Tostones are crispy, savory, salty, golden coins of pure deliciousness. Popular throughout the Caribbean, twice-fried plantains are a snack that will make you feel like you’re walking on sunshine. And once you know all the tricks, they’ll come out perfectly every time.
It’s no secret that I didn’t grow up in the Caribbean, but (probably surprisingly) like many kids that did, tostones were actually one of the first things I ever learned to cook. Like really learned how to cook, properly, from scratch, with pride and the sort of eagerness that naturally accompanies all foods as amazingly perfected as twice-fried green plantains.
I learned from a good friend in college, who generously offered to teach me how to cook some of her favorite Puerto Rican recipes after I complimented her cooking and told her how interested I was in really learning how to feed myself. (You know, not just the “try not to mess up boiling water for pasta” or “does microwaving freezer meals count?” kind of feed myself, but the “wow I actually made this” kind of feed myself.)
All I had to do was try Tostones once and I was in love. Their french-fry-like, golden-brown exteriors and tender, starchy interiors, all covered in salt and ready for dipping had me hooked. Then– to my great shock– even I, the most novice of cooking novices, wound up being able to make them! I don’t want to exaggerate, but tostones may actually have been one of the first ever recipes that made me believe I could a learn to make tasty food. And, well, would you look at me now, Ma!
So of course, I have to share my go-to tostones recipe with you. Spread the love!
BUT WAIT, WHAT ARE TOSTONES?
Tostones (also known as Patacones) are slices of unripe, green plantains that have been fried, smashed, and fried again until crisp. They’re extremely popular in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, where they’re just as commonly eaten as side dishes at the family dinner table as they are as late night snacks from street vendors.
While people often assume that they might have a sweet or banana-like taste due to the banana-like appearance of plantains, tostones are definitely a savory dish. Unlike bananas, unripe green plantains are incredibly starchy– more like a raw potato. They must be cooked in order to be eaten and enjoyed.
And, much like the potato, when fried, tossed with salt, and served with a little dip, they are definitely enjoyed.
HOW TO MAKE THEM
I’m going to take you through each step with all the details so we can be sure that you get it right– 100% right– and you fall in love with these golden beauties just as much as I have. Sound good? Great.
- Get the greenest plantains you can. Green plantains are a must for tostones. As they go from green to yellow to brown to black, they become progressively riper, and progressively sweeter as well. While ripe, brown plantains can be tasty when fried, they’re better used for sweet maduros, not savory tostones. For these, go as green and unripe as possible.
- Peel the plantains. This isn’t as easy as peeling bananas, if we’re being honest, but it’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it! Cut off both ends of the plantain first, then gently slice down the entire length of the plantain with the tip of your knife, being sure not to slice too deeply (you only want to slice the skin!). Do this a few times along the ridges, then peel off the skin. Keep in mind that the plantains will begin oxidize when expose to air, so you should try to work quickly.
- Slice the plantains. Slice the plantains into pieces about 1″ thick. You can go a bit bigger or smaller– don’t worry too much about being exact here, it’s really up to your personal preference. Just keep in mind that the bigger you slice them, the wider they will wind up being after you smash them between the first and second fries.
- Fry in warm oil the first time. Fry the tostones in warm oil until golden all over. You want to add the plantains as the heat is still coming up, when the oil is just hot enough that it will start to sizzle shortly after adding the plantain slices, but not so hot that you get a fast bubbling fry. This ensures that the exterior of the plantain doesn’t fry up too quickly before the inside can soften.
- Smash the plantains. After letting any excess oil drip off onto a paper towel, it’s time to flatten the plantains. Working one at a time while the plantains are still warm, take a fried plantain slice, place it between a folded sheet of wax paper, and then gently smash using the bottom of a glass, plate, or pan.
- Dip in garlic-lime water. Transfer the smashed plantain to a mixture of salted water, minced garlic, and fresh lime juice. Let it sit for about 10 seconds, then remove from the water and pat to dry.
- Fry in hot oil the second time. Now’s the time to crisp up the exterior, so a very brief fry in hot oil is all you need.
- Sprinkle with salt. It’s very important to sprinkle with salt while they’re still warm, so the salt sticks. And just like that, you’re ready to serve!
WHY SOAK IN GARLIC-LIME WATER?
There are a few reasons for the garlic-lime water soak:
- It prevents the tostones from oxidizing. In order to prepare tostones most of the way in advance, many cooks will peel, fry, and smash their plantains ahead of time, and then wait until just before serving for the final fry. Dipping in the lime water prevents the tostones from turning brown during the time in-between.
- It infuses extra flavor. That water seeps into the cracks in the plantain that open up after smashing, and that garlic, lime, and salt are able to permeate the surface.
- It makes a fluffier interior. The water creates steam during the second fry in hot oil, which will expand with enough force to separate the starch granules. What’s that mean? It means that you’ll wind up with tostones that are fluffier and more tender inside than those that are made without the soaking step.
It should also be noted that many people say that this step will create a crisper exterior. I have tested both soaked and unsoaked plantains and there has not been a noticeable difference in the degree of crispness, so I’ll choose to leave that off of the list and call that one a myth. Sorry guys, but there are plenty of other benefits!
SAUCE ‘EM UP
Tostones are best when served with dips! It’s common to serve them with Mojo de Ajo or Mayo-Ketchup (literally mayo, ketchup and garlic), but I personally like them best with:
- Mojo Verde (Pictured in these photos!)
- Dreamy, Creamy Avocado Cilantro Sauce, or
- A Variety of Salsas!
WATCH THE TOSTONES RECIPE VIDEO
4 green plantains
1 cup vegetable or canola oil, or as needed
2 cups water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to top
Juice of 1 lime
Mojo Verde or other sauces, to serve (optional)
- Cut the ends off of each plantain, and use a knife to cut through the skin of the plantain, lengthwise, from top to bottom. Try to only to cut through the skin, as you don’t want to slice into the inner portion, which will form the tostones.
- Use your fingers to pry open and peel off the tough outer skin. Discard the skin of the plantains.
- Cut the plantains into pieces, about 1″ thick.
- Fill a large, heavy-bottomed skillet about a third of the way with oil. Heat over medium for a few minutes to warm up the oil just slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the water, garlic, kosher salt, and lime juice. Set aside.
- Add the plantain slices to the oil. The oil should be just warm enough that it begins to lightly bubble shortly after adding the plantains, but should not bubble vigorously. Fry the planatins until softened and golden all over, about 4 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
- Using the bottom of a glass, plate, or can, gently flatten each fried plantain piece. Smash them just enough that they flatten out, but don’t try to make them too thin, or they will break apart.
- Dip the flattened plantain coin in the garlic-lime water. Let it sit for about 10 seconds, then remove from the water and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining fried plantains.
- When nearly ready to serve, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the flattened plantains back to the oil in batches and briefly fry to crisp, about 1 minute per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
- Sprinkle with salt. Serve with Mojo Verde or other sauces, if desired.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Category: Appetizer
- Cuisine: Latin American