Plantains, the less popular cousin to the ubiquitous banana, are staging a coup. Well, at least in modern America: other cultures, especially tropical ones, have long relied on this starchy staple. Plantains are a rich energy source with a host of micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile: bake, boil, steam, sauté, grill, roast, fry, mash, or grind them and pair with sweet and savory fare for an equally gratifying gustatory experience.
But today we’re highlighting these fleshy fruits for another reason: intestinal health. As research increasingly reveals, the microbiome—or the enormously complex community of microorganisms residing in the human body, together with their collective genomes—may be the key to vibrant wellness. Beneficial bacteria can confer lasting health, while pathogenic bacteria can disrupt the delicate balance, especially in the gut. That’s where plantains, along with other foods like garlic, onions, jicama, asparagus, and dandelion greens, come in: they’re packed with prebiotics, or substances that are largely indigestible and therefore pass though the small intestine and into the colon where they become fuel for good gut microflora. This improves antioxidation, detoxification, intestinal integrity, and more—meaning less detrimental inflammation and better digestion, elimination, immunity, brain function, energy production, and hormone balance.
Here’s a tasty way to introduce plantains into your diet.
Look for green plantains, which are a better prebiotic source than their yellow counterpart, where some of the starch has converted to sugar. While plantains are becoming more commonly available in stores, you could substitute green bananas for a similar effect.
This recipe capitalizes on another gut-friendly food: gelatin, which also improves digestion, intestinal integrity, and much more. (Gelatin derives from bone broth, which we’ve endorsed before.)
These pancakes can be prepared plain, with simply salt to season, or made savory or sweet with other herb and spice additions—a handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro, a spoonful of toasted cumin seeds, or a dash of cinnamon and splash of vanilla are all good options. If desiring a flatter consistency, thin the batter with extra liquid before cooking and serve as tortillas or wraps with your choice of filling.
- 4 medium green plantains (about 2 pounds)
- ½ teaspoon sea or rock salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil (plus more for cooking)
- dried or fresh herbs or spices of your choice (optional)
- 4 tablespoons gelatin
- ¾ cup filtered water
- Peel each plantain by cutting off the top and bottom and then slicing the peel down one of the ridges. Discard the peel and roughly chop the flesh.
- Place the plantains, salt, baking soda, coconut oil, and optional seasonings in a high-speed blender or food processor. Wait to blend. (If you desire to preserve the shape and texture of your optional seasonings, like chopped greens or whole seeds, then mix into the batter after step 4 instead.)
- Prepare the gelatin. Put the filtered water in a small pot and slowly sprinkle the gelatin over top. Stir the gelatin into the water and heat the pot over medium-low heat, continuing to stir.
- When the gelatin has completely dissolved, remove from heat and pour the liquid into the blender with the other ingredients. Blend thoroughly.
- Melt additional coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Drop the mixture by large spoonfuls onto the pan and cook for several minutes on each side, until lightly browned and bubbles start to form.
- Remove the pancakes from the pan and repeat with the remaining batter.