When it comes to staple foods in the Caribbean and South America, plantains are at the top of the list and are as popular as rice. They are cooked in a variety of ways, from boiled and mashed to deep-fried, and are part of savory dishes and desserts. Both unripe and ripe plantains are used; unripe are green or yellow in color and difficult to peel, the fruit hard with a starchy flavor, making them perfect for boiling and frying. Plantains turn black when fully ripe, and have a flavor that some describe as similar to a banana but not as sweet. Ripe plantains are fried, sautéed, and baked, and used in dishes that call for a bit of sweetness.
Watch Now How to Make Crispy Fried Plantain Chips
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The key to an excellent plate of sweet fried ripe plantains is to ensure that the plantains are at the right degree of ripeness—the riper the plantain, the sweeter it is. The skin should be almost black or, in some cases, have a dull yellow color with patches of black. The plantains are simply peeled, cut into rounds, pan-fried in oil, and sprinkled with salt.
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These twice-fried plantain chips, called tostones, are a wonderful alternative to potato chips. Green plantains are sliced and fried in oil until a light golden color and soft. Then they are drained and cooled and flattened into rounds before frying again until crispy. Dip into a mojito garlic dipping sauce for a delicious appetizer or snack.
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This unique sandwich created by Puerto Rican immigrants in Chicago replaces the bread with slices of fried plantain, adding an interesting layer to any sandwich filling. This jibarito is made with roast beef, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and flavored mayonnaise, but you can use a variety of ingredients.
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Green plantain turkey stuffing, also called mofongo stuffing, is an excellent alternative to the traditional bread and meat stuffing associated with a Thanksgiving turkey. This version is made from plantains, bacon, garlic, and ajíces dulces (sweet chile peppers), making for a sweet and savory combination with an interesting texture.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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This Cuban fufú is similar to mofongo stuffing, but the recipe calls for ripe plantains instead of green. The sweet plantains are boiled and mashed and then folded into a mixture of fried bacon, onion, and garlic, making for a sweet yet savory turkey dressing or side dish.
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In this traditional Ecuadorian recipe, the plantains are blended into a sauce with sautéed vegetables and seasoning, then cooked with some peanut butter, making for a rich and creamy consistency. Cilantro-scented shrimp are added, and the stew is spooned over rice.
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Fried green plantains are flattened into a bun shape as they cook and take the place of the bread in this delicious steak sandwich, another type of jibarito. After being spread with a ketchup-mayo mixture, the plantains are layered with seasoned skirt steak, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onion.
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Tajada means "slice" in Spanish and refers to the way the plantains are cut before frying. In this recipe, ripe plantains are formed into long slices and fried in oil until golden and crispy. Tajadas are often served alongside plates of rice and beans and add a little bit of sweetness to a savory dish.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Suriname, a small, South American country on the northeast coast, is home to this simple plantain dish, although its origins are Indonesian. Very ripe plantains are coated in a batter of egg, flour, cornstarch, and buttermilk, then deep-fried until golden brown. As a nod to the recipe's birthplace, serve the bakabana with a Thai peanut sauce for dipping.
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In many Latin cultures, tamales are a Christmas tradition. This Puerto Rican version, called pasteles, is made with plantain masa instead of corn. A pork and sweet pepper filling is nestled inside the plantain and yautia masa and then wrapped and tied in a banana leaf. The package is simmered in water for an hour, carefully opened, and served.
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Both savory and sweet, this Colombian delicacy can be eaten at any time of day. Slices of plantain are fried, topped with grated cheese, sandwiched together, and sealed closed. Then the bundles are dipped into a thick batter and fried again until golden brown and crispy. For a dessert version, feel free to add a slice of guava paste with the shredded cheese.
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This recipe may not have true Caribbean or South American origins, but it showcases plantains in a different and delicious way, matching the fruit with complementary flavors and ingredients. The plantains are roasted in the oven along with pineapple and salmon, all dressed with a maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce mixture. To finish this dish, the pineapple is made into a cilantro-lime salsa and spooned over the roasted salmon, which is served alongside the roasted plantains.