The Versatile and Tasty Plantain

The plantain is the tenth most important staple in the world and a very popular ingredient in the Jamaican diet. We fry it, boil it, bake it and make it into porridge, tarts and potato chips.

From the same family as the banana, the plantain looks very much like a large banana. Like the banana, both the green and yellow plantain are eaten. The yellow plantain is sweeter and softer than the green. Unlike the banana, though, we don’t usually eat them uncooked. A plantain has about 200 calories and is a very good source of vitamins and minerals.

I’d always preferred the ripe, slightly sweet plantains to the green ones until several years ago at a family gathering when one of my aunts made fried green plantains.

She cut three or four plantains diagonally about a quarter of an inch thick and fried them for a minute or two on each side. Once they turned reddish-brown, she lifted them from the pan, mashed them flat then returned them and fried them for another two minutes until they were crisp. When she finished, she served them with bully beef.

I couldn’t believe the taste – the mild saltiness of the bully beef was a delightful balance to the crispy, semi-sweet plantain – or that I’d previously ignored this delicious food. I couldn’t wait to return home to try it out and made plantains and bully beef every chance I got.

When I’m too tired or don’t feel like frying plantains – the yellow one is preferable – I bake them in the microwave, or oven (wrapped in foil) like I would a potato. I usually cut the tips off and score the skin lengthwise to allow it to expand as it cooks. For variety, you can also stuff the plantain with ground beef, for example, and bake it.

As you can see, plantains are quite versatile. Hope you pick some up the next time you’re in the supermarket.

Plantain Tart
Serves 6

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  1. 2 cups sifted flour
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 1 cup vegetable shortening
  4. 2-4 tbsp iced water
  1. 1 cup ripe plantain, peeled and cut up
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  5. 1 tbsp raisins (optional)
  6. 1 tbsp butter
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla
  8. Red food colouring (optional)
  9. To make filling
  10. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF
  11. In saucepan combine plantain, sugar, and water
  12. Cook over low heat until plantain is cooked
  13. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, vanilla, raisins and butter; you may add a little red food colouring if desired
  14. Allow filling to cool before filling tart
  15. To make pastry
  16. Combine flour and salt with shortening and cut with pastry blender until flaky.
  17. Add ice water to bond together; form in a ball, wrap and refrigerate.
  18. Roll out dough about 1/8 inch thick, on lightly floured board.
  19. Cut into 4 inch rounds or larger.
  20. Spoon cooled filling in the centre of each 4 inch round, fold over and seal with crimper or the prongs of fork.
  21. Place on a baking sheet.
  22. Brush tops with a little milk and prick top with the fork.
  23. Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Pastry should be a delicate brown.

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17 comments on “The Versatile and Tasty Plantain

  1. Hi Marcia! I looked at the photo, and immediately thought banana. I’ve never had plantain, but would love to try. The tart recipe sounds delish!

  2. Oh Marcia, this sounds so perfect (and I am always looking for something different but rather healthy to serve at the side). I am going to try this one. . .if I can find plantains here!

  3. The recipe sounds quite tasty! I have never eaten a plantain before but I think I had read that they are generally cooked and not eaten raw. Is that because they don’t taste good unless they are cooked or is there another reason?

  4. I’m not sure why we don’t eat them raw, Lisa. But I suspect because of the higher sugar content, the ripe ones could probably be eaten raw.

  5. Great post, Marcia. I had no problem staying gluten-free in Grenada recently thanks to all the provisions, including delicious plantain served steamed, fried, etc. They sell them everywhere here in Toronto but I’ve never tried cooking at home. With your tips I’ll try it!

  6. I’ve never really tried cooking with plantains, but now I wonder if they should really be in the banana cake I make after a Jamaican recipe?

  7. Oh such a delicious post!! My mouth is watering having just read your description of how to slice and fry! Oh my, I really need to experience this! I’ve tasted dried plantain chips but never had fresh slices deep fried! OMG! Thank you for this scrumptious post!

  8. I had fried plantains for the first time in Costa Rica. I’ve tried several times to make something with them at home, but it was not as delicious. I’ve never thought to bake with meat in them. Maybe I will give them a second chance… the tarte sounds fantastic too (if only I were a baker!).

  9. Plantains are such a nostalgic food for me and I absolutely love them. They remind me of growing up in Panama where they grew abundantly. When I’m in Jamaica or when I’m eating Cuban food (my favorite), no meal is complete without a side of plantains.

  10. I love plantatins but for whatever reason I never buy them. In Costa Rica we had delicious plantain chips and I’ve had amazing fried plantains. I like the thought of baking them and this tart sounds super interesting.
    Great reminder to go outside my normal sphere of eating.

  11. Hi Marcia, I love the versatility of plantain. I have not try wrapping it in a foil and putting it in an oven. I should try, That sounds so simple enough for me. I have tried those fried green banana. I try not to eat too much fried food but if you eat a piece of those it’s hard to stop. You recipe sounds delish!

  12. So true, Marisol. I also try not to eat too much fried foods which is why I switched to baking the plantain, especially the really ripe/yellow ones. They bake in less time than a potato and tastes much better.

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