Are plantains and bananas the same? In short, no.

By Melanie Fincher
January 08, 2020
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Credit: Getty Images/fcafotodigital

If you've ever stumbled across what appears to be a large, green bunch of thick-skinned bananas in your grocery store, make no mistake — those aren't bananas. They're plantains, banana's starchy cousin that is popular across much of Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. But what's the difference between bananas and plantains? While they do have a lot in common, these two tropical fruits are not the same.

What is a Banana? You Might Be Surprised

Did you know that a banana is actually an herb? Yet also a fruit...how's that for confusing? It's a fruit, as it contains the seeds of the plant. Although, commercially grown bananas are mostly sterile, making the seeds appear as just small, black specks in the fruit.

But even though the banana plant is commonly referred to as a "banana tree," it’s technically an herbaceous plant, because the stem has no woody tissue. This means a banana can also be considered an herb.

Whether or not you refer to it as a fruit, herb, or both — the term "banana" refers to the fruits produced by various herbaceous plants in the genus Musa. Although in Western cultures the term is often used to describe the sweet, yellow variety many of us are familiar with.

Bananas can be enjoyed both raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, especially desserts. They contain high levels of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

What is a Plantain?

A plantain is actually a type of banana, but with a different flavor and culinary use. Like bananas they are originally from Southeast Asia, but they're grown all over the world today. They tend to be larger in size than bananas, and have a thicker skin.

Plantains are also starchier and lower in sugar than bananas. They range in color from green to yellow to dark brown, depending on their ripeness. Because of the high starch content, plantains aren't often consumed raw, and must be cooked (boiled, sautéed, fried, or baked) before consumption. They're commonly used in Latin, African, and Caribbean cuisine. When it comes to cooking, they're treated more like a vegetable than a fruit, often being used in savory dishes.

Like bananas, plantains are high in complex carbs, but most of the carbs come from starch, unlike bananas, which have more carbs from sugar. Plantains are nutrient rich, but preparation plays a larger role in their overall health benefits.

The Bottom Line

So, these look-alike fruits are easy to get confused, but you'll be able to tell them apart once you take a bite. A plantain is a type of banana that's larger in size and has a starchier consistency, which is why it's not often consumed raw. Although the health benefits of bananas and plantains are largely the same, the ways that they are prepared are not.

Ways to Serve Plantains

Recipe creator Donna says, "Fried plantains are a traditional treat in many parts of the world. Try them once and you'll be hooked. Overly ripe plantains work best for this recipe."

Credit: LatinaCook

This dish is made using green plantains for a more savory side. Reviewer jennmiami says, "Just returned from Puerto Rico where we stayed in the mountains and my children discovered their love for tostones--these are exactly right!"

"Platanos, or Green Plantain Chips, are a yummy treat from the Caribbean," says recipe creator Luthiena.

Credit: LatinaCook

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We're serving up and celebrating the biggest home-cooking trends from the most enthusiastic cooks we know: our community. We crunched the data from 1.2 billion annual Allrecipes.com visits and 2.5 billion annual page views. Then we dug even further, surveying Allrecipes cooks about what's in their carts and fridges, on their stovetops and tables, and on their minds. Plantains is just one of the topics they're most curious about. See more of the "State of Home Cooking" special report.