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How to Cook Plantains (Kelewele)

Fried plantains are irresistibly sweet and savory – learn how to cook plantains or Ghanaian-inspired kelewele. Begin by marinating the plantains in shallots, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and warm spices, then fry them in a skillet until perfectly caramelized and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

A bowl of fried plantain slices.

Plantains are indigenous to South East Asia, but the tasty dish made its way along trade routes and can be found in Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. They are a perfect appetizer, side dish, or snack. In Ghana, the smell of kelewele (pronounced “kaylay-waylay”) fills the streets of Accra and other cities as a popular snack sold by street vendors.

Plantains vs. Bananas – What’s the Difference?

Plantains may look like bananas, and while they are genetically similar, they have many differences. Eat bananas raw or cooked, but plantains are starchy, so you will want to cook them before digging in. They can be air fried, boiled, baked, sautéed, or fried.

  • Size: Plantains are often larger than bananas.
  • Flavor: Raw or cooked bananas are soft and sweet. On the other hand, only cooked and rip plantains are sweet.
  • Exterior: Plantains have a tough peel and are typically less curved than bananas.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Plantains: Select ripe plantains because they caramelize as they cook in a frying pan.
  • Oil or Ghee: Use neutral oil with a high smoking point or ghee to fry the plantains.
  • Marinade: Flavor the plantains with a sweet and spice marinade made with shallots, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and spices like cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a broken-up Maggie bouillon cube.

Additions and Substitutions

Spices vary depending on the region and the type of recipe you’re preparing. For instance, making plátanos is simple and requires only oil and salt. But since we’re making kelewele, we use west-African inspired ingredients. However, here are some other flavors that complement plantains.

  • Fat: Coconut Oil, Butter
  • Sweetener: Vanilla, Honey, Coconut, Brown, or White Sugar
  • Spices: Use traditional scotch bonnets to add really bring the heat to the spicy fried plantains.

Prepare the Plantains for Cooking

Slit the plantain from end to end.
Score the plantain from end to end.
The peel of a plantain removed.
Remove the peel from the plantain.
Diagonally sliced plantains.
Cut the plantains in half diagonally.
Slices of a plantain cut in half again.
Cut the plantain slices in half.

How to Cook Plantains

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Add plantains to a mixing bowl with the ingredients for the marinade. Cover and set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Plantains in a mixing bowl with the kelewele marinade.

Step 2: Warm oil or ghee in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add plantains in a single layer (you will have to do multiple batches), but do not overcrowd the pan. Fry the slices for 2-3 minutes per side.

Plantains frying in a skillet.

Step 3: Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil and set them on a towel or wire rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Step 4: Serve the plantains while they’re still hot as a side dish or as a snack.

A bowl of fried plantain slices.

Expert Tips

  • Once they’re mostly black, plantains get much sweeter; they will caramelize and become crispy on the outside as they fry.
  • Slice the plantains at an angle to get a perfect, even sear.
  • Fry plantains in stainless steel or non-stick skillet to avoid the ingredients sticking to the bottom.
  • Fry plantains over medium heat, but lower the temperature if they brown too quickly.

Pair the sweet treat with one of these tasty dinner recipes!

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Store: Store fresh plantains out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 3 weeks.
  • Refrigerate: Leftovers should be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat: Warm the plantains in the microwave (30-60 seconds), oven, or air fryer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if a plantain is ripe?

Ripe plantains on a cutting board.

Ripe plantains are best for frying; they are firm and black with bits of yellow. Ripe plantains can be hard to find in major grocery stores, but you can ripen them at home.

If you have the time, leave them to sit at room temperature for one to two weeks, or speed up the process by placing them in a brown paper bag; they will ripen in about 4-5 days using this method. You can cook green or yellow plantains, but they are better for plantain chips.

Can I bake the plantains in the oven?

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Then line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Line the plantains onto it and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes.

More Kitchen Tips:

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A bowl of fried plantain slices.

How to Cook Plantains (Kelewele)

Tressa Jamil
Learn how to cook plantains using this recipe for Ghanaian-inspired kelewele. The plantains cook in a few easy steps until perfectly caramelized.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine African, Caribbean, Latin American, Puerto Rican
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 31 kcal
Ingredients
  
For the Plantains:
  • 2-3 plantains, cut diagonally into ½- inch slices, then cut in half
  • ¼ cup oil or ghee
For the Marinade:
  • lemon juice, ½ lemon
  • ½ shallot, finely diced
  • 2 – inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Maggie bouillon cube, crushed
Instructions
 
  • Add plantains to a mixing bowl with the ingredients for the marinade. Cover and set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  • Warm oil or ghee in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add plantains in a single layer (you will have to do multiple batches), but do not overcrowd the pan. Fry the slices for 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil and set them on a towel or wire rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  • Serve the plantains while they're still hot as a side dish or as a snack.
Notes
Prepare the Plantains:
  • Cut off the ends of the plantain to have easy access to the peel.
  • Score the plantain from end to end and peel off the outer layer. You may need to slide a pairing knife underneath the skin to peel it away.
  • Then, slice the plantains diagonally into ½- inch slices to cook. From there, cut the plantain slices in half, depending on your preference.
Expert Tips:
  • Once they’re mostly black, plantains get much sweeter; they will caramelize and become crispy on the outside as they fry.
  • Slice the plantains at an angle to get a perfect, even sear.
  • Fry plantains in stainless steel or non-stick skillet to avoid the ingredients sticking to the bottom.
  • Fry plantains over medium heat, but lower the temperature if they brown too quickly
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 31 kcal | Carbohydrates: 7 g | Protein: 1 g | Sodium: 325 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 3 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




Sara

Friday 26th of May 2023

The caramelized and crispy texture was pure perfection.

Daniel Reynolds

Friday 26th of May 2023

Wow! These fried plantains took me back to my time in Ghana. The marination process with shallots, ginger, lemon juice, and warm spices made all the difference in bringing out the authentic flavors. The crispy exterior and tender interior made it a delightful snack. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe!

Jennifer K.

Monday 13th of February 2023

I made these kelewele for the first time and they were a hit! The combination of sweet plantains and warm spices is so delicious. I'll definitely be making these again and again.

Priscille

Sunday 16th of October 2022

I've never had plantains with a flavor like this. 10/10

Tressa Jamil

Sunday 16th of October 2022

It's always fun to experiment with new flavors!