AskDefine | Define plantain

Dictionary Definition



1 any of numerous plants of the genus Plantago; mostly small roadside or dooryard weeds with elliptic leaves and small spikes of very small flowers; seeds of some used medicinally
2 a banana tree bearing hanging clusters of edible angular greenish starchy fruits; tropics and subtropics [syn: plantain tree, Musa paradisiaca]
3 starchy banana-like fruit; eaten (always cooked) as a staple vegetable throughout the tropics

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

From etyl fro plantain, from etyl la plantaginem, from planta, because of the broad, flat shape of the plantain leaves.


  1. A plant of the genus Plantago, with a rosette of sessile leaves about 10 cm long with a narrow part instead of a petiole, and with a spike inflorescence with the flower spacing varying widely among the species. See also psyllium.
small plant
  • Dutch: weegbree
  • French: plantain
  • German: Wegerich
  • Italian: piantaggine
  • Polish: babka
  • Russian: подорожник
See also

Etymology 2

From etyl es plátano, from etyl car platana.


  1. A plant in the genus Musa, the genus that includes banana, but with lower sugar content than banana.
  2. The fruit of the plant, usually cooked before eating and used like potatoes.
See also



  1. plantain, any plant of genus Plantago

Extensive Definition

The plantain is a crop in the genus Musa and is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana (which is sometimes called the dessert banana).
The population of North America was first introduced to the banana plantain, and colloquially in the United States and Europe the term "banana" refers to that variety. The word "banana" is often used (some would say incorrectly, although there is no formal botanical distinction between bananas and plantains) to describe other plantain varieties, and names may reflect local uses or characteristics of varieties: cooking plantain, banana plantain, beer banana, bocadillo plantain (the little one), etc. All members of the genus Musa are indigenous to the tropical region of Southeast Asia, including the Malay Archipelago and northern Australia.
Plantains tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas. Bananas are most often eaten raw, while plantains usually require cooking or other processing, and are used either when green or under-ripe (and therefore starchy) or overripe (and therefore sweet). Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying. They are grown as far north as Florida, the Caribbean and Central America, South America in countries like Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and southern Brazil, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Egypt, Nigeria and southern Japan or Taiwan and as far south as KwaZulu-Natal.
Plantains are in the genus Musa, and are mostly sterile triploid hybrids between the species Musa acuminata (A genome), and Musa balbisiana (B genome). Musa species are likely native to India and Southern Asia. It is assumed that the Portuguese Franciscan friars were responsible for the introduction of plantains to the Caribbean islands and other parts of the Americas.

Use of parts other than the fruit

Plantain flowers

Each pseudostem of a plantain plant will flower only once, and all the flowers grow at the end of its shoot in a large bunch consisting of multiple hands with individual fingers (the fruits). Only the first few hands will become fruits. In Vietnam the young male flower, at the end of the bunch, is used in salad. In the cuisine of Laos, the banana flower is typically eaten raw in vermicelli soups.

Plantain leaves

Traditionally plantain leaves are used like plates in several dishes, such as Venezuelan Hallacas, while serving south Indian Thali or during sadya. A traditional south Indian mean is served on a plantain leaf with the position of the different food items on the leaf having a significant importance. They also have a religious significance in many Hindu rituals. They add a subtle but essential aroma to the dish. The leaves are fairly widely available in grocery stores or open air markets in Venezuela and can exceed two meters in length. They are also used to stimulate appetite as a fragrant smell is given off when hot food is placed on top of the leaf. In Nicaragua they wrap their Nacatamales and also used for their Vigoron, Vaho and other dishes. In Peru they are often use to wrap the famous Tamale (Tamales). In Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, these are usually used to wrap tamales before and while cooking, and they can be used to wrap any kind of seasoned meat while cooking to keep the flavor in. In the Dominican Republic, the plantain is the country's main food source and is used just as much if not, more than rice. Mangu and Sancocho are two signature dishes that revolve around the plantain.
Plantain leaves are similar to banana leaves but are larger and stronger, therefore reducing waste. They are lightly smoked over an open fire and this adds to their toughness, their storage properties and the flavour they give. With plantain leaves there is a lot less disposal (pieces too small to use) than with banana leaves, which makes them a better choice.

Plantain shoot

The plantain will only fruit once. After harvesting the fruit, the plantain plant can be cut and the layers peeled (like an onion) to get a cylinder shaped soft shoot. This can be chopped and first steamed, then fried with masala powder, to make an excellent dish.

Plantain as food


In countries such as Honduras the plantain is either simply boiled or added to a soup.


The rootstock which bears the leaves is soft and full of starch just before the flowering period, and it is sometimes used as food in Ethiopia; the young shoots of several species are cooked and eaten.


Plantains can be used for cooking at any stage of ripeness, and very ripe plantain can be eaten raw. As the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like its cousin the banana. Green plantains are firm and starchy, and resemble potatoes in flavor. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains are softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness.
Plantains in the yellow to black stages can be used in sweet dishes. Steam-cooked plantains are considered a nutritious food for infants and the elderly. A ripe plantain is used as food for infants at weaning: it is mashed with a pinch of salt and is believed to be more easily digestible than ripe banana. The juice from peeling the plant can stain clothing and hands, and it can be very difficult to remove.

Dried flour

Plantains are also dried and ground into flour; banana meal forms an important foodstuff, with the following constituents: water 10.62, albuminoids 3.55, fat 1.15, carbohydrates 81.67 (more than ⅔ starch), fibre 1.15, phosphates 0.26, other salts, 1.60. The sugar is chiefly sucrose.


Plantain fruit can be brewed into an alcoholic drink.


After removing the skin, unripe fruit can be sliced (1 or 2 mm thick) and deep-fried in boiling oil, to produce chips. This preparation of plantain is also known as 'tostones' in some of Central American and South American countries and as platanutres in Puerto Rico. Tostones Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico are twice fried patties (see below). In Haiti these slices are referred to as 'bannan fris,'in the thinly sliced chips are referred to as 'chicharritas' or 'mariquitas,' (when sliced thinly along the long axis of the fruit) Both dishes are very popular as snacks and appetizers. In Guyana they are called "Plantain Chips." In Ecuador they are called "chifles" with a thicker variant named "patacones." Chips fried in coconut oil and sprinkled with salt is a popular snack in the southern Indian state of Kerala and an important item in Sadya, a vegetarian feast prepared during festive occasions. The chips are typically labeled 'Plantain Chips' if they are made of green plantains that taste starchy like potato chips. In Honduras they are called tajadas. If the chips are made from sweeter fruit, they are called 'Banana Chips.' They can also be sliced vertically to create a variation known as Plantain Strips. Plantain chips are also a popular treat in Jamaica and in Nigeria (where it is called ipekere by the Yoruba). The Plaintains are used quite frequently in countries such as Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru.

Plátanos Maduros

After removing the skin, the ripened fruit can be sliced (3-4 mm thick) and pan fried in oil until golden brown or as dark as you may like them. In Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, they are also eaten baked in the oven (sometimes with cinnamon). Salt is only added to green plantains.
Plátanos Maduros are a delicacy in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico (where they are called "amarillos"), Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago (although just called plantain), Nicaragua and in Venezuela. In Costa Rica they are sprinkled with sugar. In Western Nigeria fried sliced plantains are known as dodo, and in Cameroon, they are known as missole.

Banana cue, Turon, and Arroz a la Cubana

In the Philippines, banana cue is one of the most popular snack items at home, school, office and just about anywhere in the archipelago where plantain is grown. Banana cue may be a misnomer as it is not really cooked in a skewer over a hot ember like a barbecue. Rather, the peeled flesh of underripe plantain are fried in a boiling oil over a medium fire before they are held in a skewer ready for sale. There are two ways to prepare a banana cue. One way is to fry the peeled banana in a boiling oil with some amount of brown sugar thrown in to caramelize the flesh. Another way is to fry the flesh in a boiling oil until done. When done, they are scooped out of the cooking pan and placed on a dripping pan to allow the oil to drip before a generous amount of refined sugar is sprinkled over them.
Philippine plantains (called saba) are much smaller than the Latin American varieties, usually around 4-5 inches and somewhat boxy in shape. They are eaten mostly in the ripe stage as a dessert or sweet snack-- often simply boiled, in syrup, or sliced lengthwise and fried, then sprinkled with sugar. They are also quite popular in this fried form (without the sugar) in the well-loved local dish, arroz a la cubana, consisting of minced picadillo-style seasoned beef, white rice, and fried eggs, with the fried plantains on the side. In addition, there is the equally popular midday snack turon, sliced ripe plantain wrapped in Chinese egg roll wrapper and deep-fried with a brown sugar glaze.
The traditional South American style large plantains (grown in the southern Philippines) are now increasingly available in local Manila markets, though their use is limited, as a relatively small number of Filipinos are aware that they can be eaten as a savoury (e.g. as tostones, patacones, and so on).


In Honduras, Panama and Venezuela fried ripened plantain slices are known as "tajadas." They are customary in most typical meals, such as the Venezuelan Pabellón criollo. The host or waiter may also offer them as "barandas" (guard rails) in common slang - as the long slices are typically placed on the sides of a full dish, and therefore look as such. Some variations include adding honey or sugar and frying the slices in butter, to obtain a golden caramel; the result has a sweeter taste and a characteristic pleasant smell.
In Honduras, they are a popular takeaway food, usually with fried chicken, though they are also regularly eaten at home. They are popular chips sold in "pulperias" (minimarkets). In Panama, "tajadas" are eaten daily together with steamed rice, meat and beans, thus making up an essential part of the Panamanian diet, as with Honduras.
By contrast, in Nicaragua, "tajadas" are fried unripened plantain slices and are traditionally served in a fritanga or with fried pork, or on their own on green banana leaves, either with a cabbage salad or fresh cheese.
On Colombia's Caribbean coast, "tajadas" of fried green plantain are consumed along with grilled meats, and are the dietary equivalent of the French-fried potato of Europe and North America.

Tostones / Patacones / Tachinos

Tostones are twice-fried plantain patties often served as a side, appetizer, or snack. Plantains are sliced in 4-cm (1.5-in) long pieces and fried in oil. The segments are then removed and individually smashed down either with a bottle's bottom side or with a tostonera to about half their original height. Finally, the pieces are fried again and then seasoned to taste, often with salt. In some countries like Haiti, Cuba, and Dominican Republic the tostones are dipped in criole sauce from chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp before eaten. In some South American countries, the name 'tostones' is used to describe this food when prepared at home and also plantain chips (mentioned above), which are typically purchased from a store. In western Venezuela, patacones are very popular. Plantains are again sliced in long pieces and fried in oil, then they are used to make sandwiches with pork, beef, chicken, vegetables,and ketchup. They can be made with unripe "patacon verde" or ripe "patacon amarillo" plantains.

Fufu de platano

Fufu de platano (fufu made from plantain) is a traditional and very popular lunch dish in Cuba. It is a fufu (thick porridge) made by boiling the plantains in water and mashing with a fork. The fufu is then mixed with chicken stock and sofrito, a sauce made from pork lard, garlic, onions, pepper, tomato sauce, a touch of vinegar and cumin. Fufu is also a common dish made in Ghana. It is made in a similar fashion as the Cuban fufu, but is sometimes combined with cassava.


In Venezuela, a yo-yo is a traditional dish made of two short slices of fried ripened plantain (see Tajadas) placed on top of each other with local soft white cheese in the middle (in a sandwich-like fashion) and held together with toothpicks. The arrangement is dipped in beaten eggs and fried again until the cheese melts and the yo-yo acquires a deep golden hue. They are served as sides or entrees.
These are also known as fried plantain in Belize and Jamaica.


Chifles is the Spanish Term used in Peru and Ecuador for fried green Plantains sliced (1 or 2 mm thick), it is also used to describe Plantain Chips which are sliced thinner.


Popular in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico mofongo is made by mashing baked (sometimes fried) plantain in a mortar or food processor with garlic and pork crackling, chicken, shrimp, or beef stock and herbs. The resulting mixture is formed into cylinders the size of about 2 fists and eaten warm usually with chicken stock or broth.


Alcapurria - A fried mixture of beef, plantains and other vegetables popular in Puerto Rico


A traditional dish from the Dominican Republic, consisting of green plantains boiled, mashed and softened with olive oil ( any oil will do)and hot water. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast topped with sautéed onions and accompanied by fried eggs, cheese or salami.


Plantain is popular in West Africa and especially Nigeria. There, plantain is usually sliced diagonally for a large oval shape, circularly or in little pyramids less than a centimeter thick. This is fried in oil and known as dodo.
Another Nigerian dish with plantain is roast plantain. A slit is made in the raw plantain (the plantain is unpeeled, so it cooks in its skin) and salt and spices are added (normally hot chili pepper), sometimes onion or garlic is added, then a small amount of oil is put into the slit. Then the plantain is wrapped in foil and put on the fire or on the coals. After a few minutes, the plantain is removed and served with stew.


Ipekere is the term used for fried unripe plantains in Nigeria. The plantain is usually thinly sliced and fried in hot oil and has a crunchy texture.


Boli is the term used for roasted plantain in Nigeria. The plantain is usually barbecued/grilled and served with roasted fish, peanuts and a hot palm oil sauce. Very popular as lunch snack in southern and western Nigeria for example Rivers and Lagos states. It is popular among the working class as a quick mid-day meal.


Matoke is a plantain dish common in East Africa. The plantains are peeled, wrapped in the plant's leaves and set in a cooking pot (sufuria) on the stalks which have been removed from the leaves. The pot is then placed on a charcoal fire and the matoke is steamed for a couple of hours in water placed in the bottom of the cooking pot. While uncooked, the matoke is white and fairly hard. Cooking turns it soft and yellow. The matoke is then mashed while still wrapped in the leaves and often served on a fresh leaf. It is then eaten with a sauce made of vegetables, ground peanut, or some type of meat (goat and beef are common).

Ethakka Appam/Pazham Pori

Ethakka Appam, Pazham(banana) Boli or Pazham Pori is a term used for fried plantain in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The plantain is usually dipped in sweetened wheat flour batter and then fried in coconut or vegetable oil. It is a very popular snack among Keralites.This is very much similar to Goreng Pisang (Chinese Fried Bananas)which is a desert in china.


Plantains are used in the Ivory Coast dish aloco as the main ingredient. Fried plantains are covered in an onion-tomato sauce, often with a grilled fish between the plantains and sauce.

Production trends

FAO reports that Uganda was the top producer of plantain in 2005 followed by Colombia.
plantain in German: Kochbanane
plantain in Spanish: Musa acuminata
plantain in French: Banane plantain
plantain in Dutch: Bakbanaan
plantain in Polish: Banan zwyczajny
plantain in Swedish: Kokbanan
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