Bring a taste of the Caribbean into your home with these irresistibly delicious Plátanos al Caldero (Caramelized Sweet Plantains). Gluten free and vegan, these sweet plantains are super easy to make and are ready in 15 minutes. Enjoy them as a side at any meal, in burrito bowls, or as a fabulous snack!
As someone who loves plantains in all their forms, I’ve wanted to post this recipe for plátanos al caldero for quite some time. It is a dish that is much loved in the Dominican Republic and a huge favourite in our family. Unlike maduros, which are deep-fried ripe plantains, plátanos al caldero are flavoured with cinnamon and cloves and stewed in just a bit of oil (or butter), sugar, and water until soft, beautifully caramelized, and coated in a syrupy glaze.
Though sweet enough to be enjoyed as a dessert, in the Dominican Republic plátanos al cladero are mostly served as a side dish to savoury meals. The combination of savoury/sweet might seem a little odd but once you try it, you’ll be hooked.
What I love most about these caramelized sweet plantains is that they couldn’t be easier to make and take less than 15 minutes to cook. And because very little oil is used, they don’t splatter and they aren’t soaked with excess oil. I have never met anyone who doesn’t love them.
In the Dominican Republic, and pretty much all throughout the Caribbean and Central America, plantains are treated as a staple ingredient. Brought by the Spanish and African slave traders, plantains flourished in the tropics and quickly became a dominant crop.
In the nutrition department, plantains are a rich source of fibre and high in minerals such as magnesium and potassium. They also provide a good amount of vitamins A, C, and B-6.
Though close cousins to bananas, plantains are larger, starchier, and not as easy to peel. Plantains also need to be cooked, never eaten raw. But plantains can be enjoyed at every stage of their maturing cycle from green to almost black. The stage they are at will determine how you cook them. For example, green plantains are hard with no hint of sweetness. Try boiling them and mashing them like potatoes (this makes mangú). They are great in soups and stews and completely addictive when deep-fried twice to make tostones.
As the plantain ripens, the peel will change to a yellow colour, then dark brown, then almost black at its ripest. Ripe plantains become much softer and the starch turns sugary-sweet. At this stage, plantains are great for baking, for deep-frying to make deliciously sweet maduros, or for making these plátanos al cladero.
How To Buy And Store Plantains
If you bring home green plantains, they will slowly continue to ripen when left on the counter. You can leave them for as long as you like until they turn almost black. In colder climates this could take up to 2 weeks.
If you need your plantains to ripen faster, try placing them in a paper bag and keep them in a dark warm-ish spot. Once they have reached their peak ripeness, you will have to use them up. Much like bananas, you cannot store them in the fridge to prevent them from getting riper. They will turn hard and unpleasantly dark.
I mostly cook with very green plantains, or very ripe ones. Both of which are hard to find at grocery stores where I live. For this recipe, you will need very ripe plantains so it is best to buy them as ripe as possible right from the store. If you can only find greenish-yellow ones, that’s fine. You will just have to wait until they are very ripe. You will know they are at the right stage to make plátanos al caldero when they are dark orange/yellow and covered in black spots. Exactly like the ones you see in the photo above. In the Kitchener-Waterloo area, I have had luck finding ripe plantains here and here.
Don’t be tempted to use plantains that aren’t ripe enough or they will not work for this recipe. Similarly, plantains that are completely black will be too soft for this recipe but can be used to make maduros.
How To Peel and Slice Plantains
Unlike bananas, plantains have a thick peel that cannot be peeled unless you use a knife. Thankfully, ripe ones are much easier to peel than green ones.
Here’s how to do it:
- Using a small sharp knife, cut off the tips of each end.
- Start at the top of one end and cut a slit lengthwise through the peel, doing your best to not cut into the flesh.
- Pry open the peel with your fingers and remove it. At this point a ripe plantain should peel like a banana.
- If there are any bruised or dark spot, trim them off with the knife.
- For this recipe, slice the plantains crosswise into 1-inch rounds.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Plantains – You will need very ripe plantains to make plátanos al cladero. You can use as few or as many as you’d like and adjust the sugar and water quantity accordingly. The spices can stay the same unless you are using two separate pans.
- Oil – A neutral oil to sauté the plantains is best. I use avocado or coconut oil. If you wish, you can add a tablespoon or two of butter which adds great flavour to the plantains. Butter will also help the plantains caramelize quicker.
- Sugar – We prefer our plátanos en caldero less sweet so we use a lot less sugar than most traditional recipes. I use about 1 1/2 tablespoon of cane sugar but you can use white or brown, if you prefer.
- Cinnamon sticks – As with bananas, cinnamon pairs beautifully with sweet plantains. We toss in 2 to 3 sticks to give this dish its homey, slightly woody warmth.
- Whole cloves – You will need two or three whole cloves which give the platanos en cladero their distinct flavour. If you aren’t a fan of cloves, you can leave them out.
- Water – Adding water helps cook the plantains and also makes a lovely syrup when mixed with the sugar.
How To Make Plátanos al Caldero
5 ingredients and 15 minutes is all you need to make this Caribbean delicacy!
Here is the step by step:
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the sliced plantains in one layer. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Use a fork or spatula to transfer to a plate, leaving behind most of the oil.
- Sprinkle the sugar into the pan and add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
- As soon as the sugar starts to turn golden, add the water. Carefully slide the plantains back into the pan. Use a fork to spread them out evenly. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes a side, adding a bit more water if it evaporates too quickly.
- Serve warm sprinkled with a few pinches of flaky salt, if desired. Enjoy!
What To Serve With Plátanos al Caldero
Hands down my favourite way to eat these sweet caramelized plantains is alongside any variation of rice and beans. They are also great in burrito bowls or for topping grain salads.
Serve the plátanos al caldero with stewed or grilled meat, or fish.
For a simple, quick, and insanely delicious dinner, serve them with scrambled eggs or an omelette.
If you would like to treat the sweet plantains as a dessert, cook them with a little more sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
If you made too many you’re in luck – leftovers are great for days! Just store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a pan with a little oil over medium heat until warmed through.
If you give this Plátanos al Caldero recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Plátanos al Caldero (Sweet Caramelized Plantains)
- 3 very ripe plantains (yellow with a lot of black spots)
- 2 tablespoons oil such as avocado or coconut oil
- 1 tbsp butter optional
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (I used cane sugar)
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup water
- Peel plantains and slice crosswise into 3/4-inch (or 1-inch) rounds.
- Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the plantains in one layer (it's okay to overcrowd these a bit). Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Use a fork or spatula to transfer to a plate.
- Sprinkle the sugar into the pan and add the cinnamon sticks and cloves. As soon as the sugar starts to turn golden, add the water. Carefully slide the plantains back into the pan and use a fork to spread them out evenly. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes a side, adding a bit more water if it evaporates too quickly.
- Serve warm sprinkled with a few pinches of flaky salt, if desired. Enjoy!
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