One of my first food memories was from Sesame Street. They were showing what different families around the world eat. One episode featured a little girl whose mom made fried plantains as a dinner side dish. That sounded amazing to me – fried bananas! I had never heard of them before. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who knew how to fry plantains. However, instinctively I knew that I would love them.
Unfortunately, it took many, many years until I would ever cross paths with plantains. But years later I moved to a large city and found fried plantains on menus very readily. Just as I’d guessed, I loved every sticky sweet bite. Now I regularly buy plantains, fry them at home, and enjoy them as a side dish.
If you haven’t made fried plantains, you are in for a treat. Not only are they easy to make, they make any meal more fun. Of course, they are especially at home with black beans & rice. (Get a recipe for boozy black bean & rice bowls featuring fried plantains here.)
How to fry plantains
Check for ripeness
The key to sweet fried plantains is making sure the plantains are ripe enough. As you’ve seen with a standard banana, when it gets brown spots and dots, it’s becoming sweeter and riper. With a plantain the key to sugary sweetness is waiting until it’s very ripe. Otherwise, the starchy plantain will have more of a potato flavor than a banana flavor. (If you want to make savory plantains instead, look for recipes for tostones.)
I like to buy my plantains while they are yellow and then wait for them to ripen at home. That way I can be sure that those black spots aren’t bruises from where someone dropped them. However, that means that it may take several days or up to a week until your plantain is fully ready. If you want to make sweet fried plantains tonight, look for ones that are already very ripe in the grocery store bin. If you’d like your plantains to ripen more quickly, pop them into a brown paper sack.
To check for ripeness, lightly press on the plantain in the same way that you’d press on an avocado or mango. If it slightly gives under your thumb, that’s a good indication that the fruit is ready.
Next, look at its outward appearance. Some blackened areas are just fine, and I’ll even keep plantains that are mostly black in the refrigerator to stop them from going from very ripe to bad. (I do that with avocados too. Once they become the perfect level of ripeness, into the refrigerator they go, so that they don’t become unusable.)
Prepare & fry the plantains
Once you’re ready to use the plantain, cut off both ends. Using a knife, gently cut a seam down the middle. (Skins of plantains are thicker than standard bananas and don’t peel quite as easily.) Then peel back the skin and discard it.
Cut the plantain into half inch pieces on a bias. Lightly cover the base of a non-stick skillet with a neutral-flavored oil like organic canola or vegetable oil. (I generally use one to two teaspoons.) Bring to a medium to medium-high heat. (Plantains are prone to sticking, and so it’s much easier to use non-stick instead of stainless steel when frying them.)
Put the plantains in the warm pan, being careful not to overcrowd, and let them fry for a couple of minutes until they are brown on one side. Avoid moving the plantains, so that they can get nice brown coloring. Flip them and let the other side brown for a minute more. Then lower the heat, so that the plantains can get fully done inside without burning. At this point, if you need to move and/or flip the plantain occasionally to keep it from burning, go for it. In total, expect the plantains to cook for about 10 to 14 minutes.
Once they’re ready, remove the plantains from heat and serve. (They were served below with refried bean burritos.) Unlike some fried foods, I don’t put cooked plantains on towels to blot the oil, because they are prone to sticking. I don’t want any delicious plantain left behind on a towel. Plus, a little bit of sticky fried goodness only adds to the experience.