Tostones: Garlic Fried Plantains

>> Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tostones: Garlic Fried Plantains

Fried plantains are one of the most common side dishes you'll find in Puerto Rico and some other Caribbean Islands. Tostones are made with unripe green plantains, rather than the yellowish-black ripe ones that are sweet and have a peach-colored flesh.

Unripe green plantains

This means that they're as starchy and firm as a potato and are used in many dishes like we'd use potatoes. The green ones don't taste like bananas at all. They're so firm that tostones are usually fried twice, which gives Joe and me an extra slap of cholesterol to the heart.

Instead of cooking these the traditional way, we boil them first in a garlicky broth and then fry them and mash them flat in a skillet. Add some fried garlic chips for extra flavor, and they're wonderful.

Frying plantains for tostones

We lived for a couple days with friendly couple in San Juan, Marialana and Luis, who have a gorgeous penthouse with a rooftop terrace overlooking Condado Beach. Tropical birds dash in and out of the night-blooming jasmine vines that enclose the rails on the roof. Lovely.

The rooftop terrace in San Juan

We happened to be there for the festival of La Noche de San Juan Bautista, or Saint John’s Night, on June 23-24, so we walked down to the beach where an enormous (family-friendly) party was in progress. At midnight, we all walked backwards into the ocean, and dipped back into the water three times. It is said to bring the festival-goers good luck and free us of our sins. I certainly felt wonderful after a midnight dip in the Caribbean!

Festival of La Noche de San Juan Bautista, Puerto Rico
We're waiting for midnight at Condado Beach, San Juan

All along the coastline we could see campfires on the beaches and people singing and lighting fireworks into the sky. The ocean was warm as bathwater and the whole world seemed to be dancing on the beach. It was a beautiful night and we all went to bed sandy and smelling of the sea.

Marialana taught us this recipe, but there's really nothing to it. If you're tired of other starchy side dishes, try our lower-fat version of this Boricuan specialty.

Plaintain harvester walking down the road
Plaintain harvester, with a seriously sharp machete.


1/3 cup oil
5 garlic cloves
3 large green plantains
Salt and pepper to taste


Peel two cloves of garlic and slice them thinly. Place 2 tbsp of oil and the garlic slices in a large cold frying pan. Heat the pan on medium until the garlic starts to sizzle; cook for a few minutes until the garlic is golden on both sides but not brown. Brown or black garlic is very bitter, and starting with a cold frying pan will allow you to crisp up the garlic slowly.

Remove the garlic to paper towels and let it drain.

Cut the peels off the plantains and cut them into 1" thick coins. Place them in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mince the rest of the garlic and add it to the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the plantains are almost tender.

You can also cook the plantains in the garlic water in a bowl in the microwave, if you prefer. We were in a hurry so we did it this way last time.

Soaking plantains for tostones

Drain the plantains. Add the rest of the oil to the large skillet and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the plantains and begin frying them and pressing them with the spatula. Add salt and pepper to taste. They should be flattened and a nice crispy brown on all sides when done.

Put the tostones on a serving plate and sprinkle with the garlic chips before serving. Some people like to eat these with Caribbean banana ketchup. I promise you it is worth a taste!

Serves 4 as a side dish.


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