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Easy Patacones Recipe from Panama

Patacones in Panama are sort of like French fries in the United States: Everyone eats them and you find them on practically every menu. They are so good that we had to find an easy patacones recipe so we could make them at home ourselves.

Easy patacones recipe from Panama

Actually, patacones are eaten all over Latin America and throughout the Caribbean. And why not? They’re cheap, filling and easy to make. From Peru up to Costa Rica they're known as patacones, and occasionally, patacóns. Further north in Central America and in much of the Caribbean you will have to ask for tostones.

You can even find them in West African cuisine, where they call them “plantain crisps.” At least, that's what I read online. But not us. Living in Panama and Ecuador, we came to call them patacones. Pat-a-cone-ez. Four syllables that make my mouth water as they roll off my tongue.

Sometimes I think patacones are even more popular than sancocho, Panama's national dish. Considering how often they are eaten, you might as well call them Latino french fries. But I don't think Latino fries sounds very catchy.

Chicken served with a side of patacones

What patacones are made from

These little guys may look a lot like golden-brown discs of fried banana, but they’re not. They are starchy through and through, and leave just the tiniest hint of banana flavor after the swallow. They’re made from a fruit known as the plantain.

Plantains are related to the curvy yellow fruit we all know and love. In fact their trees look identical. They look the same inside, too.

Closeup of fried plantains, commonly called tostones or patacones.
Don't these look like squished bananas?

What's the difference between plantains and bananas?

The difference is that plantains are typically eaten cooked and are usually fatter, more angular and starchy, whereas the bananas we are used to in the U.S. are typically eaten raw and are usually smaller, more rounded and sugary. Some people call them “dessert bananas.”

Funny story: While we were shopping in the grocery store one day I saw a gringa angrily shaking her bag of plantains as she complained to the store manager. “I bought these bananas weeks ago, and they're still green! I want some that will ripen!” You should have seen the confused look on his face. They were so clearly (to him) plantains, not bananas, yet obviously the irate woman was completely clueless that such a thing even existed.

How to select plantains for patacones

As you might have guessed from my story, plantains stay green for a very long time and can easily fool the uninitiated. How do you tell the difference between bananas and plantains in the grocery store? Plantains are solid, heavier and have a more blocky shape.

That's what you'll want for this recipe: plantains with a darker, gray-green color.

If you find any in the grocery store that are yellowing, that is a sign that they are beginning to ripen, which means the starch inside is turning into sugar (in other words, they're getting sweeter). They'll be pretty much completely yellow for a while before they develop black streaks – just as dessert bananas do – and finally they turn black.

The black ones are really sweet. Latinos use them to make a fabulously delicious sweet dish called maduros. But that's not what we're making today.Preparing plantain chips for patacones recipe

Patacones recipe

Here’s a simple recipe for patacones. You can do steps 1-5 ahead of time if you need to. Be aware though, you likely won't make them only once. They can be rather addicting.

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How to eat patacones

Enjoy them as they are usually served in Panama: as a snack or a side dish. We prefer them salted; our daughter likes them with ketchup, which is very popular in Panama. I think it's a holdover from the days when the U.S. controlled the Panama Canal. They also make a delicious accompaniment to Panama's national dish (find our Panamanian Sancocho recipe here).

Latinos serve them as is or with any dipping sauce, from guacamole to garlicky mojo and ají to sweet and sour. In some countries they are served topped with cheese as an appetizer, or with ceviche, pulled chicken or avocado salad. Venezuelans even use patacones as a sandwich filling! Try them any delicious way you like and let us know what you think.


Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries She has an insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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23 thoughts on “Easy Patacones Recipe from Panama

  1. I saw the plantains in the store and I’ve heard they are eaten fried, but I had no idea they are called Patacones. I’ve never tried them, of course, but I’m sure I would enjoy them a lot because they are fried. I love everything fried (although it’s so unhealthy!), so I’m going to try this recipe as soon as I can get my hands on some plantains.

    1. I am a huge fan of fried foods as well, Anda. They are really easy to make, and if they weren’t so high in carbs we would eat them a lot. Plantains are easy to find, actually. Besides Latino markets, these days you can often find them in regular grocery stores wherever there is a large Spanish, African or Caribbean population.

  2. Just based on these photos, these look simply delicious! I already love the fried banana chips that you can find in Southeast Asia, so I think I’d love these too. I don’t know if plantains are sold here in Singapore though. All the bananas you find in stores can be eaten raw. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these when I visit Ecuador!!

    1. I think you’re right that plantains aren’t available in Singapore, but you do have a lot of other things that we don’t, so it’s hard to feel very sorry for you, lol. I’m familiar with the salted banana chips that they sell in the U.S. They are very much like potato chips in texture and flavor, but with a slightly banana undertone. Are your chips similar?

  3. I love fried plantains and am always thrilled when I see them on a menu. My most recent encounter was on a cruise ship through the Panama canal.

    1. It’s great when cruise ships offer a sample of the local cuisines, isn’t it Rhonda? Did you have the opportunity to try any other Panamanian dishes while on the ship?

  4. Mmmm. These sound very tempting – I can imagine they’d be easy to snack on. I’ve had very mixed experiences with plantain including some which was just incredibly starchy, but cooked this way sounds delicious. #theweeklypostcard

    1. Well…just as you’d expect Cathy, the green ones are pretty starchy. You might prefer the ripe ones cooked with brown sugar, called maduros. I know we do!

  5. You have covered all the patacones related things in a excellent manner. In Puerto Rico, we called them tostones. We eat them with garlic mojo (like you mentioned) or with mayoketchup (as the name implies, you mix mayo and ketchup, sometimes a hint of garlic is added). Some people like to use the plantain when it is a bit ripe to make the patacones (will result in a sweeter patacon). I prefer the regular recipe with green plantains.

  6. I LOOOOVE fried plantain. Unfortunately, plantains are not the easiest thing to find in Nairobi so I don’t eat them as much as i would like to

  7. Wow, this certainly piqued my curiosity. I didn’t know what a plantain was and when I Googled, it kind of looks like saba, a variant of bananas that we use for cooking in the Philippines. Except instead of salt, we deep fry it with sugar — so sinful right? 🙂

    Will definitely try this out when I go to Latin America. The dips you described sounds absolutely mouth-watering!

    1. Turn about is fair play, Liz. I fully intend to seek out your sugar-laden fried saba when I go to the Philippines, and I’ll enjoy every bite of that decadence. Thanks for the tip.

  8. we know them as tostones, which I think is what they call them in Puerto Rico. And I really can’t get enough of them. My husband enjoys flattening them between the two fryings, he often uses a can of beans to do it. And a squeeze of lime juice with the salt adds a nice kicks. Thanks for sharing on #wkendtravelinspiration

    1. Yes, I think most countries know them as tostones. Your lime-and-salt suggestion sounds delicious; it would be a variation on the salt and vinegar flavor I enjoy so much with potato chips.

  9. Patacones…Tostones…Delish! Although we find plantains pretty regularly in grocery stores where we live (Texas), they tend to stay there a long time and are not great quality. However, the Asian markets around us carry all sorts of tasty cooking and dessert bananas. (Sometimes even Saba!) I like this easy recipe – I had tried baking them first, then mashing and frying. It worked pretty well, but they still taste better double fried. (So much for trying to be at least a little healthy…)

      1. I have not cooked with it, but my mom-in-law made a soup with it in there, along with who knows what! It tasted good, that’s all I was concerned with! 🙂 The saba itself tasted pretty much like a plantain. It was softer, but probably because it was stewing for a while.

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