How to Make Patacones (Panamanian-style plantains recipe)

Hello All! My name is Nora, I recently joined Few for Change as the Fundraising and Communications Fellow. I am a student at the University of Oregon, and I am obsessed with plantains. Some of you may be familiar with the banana's starchier relative. Perhaps you have never seen a plantain before. Either way, I highly encourage anyone and everyone to go out to their local grocery store, buy some plantains and make this recipe. 

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I first heard about Few for Change while studying abroad in Panama last spring. Many of my favorite memories from studying abroad involve food and more than one of them involves patacones. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Chiriquí province, known for producing more than 80 percent of the produce sold within Panama. The town that I stayed is called Cerro Punta. It is located in the highlands of the province, known in Spanish as las tierras altas. The rich mountain soil in combination with high annual rainfall creates an ideal environment for growing produce year round. 

One memory stands out in particular. My friends and I had recently moved to a hostel closer to the center of town. We filled our bags with fresh eggs, bananas, tomatoes, cabbage and lastly a small stalk of about 20 plantains. The farmer used a machete to chop off the stalk right before our astonished faces. We walked home, slower this time as we lugged our precious cargo up the winding hill leading to the hostel. That night, some kind travelers gave us a match to light the stove and we made our first batch of patacones. They could be described as the Panamanian version of fries or potato chips. We topped each slice of crisp plantain with a spoonful of tuna. With our full bellies and happy tastebuds, we promptly went to bed. For me, cooking and eating are best enjoyed with good friends and family. So I like to think that plantains have played a small, but important role in some of my best friendships....Now onto the recipe!


What you will need:

  • A liberal amount of cooking oil (for frying)
  • 2-4 green plantains
  • Salt, pepper and other spices to taste
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Medium-sized frying pan
  • Sturdy mug 
  • Spatula

Here is a reference image of the plantains that I used to make this recipe at home. Be careful not to choose plantains that are overly ripe, which are used to make a sweeter version of this recipe (and equally as delicious)!

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto Pro Tip: Soak the plantains in water before cutting and peeling them, to make the whole process easier!

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Pro Tip: Soak the plantains in water before cutting and peeling them, to make the whole process easier!

1. Place the plantains on your cutting board. Using the front end of the knife cut off both ends of the plantain. Next, peel the plantains. An efficient method for doing this is to make a lengthwise slit in the peel using the tip of your knife. Then, use your thumb to pull underneath, separating the peel from the plantain in a lengthwise fashion (pictured below).

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

2. Once you have successfully peeled all your plantains (I promise this is the hardest part), you can cut them into individual slices. Angle your knife as you slice and try to make each slice about a half inch thick. 

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Pictured Above: The freshly cut plantains ready to go in the pan!

3. At this point you can start heating the pan. I would recommend turning the stove on to medium -medium high heat. Pour a generous amount of oil into the pan, so that all sides of the plantain are coated in the oil. Once the oil begins to bubble, carefully place each slice into the pan. You can use your hands or the spatula to do this. Spread the slices out in the pan to make sure they cook evenly. 

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

4. Flip the plantains to the other side once they turn a lovely golden sheen. They should cook for about 3-4 mins in total. Only cook them until all sides are evenly golden and then immediately remove them from the pan and place on the cutting board. At this point you can leave the heat on, because you will frying them a second time!

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

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5. On the cutting board, use the bottom of the mug to flatten each slice until it resembles a small, starchy pancake. 

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

You may need to pour a little extra oil before you fry them a second time. Don't fear the oil, let it flow!

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

6. Cook the plantains for 1-2 minutes on each side, to brown them a little more. If you want to cook them longer that is fine as well. My best friends like it when I make them a little crispier. 

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Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto

7. The finished product, pictured above. Perfect with just a dash of salt and pepper. However, feel free to dress them up however you want. Guacamole, anybody? 

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto       Models pictured: Daisy Batten, Veronica Blackwell

Photographer: Meghan Jacinto       Models pictured: Daisy Batten, Veronica Blackwell

My roommates testing out the final product! Feel free to post your questions or comments below. I would love to hear how you all feel about this recipe and plantains in general :)