

Deeba PAB said...

I've seen plantains so often but never wandered near all you've written about them is enticing me to try it, especially the tabasco & lime version. Mouth's watering Susan!

Kalyn Denny said...

Great post! I've only had plantains once (in Miami) but they were delicious.

Stacey Snacks said...

I love you.
I love your blog, it was the first blog I ever found on the internet and read religiously.

However, there is just one food I can not eat or stand the smell of: BANANAS.

I am sure the plantain has the same odor? Don't be mad at me.
It's the ONLY thing I won't touch! I will eat anything else you make!!!!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I was just going to say what Mishmash said. :) Our traditional cooking uses both bananas and plantains in so many different preparations.

Just wanted to mention something, Susan.
Ripe plantains can be eaten without cooking. Some of the varieties we get here are very sweet.
Green/ raw bananas cannot be eaten but they can be cooked. We also have a variety of banana which is green when raw and ripe which is very sweet.

Karen said...

The recipe sounds delicious. Very informative post!

Deborah said...

I've tasted plaintains before, but I've never been adventurous enough to cook with them. This sounds so good, though!

Anonymous said...

The carmelized plantains with honey and lime sound like a nice balance of sweet, sour and spice. I am still trying to love plantains, and this recipe might do the trick.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post on plantains. I love learning new information about foods.

Ivy said...

Wow, it seems that I am the only one who never heard of plantains before and I realize every day how little I know about food. Thanks Susan, for the lovely post.

Peter M said...

We have quite the Caribbean community and they are responsible for my introduction to them...delish!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

peterg-Thank you!

lisa-I'd love to have Cuban neighbors so I could be invited over for dinner! ;)

marie-Hope you like it!

shn-I have never made ghee, but I should.

lydia-You bought a tostone press? That is so cool!

mark-Who doesn't like them fried?

susan-Thank you!

rosa-Thanks so much!

tanna-Lime strikes just the right acidic touch.

nuria-It sounds like a plantain would be a plantano. But what's a "male banana"? Are we lost in translation here? ;)

deeba-Try them next time! They're great.

kalyn-I had them there too... at a Cuban restaurant, of course.

stacey-No worries! If you don't like 'em, you don't like 'em. I just won't tell me Dad, cause he'll think it's just too weird. ;)
Thanks for the sweet words!

aparna-Thank you for telling me that. I've never had them that way before, but I'll make a note in the post! :)

karen-I'm glad you like it.

deborah-They're so easy. Hope you try them!

lynda-Let me know if it does!

hilary-I'm so glad you found it helpful.

ivy-There's so much to learn every day for all of us!

peterm-Caribbean food is fabulous!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Ooh, thanks for this informative post. Now I need to go find a plantain to try.

Salt N Turmeric said...

Susan, I love plantain! In Malaysia, we have something that looks similar that we call pisang (banana) tanduk (horn) because of the shape.

Here, I usually just deep fry (battered) or make banana fritters or last but not least, coat them with egg, deep-fry and then chilled them in sugar syrup overnight. Heaven! lol.


Unknown said...

Indonesia has various plantain and banana trees. When I was quite young, I was often confused to differentiate one another, which one is for desserts and which one is specialty in cooking or baking or pudding (banana cooked a while in a coconut and palm sugar scented with pandan leaves? how does that sound?). Plantain or bananas? I guess, I don't mind :)

Jaime said...

i LOVE fried plantains... but i've never had them w/honey and lime...thanks for the idea :)

Anonymous said...


Totally fabulous. I am addicted to Plantains! If you are up in Costa Mesa sometime try Habana's Restaurant, excellent plantains and Cuban food.


Rachel said...

Wow, lime and seasoning with ripe plantains...this I need to try!

I make a batter coated deep fried snack using ripe plantains,, Check this

bee said...

in south india, we use a lot of green plantains too - in most recipes they work in lieu of potatoes

lovely pics.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

oh I have not had a plantain for ages. we used to have them a lot when i'd visit my grandparents in india! it's hard to find them here. i still love the idea of caramelizing them!

Emily said...

I'm crazy about plantains!

Anonymous said...

I hate to admit it, but I've never had plantains before. This recipe looks wonderful and I really enjoyed having all the information about them (thanks!). I'll try them as you suggested; on the side of a fish taco meal. Sounds like a great dessert.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I love Carribean flavors, so I definitely love seeing new and different plantain preparations.

The only thing I ever learned from Ingrid Hoffman is that putting the plantain in the freezer before peeling them makes them much easier to peel.

s. said...

loved reading it
thank you

Lori Lynn said...

Ooh, the lime and cayenne are really calling me!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I love sauteed or fried platains. They're spectacular and this sounds like a great twist on them. When I first was exposed to platains, I just thought they were like bananas with a stubborn peel. My coworker never quite let it go that I thought I could just eat them like a

Darius T. Williams said...

Looks good - I love a great plaintain! Love it!

Big Boys Oven said...

looks so delicious...... just like to put my finger into it!

Elle said...

Another yummy food to try...never had plaintain. Sweetie had about 37 different kinds of bannanas and their relatives when he lived in the islands of the Pacific, but I only know the grocery store bannana, so far. With this recipe that will surely change.

We Are Not Martha said...

I've been thinking about doing something with plantains forever now but never seem to get around to it. This looks amazing and has been bookmarked! Might be my first plantain recipe :)


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I love the glossy, golden finish on those plantains. And the addition of honey would be lovely.

Debbie said...

Glad to find that recipe. Now I can try to cook a plantain. I've had some at work that my coworkers have brought in but never tried to cook one myself.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I ate grilled plantains sprinkled with cinnamon sugar when I was in Bahia in 2001. It was delicious, Susan! Haven't eaten again ever since, though. :(

Chris said...

I am a huge fan of plantains! And this is a simple recipe I can get into. Yummmm!

Anonymous said... plantain too, great for fritters with honey and cream,delish! but honey and lime sounds delish too :)

Heather said...

mmmm i love plantains. i had so many plantains when i was in costa rica this summer. this looks lovely! honey and lime are so good together ;)

Cakelaw said...

Interesting facts about plaintains. I don't think we do much with Plaintains here in Oz, because until I started blogging, I'd never heard of them. They sure look good once cooked.

Anonymous said...

hey Susan, glad you love plantain! My fave!! Take a look at this post I did on them too! :

Ashley said...

Ooh I love plantains but have never made anything with them at home. This looks great!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

lynn-Hope you do!

snt-Oh, my, banana fritters sound heavenly! I've got to try that. Thanks!

arfi-I'd love to see them growing on the trees. Isn't it interesting how each of us has such a different perspective?

jaime-You'll love them!

marc-I will. Thanks!

rachel-Yum! I will check it out. Thanks.

bee-That makes sense.

meeta-I've never had them in an Indian restaurant, though I'd like to.

emiline-Me too!

gffg-Oh, you've got to try one!

sdoc-Huh. I haven't tried that.Thanks though!

sukhada-You're welcome! Thanks for visiting.

lori lynn-They called me too!

mike-That's funny. ;)


bbo-Glad you like it.

elle-I only have the grocery store kind too, but they're good.

wanm-Great! I hope you like it!

tw-I enjoyed taking the pics too.

debbie-They're easy, so I'm glad to help!

patricia-That would be fabulous!


zita-Gotta make those fritters.... :)

heather-That must have been lovely.

cakelaw-They really are good.


ashley-I hope you try them. They're really easy to make.

Anonymous said...

Yay, I knew that! Carribean cooking makes a lot of use of plantain in its cuisine. It's just a shame they're not as freely available here in the UK.

Thanks for the thumbs up on my risotto!