A skillet full of lightly fried sweet ripe plantains topped with melted cheese is my ultimate comfort food. My mom used to prepare plantains this way for breakfast when I was a kid, so this dish always brings back warm memories. On those days when I feel homesick or I need a pick-me up kind of meal, a plate full of platanos maduros con queso or ripe fried plantains with cheese is the perfect cure. My kids also share my love of plantains, even my oldest that has recently developed a dislike of regular bananas, still loves plantains. I try to make prepare this plantain dish for them on the weekends. It’s just too crazy on weekdays. I don’t know how my mom managed to always make us this for breakfast; in addition she also made us fresh fruit smoothies. These days I prefer to have a freshly brewed cup of cafecito negro or black coffee to go with my plantains and cheese. These fried ripe plantains with melted cheese are great for breakfast or brunch, but I also love to make them occasionally for dinner. Also, if I’m feeling really hungry I also like to add a fried egg on top – a bite of egg + ripe plantain + cheese + a little bit of aji or hot sauce is heaven in a bite!
In Ecuador we use a fresh young cheese called quesillo to melt on top of the plantains. Quesillo is similar to a fresh farmer’s cheese and I found some here -both when I lived in Austin and also in Seattle)-that are very close to Ecuadorian quesillo, but they are so expensive ($15 plus per pound). Mozzarella has become very popular in Ecuador in the recent years, before you would mainly buy quesillo at the market, but now most people buy cheese – usually mozzarella – at the national supermarket chain. One of my mom’s neighbors makes quesillo to sell and showed me how to make it during my last visit, the process is actually very easy – the biggest challenge is that quesillo is made with raw milk.
Plantains get sweeter and softer as they get riper and completely ripe means that they are black all over. The level of ripeness that you look for in a plantain varies based on how you are going to prepare them. For this recipe of ripe fried plantains with melted cheese, they should be ripe but still firm, usually this means very yellow with hints of black. You can also prepare this recipe by baking the ripe plantain slices instead of frying them, but it does take longer and they tend to be a little bit drier. Also, about the same amount of oil or butter is used regardless of if they are baked or fried (at least in this recipe).
Easy recipe for fried plantains with melted cheese, made with sweet ripe plantains topped with grated quesillo or grated mozzarella.
- ½ to 1 tablespoon oil or butter
- 1 to 1 ½ ripe plantains per person – depending on the size of the plantain and how hungry you are
- ½ cup of grated mozzarella cheese per person, or grated quesillo or a mix of mozzarella and queso fresco – this is about 4 to 5 ounces depending on the type of cheese
- Hot black coffee
- Fried egg – optional
- Aji or hot sauce - optional
- Cut the tips off and peel the ripe plantains, depending on the size you can either cut them in halves before slicing or slice the entire plantain. It does make it easier to slice them if you cut them halves first. Next, cut the plantains into slices that are about ¼ inch thick (or about ½ cm thick).
- Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the plantain slices and cook on each side until they start to turn a golden yellow color, the flesh will go from a pinkish or light peach to yellow when they cook. You can turn them only once, though I usually end up turning them a first time, and then if needed giving the ones the need it another turn to get that golden tone.
- Once the plantains are cooked, turn the heat down to very low or completely off, sprinkle the grated mozzarella or quesillo on top, and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts.
- Use a large spatula to transfer the ripe plantains with melted cheese to a plate and serve immediately. Can be served as is or with a fried egg on top and some aji or hot sauce on the side.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
- Brush or rub the ripe plantain slices with oil or melted butter.
- Place the plantain slices on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, then turn the plantain slices over and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until nice and golden.
- Sprinkle with the grated cheese and return to the oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts.