Food is famous for dragging us down memory lane. During our first date (which was at my house), I cooked tostones–twice-fried, mashed plantains–for the man who would become my husband.
While cutting the plantains, I noticed out of my periphery he was standing at the threshold of my tiny kitchen just staring at me. Thinking he was plotting to attack me; I grasped the knife I was using a little tighter and asked if everything was okay.
“You look just like my grandmother doing that,” he said.
Years later he told me that was the moment he knew he was going to marry me.
What Are Tostones?
Tostones (also known as patacones in some Latin American countries) are comforting to those who grew up eating them. Akin to North American potato chips, tostones are green (underripe) plantains that have been fried until they are soft, then mashed and refried.
They’re basically a snack food and are commonly served as an accompaniment or appetizer to a heavier meal or enjoyed by schoolchildren as an afternoon snack.
What Are Plantains?
Plantains are a variety of banana that must be cooked because of the amount of starch they contain. Like bananas, green plantains are unripe and yellow plantains are ripe. Unlike a banana, plantains in their uncooked state are slimy and devoid of flavor; eating a raw plantain is like eating hard paste. It’s not a pretty sight or flavor.
Underripe, green plantains are more like potatoes than bananas: high starch, low sugar . This means that bananas can’t stand in for plantains because of their higher sugar content. They just won’t hold together for this recipe. (And plantains can’t stand in for the bananas in your Aunt Ethel’s famous banana pudding recipe because of how bland and fibrous they are.)
When in doubt just remember: The plantains need to be cooked.
How to Pick and Peel a Plantain
The plantains used for tostones should be a verdant green in color and must be very firm. Avoid plantains with a lot of yellow in the peel as they have already started to ripen and will taste sweeter.
Peeling a green plantain is easy. Cut off both ends of the plantain before scoring the peel down the “back” of the plantain. Use the fleshy parts of your thumbs to remove the plantain’s fibrous peel.
How to Make Tostones in the Air Fryer
Tostones are traditionally pan-fried, but I’ve started air-frying them (much to my doctor’s delight). It cuts down on the fat and the mess (no oil splatters) but still yields crispy tostones.
If you prefer to fry yours, it’s just a matter of completing each of the frying steps using vegetable oil heated to 375°F. Be sure to drain your tostones on paper towels after each frying session.
- New to the air fryer? Check out our First Timer's Guide to Using an Air Fryer.
How to Flatten Tostones
Most Latin American homes have at least one tostonera in their kitchens. This tool is used to flatten the softened pieces of plantain. Tostoneras are used almost exclusively for making tostones and, in many homes, often double as wall art.
Though tostoneras are fairly inexpensive, if you don’t make tostones on a regular basis, it may not be prudent to purchase one. Placing your soft plantain between a piece of parchment paper (or a brown paper bag) and smashing it with a coffee mug will accomplish the same result.
What to Serve With Tostones?
A dipping sauce made of mayonnaise and ketchup known colloquially as “mayoketchu” is the most popular condiment to serve with tostones. Some people also enjoy a warmed garlic oil known as ajillo. It’s made by combining two cloves of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and a quarter cup of warmed olive oil. Garlic oil isn’t used as often because the flavor can be quite strong.
Make Ahead Tips for Tostones
Tostones are cooked in two stages: the par-fry which is followed by the final “crisping” fry.
The first fry can be done in advance, which helps if you plan to make a lot to serve to a larger crowd. To maintain the tostones crispness, the final fry should be done just prior to serving them.
If friends are late to the party, and you need to keep the tostones warm place them on a baking sheet in a 175°F oven.
Storing and Freezing Tostones
Leftover tostones may be stored in a food container in the fridge for 24 hours and reheated in a 350°F degree oven until warmed through or refried in the air fryer for 2 to 3 minutes at 350°F.
The quality and crispness will be significantly diminished, though, so I recommend only making what you plan to eat the same day.
If you want to have tostones on hand for those last-minute cravings, flatten the fried plantains and allow them to cool completely. Seal them in a freezer storage bag for up to two months. Thaw them completely before frying the final time in the air fryer.
Need More Snack Ideas?
- Oven-Fried Potato Chips
- How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Crispy Air-Fryer Chickpeas
- Herb-Spiced Mixed Nuts
- BBQ Bacon Jalapeño Poppers
Air Fryer Tostones
- For the dipping sauce:
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- For the tostones:
- 3 green plantains
- 4 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (vegetable, peanut, or coconut oil)
- coarse salt for sprinkling
Prepare dipping sauce
Whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic powder. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. You can do this up to 48 hours in advance.
Peel and cut the plantains
Remove the ends of the green plantains with a sharp knife. Score the plantain down its back side and use the fleshy part of your thumbs to push the peel up and away from the plantain.
Preheat your air fryer to 350°F.
Soak the plaintains
Combine 4 cups of cold water and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Slice the plantain into 1 1/2-inch-thick chunks and soak them in water for 20 minutes. (Soaking the plantains prevents browning and keeps the air-fried plantains from drying out while cooking.
Dry then par-fry the plantains
Remove the plantains from the water and dry each one thoroughly. Toss the plantain slices in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil. Make sure each plantain is coated in a thin layer of the oil.
Transfer the plantains to your air fryer’s basket. Organize in a single layer, leaving a 1/2 inch of space on all sides of the slices to allow the air to circulate properly. Fry until the plantain offers no resistance when pierced with the tip of a knife. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes per side.
Mash the plantains
Increase the air fryer’s temperature to 400°F. Carefully remove the plantain slices from the basket and smash each one in a tostonera or place your soft plantain between a piece of parchment paper (or a brown paper bag) and smash it with a coffee mug. The plantain should be a flat 1/4-inch thick disc that holds together.
Air fry the smashed plantains
Return the smashed plantains to the air fryer basket (you may have to work in batches depending on the size of your basket).
Brush a light layer of oil onto the top side of the tostones and fry for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip the tostones and brush once more with a light layer of oil, then fry for the final time for 4 minutes instead of 3 minutes.
Season the tostones
Immediately after removing them from the air fryer. Serve the tostones with the mayo-ketch sauce while still hot.