Fried sweet plantains or platanos maduros fritos (maduros for short) are soft, sweet, and extremely simple to make. You only need two ingredients: a plantain and oil to fry it in! Despite their caramelized sugar taste, this dish is most often served as an accompaniment to savory foods throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and many countries in Africa. I come from Jamaican heritage and we enjoy fried plantains any time of the day—alongside breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The ideal fried sweet plantain is tender on the inside and golden brown on the outside. Before frying, I slice the plantain on a bias to maximize the surface area and create crispy edges. The main consideration, though, is the ripeness of the plantain.
How to Choose Plantains for Maduros
While you may find plantain in the produce section of your local supermarket, your best bet is to go to grocery stores specializing in Caribbean or Latin American ingredients. You’ll typically see both green (firm and starchy) and yellow (soft and sweeter) plantain, but likely none ripe enough to fry immediately. Purchase yellow plantain and plan to have it sit for several days to ripen further.
Plantains contain a lot of starch and that starch converts to sugar as they ripen. Just like bananas, they change color—from green to yellow to black—getting softer, sweeter, and more flavorful as they darken. For candy-like fried sweet plantain, the peel should be almost entirely (if not completely) black while the flesh remains buttery and firm enough to slice. As the plantain continues to ripen, the black skin will develop deep wrinkles and the flesh will become overly soft.
How to Ripen Plantains
The hardest part of making maduros is having the patience for the plantain to ripen. The simplest way is to let it sit on the countertop in a warm environment. For the ideal ripeness, plan to wait a week or two, depending on how ripe the plantain was when you purchased it. You’re looking for soft flesh and mostly blackened skin; it’ll be worth the wait.
To help things along, especially if your kitchen is on the cooler side, store the plantain in a loosely closed paper bag on the counter. Produce, particularly those in the banana family like plantain, releases ethylene gas when ripening. Trapping it in with the plantain can help boost the ripening process.
While some suggest “ripening” a plantain in the oven (300°F for about 30 minutes), the flesh, though softened, will not be as flavorful as a naturally ripened plantain.
How to Prepare Plantains for Frying
Despite looking like a banana, you’ll need to approach peeling a sweet plantain differently. Cut off each end and then run your knife along the length to make a shallow slit. Use your fingers to peel it off in one piece. The peel of green plantain is stiff and sticks to the starchy flesh but, if your plantain is sufficiently ripe, the skin should come off easily.
You’ll find plantains sliced in different ways depending on who’s preparing it but, in my Jamaican household, we cut them on a bias to make long coins about 1/2 inch thick. Maduros are also enjoyed cut into perfect rounds, long planks, and chopped into small chunks.
Tips for Making Fried Plantains
- As you’ve read above, the ripeness of the plantain cannot be stressed enough. That said, keep in mind your own preferences for texture as you consider the ripening. What may be the perfect softness for one person may be too “mushy” for you and vice versa.
- I like to fry plantain in a neutral oil with a high smoke point. Some cultures use butter and, if you go this route, be mindful as the sugar in the plantain and the solids in the butter make it easy to burn.
- Any large skillet will work for frying plantains, but a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan will make your life easier. The sticky sweet bits of plantain will be no match for the slick surface during cooking and clean up. Speaking of sticky, after draining the fried plantain on paper towels, don’t let them cool there or they’ll be as good as glued together.
How to Serve Maduros
Maduros are delicious all by themselves but they can also be dressed up in a number of ways. Try sprinkling with salt or sugar, or spicing them up with cayenne and other seasonings like the Ghanaian dish, kelewele. Fried sweet plantain and cheese is also a classic combo you may find in several countries in Latin America.
Fried sweet plantains are best served hot and fresh. You’ll typically see them alongside hearty meats and rice and bean dishes in the Caribbean and Latin America but they pair well with any number of savory foods and are eaten any time of day. I love them with jerk chicken and rice and peas for dinner just as well as with fried eggs, cheese, and avocado for breakfast.
Caramelized and sweet, maduros can also be the star of your next dessert. Give them the bananas foster treatment and top them with ice cream or swap them into other banana-focused desserts like fritters or muffins.
Recipes Featuring Plantains
- Air Fryer Tostones
- Pastelón (Puerto Rican Plantain “Lasagna”)
- Huevos Motuleños
- Plantain Frittata
- Jibarito Sandwich
Peel and slice the plantains:
Cut off the ends of each plantain and cut a shallow slit along its length, being careful not to cut into the flesh. Use your hands to remove the peel in one piece and discard it. Slice the plantains on a bias into pieces that are 1/2 inch thick.
Fry the plantains:
Add 1/4 inch of oil to a large cast iron pan or nonstick frying pan—you want enough oil to come about halfway up the plantain slices. For a 10 to 11-inch pan, you’ll need about 1 cup of oil.
Heat over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced plantains, making sure all pieces are in a single layer. If your pan isn’t large enough to fit them all, you will need to cook in batches.
Fry for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the plantains are golden brown with slightly crispy edges. A fork is the best tool for flipping, just be mindful of your nonstick surface!
Remove the plantains to a paper-lined plate to drain the excess oil. Remove from the paper before the plantains cool to prevent sticking. Serve immediately, while hot.
Store leftover fried plantains in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. They can be reheated in the microwave for a few seconds or in the oven for a few minutes to maintain those crispy edges.
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