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Plantains are an integral part of Caribbean cuisine and as versatile as my tio’s two-step after a cup of coquito. When I was growing up, my mother would mash plantains to make mangu or mofongo, pack them into empanadas, and bake them as plantain boats similar to these Cajun stuffed plantains. But my favorite iteration of the fruit — yes, plantains are a fruit — remains platanos frito. They were perfect for quick after-school snacks and munching on during my little league games.
It always seemed like the twice-fried, crispy, crunchy discs appeared like magic out of thin air, as if my mother was the Harry Potter of plantains. As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the patience, knowledge, and time that goes into preparing them — all things of which I have absolutely none of. So now, when I want a quick snack or a little taste of home, I opt for a bag of plantain chips from my nearest bodega. Although they’re not the same as the fried plantains that I loved so much, served straight from a pan of hot crackling oil, they take a lot less work. With so many brands and flavors to choose from, I set out to find the best of the bunch — the ones that would rival my after-school snacks of yesteryear. These are my top picks.
How I Tested the Plantain Chips
I visited several supermarkets and bodegas and purchased every bag of plantain chips I could get my hands on. I separated the bags into the five most popular flavor categories: original, lime, salted, garlic, and maduros (ripe), and proceeded to throw myself a plantain chip party in my living room. I turned on Juan Luis Guerra’s greatest jams and cleansed my palate in between tastes with sips of Country Club soda. I evaluated each bag on its ability to transport me back to summers in the Dominican Republic, sitting on my grandmother’s plastic-covered couch.
Best Original Plantain Chips: Mariquitas Classic Plantain Chips
A simple, classic plantain chip is harder to get right than I realized. Flavored chips, like lime and garlic, allow more room for error because the seasonings can mask the mistakes, but the classic plantain has nothing to fall back on. The taste, the feel, the color, everything must stand on its own and needs to be just right. This is where the Mariquitas stand out — the chips are thick, golden-brown, and have a toasty aftertaste. It’s the closest a bag of plantain chips will get to platanos frito straight out of the frying pan.
Best Salted Plantain Chips: Soldanza Lightly Salted Plantain Chips
Soldanza is the solid winner when it comes to salted plantain chips. Some of the chips in this category are lighter on salt and, in my opinion, a bit too light. Although the packaging on the Soldanza says they’re lightly salted, these chips have the perfect amount. The spot-on flavor combined with the light and crispy texture make them a clear front runner for the top spot.
Best Garlic Plantain Chips: Chifles Garlic Plantain Chips
The only thing I love more than garlic is plantains chips, so I had high hopes (and expectations) for this category. Chifles is one of the old-school brands I grew up snacking on, and these are just as good as I remember. The chips are thick and crunchy, and the garlic taste is just enough to let the plantain flavor shine through.
Best Lime Plantain Chips: Mariquitas Classic Lime Plantain Chips
Lime was a hard category to choose a clear-cut winner, and it will probably depend on your personal preference. All the bags varied in their level of lime flavor — a classic Goldilocks scenario. I enjoyed Mariquita the most. The flavor is just right: not subtle, but not overpowering. These chips taste as if you softly squeezed a lime onto a plantain.
Best Sweet Plantain Chips: Mayté Maduritos Sweet Plantain Chips
This category had solid competition, but the shiny red Mayté bag eked out the win. The chips are sweet and have a hard candy-like crunch. Some of the chips in the bag are lightly burned, making them seem more homemade. If you’re a fan of platanos maduros, you’ll enjoy the Mayté plantain chips.
Buy: Mayté Maduritos Sweet Plantain Chips, $0.99 for 3 ounces at Instacart
Did your favorite plantain chip make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Carlos Matias is a writer living in the Bronx, NY. The only thing he enjoys more than food and pop culture is weaving the two together. And empanadas.