Banana vs. plantain: what’s the difference?

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Bananas are sweet and eaten raw, while plantains are starchy and cooked as a vegetable. Plantains are a staple in Caribbean and West African cuisine and have yellow or pink flesh. They are sold in different stages of ripeness, each with its own culinary use. Both bananas and plantains are nutritious and rich in vitamins and fiber.

Although a banana and plantain are related foods, the former is sweet and usually eaten raw as a fruit, while the latter is starchy until ripe and cooked or processed as a vegetable. Plantains look similar to green bananas, but are longer, with thicker, leathery skins that turn black when ripe. Unlike soft, yellow bananas that are often simply peeled and eaten raw, plantains are always cooked before eating, in soups and stews or sautéed or fried. Plantains are a staple of Caribbean and West African cuisine and have slightly yellow or pink flesh.

The main difference between a banana and a plantain is how they are consumed. While both are available in the produce section of most supermarkets, the banana is usually eaten raw only when ripe. A ripe banana is soft with a bright yellow peel that is peeled off before eating. Because of its sweetness and smooth texture, a banana is sometimes referred to as a dessert banana. Bananas are common ingredients in cakes and pies as a flavoring and in smoothies as a thickening agent.

Unlike the dessert banana, a plantain is thicker and more bitter and is often cooked and eaten similar to potatoes. Plantains are longer than bananas, with thick green skins. A ripe plantain will have black skin and a sweeter flavor but still feel a little firm. A banana and a plantain will both ripen at room temperature. Unripe bananas can be used in place of plantains in many recipes since they will cook similarly.

The plantains are sold in different stages of ripeness, each with its own associated culinary use. A well-cooked green plantain will be golden brown and slightly tender, while a ripe plantain will be done when caramelized. A very firm, green plantain can be used to thicken soups and stews. When a plantain begins to turn yellow, it can be made into tostones, thick, flat chips often served with a hot sauce or salsa. A very ripe plantain will have blackened skin and can be sauteed or fried and flavored with lime juice and salt.

Different peeling and preparation methods are required for a banana and a plantain. Peeling a banana just involves breaking off the stem and peeling off the skin. Peeling a plantain is more complicated. The ends are cut off and the plantain is then cut into chunks. The skin is then removed from each piece with a paring knife, a process facilitated by making shallow slits first.

A banana and a plantain have similar nutritional content. One raw plantain has only about 5 calories from fat and is low in cholesterol and sodium. Similarly, a raw banana contains about 6 calories from fat. Bananas and plantains are excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. Both a banana and a plantain enrich a person’s diet with dietary fiber, potassium, and essential vitamins.

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