The 3 Best Ways to Cook Plantains

The 3 best ways to cook plantains show how simple it is to cook up these starchy fruits, turning them into the perfect side dish or snack.

Whether frying or steaming, you’ll soon be able to whip up these easy plantain recipes any time you feel like it.

They can be both savory or sweet so you can use them in a lot of different dishes.

Plus they’re cheap and have lots of health benefits.

Plantains are one of my favorite foods and hopefully by the time you try these recipes, they’ll be one of yours, too.

plantains in different stages of ripeness lined up on a white wooden table

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What are plantains?

Plantains look like large bananas so it’s no surprise that they’re a type of banana.

They’re popular in Central and West Africa, the Caribbean, Central and parts of South America and Southeast Asia. This is why you’ll often find them used in a lot of Nigerian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and Cuban recipes, among many other cuisines.

They have more starch and less sugar than the typical banana so they work well as a side dish in savory meals or as a snack. You can think of them as an alternative to potatoes or sweet potatoes.

They’re also a good source of potassium, vitamin C, iron and more. Plus they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber which gives them a low glycemic index score.

As they ripen, they go from green to yellow to black. The more yellow/black they get, the softer and sweeter they get.

3 orange and white plates with differently cooked plantains on each one

How to cook plantains

While there are many ways to cook plantains, these 3 methods are the fastest, easiest and most versatile ways I know.

All the recipes require just a few ingredients, and if you use ingredients like avocado oil, these can be healthy plantain recipes, too, not to mention vegan, gluten-free, Paleo and Whole30 friendly.

Pan-Fried Plantains

This is the easiest and most straightforward method: just peel, slice and fry the plantains!

Ingredients:

  • 2 -4 plantains, mostly yellow (some black is fine, they just shouldn’t be all black)
  • 1/4 cup oil, such as avocado oil, coconut oil or any other preferred fat
  • fine sea salt

Equipment:

Instructions:

First, trim off the ends of the plantains.

a hand holding a paring knife trimming the end off a plantain

Then cut down the plantain lengthwise, pressing the blade just deep enough to cut open the peel without piercing the flesh underneath too much.

a hand holding a paring knife that's slicing into a plantain peel

one hand holds a plantain while the other holds a paring knife slicing down the plantain peel

Pull off the peel and discard. Slice the plantain into approx. 1/4″ coins.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plantains and sprinkle with salt. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. When you see the bottoms getting brown around the edges, lift one up to check. If it’s a dark golden brown, they’re ready to flip.

Flip the slices, sprinkle with salt and cook for another 3-5 minutes, again looking for the bottom edges to get brown.

You might have to do this in batches, depending on how many plantains you have and how big your skillet is.

Serving ideas:

an orange and white plate with pan-fried plantains on it

 

Steamed Plantains

I know, this might sound like an unusual plantain recipe but trust me! It’s a great option if you want an oil-free way to cook plantains. Plus they’re fantastic served with things like chili, stews and other dishes where you want a starchy side dish to soak up all the flavorful liquid. Think of these like an alternative to potatoes.

Ingredients

Equipment:

Instructions:

Trim off the ends of the plantains. Cut the plantains in half crosswise.

a plantain with the ends trimmed off and it's cut in half crosswise

Now make an incision lengthwise through just the peel of the plantain without pressing into the flesh. Make sure the incision doesn’t run the whole length of the plantain. Leave the peel attached at the ends.

Now also cut a very small incision through just the skin crosswise in the middle of the plantain.

a hand holding up a plantain with slits in its peel

Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water and place over medium heat. Add the steamer basket. Arrange the plantains in the basket, stacking them where necessary.

chopped plantains, still in their peels, in a steamer basket in a saucepan

Cover the pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes. The plantains should have expanded in the heat (some might have even burst through the peel, which is fine).

Remove with tongs and let cool slightly. Snip away the peels, slice the plantains into coins and season with salt.

Serving ideas:

I love these with either this Smoky Bacon Chili or this Creamy White Chicken Chili.

They’d make a great base with this Spiced Coconut Chicken.

And I share 5 different ways to make leftover chicken vegetable soup – steamed plantains would be great in the Jamaican version.

an orange and white plate with peeled, sliced and steamed plantains on it

Twice-Fried Plantains (Tostones)

These might just be the best plantain recipe. Plantains are cut into chunks, fried once, smashed into discs and then fried again. They get all crispy on the outside with just a bit of a fluffy interior. They’re perfect as a snack or appetizer, especially with a dipping sauce (which I include below).

Ingredients:

Equipment:

Instructions:

First, trim off the ends of the plantains. Then cut down the plantain lengthwise, pressing the blade just deep enough to cut open the skin without piercing the flesh underneath too much. (See above pictures for pan-fried plantains for reference.)

Pull off the peel and discard. Slice the plantain crosswise into 1″ segments.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat (not too hot, we still have to cook them a second time). Add the plantains and cook until lightly golden, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Remove the plantains to a cutting board. Increase the heat under the skillet to medium high.

Use a spatula or the bottom of a glass to press down on the plantains until they’re about 1/4″ thick.

a hand pressing down a spatula turning plantains into tostones

Add the plantains back to the oil and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Remove to a cutting board or plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

You’ll probably have to do the second round of frying in batches.

Serving ideas:

Twice-fried plantains are great with so many sauces. One of my particular favorite plantain dipping sauces is to mix together:

But they’d also be good dipped into chimichurri (find a recipe here). They work well with sauces that are some combination of creamy, acidic and/or garlicky.

They’re also a great breakfast topped with fried eggs, especially the kind with runny yolks.

twice-fried plantains (tostones) on an orange and white plate

Make ahead and storage

Pan-fried plantains and twice-fried plantains are best eaten immediately. However, all 3 types of plantains can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Please note that the twice-fried plantains will lose some of their crispness over time.

For the pan-fried plantains and twice-fried plantains, reheat by quickly frying both sides of the slices in oil in a skillet over medium heat. The tostones will probably not be as crisp as they were originally.

The steamed plantains can be reheated in the microwave or in a low oven.

You can also freeze the steamed plantains and twice-fried plantains. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 1 hour. Then store in a freezer-safe container or baggie for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat as directed above.

I do not recommend freezing the pan-fried plantains.

You can also freeze raw, peeled plantains for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

How to cook plantains

Like I said, there are many different ways to cook and serve plantains. But the above methods are three of the easiest, most straightforward and most versatile. Whether using green plantains or sweet plantains, I hope they become a regular part of your cooking life.

 

Other recipes you might like:

  1. The 4 Best Ways to Cook Plantains
  2. Plantain Cornbread
  3. Crunchy Plantain Chip Chicken
  4. Whole Roasted Butternut Squash
3 orange and white plates with differently cooked plantains on each one
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

The 3 Best Ways to Cook Plantains

Plantains are a fantastic ingredient in sweet or savory dishes, whether as a side dish, appetizer or snack. Here are 3 of the easiest, most versatile methods that also happen to be healthy recipes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: green plantain, healthy carbs, plantains, sweet plantain, tostones
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

For pan-fried plantains:

  • 2-4 plantains, mostly yellow (some black is fine, they just shouldn't be all black)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, coconut oil or your favorite cooking fat
  • sea salt

For steamed plantains:

  • 2-4 plantains, green to yellow-ish
  • sea salt

Twice-Fried Plantains (Tostones)

  • 2 plantains, anywhere from green to yellow with some black (just not too much black as they'll be too soft)
  • ½ cup avocado oil, coconut oil or your favorite cooking fat
  • flaky sea salt

Instructions

For the pan-fried plantains:

  • Trim off the ends of the plantains. Then cut down the plantain lengthwise, pressing the blade just deep enough to cut open the skin without piercing the flesh underneath too much. Pull off the skin and discard. Slice the plantains into approx. 1/4" coins.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plantains, sprinkle with salt and cook for about 3-5 minutes. When you see the bottoms getting brown around the edges, lift one up to check. If it's a dark golden brown, they're ready to flip.
  • Flip the slices, sprinkle with salt and let cook for another 3-5 minutes, again looking for the bottom edges to get brown. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with salt.
    You might have to do this in batches, depending on how many plantains you have and how big your skillet is.

For steamed plantains:

  • Trim off the ends of the plantains. Cut the plantains in half crosswise.
  • Now make an incision lengthwise through just the skin of the plantain without pressing into the flesh. Make sure the incision doesn't run the whole length of the plantain. Leave the skin attached at the ends.
  • Now also cut a very small incision through just the skin crosswise in the middle of the plantain. (See blog post for pictures)
  • Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water and place over medium heat. Add a steamer basket.
  • Arrange the plantains in the basket, stacking them where necessary. Cover the pan and cook for about20-25 minutes. The plantains should have expanded in the heat (some might have even burst through the peel, which is fine).
  • Remove with tongs and let cool slightly. Snip away the peels, slice the plantains into coins and season with salt.

For the twice-fried plantains (tostones):

  • First, trim off the ends of the plantains. Then cut down the plantain lengthwise, pressing the blade just deep enough to cut open the skin without piercing the flesh underneath too much. Pull off the skin and discard. Slice the plantain crosswise into 1" segments.
  • Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat (not too hot, we still have to cook the plantains a second time).
  • Add the plantains and cook until lightly golden, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove the plantains to a cutting board.
  • Increase the heat under the skillet to medium high.
  • Use a spatula or the bottom of a glass to press down on the plantains until they're about 1/4" thick. Add the plantains back to the oil and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Remove to a cutting board or plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Notes

See post for serving ideas.
Make ahead and storage
Pan-fried plantains and twice-fried plantains are best eaten immediately. However, all 3 types of plantains can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. 
Please note that the twice-fried plantains will some of their crispness over time.
For the pan-fried plantains and twice-fried plantains, reheat by quickly frying both sides of the slices in oil in a skillet over medium heat. The tostones will probably not be as crisp as they were originally.
The steamed plantains can be reheated in the microwave or in a low oven.
You can also freeze the steamed plantains and twice-fried plantains. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 1 hour. Then store in a freezer-safe container or baggie for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat as directed above.
I do not recommend freezing the pan-fried plantains.
You can also freeze raw, peeled plantains for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

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