What Do Plantains Taste Like?

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Have you ever wandered around the fresh fruit section and one random massive banana caught your eye?

Well, it’s probably not a banana, but rather a plantain!

These fruits are extremely similar and plantains are becoming much more readily available at your local grocery store; however, many people still don’t really know what they are.

So, what do plantains taste like? Plantains are noticeably more starchy when compared to bananas and have a less sweet, more savory flavor. Plantains are similar in appearance to bananas but are, on average, larger than their dessert counterparts.

In today’s article, we will have a look at exactly what plantains are and how they compare to regular bananas.

We will also discuss the difference in size, color, flavor, odor, and, of course, the different ways they are prepared and cooked.

What Are Plantains?

Before we even start discussing the characteristics of plantains, it is important to know that this term has two meanings.

Firstly, it is used to describe “true plantains”, which refers to the species or variety of fruit. The second way the term is used is to describe any type of banana or plantain fruit that gets cooked before it is eaten. 

The main problem with the second way it is used is that literally every type of banana and plantain can be cooked, but true plantains, the species we are referring to, have to be cooked to be edible.

They are quite different from other species of banana so should not be generalized.

To prevent any confusion, many people refer to this specific fruit as “plantain” or “true plantain” (regardless of it being cooked or not) and “cooking bananas” as a way to describe any other starchy cultivar of banana that gets cooked.

“Bananas” usually refer to regular bananas or cooking bananas that don’t get cooked. “Dessert bananas” refers to sweet bananas that have an extremely low starch content compared to even “cooking bananas”.

The Plant

True plantains are a type of fruit of the genus Musa. This genus is one of three that produce bananas and plantains from flowering plants.

Believe it or not, but there are actually up to 70 different species and varieties of Musa (plantains and bananas)!

These true plantains are divided into four categories depending on the type of bunch they have. It isn’t important to know the different bunches unless you want very specific flavors and truthfully, have access to all of them.

Plantains can mostly be found in West and Central African countries, Central and Northern America, some parts of Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean islands.

It is actually considered a food staple in many parts of the globe and has only recently caught the eye of the rest of the world.

Like most other banana species, plantains can also be found almost year-round and are often exported to other countries.

Physical Characteristics

The physical look of plantains, regardless of species, differs depending on their ripeness.

Green plantains are also referred to as unripe plantains. Yellow plantains are the mature ones, while black plantains are the over-matured ones.

Each of these naturally has different textures and flavors due to their ripeness, but they are also used in very different ways, which we will still get to.

Plantains are best recognized for their massive size and are noticeably bigger than your store-bought (or even organic) banana. They have very tough skin that has to be removed and isn’t edible.

The flesh of the plantain itself is also much tougher which is why plantains cannot be eaten raw and have to be cooked.

Taste and Smell

Plantains are naturally very starchy and don’t contain a lot of sugar. Green plantains (unripe plantains) especially are not sweet at all. They have a very hard, firm texture and very little aromas.

As the plantain fruit begins to ripen to yellow, the flavors and smells develop with it. The plantains soften in texture and become slightly sweeter. You will also begin to smell a more banana-like aroma.

As the plantains start turning brown and eventually black, this is when they are as sweet as they can get.

The plantains become very soft, sometimes even mushy, and have a very sweet flavor and strong banana odors. You should still cook the plantain before eating it.

Once cooked this sweetness is enhanced even further and it becomes banana-like in flavor.

Plantain Uses

Like we have mentioned, ripe plantains are easy to peel despite their thick skin, however green unripe plantains can be difficult.

Start by cutting off both tips of the plantain and cutting a slit in the peel from end to end. Then, remove the entire peel from the fruit and discard it.

Once your plantains have been peeled, depending on how you want to use them, you can continue cutting the fruit and following the recipe instructions.

Yellow or black mature plantains can be mashed or pureed and incorporated into recipes like that.

Green plantains should not be blended and are best suited for roasted plantain chips, fried slices, and other recipes where the fruit is used as-is.

This is only because of the stiff texture and less sweet flavor. However, you can still boil, then blend the unripe plantains – it will just be more work and take more time.

Ripe plantains can be blended and incorporated into smoothies, batters for cakes, muffins, waffles, and much more. You can also use it as a flavoring ingredient for rice dishes, pasta, custards, and much more.

Overall, you can cook plantains in virtually any way you would potatoes or onions. You can roast them, deep-fry them, sauté them, use them in baked goods, and even boil or steam them.

Here are some delicious plantain recipe ideas you can try making. You can also look for some traditional plantain dishes and draw inspiration from them.

  • Roasted plantain slices
  • Deep-fried crispy plantain chips
  • Plantain bread
  • Plantain fritters with a caramel sauce
  • Caribbean Plantain Curry
  • Venezuelan Sweet Plantains

Plantains vs Bananas – What’s The Difference?

Okay, so now that we have discussed plantains and clearly stated that they aren’t bananas, what exactly is the difference? To help explain this we can look at other fruit categories.

Take citrus for example! Citrus is a genus of fruit (like Musa) and contains many different species like grapefruits, kumquats, and mandarins. 

Within the species, there are several varieties of grapefruit, such as Ruby Red grapefruit, Marsh grapefruit, Star Ruby grapefruit, and Pummelo HB grapefruit to name a few.

Plantains and bananas work in exactly the same way! Both of these are fruits and both fall under the genus Musa.

The main difference between plantains and bananas is that they are different species. Each of these species also has different varieties.

Comparing Bananas and Plantains

Plantains are much larger and heavier compared to dessert bananas. Obviously, the sizes of each vary, but on average, a dessert or regular banana ranges between 5-7 inches (12.7 – 17.7cm).

The average size of a plantain ranges between 11-13 inches (27.9 – 33cm) in length, virtually twice as big!

Plantains also have a much firmer texture and are much harder to peel. Unripe green plantains have to be peeled using a knife, unlike unripe green dessert bananas.

When it comes to their ripening color and physical changes, both are very similar. Both dessert bananas and plantains start out green and very unripe. They gradually soften and turn yellow, then brown, and then black. 

Dessert bananas are much sweeter, less starchy, and very aromatic compared to plantains. Only extremely ripe, almost black plantains will have a semi-sweet flavor.

Its texture, however, despite having softened, will still be very starchy.

Dessert bananas can be eaten raw or cooked, while plantains have to be cooked in order to be edible – or at the very least appetizing.

Looking at their different nutritional qualities, these two are nearly the same. Both are extremely good sources of nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and a ton of antioxidants.

They also have the same calorie count of about 89-120 calories per 100 grams.

The main difference is the source of the carbs. Banana gets the carbs from their sugar, whereas plantains get the carbs from their starch.

TypeTrue PlantainDessert Banana
Size11-13 inches (27.9 - 33cm) 5-7 inches (12.7 – 17.7cm)
PeelHard, thick, toughThin, pliable, soft
ColorUnripe: Green
Ripe: Yellow
Overripe: Brown and Black
Unripe: Green
Ripe: Yellow
Overripe: Brown and Black
TextureUnripe: Starchy, firm, hard
Ripe: Starchy, softer
Much softer compared to plantains, regardless of ripeness.
FlavorStarchy and not very sweet. The sweetness does increase with ripening,Sweet
ConsumedAlways cookedRaw or cooked
Cooking TechniquesVirtually any cooking technique can be used: Roasting, Frying, Boiling, Steaming, SauteingVirtually any cooking technique can be used: Roasting, Frying, Boiling, Steaming, Sauteing

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