Maduros (Fried Ripe Plantains) with Mint Mojo

Ripe plantains are slow-fried until deeply caramelized and sweet and served with an herbal mint and parsley mojo sauce.

Overhead view of maduros on a blue plate with mint mojos on a striped green background

Serious Eats / Fred Hardy

Why It Works

  • Shallow-frying the plantains at moderate heat and then lowering the temperature for the final duration lets them cook relatively slowly, giving the sugars plenty of time to caramelize and get extra sweet without giving the plantain a chance to dry out.

I picked up the nasty, black, almost-starting-to-shrivel things from the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter and was about halfway to the garbage when I was stopped short by my wife's sudden and very loud cry:聽what are you doing?!

What do you mean, what am I doing, dear? I'm throwing out these rotten plantains that now look more like something produced by the dog than something we should be keeping in the good company of our perfectly respectable grapefruits and mangoes.

Wrong choice of words. My wife proceeded to explain to me just how carefully she had been coddling those plantains, waiting for days and days until they were at聽just聽the right level of blackness (that would be pitch black and right on the cusp of starting to shrivel) so that they would be of optimal sweetness when we finally fried them.

I'm glad she caught me when she did. As someone who loves a good salty-sweet snack, fried ripe plantains represent one of the pinnacles of the form.

Truth be told, I'd been enjoying聽maduros* ever since the first time her Aunt Gloria made them for us many years ago, though I never bothered to peek into her kitchen to see how she did it. Soft and tender with a lightly greasy exterior and a sweet, caramelized flavor, they don't have the crispness you may expect from a starchier fried food, but that's part of their appeal.

*It literally means "mature(s)," and leads to humorous flubs in menu translations in Colombia

See, as plantains mature, their starches slowly convert into sugars and enzymatic reactions lead to the formation of many aromatic compounds that aren't present in their green or yellow forms. It's these starches that set up and give fried foods crispness. So while a fried green plantain (known in Colombia as a patac贸n) is extra crisp but relatively bland, a fried black plantain is packed with flavor with a softer, more custard-like texture.

Just like bananas, apples, and tomatoes, plantains ripen better at room temperature in a relatively enclosed environment, like in a bowl with other fruits, or inside a paper bag. Plantains give off ethylene gas, the natural trigger for ripening. The more concentrated that gas, the faster the fruit will ripen. From green to black, a plantain can take over a month to fully mature in a bowl. Put them in a paper bag and the time will be cut down to a matter of weeks or even days.

Luckily, most good Latin markets will sell plantains at a variety of maturity levels, so ripening need not take that long.

Golden brown fried plantains in a paper towel-lined bowl.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji L贸pez-Alt

The trick to great maduros is to cook them relatively slowly, giving the sugars plenty of time to caramelize and get extra sweet without giving the plantain a chance to dry out. To do this, I shallow fry them, first starting in moderately hot oil and cooking them just long enough that they develop a thin pale golden brown pellicle on their exterior to keep them from sticking together. From there, I lower the heat and cook them slowly until deep brown and completely tender throughout.

A small white porcelain bowl holding mint mojo sauce. There are fried plantains behind the bowl.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji L贸pez-Alt

Sprinkled with just a little salt, they are excellent as is, but if you want to go a little more balanced, a little more complex in your snacks (and who wouldn't?), they are miles better when some of that greasy, sweet-and-salty, custard-like flavor is cut with a sharp, acidic sauce. In my wife's aunt's place, that sauce would be a simple tomato and onion Aj铆, the Colombian equivalent of a Mexican salsa. But [shhhh...] I secretly prefer my plantains with a Puerto Rican-style Mojo, a parsley and garlic-flavored rough sauce very similar to Italian-Style Salsa Verde. In this version, I add a handful of mint leaves to the parsley for an added dimension.

March 2013

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup聽light olive, canola, or vegetable oil

  • 2 largeripe (black, see note) plantains, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch disks on a slight bias

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 recipemint mojo聽or聽Colombian-style aj铆

Directions

  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the plantains in a single layer (the oil should come at least half way up their sides. If not, add more oil). Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until lightly golden brown on first side, about 2 minutes. Cook second side until light golden brown, about 1 minute longer. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until dark golden brown and caramelized, about 4 minutes longer.

    Overhead view of plantains frying in oil

    Serious Eats / Fred Hardy

  2. Transfer plantains to paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon or spatula. Flip a few times to drain completely, then season immediately with salt. Serve immediately with Mint Mojo or Aj铆 on the side.

    Two image collage. Top: overhead view of fried plantains on a paper towel, salted. Bottom: side of mint mojo sauce

    Serious Eats / Fred Hardy

Special Equipment

12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet

Notes

Ripe plantains will be completely black鈥攁lmost to the degree that you think you need to throw them out.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
365 Calories
29g Fat
30g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 365
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 694mg 30%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 124mg 622%
Calcium 27mg 2%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 510mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)