Cooking with plantains is an easy way to switch up your starchy sides. They are often referred to as the pasta and potatoes of the Caribbean. At first glance, plantains can be a bit intimidating. They look like bigger versions of bananas that are harder to open. But, once you get inside, the fruit is slightly sweet with a starchy texture that works well when fried, roasted, sautéed or baked. Food & Wine's guide to these warm-weather fruits give you recipes for every stage of ripeness, from the potato-like green plantains to the ultra-ripe black plantains that are perfect for dessert.

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Platanos Foster
Pastry chef Paola Velez gives Bananas Foster, the classic flambéed dessert, a Caribbean twist by swapping out bananas for plantains and adding warm spices and coconut water to the caramel sauce. If you can't find extra ripe plantains, place them in a brown paper bag and leave them in a warm, dark place until they ripen—very green plantains could take a week or more. When flambéing, make sure to have the lid for your skillet on hand in case the flame gets out of control and you need to smother it. Rum raisin ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to the caramelly plantains.
Tostones: Savory Plantains
Lourdes Castro teaches students how to fry plantains for perfect tostones. Latin American Recipes