Kitchen Skills

Plantains | Print |


Plantains (plátanos), a thick-skinned variety of banana that is used almost exclusively for cooking, will surprise anyone who grew up eating sweet, tender bananas out of hand or sliced raw over cereal and fruit salads. Plantains are really only delicious when cooked because cooking dissipates their tannin and brings out their sweetness.


Plantains are not sweet when green (under-ripe ones are enjoyed as a starchy vegetable throughout the Caribbean); if you are making a dessert you will want them completely ripe. Even plantains that are yellow-ripe (like regular bananas) aren’t soft and sweet. When completely ripe, they will be very soft and nearly black; that’s when their sugar is highest and their starch lowest.


Buy plantains ahead of time and let them sit on the counter--it will take a week or so for them to ripen from totally green to black-ripe.