Plantain

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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2 green plantains before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat plantain?

Plantains may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. 

Plantains are part of the same family as bananas, but they are much starchier with a mild earthy taste and just a touch of sweetness that becomes more pronounced as they ripen. While plantains can technically be eaten raw when they are very ripe, the fruit is called a “cooking banana” for a reason. It is most often prepared like a vegetable… specifically, like a potato—boiled and mashed, steamed and grilled, smashed and fried, sliced and baked—almost always with aromatic seasoning from alliums, herbs, and spices. 

Plantains originated on the islands of southeast Asia, where colonizers took the tropical fruit to Africa and later to the Americas, where it flourishes today. Around the world, the fruit is used to make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert. In Ghana, plantains are marinated in savory spices to make kelewele; in Cuba, fufu features boiled and mashed plantains mixed with sofrito; in Nicaragua, fried plantains show up with stewed meats, rice, and beans on heaping plates called frittanga; and in the Philippines, plantains are battered and fried to make sweet fritters called maruya.   

★ Tip: When reading recipes, pay attention to the stage of ripeness called for in the ingredient list as fresh plantains are sold in different stages of ripeness. Green plantains, for example, are hard and extra starchy like potatoes cannot necessarily be swapped for ripe plantains which, over time, become mottled with brown spots, and eventually turn black—a sign of peak sweetness. 

Kalani, 8 months, eats sautéed plantain.
Julian, 13 months, eats sautéed plantains.
Leila, 16 months, eats a tostone. Tostones and other fried plantain preparations are choking hazards so only introduce if you feel your child has developed advanced eating skills.

Is plantain healthy for babies?

Yes. While a plantain does not offer a ton of fat or protein, the fruit contains plenty of carbohydrates and important nutrients to help your baby thrive. It is packed with B vitamins, including B6 to help babies turn food into energy and folate to grow their cells and tissues. It also contains vitamin A to strengthen babies’ eyesight, skin, and immune system, and vitamin C to help babies absorb iron develop a strong immune system. 

Plantains are often processed to create food products like chips, fries, and tostones—delicious twice-fried rounds of green plantains—and their sweeter fried cousins, maduros. While highly processed and fried foods are not ideal foods to regularly serve to young children, plantain flour is a perfectly healthy product for babies and toddlers, especially in gluten-free families. Made with starchy green plantains, the flour contains fiber and vitamins, and when it’s processed from both the flesh and the peel, it offers calcium, iron, and antioxidants.1 2 It can also promote a healthy digestive system by cultivating friendly bacteria in a baby’s gut.3

★ Tip: Plantains are often artificially ripened and as a result, may contain chemical residues.4 Bananas and plantains also tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. When shopping, consider buying organic plantains and if organic isn’t an option, wash plantains before slicing; this may help reduce exposure to pesticide residues.

 

Is plantain a choking hazard for babies?

No, though certain preparations of plantains (such as tostones or plantain chips) can be. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and stay near your baby during mealtime. Keep scrolling for age-appropriate serving suggestions!

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is plantain a common allergen?

No. Plantains are not a common allergen, although individuals with ragweed allergy, latex allergy, or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called “pollen-food” allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to plantains and bananas.5 6 7 Oral allergy typically presents as a mild and temporary itching in the mouth, which usually resolves on its own. However, oral allergy symptoms tend not to be a problem when the plantain is cooked before serving. People who are allergic to bananas may also be allergic to plantains as the fruits are part of the same plant family.8

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How to cut plantain for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Cook plantains until soft then cut into large pieces to serve as finger food or mash, adding milk or stock to loosen the food if desired. Serve with minimal seasoning to introduce the taste of the fruit on its own and let your baby use their hands to scoop up the food or offer a pre-loaded spoon to encourage utensil practice. 

12 to 18 months old: Offer bite-size pieces of well-cooked plantain and try mixing the fruit with other foods like beans and grains. You may also continue to serve large pieces of cooked plantain for biting and tearing practice and mashes for spoon practice. Just hold off on serving fried plantains such as tostones; the hard, crispy texture can be challenging for young toddlers to break, chew, and swallow safely.

18 to 24 months old: Serve cooked plantains as you wish; almost anything goes at this age. If you feel your child has established strong chewing skills, you can introduce plantain fritters, tostones, and even plantain chips, though be aware they are choking hazards and that it’s best to keep fried foods to a minimum.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

★Tip: Store plantains at room temperature to ripen. Once they are black, transfer the fruit to the fridge to extend the shelf life. Once peeled, they can be frozen for up to a month. 

Recipe: Mangú (Dominican Mashed Green Plantains)

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 quart unsalted meat or vegetable stock
  • 2 green plantains
  • 2 small shallots
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil

Directions

  1. Add the stock to a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and set on medium-high heat.
  2. Prepare the plantains while the pot comes to a boil. Start by cutting off the plantains’ tips with a paring knife. To peel, make shallow cuts lengthwise along the fruit’s natural ridges, then use the knife to begin to separate the skin. Once there is enough skin to grab, use your fingers to pull it away from the flesh, then use the paring knife to cut away any remaining skin. Compost the stems and skins, then cut each plantain into 3 sections.
  3. Add the plantains to the boiling stock and turn the heat down to create a steady simmer. Cook, uncovered, until a knife easily pierces a plantain, about 30 minutes.
  4. When the plantains are done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pot. Transfer the plantains to a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth, adding splashes of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen the fruit if necessary.
  5. Peel and mince the shallots. Add your oil of choice to a skillet set on medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and stir to coat. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the mashed plantains and the rest of the reserved cooking liquid. Stir to combine, then continue to cook for 5 minutes to mix the flavors. Turn off the heat and let cool.

To serve: Scoop some mangú into a baby-friendly bowl for your child, and serve yourself and any other family members a generous portion. Serve and encourage hand scooping or offer a spoon alongside the bowl if your child is ready to practice with utensils. Eat alongside your child to model how it’s done!

To store: Store leftover mangú in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer for future meals. It will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge or 1 month in the freezer. If you like, portion the mangú into kid-friendly servings sizes for easier access to leftovers.

Flavor Pairings

Flavor Pairings: Try pairing plantains with other tropical fruits and vegetables like avocado, coconut, cassava, papaya, or yams; serve alongside eggs; hearty meats like bison, goat, lamb, spare ribs, and steak; or protein-rich seafood like salmon, sardine, or shrimp. Like other starchy foods, plantains act like a blank canvas for seasonings and spices, so experiment with your family’s favorite flavors. Try a savory blend of chile, garlic, lemon, and oil taste delicious—or go sweet with allspice, coconut sugar, and plenty of butter. Add extra flavor with ground peanut or your favorite nut.

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kimberly Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Arun, K.B., Persia, F., Aswathy, P.S., Chandran, J., Sajeev, M.S., et al. (2015). Plantain peel—a potential source of antioxidant dietary fiber for developing functional cookies. Journal of food science and technology, 52(10), 6355–6364. DOI:10.1007/s13197-015-1727-1. Retrieved October 27, 2020
  2. Korczak, R., Kamil, A., Fleige, L., Donovan, S.M., Slavin, J.L. (2017). Dietary fiber and digestive health in children. Nutrition Reviews, 75(4), 241–259. DOI:10.1093/nutrit/nuw068. Retrieved October 27, 2020
  3. Davani-Davari, D., Negahdaripour, M., Karimzadeh, I., Seifan, M., Mohkam, M., et al. (2019). Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(3), 92. DOI:10.3390/foods8030092. Retrieved October 27, 2020
  4. Douglas Barraza, et. al. Pesticide use in banana and plantain production and risk perception among local actors in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Pub Med. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2011.02.009. Epub 2011 Mar 10. Retrieved December 2, 202
  5. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (2020). Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved October 27, 2020
  6. Mayo Clinic. Food Allergy. (2019). Retrieved October 27, 2020
  7. Anaphylaxis Campaign. (2018). Banana. Retrieved October 27, 2020
  8. Anaphylaxis Campaign. (2018). Banana. Retrieved October 27, 2020