Do you know the difference between bananas and plantains? It is important to note how these two fruits relate to each other. All plantains are bananas, but not all bananas are plantains.
Plantains are a subgroup of bananas that have a starchier flesh, larger fruits, and are often referred to as “cooking bananas.” While growing on the plant, they look very similar to the untrained eye, but plantains will usually develop brown spotting on the skins, are generally larger and longer, and develop more defined, boxier edges than bananas.
One of the best way to understand and appreciate plantains: cooking with them. To that end, try your hand at these four plantain-inspired dishes, plus a banana-based staple from Fogg Café, thrown in for good measure!
This dish appears in various Caribbean cuisines under different names, but it originates in Puerto Rico. Mofongo consists of unripe (green) plantains that are fried and then mashed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and sometimes pork rinds.
- 3 cups canola or vegetable oil for frying
- 4 green to yellow plantains peeled and cut into 1” chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 – 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup pork rinds
- 1. Heat oil in a medium- to-large pan. Working in batches, gently place the plantains in the pan, taking care not to splash the oil. Fry the plantain chunks until golden and cooked through. Remove from oil, and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oils.
- 2. Mash the plantains with the garlic, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pork rinds together in a large bowl. This process is very similar to making mashed potatoes, so if it looks like that, you’re on the right track.
- 3. Serve immediately as a mash, add it into a stew, or sauté in oil to crisp and add color.
These chips — thin, crispy and served with a tangy vinaigrette — are ideal for snacking!
- 3 – 4 cups oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1 – 2 green plantains, with tips removed and one half of the peel removed (you’ll hold the plantain by the remaining peel to protect your hand from the vegetable peeler)
- Salt as desired
- 1. Heat oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 2. Working in batches, peel the plantain using a vegetable peeler to create thin slices. Drop into the oil and cook until the bubbles stop and plantains are crisp and golden colored. Season with salt. Serve with the lime cilantro vinaigrette, recipe immediately below.
Lime cilantro vinaigrette
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, tipped
- 3 limes, zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup picked cilantro leaves
- 1. Blend in food processor or blender.
Meaning “mature” in Spanish, maduros are prepared throughout the world where plantains naturally grow. Their flavor is mildly sweet, and they are delicious when freshly hot. Serve with ice cream for an extra decadent treat.
- 2 – 3 ripe plantains (black), peeled cut into 1” pieces
- 3 – 4 cups oil, canola or vegetable, for frying
- 1. Heat oil in a pan to 325 degrees Farenheit. Place plantains in the oil, and fry until golden brown and soft to the touch.
- 2. Serve warm on their own or with cinnamon, honey, or ice cream to sweeten the deal.
Twice smashed and once fried, tostones could be best described as “plantain jerky.” The process leaves the plantains hardened yet flexible, like a thick chip, providing the ideal vehicle for dips or toppings. The consistency and flavor of ropa vieja goes well with tostones.
Note: The size of the plantain will determine the diameter of the tostone. We do a couple of trials to choose size.
- 2 – 3 unripe plantains, green, peeled cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 – 4 cups oil, canola or vegetable, for frying
- 1. Heat oil in a pan. Place plantain chunks into oil and fry until golden and cooked, turning over for an even cooking. Pull from oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, allow to cool.
- 2. Smash plantain chunks with a mallet (or a tortilla press, like the Fogg Café does!). To avoid losing parts of the plantain, wrap mallet or line tortilla press with plastic wrap, parchment paper, or a banana leaf for an eco-friendly alternative.
Banana bread, Fogg Café recipe
Makes 5 loaves
- 8 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups oil
- 5 cups mashed banana
- 4 teaspoons vanilla
- 11 1/4 cups sugar
- 9 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all wet ingredients in one bowl: eggs, buttermilk, oil, mashed banana, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients: sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing thoroughly.
- 2. Coat bread pans in cooking spray, or line with parchment paper to avoid sticking. Fill pans 2/3 of the way. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate, and bake for 30 – 45 more minutes.
About the Authors
Jack Raben is chef of the Garden’s Fogg Café.
Kiva Talty is the Education Operations Manager at Naples Botanical Garden. While she isn’t a local, she enjoys experiencing the cultures, foods, craft beer, and festivals Southern Florida has to offer. She has a rambling spirit, and you might find her car camping while enjoying the landscapes of Florida that never cease to awe and surprise her.