Lately I have been really into plantains. So much so that it’s strange to think that until a month or so ago, I had never tasted plantains before. I have seen them in supermarkets since I was a child and was always curious about them, but never tried one. Plantains are the less sugary version of a banana, which is also called a “dessert plantain”. They are commonly consumed in Central America and Caribbean nations, as well as Puerto Rico and parts of Africa. They can be fried, grilled, or baked and can take on a variety of seasonings.
My area of NY had a lot of Puerto Rican and Caribbean food, and I remember seeing restaurants advertising fried plantains that looked crispy, golden, and delicious. Fast forward to recently, when I made a trip to a local grocery store. I was surprised to see that plantains were on sale for 3 for $1. These were not small plantains, either. They were around twice the length of a medium banana and probably 1.5 times the diameter. Never one to pass up a sale on produce, I figured I’d give cooking the giant greenish-yellow member of banana’s kin a go.
I searched online and found some recipes for frying plantains, but realized that it required a lot of oil. I figured that it would defeat the health benefits of eating a fruit or veggie to deep fry it, so I thought why not bake them like sweet potatoes?
I love soft and tender baked sweet potato wedges that crisp up on the outside during baking. Since I didn’t know how sweet plantains would taste, I decided to try both sweet and savory seasonings. I used a garlicky Italian herb blend and a cinnamon/nutmeg herb blend. I cut up the plantains into thin slices and baked them for about 15 minutes at 450°F. Both versions were soo tasty and delicious. I became really addicted to these things and it was difficult to stop eating them. Psychologically, I knew they were healthy, so that rationalized me eating a lot of them. I cut some of them very thin and those ones were crispy and tasted like potato chips (guilt-free!), while others that were cut thicker were soft and tender with a lovely starchiness like a sweet potato. I definitely will buy them again and test out more seasonings. The whole experience made me realize how important it is to try new foods and challenge yourself in the kitchen, because you never know what you’re missing in something if you don’t give it a try.
For roasted plantains, you can use a variety of seasonings, such as garlic and Italian herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme), simple sea salt and ground black pepper, Cajun seasoning, or cinnamon and sugar for a sweet yet healthy treat. Feel free to get creative with seasonings! Also keep in mind that the more mature the plantains are when you cook them (more yellow, less green), the softer they will be on the inside when they are roasted. I used both greenish and yellow plantains and while both were yummy, the yellow ones were a little more tender and flavorful.
Herby Oven Roasted Plantains
- 2 medium plantains
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- Salt and pepper as needed
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Make two or three light slits down the length of the plantain. Be careful not to make the slits deeper than the thickness of the peel or you’ll cut into the plantain flesh.
- Peel away the plantain peel, starting by pulling from underneath one of the slits. It should pull away fairly easily. Pull the peel all of the way down the plantain and discard it. Cut the plantain into thin slices (about 0.5-0.75 cm) if you want softer roasted slices, or as thin as possible (0.1-0.2 cm) if you want to make crispy “chips”.
- For spice mix above: Mix together allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. Place plantain slices on a greased baking sheet spaced evenly apart in one layer (if they are too close together, they tend to stick together during baking). Sprinkle them with salt and pepper as desired.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg mixture evenly over plantains, tossing to coat in seasoning. Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes, until soft and tender on the inside (or crispy and golden brown for chips).