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The Plantain: Starchy, Sweet, Oily Goodness

Written by Amy Snyder | August 30, 2007

My 2006 visit to Ghana sparked what was definitely my greatest food obsession of last year—plantains. They can be starchy, sweet, salty, oily goodness all at the same time.

Outside the Kakum rain forest, I bought bags of thinly sliced plantains fried into salty chips. In restaurants, I would eat fried plantains with “red-red“—black-eyed peas served in a spicy, oily tomato sauce—more than once a day. And on bus rides across the country, I would see roadside stands selling whole roasted plantains. I thought it looked easy enough.

When I returned to the U.S., I tried grilling a whole bright-green plantain after removing the skin. If you have ever cooked a plantain, you know that this obviously did not work. The plantain dried out and became hard as a rock because it was nowhere near ripe.

I had better luck with my plantains after doing a little research. I found that preparation can be as simple and healthy as boiling a whole unpeeled plantain for 15 to 20 minutes or as sinful as deep-frying diagonally sliced ripe plantains. “Kelewele” is a spicy fried plantain dish that I tried in Ghana and was lucky enough to find a recipe for when I returned to the U.S. I ate this with what was my attempt at red-red, and they tasted just as I remembered.

Kelewele (Spicy Fried Plantains)
Oil for frying
4 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
4 tsp. lemon juice
4 tsp. ground ginger
4 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  • In a bowl, combine the plantains and lemon juice, stirring carefully to moisten.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the ginger and pepper.
  • Roll the plantains in the spice mixture and fry until crisp and golden.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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  • MELINDA MILLION-WELLS says:

    This receipe looks great!!!! However, I am DEATHLY alergic to nuts,ALL NUTS!,except coconut.

    Please list some foods that do not have nuts, bananas, or soy in them. My allergies are getting worse every year and as of right now I am headed for the hospital ER whenever I get in contact with any of these.

  • Brandon Harris says:

    Dear Amy:

    Hello and Good Afternoon to you! My name is Brandon Harris and I live in Boonville, Indiana.

    I love plantains. The bright green ones are best to use for frying. I call them, ‘tostones’. I have been to Puerto Rico, Colombia and Trinidad and we had plantains all the time there.

    You take a green plantain and slice the plantain to one inch and you fry the plantain in oil for 3 minutes on each side. Then you take the plantains out of the oil and using a brown paper bag (which works best for me) you take the palm of your hand and mash the plantain down and you put the plantain back into the oil for three minutes more on each side.

    The result is a fried, crispy plantain that tastes similar to a french fry.

    The yellow ones are more ripe and you can grill those or make baked plantains.

    The black ones (please do not throw these away because they are gold). The black ones you can use for desserts because they are sweet. They are full of natural sugar.

    I hope that I was of help with the plantains for you. I also like kale and black eyed peas.

    Very Sincerely,
    Brandon Harris

  • Jaclyn says:

    I love plantains, both the green ones and the sweet ones. I’m originally from Honduras, so I grew up eating a lot of plantains.

    My favorite are the green ones, I slice them diagonally and fry them. I dip them into refried beans or I eat them with a simple cabbage salad (thinly sliced cabbage, lime, cumin, salt and pepper).

    The best thing about them is that you can usually find them for sale 5 for $1.

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