Plantains are a type of fruit that look like their relative, the banana, but are bigger. They’re sometimes called green bananas.
Plantains have firm flesh inside and thick peels. The peel can be tougher than a banana’s, so you may have to cut it off with a knife.
Plantains come from Southeast Asia. But they’re grown in large amounts in Central America, the Caribbean islands, South America, and Africa.
What Do Plantains Taste Like?
Plantains are starchy -- they aren’t as sweet as bananas. As they ripen, they may form more sugars, so their flesh becomes sweeter.
In many countries, plantains are cooked and eaten as a side dish or in stews, just like rice or potatoes.
Varieties of Plantain
Plantains may have green, yellow, or blackened peels. Green plantains are as firm as a potato. They have more starch than a yellow plantain.
Yellow plantains are softer, sweeter, and a little starchy. Very ripe plantains have a deep yellow flesh.
Nutritional Profile for a Plantain Serving
A 100-gram serving of plantain (about 3.5 ounces) has:
One serving gives you 31% of your daily value of vitamin C and 23% of vitamin A, both antioxidants. They have some vitamin K, along with B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, and pyridoxine.
Plantains have a small amount of iron, 3% of your daily value, and 2.3 grams of dietary fiber.
Health Benefits of Plantains
Green plantains are a good source of resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber that helps you feel full, doesn’t raise blood sugar, and feeds the good bacteria that keep your gut healthy. Yellow plantains may also be a good source of magnesium, potassium, and fiber, though they may not have as much resistant starch as green plantains.
Diabetes: In Nigeria, people use plantains as a natural way to manage diabetes. Some studies show they may have a hypoglycemic effect, or help control blood sugar levels, especially unripe plantains. The fiber in plantains could help your blood sugar levels stay steady longer.
Weight control: Plantains are rich in a type of fiber that helps you feel fuller longer. This may help you control your weight if you’re overweight or obese.
Constipation: Fiber-rich plantains may also help you stay regular if you get blocked up from time to time.
High blood pressure: Plantains are also rich in potassium. This nutrient can help with high blood pressure because it helps work against the sodium in your diet.
Plantains are healthy. But they’re less so when you cook them with a lot of oil, fat, or sugar. High-fat, high-salt, or high-sugar foods can raise your risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
In developing countries, many people grind plantains into flour and bake them into snacks or street foods. But if the fruit or the flour isn’t stored or handled properly, these treats might look tasty, but they could make you sick.
How to Prepare, Eat, and Safely Store Plantains
Plantains are almost always cooked and served as a starchy side dish. You can also add them to soups or stews. Plantain chips are a popular fried snack food.
Mofongo is a popular side dish in Puerto Rico made of mashed, fried plantains. It’s often served with pork.
For a lower-fat dish, peel and chop green plantains into chunks, then boil them for 20 to 30 minutes with a pinch of salt. After they’re done, drizzle them with olive oil or mash them up.
Yellow plantains are riper, softer, and sweeter than green ones. Slice off the tough ends, then wrap them in foil and bake then in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
In India, people slice up plantain peels and fry them into chips, or grind them up and bake them into high-fiber cookies.
Store plantains at room temperature, and keep them away from sunlight. Don’t put them in the refrigerator. They’ll ripen slowly. If you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper sack. Don’t use a plastic bag. This seals in moisture and makes your plantains rot.