Destinations Magazine

Easy Patacones Recipe from Panama

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

Patacones in Panama are sort of like French fries in the United States: Everyone eats them and you find them on practically every menu. They are so good that we had to find an easy patacones recipe so we could make them at home ourselves.

Easy patacones recipe from Panama

Actually patacones are eaten all over Latin America and throughout the Caribbean. And why not? They’re cheap, filling and easy to make. From Peru up to Costa Rica they’re known as patacones, and occasionally, patacóns. Further north in Central America and in much of the Caribbean you will have to ask for tostones.

You can even find them in West African cuisine, where they call them “plantain crisps.” At least, that’s what I read online. But not us. Living in Panama and Ecuador, we came to call them patacones. Pat-a-cone-ez. Four syllables that make my mouth water as they roll off my tongue.

Sometimes I think patacones are even more popular than sancocho, Panama’s national dish. Considering how often they are eaten, you might as well call them Latino french fries. But I don’t think Latino fries sounds very catchy.

Chicken served with a side of patacones

What patacones are made from

These little guys may look a lot like golden-brown discs of fried banana, but they’re not. They are starchy through and through, and leave just the tiniest hint of banana flavor after the swallow. They’re made from a fruit known as the plantain.

Plantains are related to the curvy yellow fruit we all know and love. In fact their trees look identical. They look the same inside, too.

Closeup of fried plantains, commonly called tostones or patacones.

Don’t these look like squished bananas?

What’s the difference between plantains and bananas?

The difference is that plantains are typically eaten cooked and are usually fatter, more angular and starchy, whereas the bananas we are used to in the U.S. are typically eaten raw and are usually smaller, more rounded and sugary. Some people call them “dessert bananas.”

Funny story: While we were shopping in the grocery store one day I saw a gringa angrily shaking her bag of plantains as she complained to the store manager. “I bought these bananas weeks ago, and they’re still green! I want some that will ripen!” You should have seen the confused look on his face. They were so clearly (to him) plantains, not bananas, yet obviously the irate woman was completely clueless that such a thing even existed.

How to select plantains for patacones

As you might have guessed from my story, plantains stay green for a very long time and can easily fool the uninitiated. How do you tell the difference between bananas and plantains in the grocery store? Plantains are solid, heavier and have a more blocky shape.

That’s what you’ll want for this recipe: plantains with a darker, gray-green color.

If you find any in the grocery store that are yellowing, that is a sign that they are beginning to ripen, which means the starch inside is turning into sugar (in other words, they’re getting sweeter). They’ll be pretty much completely yellow for a while before they develop black streaks – just as dessert bananas do – and finally they turn black.

The black ones are really sweet. Latinos use them to make a fabulously delicious sweet dish called maduros. But that’s not what we’re making today.

Preparing plantain chips for patacones recipe

Patacones recipe

Here’s a simple recipe for patacones. You can do steps 1-5 ahead of time if you need to. Be aware though, you likely won’t make them only once. They can be rather addicting.

Easy Patacones Recipe from Panama
Patacones (fried green plantains) 2014-10-07 10:57:37
Easy Patacones Recipe from Panama
Yields 40 This is an easy-to-follow recipe for patacones, sometimes called tostones, or fried green plantain chips. Learn to make this and you'll be eating one of the most popular dishes in Latin America. Write a review Save Recipe Print Prep Time 10 min Cook Time 15 min Prep Time 10 min Cook Time 15 min 25 calories 6 g 0 g 0 g 0 g 0 g 43 g 355 g 3 g 0 g 0 g Nutrition Facts Serving Size 43g Yields 40 Amount Per Serving Calories 25 Calories from Fat 4 % Daily Value * Total Fat 0g 1% Saturated Fat 0g 0% Trans Fat 0g Polyunsaturated Fat 0g Monounsaturated Fat 0g Cholesterol 0mg 0% Sodium 355mg 15% Total Carbohydrates 6g 2% Dietary Fiber 0g 2% Sugars 3g Protein 0g Vitamin A4%Vitamin C5% Calcium0%Iron1% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Does this look wrong? Ingredients
  1. 4 green plantains (not yellow or black; it vastly changes the taste)
  2. 4 cups water
  3. 2 tbsp salt
  4. Vegetable oil (for frying, enough oil to be about ½ inch deep in your frying pan)
  5. Heavy, heat-proof mug or glass
  6. Paper towels
  1. Place 4 cups warm water into a large bowl. Stir in about 1 tablespoon of salt. Set aside.
  2. Peel the plantains. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the ends off, then run your knife through the peel lengthwise on two sides – without piercing the actual flesh. Use the knife to get under the skin and peel it off.)
  3. Cut plantains crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces. Place in bowl of warm salted water. Let sit 15-20 minutes. (This step adds flavor & also gets rid of some of the starch from the plantains.)
  4. Heat oil over MEDIUM heat until the oil is glistening. You’ll know it’s hot enough when a small "tester" piece of plantain sizzles.
  5. Remove plantain pieces from the water & blot completely dry with paper towels.
  6. Place plantain pieces in the oil (don’t crowd the skillet; it’s better to do 2 batches if needed). Fry plantains 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender & just beginning to turn golden color.
  7. Remove plantain pieces with tongs to a flat, non-stick surface, such as a cutting board. For safety, remove pan from flame.
  8. Spray the bottom of a heat-proof glass tumbler or mug with non-stick cooking spray. Gently flatten each plantain piece to ~1/4" thickness. Small cracks are OK. Slide plantain off glass.
  9. Reheat oil over medium heat and return flattened plantains to hot oil. Fry 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally, until plantains are golden brown in color.
  10. Transfer plantains to a plate with a fresh paper towel, but DO NOT BLOT. Sprinkle with salt & serve immediately, with ketchup (optional).
beta calories 25 fat 0g protein 0g carbs 6g more As We Saw It

How to eat patacones

Enjoy them as they are usually served in Panama: as a snack or a side dish. We prefer them salted; our daughter likes them with ketchup, which is very popular in Panama. I think it’s a holdover from the days when the U.S. controlled the Panama Canal. They also make a delicious accompaniment to Panama’s national dish (find our Panamanian Sancocho recipe here).

Latinos serve them as is or with any dipping sauce, from guacamole to garlicky mojo and ají to sweet and sour. In some countries they are served topped with cheese as an appetizer, or with ceviche, pulled chicken or avocado salad. Venezuelans even use patacones as a sandwich filling! Try them any delicious way you like and let us know what you think.


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Easy recipe for homemade fried green plantains (patacones or tostones), a popular Latin American side dish or snack. Gluten free!

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