Best Plantain Substitutes And How to Cook Them


The plantain is a member of the banana family, which is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. It can be found mostly in tropical regions and is commonly eaten in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine. However, they are not available 24/7, so if you can’t find plantains for sale at your local grocery store, then you need a replacement. A perfect example of this is the banana.

As a general rule, unripe green bananas are a perfect replacement for plantains because they are bitter, starchy, and void of sweetness. You can use these green bananas by grinding them into a powder and use them as a replacement. Ripe bananas should not be used as a substitute for plantains.

Aside from green bananas, there are other substitutes for plantains. Although they have their unique characteristics, they are close to comparison.

Before we go over possible replacements for plantains, here are some important details you should know:

How To Select And Use Plantain?

The plantain or platano is a banana, which is eaten cooked instead of raw. Plantain is eaten in most tropical countries of the world. The fruit is eaten at all stages of ripeness from green to black.

Plantains can be prepared at any stage of ripeness just make sure to pick a recipe that is appropriate for the fruit you have on hand. The plantain is usually eaten as a starchy staple food. It can be boiled, fried, or baked and served as a vegetable or made into a delectable dessert. It depends on the degree of ripeness of the fruit.

Green plantains

When the plantain is green, it is quite starchy and the flavor is much like a potato. It can be used in the following:

  • Mashed plantain
  • Fried plantain slices
  • Mashed and used in stuffings
  • Fried plantain chips

Yellow plantains

plantains

When the plantains are yellow in color, the sugar already began to develop and impart a slight sweetness to the fruit. At this stage, the fruit may show a few freckles of black. You may use these plantains and store them in a paper bag until they ripen and turns black.

Black plantains

The plantain is at its sweetest when it turns black. Usually, you want to use black plantains for dessert or any recipe where the sweet taste is desirable. You may purchase yellow plantains, then store them in a paper bag until they ripen and turn black.

How To Cook With Plantains

Most often, the initial step for cooking plantains is to peel the fruit that can be tricky. Ripe plantains peel as easily as a banana.

But, to peel green plantains you need to slice off both ends and then cut a slit in the peel from tip to tip. Just remove the peel under cold running water to avoid straining your hands then peel sideways in one piece. Then the peeled fruition salted water can keep it from discoloration before cooking.

Think of cooking plantains as if potatoes. Peeled plantains may be baked, fried, boiled, or steamed. Once fully ripened, you can also bake the plantains in their skins at 375 F for 45 to 50 minutes. Serve them with seasoned salt, pepper, and a pat of butter.

Where To Buy Plantains

Fresh plantains are widely available throughout the US. They can usually be found in the produce section of the local supermarket. It is sold by the pound in bunches, wherein you will pay a little more for plantains than bananas. Plus, like bananas, the tropical fruit does not have a strict seasonal therefore, they are available all year-round.

At the store, look for firm plantains, you can choose them according to your desired ripeness and when you will be cooking them. Avoid shriveled, squishy, or moldy fruit.

Storage

You can ripen green plantains by storing them at room temperature and out from the direct sunlight. Turn them daily and it will take seven to 10 days for green plantains to ripen. If you are not ready to use them until they’ve reached the desired stage of ripeness. You can peel, freeze them for three months.

Varieties

There are two varieties of plantains: French and horn. The main differences are in how each plant grows and the fruit bunches each produces. French plantains can produce big benches with many fruits and horn plantain bunches that are much smaller with fewer fruits. To the home cook, there are varieties, which are not significant. Well, this is of course, unless you are lucky enough to live in a tropical climate and can grow yours.

Nutrition and benefits

Plantains are healthy for you since they are low in fat and sodium and do not contain any cholesterol. They are also high in carbohydrates and are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin C. A half-cup serving of cooked plantains contains 80 calories.

Facts about plantains

  • Although plantains are classified as a fruit, they are used as a vegetable in cooking.
  • Plantains have less sugar than bananas, which are better suited to savor dishes.
  • The fruit is a popular staple in Latin, African, and Caribbean cuisine.
  • Plantains are sold as green, but they can be left for a few days to turn them black for a sweeter taste.

Best Plantain Substitutes For Cooking

Yuca root

yuca root

Yuca root is the part of the cassava plant that is roughly the same shape and size as sweet potato. The skin is rough and comparable to bark so it must be peeled before using. A yuca has a white and creamy-colored starchy flesh with a texture that is similar to plantain once cooked. You will find this yuca root as sweet and nutty with a slightly grainy texture. It is a bit different from plantain’s mild in taste and can fit into most dishes. Baked fries and chips are excellent options to make a healthy snack.

Recipe for yuca fries

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds fresh yuca
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups light tasting oil (vegetable, canola, or avocado)
  • Avocado sauce (Guasacaca) to serve
  • Cilantro Mojo to serve

Instructions:

Cut and Peel

  1. Cut off both ends of the yuca root. Then cut them into 3 to 4-inch rounds, according to the length of the yuca.
  2. Make a shallow cut lengthwise into the skin of the yuca. Work your thumbs under one side of the cut. Once you are underneath the peel, you can work your thumbs down the length of the root. Peel the skin off.

Cooking

Using Stovetop

  1. Bring to boil the pot with plenty of water and salt.
  2. Add the rounds to the boiling water.
  3. Cook for around 20 to 30 minutes or until becomes fork-tender.
  4. Drain then let it cool.

Instant pot

  1. Place the yuca in the instant pot.
  2. Add enough water to cover the yuca and salt.
  3. Secure the lid on the pot.
  4. Close the pressure-release valve then select the manual setting.
  5. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  6. When the time is complete, use the quick release to depressurize. Drain then let it cool.

Fry

  1. Cut the yuca in half and remove the inner root. Then cut into fingers.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or cast iron with oil up to ½ inch over medium-high heat.
  3. Fry the yuca fries in batches, then turn once until golden brown.
  4. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  5. Drain them using paper towels.

Unripe, Green Bananas

Most of us have tried at least once in our lives to eat a green banana. They are bitter, starchy, and lack sweetness, making them an ideal substitute.

One of the most common uses for plantains is making tostones, which are sliced and fried. Smash then fry them for a second time until they become crispy. Choose very green unripe bananas as a replacement in tostones or for making crispy chips.

Another way to use them is by grinding them into a powder then use them as a useful replacement for plantain flour. They can also be cooked and blended into a delicious dough for creating tortillas. Plantain bread recipes work well with the use of bananas.

When you cook green bananas, keep in mind that their consistency is softer, so give them less cooking time. Ripe bananas are not advised to be used as a substitute for plantains.

Recipe for green banana fries

Ingredients:

  • 5 small unripe (green) bananas
  • 1-quart oil for frying or as needed 
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel the bananas using a knife, since they are not ripe and will not peel like a yellow banana. Slice into long thin wedges or strings to make fries.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy deep skillet over medium-high heat. If you have a deep fryer, heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Place the banana fries into the hot oil, then fry until they turn golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove them from the oil, then drain them on paper towels. Pat off the excess oil, then season them with salt. Serve immediately. 

Related Post: What Happens If You Refrigerate Bananas

Potato

Did you know that there are almost 4000 varieties of this vegetable in the world?

Most of us are familiar with potatoes in cooking and they can be grouped into varieties like floury, waxy, and mealy. Some types of potatoes can work better than others as a plantain alternative.

We suggest you avoid the waxy types because they are lower in starch; instead, choose the floury potatoes, which can have up to 22% starch content.

The biggest difference you will notice when using potatoes is that they are not as sweet as that plantains.

Yam

yam

Yams are starchy, potato-like veggies that are nutritious and delicious. Unlike the potato, yams are slightly sweet with starchier consistency; therefore, they make a good plantain alternative. Yams are a versatile ingredient in the kitchen and they are also nutritious. It is because of the high levels of fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium.

Recipe for yams

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium-sized yams
  • 8 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
  2. Wash the yams
  3. Peel, then chop the yams (make sure that they are ½ inch thick)
  4. Put the yams into a baking dish
  5. Place the butter in a medium-sized pot, then melt it over the medium heat
  6. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the white and brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground clove, and ground ginger.
  7. Turn the stove off, then mix the ingredients. Add the vanilla extract.
  8. Then pour the candied mixture over the yams, and coat all the yams with the candied mixture.
  9. Next, cover the baking dish with foil, then bake the yam in the oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the yams from the oven and let them sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Breadfruit

Breadfruits are another popular fruit from the tropics that can be easily identified with their prickly oval appearance. They taste like bread once cooked, but they are treated as a vegetable in the kitchen. Breadfruits are best to be sauteed, mashed, and added to curries.

The riper the breadfruit, the sweeter they become once the starch converts to sugar. I recommend avoiding them when they are ripe since the taste will be different in recipes that call for plantains.

Recipe for breadfruit

Ingredients:

  • 1 breadfruit, peeled and sliced
  • 3 teaspoon coriander
  • 3 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Add the coriander, turmeric, smoked paprika, and cumin to the bow. Then mix the well.
  3. Add in the olive oil and mix
  4. Add in the sliced breadfruit pieces and toss them well so that they are well-coated with the olive oil/spice mix.
  5. Spread out the beautiful pieces on a foil-lined baking tray then bake it for 20 minutes.
  6. Enjoy them with ketchup.

Jackfruit

jackfruit

Jackfruit is part of the breadfruit family, which has gained popularity in western cooking.

Thanks to the popularity of plant-based diets, once cooked, the flesh is very similar in texture to meat, making an excellent vegan pulled-pork sandwich. With the plantain, jackfruit’s flavor is quite bland and works well with slowly-cooked curries and baked dishes, featuring plantains.

Recipe for jackfruit

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoon BBQ sauce
  • 200 grams can chopped tomato
  • 400 grams jackfruit

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in the frying pan then cook the onion until becomes soft for around 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Add the cinnamon, cumin, and paprika to the onions and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Next add the Tabasco, BBQ sauce, and vinegar. Mix them well before adding in the tomato, jackfruit, and 200 mL water.
  4. Leave to simmer gently. Cover it for 30 minutes, then stir it every 5 to 10 minutes to help breakdown the jackfruit.
  5. Take the lid off. Then cook for further 10 minutes.
  6. Once cooked, use the fork to make sure all of the jackfruits are well-shredded.
  7. Check the seasoning and add another tablespoon of BBQ sauce if necessary for extra stickiness.

Sweet potato

Another starchy vegetable is sweet potato. It has a mild flavor with a subtle hint of sweetness. Baking, boiling, or roasting sweet potato will result in a soft flesh, which is slightly stringy. Although this will depend on the variety. Like plantains, you can either fry or roast them as chips at a high temperature to create crispy flavorful snacks.

Recipe for sweet potato

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, then cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt (Kosher salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes into about ½ inch pieces.
  2. Add them to your largest sheet pan, then add the melted coconut oil, salt, and brown sugar on top.
  3. Toss to coat all the sweet potatoes, then spread them out to arrange in an even layer.
  4. To prevent them from getting mushy, flip the potatoes every 10 to 15 minutes cooking.

Final Thoughts

Plantains are eaten at all stages of ripeness from green to black. Although plantains look like bananas, they are commonly used as a savory ingredient instead of an easily peeled snack. If you cannot find plantains near where you live, then your best replacement options are green bananas, potato, yuca root, breadfruit, jackfruit, and sweet potato. They have this unique flavor, but they will not taste differently in almost any recipe. Green bananas will be the best option if you want the best option for matching flavor, texture, and visual appearance.

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