While you have likely seen plantains at the grocery store, you are probably far more used to bananas. These two fruits look similar but underneath their skin are quite a few differences.
Plantain vs Banana? Bananas are a staple in almost every North American household. Ripe bananas for school lunches and over-ripe bananas for banana bread; these are just some of the most common uses for them. However, in the banana family are plantains which are lesser-known. Latin American and Southeast Asian cuisines have long focused on plantains. They are thick-skinned and very starchy, so much so, that they are often used more like a potato than a piece of fruit. While plantains aren’t a substitute for bananas, they are useful in their own right. If you’re looking to diversify your recipe collection, there are plenty of plantain dishes that are delicious.
What is a Plantain?
Plantains are a fruit that belong to the genus Musa, which also contains bananas. They are long and curved with a thick peel around them
You can find plantains growing in Central Africa, the Caribbean, and other tropical areas. Plantains are used in many culinary dishes although they are not as popular in North America.
What is a Banana?
Bananas are some of the most popular fruit in North America. They, like plantains, belong to the genus Musa, and are well-known for their thick yellow peel and soft inside.
Because they are so sweet as well as nutritious, bananas are used in a lot of recipes. They are grown in tropical areas, similar to plantains.
What is the difference between a banana and a plantain?
Both would be a good choice for a delicious recipe. However, there are several differences you would want to know and consider.
Both bananas and plantains are rich in complex carbohydrates. However, within this category are different specifics.
Bananas have a lot more natural sugars, which is why they’re so tasty. Plantains have more starch in them, and so need to be cooked.
While bananas are a healthy fruit, their high natural sugar content means you don’t want to over-indulge in them. The starch in plantains is high in nutrients, and as long as you cook them properly, you can eat more plantains than bananas in a serving.
There are many health benefits associated with bananas. They are rich in Vitamin B6 which helps to metabolize carbohydrates.
Vitamin B6 also produces red blood cells which is why they are often recommended for women who are pregnant.
While not a great source of Vitamin C, bananas are still a good source. They are also good sources of manganese and potassium.
If you’re looking for a bit of energy, the natural sugars in bananas will help wake your body up. The dietary fiber in them is also great to keep your body moving.
Plantains are also a good source of many nutrients beneficial to your health. They are rich in potassium which is needed for muscle contractions and fluid regulations.
You will also find Vitamin 6 and Vitamin A, both of which help with your organs. Similar to banana, plantains are a good source of fibre.
Bananas are very sweet while plantains have a more savory taste to them. While bananas are usually used in dessert recipes or baked goods, plantains are used more like a vegetable and are used in dinner dishes.
Bananas can be eaten raw, which makes them very versatile. They are great for school lunches or as a grab-and-go healthy snack.
Plantains, however, need to be cooked first. They are very starchy and the starch needs to be cooked down so they are more edible.
Common ways to cook and eat bananas include banana bread and desserts like bananas foster. For plantains, fried plantains and soup are common.
While plantains and bananas are healthy on their own, how they are cooked can dissipate their nutrients.
Bananas are often cooked with extra sugar, in muffins or breads, often with chocolate chips thrown in. On the other hand, plantains are often cooked with extra fat and salt.
Both are tasty foods and there are plenty of recipes which use them in healthier ways.
How they grow
Both bananas and plantains grow in exactly the same manner. They grow in bunches and at first glance, it can be hard to distinguish between the two types of trees.
Even the tree trunks and leaves are similar. The tree trunks can grow to be quite high and the leaves are very large and broad.
Unfortunately, both bananas and plantains are picked well before they are ripe so that by the time they reach the grocery store, they are just starting to ripen. If you were to let both ripen on their own, they would be much sweeter, even plantains.
Bananas and plantains start off green and turn yellow and then black as they ripen. There is a higher starch content in both when they are green. The difference is that as bananas ripen the starch turns to sugar, whereas plantains remain their starch content.
Ripe bananas are usually bright yellow with no brown spots on the skin yet. It might seem counterintuitive, but ripe plantains are brown with just a bit of yellow on their skin.
While green plantains have their uses, they will have far less sugar than when they are brown and ripe.
Price in comparison
Depending on where you buy them, bananas will cost between $.60 and $.90 per pound. Organic bananas will cost about $1.10 to $1.50 per pound.
Plantains aren’t actually that much more expensive and will cost between $.90 and $1.20 per pound. You can find organic plantains for $1.30 to $1.60 per pound.
Plantain vs banana – Which is healthier?
While bananas do have good nutrients, they are high in sugar whereas plantains are higher in starch. Plantains are therefore healthier.
They are also used in more savory dishes while bananas are cooked in recipes that call for even more sugar, making plantains overall a bit healthier.
Plantains and bananas come from the same genus, which explains why they look so similar. However, plantains are starchier and lower in sugar, which is why bananas, being so much sweeter, are more popular.