Patacones are a staple in Costa Rican cuisine. These fried green plantains are relatively simple to make and delicious. Making them always feels like a treat in our house. We often top ours with refried beans, guacamole, or salsa to make them even more decadent. In this post, we’ll share an easy recipe for making homemade patacones.
Green vs. Yellow Plantains
Plantains are those large banana-like fruits that grow in tropical places like Costa Rica. They come from a similar-looking tree to the banana.
When the fruit is first picked, it is a dark green color. As it ripens, it turns lighter green, then eventually yellow.
Green plantains are the ones you want for making patacones. They have a higher starch content and nice savory flavor. When the fruit is green, it’s hard.
Yellow plantains are much softer and very sweet. They are used to make maduros. These are the little pieces of plantain you see served at breakfast in Costa Rica with gallo pinto and lunch with casados.
How Are Patacones Served in Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, you can find patacones on the bocas (snacks) menu of many restaurants. Often, they come with refried beans and guacamole. You can make them into a meal this way.
Patacones are also sometimes served with ceviche (fresh raw fish marinated in lemon juice).
Serves approximately 4 people.
3 green plantains
Oil for frying (we use canola)
Traditionally for patacones, the plantains are fried twice in oil. First, they are chopped into chunks and then cooked for a few minutes on each side. Then after, they are flattened and cooked again in oil.
We learned a trick that only requires frying once, which we really like.
Soften the Plantains
For this method, you will microwave the plantains first to soften them.
Take your whole green plantains with the skin still on and wrap them in wet paper towels. Microwave them on high for about 5-6 minutes.
Let cool for about 5 minutes more so that they are easier to handle.
Once cool, cut a slit the long way in each plantain and remove the skin.
Cut and Smash the Plantains
Once you have the skin off, remove the ends of the plantain. Then cut into about 3/4 inch pieces.
Now you’ll need to flatten them a bit so they are a good thickness for frying.
Take each piece and press it down with something heavy. We have used a small cutting board before, but the back of a plate or pot would work too. If you have a tortilla press, even better. If they are sticking, nudge them off with a knife or use wax paper.
When you’re done, each piece should be about ¼-½ inch thick.
Tip: Depending on how ripe your plantains are and how strong your microwave is, you may need to microwave them for more than 5 minutes. If the plantains are still really hard and difficult to smash, put them back in the microwave for a couple of minutes (wrapped in a wet paper towel). You want them to be firm but not squishy.
Fry the Plantains
In a large frying pan or cast-iron skillet, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/4 inch.
Turn heat onto medium.
Once the oil is hot, add the plantain pieces. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side until nicely browned.
Remove from oil, place on paper towels, and season with a good pinch of salt right away. The salt really brings out the flavor of the plantain.
Patacones are salty and crunchy and delicious on their own. But if you want to make a meal out of it, we recommend serving them with guacamole, refried beans, and fresh salsa. A little hot sauce can be yummy too!
Making plantains can be overwhelming when you first try it, but we have never had a bad batch! Our kids love them, and they are a surefire way to bring a taste of Costa Rica into your home.
Have a question about making patacones? Ask us below.
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Looking for more Costa Rica-inspired recipes? Check out these posts:
Making Costa Rica’s Famous Arroz con Pollo: Our recipe for delicious and authentic arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).
Making Homemade Costa Rican-Style Beans: Rice and beans is an essential in our house. Check out our recipe for cooking dried red or black beans.
FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica: Thinking about making the big move? This post answers common questions about residency, working, and more.