Can You Eat Raw Plantains? [Serving Suggestions]

Have you ever been in the produce aisle of your local market and see what looks like an overgrown, underripe banana?

Those are plantains, but if you peel one expecting it to eat like a banana, you’ll be shocked.  Plantains have far less sugar than bananas until they are very ripe and have a high amount of starch.

Can You Eat Raw Plantains When You Buy A Few To Try?

The Food and Agriculture Organization says there’s no danger in eating them raw. Unlike cassava, which can contain toxic substances in a raw state, plantains have no such risks. People with sensitive digestive systems may find raw plantains cause mild to severe stomach upset, though. 

You may not like the taste of raw plantains. They are like raw, bitter potatoes.

Combine the flavor with the starchy texture (akin to Taro Root), and you’ll find very few people who rave over a bite of raw plantains. 

In this article, we’ll share with you more about raw and ripe plantains, their health benefits, and how to use them in the kitchen. 

What Are Plantains?

Plantains are one of those foods where looks can be deceiving. Sure, they look like bananas, but they don’t peel like bananas, nor are they eaten like bananas. Any hint of banana flavor only happens when plantains are fully ripe. 

The visual similarity to bananas is honest enough since they come from the same family of plants (Musaceae).

Plantains originated in Southeast Asia and appear in tropical regions worldwide as a hardy addition to local cuisines. They’re green or yellow unripened, which further fools an unaware shopper. 

What Do They Taste Like?

You can use plantains much as you might a white potato, yam, or sweet potato. Just be aware the unripe plantain is astringent, and it has no sugar of which to speak, so they become more like yams and sweet potatoes as they mature.

Overall, the riper a plantain becomes, the more pleasant its flavor profile. 

Ripe plantain becomes softer and creamy, with moderate sweetness. In some ways, plantains nearly taste savory, and in fact, make their way into savory dishes regularly. 

Are Raw Plantains Healthy?

Bananas and plantains have common nutritional elements, with the main difference being that plantains are far higher in carbohydrates (higher than potatoes!) and mostly starch.

The two have nearly equal amounts of fiber. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the high starch in plantains makes them a poor choice for people with diabetes because it can increase blood sugar, similar to yams, squash, and corn. 

One cup of ripe, boiled plantains yields:

  • 21 mg of vitamin C (about ⅓ of women’s recommended daily intake). Vitamin C acts as an excellent support to your immune system. 
  • 40% of the Vitamin A intake recommended daily for men
  • 924 mg Potassium (approximately 20% of the daily recommended intake)
  • 64 mg Magnesium (also 20% RDI)Raw Plantains

Fantastic Fiber

Most people do not have enough fiber in their diets. The recommended intake is 30 grams, while the average American consumes about half that.

A one-cup serving of raw plantains provides 3.4 grams of fiber all by itself. Fiber is key to digestion and moderating cholesterol. 

How To Tell If A Plaintain Is Ripe

Most often, the plantains you find at the market are unripened, looking green to light yellow.

Alternatively, look for ones that are black with only bits of yellow.

They’ll still be somewhat firm, which makes preparing the plantains for a meal much more manageable in terms of cutting them. Your best bet for finding ripe plantains is at Asian markets. 

Using Plantains In Cooking

Raw Plantains

Since you may not be keen on the flavor and texture of raw plantains, your next option is cooking them.

Typically, plantains appear in savory dishes, but you will see them in sweet recipes too. By far, the most popular way of cooking plantains is in the deep fryer.

Frying Plantains

If you’d like to try cooked plantains, here’s the process for deep frying them. Ok, it’s not the most healthy approach, but the taste is fantastic. 

  • Cut off the ends of the plantains and peel off the skin with a knife (it’s not as easy as removing a banana peel. Note that raw plantain can stain your clothing, so wear an apron.
  • Slice them crosswise into ¼” slices, thinner if you can manage. If you have a mandoline at home, it’s an excellent tool for getting them even.
  • Using a frying pan or deep fryer, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees F. 
  • Fry the plantains in bunches based on the surface space you have. For example, use about 6-7 slices in a mini deep fryer, more in a larger frying pan.
  • They become golden in about 2-3 minutes.
  • Drain them on paper towels, seasoning as soon as they come out, so it sticks. You can use salt, garlic or onion powder, mango powder, honey powder, etc. Play with your seasonings as you might a potato chip.

Healthier Options?

If you want healthier ways of cooking plantains, you can boil, roast, or grill them. If you are grilling them, leave them whole. You know they are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork. 

Grilled Plantains

Grilling plantains is quick and easy. Begin with however many you wish. For every four peeled plantains, you want about 3 tbsp of coconut oil melted. 

Heat your grill to 500 degrees F. Cut the plantains in half length-wise and lay them on the grill, basting the upward side with oil. After about 5 minutes, turn to the other side and baste again.

Grilled Plantains

Remove from the grill and top with salt, onion powder, and chili powder. If you want a sweet alternative, drizzle the grilled plantains with honey, then sprinkle them with ginger and cinnamon. 

Unusual Uses For Plantains

Plaintains can be ground into flour for use in biscuits, quick bread, and cake! In Venezuela, the leaves from plantain plants become generous-sized plates (Plantain leaves grow up to 7 feet in length).

In India, the leaf becomes a cooking vessel in a recipe preparation called Ada, adding aroma and flavor to the dish. 

Peruvians and Columbians use them like a Tamale wrap. Dried leaves become a corn dough in Ghanan meals, typically used with fish, tomatoes, and onions.

Plantain Facts & Findings

  • While typically used like a vegetable, plantains are a fruitPlantainss are an all-season staple, fruiting year-round, which is why they remain affordable.
  • Plaintain plants grow to between 10-33 feet at maturity
  • In places like Vietnam, the male flower of a plantain goes into salad raw, or sometimes prepared as a soup 
  • The shoot of the plantain is also edible. It’s chopped raw, steamed, then fried with marsala
  • Eating plantain regularly deters constipation
  • There is a substantial amount of Vitamin B6 in plantain, making it a good “brain food.” B6 reduces cognitive decline. 
  • Africans may have grown plantains as early as 500 BCE. 
  • By the 3rd century CE, people in China were cultivating plantains
  • In 1500 CE, plantains were an important trade item along with yams. Their desirability led to prosperity, and rapid expansion in the Bantu KingdomPlantainss played a key role on colonial plantations as a shade plant and as a food for workers
  • Asian merchants and traders took plantains with them to Madagascar from India and Malaysia
  • Ripe plantains pair nicely with Savignon Blanc or Burgundy Chardonnay wines
  • Enjoy Stout Beer, Porter Beer, or Brown Ale with grilled plantains
  • The shelf life for plantains is about three weeks. If they are green, leave them at room temperature. Once they ripen, transfer into the refrigerator
  • You can freeze plantains. Peel and mash the ripe fruit and add about 1Tbs of lemon juice to each cup. This prevents browning. In an airtight food storage bag, they will remain at their best quality for a year
  • If a plantain is smushy, oozy, shows signs of mold, or smells bad, it’s spoiled and should be thrown away

Final Considerations

If you haven’t tried raw or cooked plantains before, there’s no reason (other than dietary) not to give them a try. They’re not terribly expensive, so it’s not a huge hit to your grocery budget if you don’t like them.

Raw plantains are wholly safe to eat but not overly palatable. So, finding other ways of using them in the kitchen generally proves much more satisfying. 

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