Plantains can be fried, boiled, mashed, stuffed, used for stuffing, baked, pickled, and grilled.
Green plantains are very hard and starchy; they have little banana flavor and no sweetness. They are generally cooked in the same ways as potatoes. They may also be boiled or fried or added to soups and stews.
Yellow-ripe plantains are more tender, but can be used in these same ways, and will have a creamier texture. They can also be mashed, grilled, or baked.
Black-ripe plantains are also delicious prepared in any of these methods but have a sweeter flavor and a banana aroma.
If you wish to peel plantains before cooking them, the method you choose depends on the stage of ripeness. Black-ripe fruit can usually be peeled as you would a banana. When less ripe, the plantain is washed, the ends trimmed, and the fruit cut across in two to four sections. The very thick, stiff peel is then cut lengthwise along its four ridges. Remove each strip of skin, starting at a corner and pulling slightly crosswise, rather than down. Remove any woody fibers with a paring knife. When peeling plantains, moisten your hands and rub them with salt; this will prevent the juices from sticking to your skin. Peeled plantains can be held in water under refrigeration for several days.
To bake plantains, rinse and dry them. Allow about one medium-sized fruit per person. Trim off the stem and tip ends. Cut a lengthwise slit in each fruit. Set plantains slit-side up in a foil-lined pan and bake in a 375°F (175°C) oven until tender, about 40 minutes. When they are baked, serve them whole, separate them in lengthwise strips along the natural seed divisions, or slice them crosswise in rounds or diagonals. Serve with your favorite topping—butter, spices, lime juice, gravy, pineapple, brown sugar, or nuts.
To fry plantains, peel and cut them into thin slices, arrange the slices on a nonstick baking sheet, lightly spray on both sides with oil, and bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven until crisp. Serve with salt (if desired) as a snack, appetizer, or a side dish.
To boil plantains, peel and cut each plantain into two or three pieces, boil until tender, and serve as a side dish.
Among other popular plantain snacks are tostones, thick, diagonal slices of plantain that have first been soaked in adobo-flavored water. They are lightly fried, then squashed in a wooden press that resembles a tortilla press, and then fried again until crisp.