National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15 to October 15, so it’s a perfect time to shine a light on some of our favorite Latinx and Hispanic chefs, culinary businesses, and recipes. Here, learn how to make fried plantains for the ultimate crunchy snack.
Whether you call them tostones, platanos, patacones, or fritos, fried plantains are a deliciously crispy treat—and they’re easy to make at home! Senior video producer Guillermo Riveros shows you how:
I grew up eating patacones the way a lot of American kids grew up eating fries and chicken nuggets, as golden fried enticers to eat the more nutritious parts of a meal. It’s one of those magical foods that lives in the liminal space between snack and side dish (or maybe even main? I have made the case before for poutine or a patacon open-faced sandwich as valid main dish options).
They take many names: tostones, fritos, and platanos among them. No matter what you call them, if you’re lucky enough to be familiar with them you probably already love them, and if you don’t make them on the regular, you probably miss them like me. These delicious golden coins (in all their variations) are beloved staples of the Caribbean and many countries of Latin America.
The star here is the green plantain, an ingredient that may be foreign and exotic for some. Though related to bananas, these are generally not eaten uncooked; they have a more neutral flavor and are starchy. Indigenous to Southeast Asia and Oceania, they made their way to Central and West Africa where they thrived and became a fundamental part of many dishes. It was through the Columbian exchange that we inherited many of these farming and cooking techniques in the Caribbean and Central and South America. While in North America banana farming and consumption took a couple of centuries to take off, banana culture and dishes boomed across the Caribbean and Latin America.
This boom led to multiple variations in preparations, and sprouted multiple dishes and recipes using bananas and plantains. In Colombia we boil them, roast them, make stews and soups with them. But mainly we fry them to make patacones, and Patacon Pisao is the most commonly used name to refer to the twice-fried and smashed version I made here.
Although a simple process, making patacones could be considered an art form. First you start by peeling and cutting your plantain to the desired shape and size. This is followed by a first drop in hot oil to cook the pieces, which are then removed, smashed, and ‘bathed’ in a garlic salt water mixture before returning to the oil for a final fry. This second fry is the key to achieve the color and crunchy texture that makes them so addictive.
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Patacones have become such an important staple of culinary tradition in coastal cities like Cartagena, that the recipe is now considered an important element of our cultural heritage in Colombia.
How to Eat Patacones
In Colombia you will find them as side dishes to all kinds of meals be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are commonly served pretty much like french fries, straight out of the oil and salted, next to a variety of condiments and sauces. In places like Cartagena we eat them a lot of times just with suero (a fermented milk condiment similar to sour cream).
It is also not uncommon to use them as a vehicle for other foods, in the same vein you would use crackers or toast (ditch the bread next time you want to make avocado toast—avocado patacon is where it’s at!). To go the extra mile, you can top a salty patacon with queso, seasoned beef, and salsa the way you would on a taco or tostada.
With these guys the sky really is the limit, which makes them an ideal recipe for quarantine cooking.
Patacones (Green Fried Plantains) Recipe
- Green plantains (how many depends on how many patacones you’re making)
- Vegetable or canola oil (as needed for frying)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to finish
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder to finish
- Chimichurri, mojo, sour cream, or other dipping sauce for serving
- Peel plantains. Use the tip of a knife to cut through the skin of the plantain following one of the “veins” lengthwise, from top to bottom. Use fingers to pry open and peel.
- Cut the plantains into pieces, about 1 1/2″ thick (or however you like them).
- Fill a Dutch oven or other heavy, deep pot about a third of the way with oil. Heat over medium until oil is hot.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the water, garlic, and salt. Set aside.
- Carefully drop the plantain slices into the oil. The oil should be hot enough that it begins to lightly bubble after adding the plantains (lower temperature if it bubbles too vigorously). Fry the plantains until they look slightly darker (yellower), about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel lined bowl or plate and let them cool for a minute.
- Use a tortilla maker or folded parchment paper and a small plate to gently flatten each fried plantain piece. Smash them just enough that they flatten out, don’t over do it.
- Dip the flattened plantain coin in the garlic water, turn both sides around and gently rub (or let it sit in the bowl for a few seconds). Remove from the water, and lightly shake excess water off. Repeat with remaining fried plantains.
- Check that oil is hot (adjust temperature if needed) and add the flattened plantains back to the oil in batches and briefly fry to crisp, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and transfer to a paper towel lined plate/bowl.
- Blot out as much oil as possible, gently pressing between fresh paper towels, return plantain coins to bowl and season with garlic powder and salt.
- Serve with chimichurri, mojo, sour cream (in the place of Colombian suero), hogao, or any other of your favorite sauces or condiments. Enjoy!
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Header image courtesy of Guillermo Riveros