Plantains are those weird looking, giant bananas that look either too green or way past their prime, and usually not very appetizing. But, they are a staple of certain cuisines and I’ve had them while I lived in Ghana, almost exclusively deep fried. Unfortunately, deep fried plantains were not quite to my taste and I stayed away from them until very recently.
I was inspired by a Puerto Rican “lasagna” recipe that used plantains instead of noodles and was happy with the results. Here, I wanted to do something slightly different. I started from really ripe plantains and roasted them without peeling. Then, I made mashed plantains and combined them with plain, white beans (navy beans), and a handful of spices to create a rich and dense chili. Why does this chili work? First of all, plantains are full of starch and relatively sweet, adding lots of great flavor almost as if you were adding molasses. The spices and flavor agents, tomato paste, Chile Lime seasoning bland, and paprika helped the taste along. Lastly, the navy beans worked well here because they added smoothness and creaminess. Sprinkling some fresh cilantro complements the ensemble, and you could also spoon some dairy-free sour cream on top or some plant-based yogurt.
Plantain and Bean Chili
What you’ll need:
4 very ripe plantains, roasted
1/2 lbs (225 g) white beans, cooked or from the can
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Chile Lime seasoning bland (this is a product from Trader Joe’s but you can make your own with some chili powder, salt, and lime zest)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
What you’ll do:
- Get ripe plantains – those that have quite a few black areas on them – wash them and place them on a baking sheet without peeling. Roast the plantains at 425 F (220 C) for an hour. Their skins will turn black and they should soften inside.
- Let the plantains cool then peel them and mash with a potato masher. You could also put them into a food processor and pulse until fine.
- Heat a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Add the cooking spray, spices, tomato paste, and the diced onion and let everything caramelize well, which could take up to 15 minutes.
- Add the plantains and let the bottom start to brown. Mix well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the cooked beans – I cook mine in a pressure cooker after soaking them overnight – and let the dish simmer for 10 minutes or so.
- Serve with a dash of fresh cilantro, or other types of topping you prefer to use on your chili.
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