9 Ways To Add Plantains To Your Diet | Chris Kresser

9 Ways to Add Plantains to Your Diet

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Plantains aren’t very popular in the U.S., but they’re one of the most delicious, nutrient-dense, and versatile “safe starches” you can find. Read on to learn nine great ways to incorporate plantains into your diet.

plantains paleo
Plantains are a great source of resistant starch and can be used in a variety of ways. tpzijl/iStock/Thinkstock

Plantains are a staple in Latin American cooking, but they’re relatively unknown in the US, Canada, and other western, industrialized countries. This is unfortunate, because they’re one of the most versatile starches available (as you will see below). They’re also rich in nutrients like potassium, beta carotene, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, and a good source of dietary fiber.

While I’m a huge fan of plantains, I’ll admit they have a couple of disadvantages as a staple starch, at least in the U.S.: they’re difficult to find in some places (especially organic), and they are shipped from places like Mexico and Central America. I make a big effort to eat locally for many reasons, and that is simply not possible with plantains.

Got plantains? Discover 9 delicious ways to eat this Paleo-friendly starch.

That said, if you live in a place where they are available (try Latin markets if your supermarket doesn’t stock them), they can make a great occasional addition to your diet.

Plantains can be prepared in numerous ways, and their flavor ranges from savory to sweet, depending on ripeness. Green (unripe) plantains are savory, while yellow/black (ripe) plantains will be quite sweet.

Make sure to use the correct type of plantains called for in each preparation method below.

#1: Fried Plantains

This is the method that most people who’ve eaten plantains are probably familiar with, as it’s common in Latin American cuisine. If you’ve ever eaten at a Brazilian restaurant, or spent time in Costa Rica or Nicaragua, you’ve probably had fried plantains.   

Preparation:
Use plantains that are somewhere between just starting to ripen (light yellow) to very ripe (yellow with black spots), depending on your preference. I happen to like them not as sweet, so I go with light yellow/green. Slice them into 1/2 inch rounds, and fry at medium heat with expeller-pressed coconut oil, ghee, lard, or other stable cooking fat.

#2: Plantain Chips

You’ll need a dehydrator (this is a good starter model) to make these, but they’re worth the effort. Plantain chips are not only delicious, they’re also a great source of resistant starch, which has many benefits. And they make an ideal travel snack and addition to your children’s lunch boxes.

(Note that plantain chips will only contain resistant starch when they’re made with a dehydrator, since cooking plantains at higher temperatures destroys most of the resistant starch they contain.)

Preparation:
Buy green plantains, slice into 1/4” rounds, add sea salt to taste, and place in a dehydrator. Dehydrate until crisp.

#3: Plantain Tortillas

This is one of my “secret” uses of plantains, but I can’t claim to have figured it out on my own. I learned the recipe from Simone Shifnadel, the author of The Zenbelly Cookbook (one of my top 3 favorite Paleo cookbooks).

I grew up eating a lot of Mexican food, so I like to have a “taco night” every now and then. When we do, we’ll make seasoned ground beef, prepare bunch of toppings (tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, fresh salsa, etc.) and wrap it all in these plantain tortillas. Yum!

Here’s the recipe, which Simone has graciously allowed me to post here. Check out her book for some other fantastic creations. She catered my book launch party last year, and the food was incredible.

*Make sure you have parchment paper for this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 yellow plantains (about 2 to 2 & 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup egg whites (2 to 3 large eggs)
  • 3 tablespoons lard or fat of your choice, melted, plus more for greasing the parchment paper
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Peel the plantains by cutting off the tops and bottoms and slicing through the skin along the length of the plantain.
  • Roughly chop the plantains and place in the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender.
  • Add the egg whites, melted lard, salt, and lime juice. Blend until very smooth.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or work in batches if you only have one).
  • Grease the parchment paper liberally.
  • Using a small ladle or disher, drop four 1/4-cup portions of batter onto each pan, leaving plenty of room between each one.
  • Using the ladle and/or a rubber spatula, smooth out the batter into thin circles. Get them as thin as you can while still keeping them intact.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are dry to the touch and just starting to brown at the edges. If using two pans at once, switch halfway through.
  • Repeat with the remaining batter, making sure to grease the parchment paper each time.

#4: Plantain Pancakes & Waffles

I’ve never been fully satisfied with the Paleo pancakes made from almond and coconut flours. They don’t get fluffy like pancakes should, and many people are sensitive to nuts or the insoluble fiber in coconut flour.

The great thing about these pancakes/waffles is they’re not only gluten- and grain-free, they’re also nut- and flour-free! They’re made with whole plantains and eggs, so eating these is really not that different than having scrambled eggs and sliced plantains for breakfast. Guilt-free pancakes!

And if you have kids, these will be an absolute hit. Sylvie loves them to death.

The recipe comes from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, aka The Paleo Mom. You can find it here. She’s got a lot of other great recipes for people following an autoimmune Paleo diet on her blog, as well as an autoimmune Paleo cookbook. Check them out!

#5: Smashed Plantains

This one comes from Brendan & Megan Keatley over at Health-Bent, another fantastic blog for Paleo foodies.

This is a very simple—yet nourishing and hearty—recipe. You can use smashed plantains as a savory substitute for mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes.

Check out the recipe here (and make sure to poke around their site for other delicious recipes).

#6: Garlic Tostones

Tostones—also known as patacones, chatinos (Cuba), fritos verdes (Dominican Republic), and banan peze (Haiti)—are fried slices of (usually) green plantains. They differ from the fried plantains in #1 in that they are often smashed after cooking, and sometimes twice-fried.

Here is a recipe for tostones that I found online. I would recommend using expeller-pressed coconut oil or ghee for frying, rather than the vegetable oil they suggest. If you are sensitive to FODMAPs, simply omit the garlic.

#7: Plantain Soup (Crema de Plátano Verde)

This is a simple, cheap, and delicious soup that can be enjoyed at any time of year, but is particularly nourishing during the winter months.

Here’s a traditional recipe that you can work from. We will typically add either bacon or shredded chicken—or sometimes both.

#8: Mofongo

Mofongo is essentially fried green plantains that are mashed and mixed with bacon and fat. They can be served as a side with any meat dish, formed into small balls and dropped into soups, or used to stuff meats and vegetables.

Here is a recipe that can get you started. Again, I’d suggest using expeller-pressed coconut oil or lard as the cooking fat rather than canola oil.

#9: Plantain Stuffing

I had to include this one with the holidays approaching. If you’re looking for an alternative to bread stuffing, and don’t want to use a meat-based Paleo stuffing, this is a good choice.

Here is a recipe that looks good. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, substitute a safer cooking fat like ghee or expeller-pressed coconut oil for vegetable oil. (Note: I haven’t tried it myself, but I’m planning on it for Thanksgiving this week.)

There are so many more dishes that I could have listed here, including deserts like Platanos al Amibar, stews like Sancocho, and holiday dishes like Pasteles en Hoja (time consuming, but worth it!). Plantains really are incredibly versatile.

What about you? What are your favorite ways to prepare and eat plantains? Let us know in the comments section.

  1. Hi, I’m also slightly confused. Sorry to be forward. Are you perchance a proponent of the LCHF lifestyle. I’m asking because I think I saw you had some problem with dairy and now the plaintains? I do apologise if I read incorrectly about your stance. I do only LCHF because it brought down my cholesterol from 13 to 6 (a first for me with HeFH) and a plantain will push those numbers straight up again. I’m thin and never went onto it for getting thin, only for my cholesterol numbers – I daresay I think I’m the only person in the world who did it. People of my ilk are still dead scared of fat. I didn’t care if I died or not because I was sick of doc’s telling me how precarious my position was. Oh well…. take care.

    • No, Chris’ version of Paleo is not necessarily very low carb. It’s lower carb than SAD, but not keto or VLC. Regarding starch, I found that I needed it badly, after 2 years of Paleo keto/vlc. My body was craving for starch (at a time that I was already fat-adapted), and it had shut down because of it (thyroid problems ensued). So just because you do well on VLC, doesn’t mean that everybody’s gut flora and bodies are happy with it. In fact, it’s common among many women to require more starch than men. It also depends on your ancestry. My Mediterranean ancestry ate both high fat and moderate starch (primarily via beans, which I can also eat without problems — while I DO have problems with all grains, even rice). Most people from more north of the hemisphere, do well on higher fat/keto.

      • Eugenia, I had hormonal issues after going very low carb also. I’ve since worked my way back up to eating carbs in moderation again but I struggle with which carbs to eat. I eat rice and potatoes and do fine with both. How do you incorporate beans into your diet on a regular basis? What other carbs do you regularly eat? Thanks!

  2. Hello…plantains are great 🙂 however I do not know if there are any organic plantains. I know that we can get by buying conventional bananas because it has thick skin BUT with plantains I am sure that we get them from either South America or Mexico and they are treated with IRRADIATION prior to entering the United States. I have scoured isles of produce in Sam’s club for produce for example Pineapple or mangoes and the box always say treated with irradiation which destroys the nutrients of the fruit and maybe the genetic composition of it as well.

  3. I’m confused. Cooking potatoes destroys resistant starch, but cooling them overnight causes the formation of retrograde RS. Is this not the same with cooking plantains and then cooling them (as in frying plantain chips)?

  4. Hi Chris, while I can easily get plantains in my very multicultural neighborhood in Paris (they usually come from Central & South America) I never encounter them at the organic store. Do you have an opinion on how essential it is that they be organic? Are they a heavily sprayed crop like bananas? As usual, hard to find much reliable information on this.

  5. I’ve used that plantain pancake recipe before and it’s fantastic for both pancakes and waffles. Can’t wait to make the tortillas. As a caucasian American, one of the most delightful parts of adopting an ancestral diet has been the discovery of the deliciousness and flexible uses of this marvelous food.

  6. Thank you so much Chris! These all sound wonderful and as soon as we return home, it’s plantain shopping at Sprouts and in to the kitchen I go to try all your wonderful sounding recipes. My family and I really appreciate you sharing them!
    Amanda

  7. There’s a fruit stand near my place in Brooklyn that keeps them around until they are totally black and mushy, those are the best fried, though too sugary for every day and they burn very easily. Otherwise I do like #6 and get them very green and cut into chunks that I fry until tender and then squash them so they’re like little pancakes and then fry them again adding sea salt. I call this “patacon pisado” and it’s a staple at fast food joints in some Latin American countries. No garlic required. I only use lard for frying.

  8. There’s an amazing East African soup called Mtori that uses plantains. I also like them in the Paleo Mom’s plantain & apple fritters. And I’ve worked out a brownie recipe that’s both fudge and cake-y that uses plantain and coconut flour.

  9. So happy to see an article on one of my favourite foods. Growing up in Guyana, this was a staple part of an everyday diet. Great to see Chris sharing his knowledge on safe starches, following the SCD diet I thought I never could fit starch into my diet again until I discovered The Perfect Health Diet. Surprisingly enough Plantains are very beneficial to my mood and palatable also!. Thank you Chris can’t wait to see future posts on more safe starches and how beneficial they can be to our health.

  10. These are my favorite dehydrated plantains: Take about 4 green plantains and slice with a mandoline. Mix coconut oil, stevia and cinnamon (i don’t measure, I just guess), coat the plantain slices and dehydrate. YUMLICIOUS!

    • Linda, can you tell me the details of the dehydrator that you use, if you like it. Brand, model, etc. Thanks.

  11. Hi Chris, great list! I have only had plantains is a sweet Malaysian coconut soup before. Will def be trying some of these out. You mentioned the zenbelly cook book is in your top three, do you mind me asking what your other two favorites are?

  12. I’m wondering the same thing as Quinny. You mention the ONLY way to get resistant starch from plantain chips is to dehydrate them because high heat destroys the resistant starch. Does that mean all these recipes do NOT contain resistant starch? What then is the point of eating it?

  13. I buy them from my local market in Darwin in Australia. They are smaller and the locals call them cooking bananas or saba bananas. Not sure if they have the same nutritional content, but they’re yum none the less!

  14. Chris, I would like to make the soup, but am concerned about using my homemade bone broth, because of recently adopting a low-histamine diet. Do you think if I made broth in a pressure cooker, that it would be lower histamine? Or should I not be concerned about using broth? Does anyone here use broth despite being low-histamine?

  15. Thank you for this recipe list!! You wrote: (Note that plantain chips will only contain resistant starch when they’re made with a dehydrator, since cooking plantains at higher temperatures destroys most of the resistant starch they contain.) How about making plantain chips in the oven and then cooling them overnight, like potatoes, to reclaim the resistant starch?

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