Fried green plantains can be called many different names. In parts of South America they are generally called patacones; in the Caribbean, you'll usually hear them called tostones, but whatever you decide to call them, you'll want to add these to your next meal. This side is made by frying green plantains twice. Crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, with just a sprinkling of salt, tostones can be ready in about 15 minutes. Serve these as a side to tacos, steak, chicken, or beans!
I first learned how to make fried plantains when I travelled to Ecuador many years ago, but I didn't really figure out how to do it well until I got married. My husband is Puerto Rican, so I've spent the last several years learning to make the Puerto Rican dishes he misses so much when we can't be there. That's been especially true this past year, since we were unable to travel with the pandemic. Tostones are a very simple dish. I used to bake them, but I've actually found frying to be easier and produce much better texture.
For frying, you'll want to use a heavy bottomed pan with high sides. My favorite pan for this is a cast iron pan; it heats far more evenly and you can control the temperature much more easily. Pour about a half inch of oil in the pan and heat it on medium high. While it heats up, prep your plantains.
For this dish you'll want to choose very green plantains. When I plan this dish, I buy them either the same day or the day before. This is especially true if the weather is warm because I don't want them to ripen on the counter before I have a chance to use them. Once they turn yellow, you'll going to start getting some notes of sweetness that will make them taste off, so be sure to use green ones.
The greener the plantain, the thicker, and stiffer, the peel will be. This can make them a little challenging to peel, so you won't be able to peel them like a banana. The first thing you need to do is remove the top and bottom like the green plantain in the photo. Next, make a deep slit in the skin from top to bottom taking care not to go too deep, since you don't want to cut into the plantain (if you do, it's ok). I like to cut the top and bottom off first because then I can clearly see how deep to make my cut. Depending on how stiff the peel is, you may need to make more than one slit, but once you can free an edge, you can peel it down pretty easily. Any peel that's particularly stubborn is easily removed with a paring knife.
At this point, you can check to see if your oil is hot enough. Just take a tiny chunk of plantain and add it to the oil. If it sizzles, it's ready. Remove the little piece so it doesn't burn and add your slices to the hot oil taking care not to splash yourself. An easy way to do this is to slide them down the side of the pan so they slide into the oil rather than dropping them, which could splash oil back at you. Using tongs, check them at about 2 minutes to see if they are beginning to brown. They should be a deep golden brown on the side touching the pan. If not, let them go for another minute, then flip them and set a timer for the same amount of time (2-3 minutes). When the timer goes off, remove them to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
The next step is to squash all of your cooked plantains. For this step I use a tostonera. You can find them for pretty cheap (I got mine at a drug store in Puerto Rico for a couple dollars), but it's not really necessary to have one. For many years I used the bottom of a glass, which works pretty well. Find a wide glass, with a very flat bottom. A mug, for example, won't work well because they usually have a ridge around the bottom with an elevated middle. This won't crush it evenly, so make sure whatever glass you use is sturdy and flat on the bottom. Using a paper towel, wipe some oil on the bottom of the glass to make sure it won't stick to the plantains. Place a plantain flat side down on a work surface, like a cutting board, and press the bottom of the glass down firmly until the plantain collapses into a circle-like shape. It should be about 1/4 inch thick or so. If you press too hard, you'll find that they are difficult to remove from the glass and that they fall apart a little. If this happens, ease back on the amount of pressure you apply and try again. It takes practice, but once you figure it out how hard to press, they will all look about the same.
Continue this way until either all of them are crushed or, if you are good at multitasking, you can do them in batches and cook one batch while you crush more. Once crushed, they will need to cook for about 2 more minutes. I like them to be a deep golden brown on both sides. You shouldn't need to flip them at this point, though, because they will be much flatter than the first time and so they should be submerged in oil. If you find that they are sticking up a bit, you can flip them after the first minute or so.
Remove them to a paper towel lined plate, and sprinkle with some salt. If you fill the plate, create a second layer by placing a clean paper towel on top of the ones you've finished and layering them on top. This will prevent grease from dripping on to the ones below, making them soggy.
Fried Green Plantains (Tostones)
2 Large Green plantains
Canola or vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Heat a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet with high sides on medium- high heat and add enough oil to fill the bottom 1/2 inch of the pan.
Cut the tops and bottoms off of each plantain and remove peels.
Slice each plantain into about 1 inch rounds.
Add your cut plantains to the oil. Cook for about 90 seconds, or until golden brown. Flip and cook for an additional 90 seconds. If you find they are getting too dark or cooking more quickly than this, lower the heat to medium or medium-low.
Remove plantains to a plate lined with a paper towel. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your pan.
Once all of your plantains have been added to the paper towel, prepare a tostonera (or heavy, flat-bottomed drinking glass) by greasing it with oil.
On a cutting board, place a cooked plantain flat side down and use the bottom of the glass to smash the plantain until it is flat. It should still be a bout 1/4 inch thick. Press firmly, but not too hard or it will too fragile to handle without crumbling.
If you are using a tostonera, grease the inside, place the cooked plantain, flat side down, inside, close the lid and press down firmly.
Once all of your plantains have been flattened, return them to the hot oil. Cook for an additional minute or two. They should be mostly covered by the oil at this stage, so you shouldn't need to flip them. If you've lost oil and the top is exposed, just flip them to cook on both sides.
Place your cooked tostones on a plate lined with a paper towel. While they are still a little wet with oil, sprinkle some salt on top and serve.
Note: If you are using a smaller plate and need to add multiple layers of tostones, you can do that, but keep a layer of paper towel in between each layer so they don't get soggy.