Tostones are simply twice-fried plantain slices, a traditional South American dish that can also be called tachinos, chatinos, fritos verde, bananes pesées and patacones, depending on the exact region of origin.
Tostones are a delightful, relatively flavor-neutral, starchy addition to most meals. They can also be used as a Paleo bread or cracker substitute. Traditionally, they are often served with garlic sauce.
They are quite simple to make. Sliced green (unripe) plantains are shallow-fried in a skillet, removed from the skillet and smashed flat, then returned to the skillet for one more round. I’ve experimented a whole lot with tostones, using different ripeness of plantain from extremely green to yellow, using different fats from lard to coconut oil, and different cooking times from keeping them fairly golden in color to nicely browned. With all that experimentation, I’ve discovered my favorite: green plantains, duck fat, unrefined sea salt.
Yes, these three simple ingredients combine to make something magical, epic in fact (and given that I used EPIC duck fat, that pun is definitely intended!). Duck fat has recently become my favorite fat to combine with starchy vegetables, whether its oven-fries (like my Cassava Oven Fries) or shallow-frying on the stovetop like with these tostones. The chemistry of frying is a little different with different fats and duck fat, beyond being an amazing flavor to pair with starchy veggies, yields that perfect crisp-but-not-crunchy texture. But, you can also use this recipe as a rough guideline and experiment with different cooking fats, different ripeness of plantain, and different seasonings yourself!
Be prepared to wing it a bit in terms of how much fat you’ll need. The plantain absorbs quite a bit (why these puppies are so freakin’ delicious!) while it’s cooking and I find myself adding to the pan as I go to make sure there’s enough fat in the pan so that they don’t stick but also with the goal of not washing a ton of extra fat down the sink when I’m done. It’s important to know up front that exact skillet temperature, thickness of plantain slices, and how ripe the plantain is will affect how much fat you need. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but you might get away with half of that.
Also, with the goal of keeping these tostones to a more golden color, I like to keep the skillet temperature a bit lower than I typically use for sauteing (I have my element set to 6 to make these tostones, but set it to 7 for searing steak or sauteing vegetables). They’ll cook a bit more slowly, but I think both the flavor and texture of the end product is superior compared to more browned tostones.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes (if frying in two batches)
- Peel green plantains by slicing just through the peel (not the fruit) lengthwise, from tip to tip, then prying off the peel with your thumbs. Sometimes it’s easier to peel if you make more than one slice down the length of the plantain.
- Slice the peeled plantain at an angle into 1″ thick slices.
- Meanwhile, preheat a large stainless steel skillet on the stovetop over medium heat (skip this step if using a gas stove).
- Add a big dollop of duck fat to the hot skillet, then arrange the plantain slices in the skillet in one layer (if your skillet is too small to fit all of them at once, cook in batches).
- Fry the plantain for two to three minutes on each side until they are golden in color. I prefer to flip three times as opposed to once to make sure they don’t get too brown. If they’re browning too quickly, reduce the heat. Maintain at least an eighth of an inch of fat in the bottom of the pan to prevent the plantain from sticking; add more fat as needed.
- Remove the plantain slices from the skillet with tongs or a slotted spoon. Traditionally, they are pounded flat with a hinged utensil made for the task, called a tostonera, or but any kitchen utensil (bowl, cup, plate etc.) that has a large enough flat surface will do the trick. I flatten mine on a cutting board with my 4-cup measuring cup then peel the mashed plantain off the bottom of the measuring cup with a spatula directly into the hot skillet again. Be inventive: there’s probably a dozen different things in your kitchen that will flatten the fried plantain slices!
- Fry the plantain slices a second time, this time about one minute per side until crisp and golden brown, adding additional duck fat as needed to maintain about an eighth of an inch of fat in the bottom of the pan. You’ll almost certainly have to do this in two or even three batches, unless you own the world’s biggest skillet.
- Remove tostones from the skillet and place on a serving plate or cutting board lined with paper towel to drain any excess fat. Sprinkle liberally with salt while still warm.
- Tostones are best enjoyed right when you make them.