What do plantains taste like? Is it healthy? Do plantains taste like bananas? As someone who grew up eating this vegetable, I will tell you everything you should know about plantains (and bananas).
Ever been to an African or Caribbean friend’s house and been offered something that looked like fried bananas?!
It was most likely plantain, which is a type of fruit similar to a banana.
As the popularity of plantains has grown, they’ve become more readily available in supermarkets across the country, allowing people to enjoy them without having to go out of their way.
What Are Plantains?
Plantains are a type of starchy fruit closely related to bananas. Unlike bananas, however, plantains are usually cooked before they are eaten.
For this reason, some people describe plantains as “raw bananas” or “cooking bananas” in some African countries and Latin America.
When ripe, plantains have yellow or black skin and a sweet flavor. They can be boiled, baked, or fried and are often used as a side dish or ingredient in recipes.
Plantains are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants. They have been shown to promote digestive health and lower blood sugar levels.
While plantains are technically classified as a fruit, they are often used more like vegetables in savory dishes.
So whether you’re looking for a sweet treat or a healthy ingredient, plantains are worth adding to your diet.
My love for plantains goes way back to elementary school. At home, we’d eat fried plantain alone with ketchup, as a side dish with jollof rice, boiled and eaten with Nigerian beef or egg stew, or steamed as the main ingredient in plantain Moi-Moi.
5 Names For Plantain
Although some people refer to actual plantains as bananas, some countries and cultures around the globe have local names for plantains that distinguish this fruit from bananas.
Some of those local words are:
- French: Banane plantain
- Nigeria: Dodo, Boli
- English: cooking banana, raw banana
- Ivory Coast: Aloco
- Cuba: Tostones
Where Do Plantains Come From?
Plantains are native to Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. However, they can be found in Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean.
These banana-like fruits are grown in tropical regions all over the world.
But unlike most fruits, plantains don’t ripen off the tree. Instead, they must be harvested while still green.
Plantain is one of the world’s oldest cultivated foods. Evidence suggests that it was grown around 3000 BCE in Eastern Africa (source).
Why You Should Try Plantains
- Versatile: Plantains can be cooked in many different ways – boiled, fried, baked, steamed, and more. This means that they can be used in various dishes, from breakfast food to desserts.
- Nutritious: Plantains are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. This makes them a healthy addition to any diet.
- Delicious: Plantains have a unique taste that is both sweet and savory. Whether you cook them in sweet or savory dishes, they are sure to please your taste buds. This is the go-to food for my nieces and nephews. Nine out of ten times, this is all they ask for.
- Affordable: Plantains are typically very affordable, making them a great option for budget-minded shoppers.
What Do Plantains Taste Like?
When plantains are ripe, they have a sweet taste. However, if they are not ripe, they can be quite bland. The flavor is similar to that of a green banana or unripe pineapple.
As children, my twin sister and I often wondered why plantains did not taste like bananas even though plantains looked just like bananas.
As plantain turns yellow, black, or yellow with streaks of black, they get sweeter and some worth taste like bananas. These yellow plantains are sometimes called “banana plantains.”
Some people even say that the super ripe plantain tastes like caramelized sugar!
What Does Green Plantain Taste Like?
In contrast, green plantains taste bland. A special dish, plantain and owo soup, from my mom’s tribe is prepared with unripe plantain. The blandness is far from exciting for my palate.
That said, I can eat salted plantain chips made from unripe plantain. My favorite is sweet plantain chips made from super ripe plantains. These are so ripe that they lose that crispy crunch, a signature of chips.
Types, Flavors, and Textures of Plantains
Plantains can be boiled, baked, or fried and are often used as a side dish or ingredient in stews and curries.
Plantains are available in green and yellow varieties, and their flavors range from mild to sweet.
Green plantains have a firm texture when cooked, while yellow plantains are softer and more similar to traditional bananas.
Differences Between Banana and Plantain (Comparison Table)
The main difference between plantain and bananas is how they are consumed (how you eat them).
While bananas can be eaten raw as you would most fruits, plantains have to be cooked before you eat them.
Although I’ll admit that my twin sister and I were guilty of eating ripe, raw plantain before they made it into the deep fryer. There’s actually no harm in eating raw plantain!
|Scientific Name||Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana (source)||Musa × paradisiaca (a hybrid of Musa acuminata × M. balbisiana), a banana cultivar|
|Also Known As||Dessert bananas||Banana plantain, Raw banana, broadleaf plantain|
|Preparation||Eaten raw as a fruit, frozen (smoothies, fruit salads), baked (banana bread), or fried (banana chips)||Cooked before consumed: fried, grilled, mashed, steamed, boiled|
|Color||Unripe: Green Ripe: Yellow (or yellow with brown spots)||Unripe: Green Ripe: Yellow (or yellow with black spots -> black plantain when super ripe)|
|Size||~ 6 inches||Up to 12 inches|
|Starch Content||Less starchy||Contains more starch than banana|
|Nutrition||Rich in nutrients: – carbs, fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamins A & C||Rich in nutrients: – carbs, fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamins A & C|
|Storage||Ripen faster than plantains||Stores longer than banana|
|Sweetness||Much sweeter||Bland when unripe and semi-sweet when ripe|
|Texture||Easy to peel||Have to be peeled with a knife|
Where to Buy Plantain
Plantain can be found in most grocery stores in the produce section or the bulk foods aisle.
- Selected and stored fresh
- Sourced with high quality standards
- Recommended to wash before consuming
- Ships Monday thru Wednesday
- Ships 2 day Priority
- Available all year
- Delicious Ripe Plantain Chips
- 100% Natural Ingredients. No Artificial Flavoring
- Non-GMO, Certified Gluten Free Chips. MSG Free. Proudly Made in Canada
How to Cook Plantain
There are a plethora of ways to cook plantain. As described earlier, plantains have to be cooked before eating.
This fruit is popular in many African and Caribbean dishes. Plantains can be boiled, fried, baked, steamed, grilled, and even made into plantain chips.
I’ll take plantain chips any day! No offense potato chips!
In Nigeria, when we grill plantain, this local street food is called Boli or Bolé. It is typically eaten with roasted groundnut or palm oil and salt.
When plantains are boiled ripe or unripe, they are eaten with tomato stew, egg stew, pepper soup, palm oil, and salt.
When plantains are fried, they can be eaten alone (fried plantain or plantain chips) or as a side to popular dishes like rice and beans.
Tostones (twice-fried plantains), a delicacy in the Caribbean and Latin America, are a must-try crisp, flattened plantains.
One popular Nigerian dish made with plantain is gizdodo. Here’s how to make gizdodo:
- 1 Pound Gizzards
- 2 Plantains Ripe
- 200 ml Olive oil / Vegetable Oil
- 2 Chicken stock cubes / Seasoning cube
- 1 large green pepper
- 1 large orange bell pepper
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1-2 spring onions
- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- Fresh ginger (optional)
- 4 Scotch bonnet/fresh habanero peppers
- 4-7 small tomatoes (optional)
- Boil the gizzard with onions, seasoning cube, and salt until cooked (~40 minutes). Save the gizzard stock/broth.
- Cut your sweet plantain into cubes and set them aside. Next, cut the gizzard into smaller bite-size pieces.
- Oil your frying pan on medium heat and fry gizzard. Once cooked, remove from heat.
- Add a pinch of salt to the ripe plantains and deep-fry in a separate pan until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with oil-absorbing paper or paper towel.
- Add some onions and saute for 2 - 3 minutes to the same oil used to fry the gizzard.
- Add the gizzard broth, seasoning cube, and some salt to taste. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes on medium.
- Add the blended scotch bonnet peppers (or habanero peppers) and fry for about 1 minute.
- Add seasoning and some salt to taste. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes on medium.
- Add green peppers, orange peppers, and bell peppers, and diced tomatoes (if using). Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook as the peppers will become soggy. You can either dice the peppers with a knife or use a blender or food processor to chop them up.
- Add your fried plantains and cooked gizzard to the pan.
- Mix together. Serve hot with your choice of rice dish.
- Only use plantains that are ripe but firm. Overripe plantain will become soggy when added to the pepper sauce and will soak up all the sauce leaving nothing behind for your rice or spaghetti.
- Be careful frying your gizzard. The skin will get tougher the longer the gizzard is fried.
- Gizzard is tough and chewy. Be prepared to cook it for over 30 minutes. Alternatively, use your pressure cooker to shorten the time. I don't like my gizzard to feel like I'm chewing on leather, so I make it to match the hardness of the plantains.
- Although this recipe calls for chicken gizzard, you can also use turkey gizzard (or any gizzard you can get your hands on).
- It's optional to use tomatoes in this recipe. You can also replace fresh tomatoes with tinned tomato paste.
- For this recipe to come out well, you need to use firm, ripe sweet plantains.
- You can use fewer or more scotch bonnet/fresh habanero peppers depending on how spicy you want the pepper sauce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 878Total Fat: 57gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 46gCholesterol: 516mgSodium: 1015mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 7gSugar: 30gProtein: 38g
* Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for the most accurate results.
How To Store Plantain
One thing I really love about plantains is how well they store. Unlike bananas, unripe plantains can be stored for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. Simply place them on a counter or in a bowl away from direct sunlight.
And if you want your unripe plantains to ripen faster, place them in a plastic bag and keep them in a dark area.
We always used an empty kitchen drawer. Just make sure you don’t forget about the plantains, though.
Ripe plantains can be stored in the fridge’s crisper drawer for up to two weeks to prolong their shelf life.
Finally, you can also freeze plantain for up to a few months. Peel the plantain and cut it into slices or chunks before placing it in a freezer bag.
When you are ready to use it, just thaw the plantain. I’ve never had to do this since plantains are readily available where I live.
Humor me: Why did the plantain cross the street?
– Because the other side of the street was ah-peeling!😂
[You didn’t hear that from me]
So, what do plantains taste like?
Overall, they have a semi-sweet and starchy flavor. However, the taste can vary depending on how ripe the plantain is.
For example, unripe plantains are typically bland and are often compared to potatoes, while ripe plantains are more similar to bananas.
Additionally, the cooking method can also impact the taste. For instance, fried plantains will often have a sweeter flavor, while baked plants will be more savory.
If you’ve never tried plantain before, you’re in for a treat!
They make a delicious and healthy snack that can be enjoyed in many different ways. Give them a try today and see just how delicious they can be!
Your turn! What do plantains taste like? If you haven’t tried plantain before, what did you think you tasted like before reading this article?
For more frequently asked questions, visit our index of food-related questions and answers. Here are a few suggestions for you: