If you've done any traveling in the tropics, you know how popular plantains are. With a mild flavor, they are adaptable to myriad recipes — fried, baked, sweet, savory and spicy. A simple way of cooking plantains is boiling.
Cooking With Plantains
Plantains aren't a common food source in most of mainland U.S. However, they are starting to appear in the produce aisles of more and more markets, and imports to the states grew by more than 40 percent between 2013 and 2018, according to Consumer Reports. If you've eyed them on the shelf near the bananas but not been daring enough to try them, now's the time.
Plantains look like large bananas, and they have many things in common with the ever-popular fruit. However, plantains are less sweet and more starchy than bananas.
Gram for gram, boiled green plantains have more total carbohydrates than raw bananas, according to data from the USDA. They have much less sugar, and about the same amount of fiber as bananas. They also provide more calories, but have the same amount of protein. They have similar vitamin and mineral contents.
Frying is the most popular method for cooking plantains in many plantain recipes, but it's definitely not the healthiest. Other preparations that don't involve a lot of fat, oil and sugar are the best ways to enjoy plantains.
Read more: Top Ten Health Benefits of Bananas
How to Boil Plantains
Plantains can be boiled alone or with other ingredients. For example, boiled plantains can be mashed much like a potato, or they can be boiled with beans, rice and vegetables for a hearty one-pot meal.
You can boil plantains with the skin on or peeled. To boil skin-on plantains:
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Wash the plantain skins thoroughly.
- Place the plantains in the pot of boiling water.
- Boil for 20 minutes. When the skin is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, they are done.
- Peel and serve.
To cook peeled plantains:
- Cut each end off the plantain.
- Slice the skin with a knife along the ridges, and remove the skin in sections.
- Place the plantains in boiling water and cook as directed above.
Plantain recipes in which they are boiled with other ingredients infuses them with flavor. The USDA offers a simple recipe for plantains cooked with black beans and rice:
- Prepare a batch of whole-grain brown rice according to package directions and set aside.
- In a medium pot, heat some oil and add onions. Saute until softened.
- Add minced garlic and cook for two to four minutes until fragrant.
- Add the cooked rice, canned black beans, tomato sauce, water, plantains and spices. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Garnish with salsa, cilantro and/or green onions and serve.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Are Plantains Healthy?
As long as you use the right preparation methods, plantains are a healthy source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. However, they are even higher in carbohydrates than boiled white potatoes. People with blood sugar problems and individuals with diabetes should limit their intake of starchy foods such as plantains and potatoes because they have a greater effect on blood sugar, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even for those without diabetes, there are better sources of carbohydrates, including fresh vegetables, beans and whole grains. These foods are lower in total carbs and higher in fiber than plantains — and most are also better sources of vitamins and minerals. If you want to give plantains a try, eat just a small portion along with other fiber-rich foods, and vary your carbohydrate sources throughout the week.
- Consumer Reports: "Are Plantains Good for You?"
- USDA: "Plantains, Green, Boiled"
- USDA: "Bananas, Raw"
- USDA: "Black Beans with Plantains"
- USDA: "Potatoes, Boiled, Cooked in Skin, Flesh, Without Salt"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Tasty Recipes for People With Diabetes and Their Families"