Looking to add more banana power to your meals?
Plantains are the perfect option!
They have an intriguing combination of savory and sweet and are endlessly versatile. The fact that they contain lots of fiber and other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium sweetens the deal!
But if you’re a plantain novice, how can you make sure you’re getting the most delectable plantains?
Here’s our guide to how to buy the sweetest, most delicious plantains you possibly can!
1. There’s a Time for Green!
Like bananas, plantains come in a range of colors and conditions, depending on their level of ripeness. These range from bright green or pale yellow to deep gold with dark spots. And the perfect plantain depends on the recipe you want them for.
For example, a popular plantain dish is tostones.
They’re a classic comfort food in Latin cooking, and they are deep fried plantains that have been fried twice and then battered into submission. Interestingly, traditionally, these are made with green plantains.
That starchy, firm texture is just what’s needed to bring out the best in this recipe. So don’t conclude that the green ones are just waiting to ripen. There are lots of recipes that will get you using the bright green variety.
2. Embrace the Brown
It’s easy to apply the same rules to plantains that we do to bananas. But trust us, that would be a mistake.
Dark brown bananas are pretty much good for banana bread and composting. But when your plantain hits the ‘brown all over’ stage, it’s reached perfection.
Dark brown plantains are sweet plantains, and that means they’re perfect for a variety of recipes. They are often fried up and served as a side called platanos maduros. Or served as part of the traditional Colombian dish Bandeja Paisa.
3. Use Your Hands
When choosing the sweetest and most delicious plantains, it’s essential to go by feel as well as sight.
A dark plantain may be perfectly ripe, or past its best. The key is how it feels. You’re looking for it to still be slightly firm to the touch.
A bit of give is OK. If it’s like squeezing a ziplock bag of soup, then drop it like it’s hot.
Joking aside, you can still use these extremely ripe plantains – they make great desserts for example. And you can often still use them in other recipes.
The challenge is that they’ll be challenging to work with – especially if you’re looking for them to stay in neat slices. Basically, that isn’t going to happen. Move on to a dish that calls for mashing, and you’ll be good to go.
4. Don’t Rely on Smell
When choosing some fruit like pineapples, the smell is a key indicator of ripeness and flavor in general.
However, the same can’t be said when buying plantains. By all means, give them a good sniff when you’re at the market, but you’ll likely be disappointed. Plantains don’t have that much of an aroma!
So let your eyes and your hands be your guide when choosing the sweetest plantains for your dish.
5. Give Them Time
As with buying bananas, it can be hard to go out and find perfectly ripe plantains.
If you can, plan several days ahead. That will allow you to pick up some that are not as dark as you’d like. Once you get them home, there are a few tips to follow to allow them to ripen:
- Don’t coddle them – they like to be left on their own, undisturbed to ripen
- Give them several days – depending on how ripe they are when you buy them and how warm it is; they may take over a week
- Don’t put them in the fridge -unless they’re already ripe
- Put them in a paper bag – this can speed up the process
Follow these foolproof tips, and you’ll have delectable sweet plantains ready for your Latin classic.
6. Check the Recipe First
As mentioned in point one, it’s easy to conclude that green or light yellow plantains are not ready.
The key is first to check your recipe to determine the level of ripeness that will work best. Although many plantain dishes call for frying, there are lots of other ways to cook plantains that favor a less ripe, more starchy version.
For example, plantain chips are best made with less ripe plantains.
That’s because you’re looking for a chip that will be crispy on the outside, soft and luscious on the inside.
Less ripe plantains have the perfect amount of texture and sugar to achieve this. That means there’s something to come to the surface and caramelize, but also a savory, potato-like flesh to feast on the inside.
If you’re concerned about all the frying that seems to go on with plantains, rest assured that there are healthier ways to consume them as well.
Many recipes call for them to be baked, steamed or even boiled. In fact, they’re a staple for millions of people throughout the world and are commonly prepared in these simple, but delicious ways. There’s a recipe out there for plantains at every stage – do a little research, and you’ll find something to delight you every time.
Which brings us on to…
7. Go Green for Health
The way you cook your plantain is going to have a significant impact on how healthy it is for you. That’s true whether it’s ripe, or unripe.
But cooking aside, other benefits come from eating green plantains. These include improved digestion and immunity.
The Takeaway: How to Pick the Perfect Plantains
The key to picking perfect plantains is to forget that they’re a banana! Depending on your recipe, green or pale yellow may be the way to go. If you’re looking for sweetness, then the darker, the better!
But remember, touch is important too. Always squeeze them and look for a little firmness. Follow our seven pointers, and you’ll be picking the sweetest plantains in no time.
Now you’ve got perfect plantains, what are you going to do with them?
Click here to read ‘3 Delicious Things You Can Do with Sweet Plantains’
Our blog is all about sharing our love of Latin American foods & drinks. We will bring you articles and recipes of the very best Latin American & Spanish cuisine. Amigofoods was founded in 2003 and is the largest online grocery store offering a wide variety of hard to find freshly imported foods & drinks from all over Latin America and Spain.