Plantains are popular in Latin American, Asian, and African cuisines, and with that much geographical diversity, are prepared and eaten in a number of ways. Unlike their cousins the common sweet banana, plantains have to be cooked. They are starchy, only slightly sweet, and are no more appealing to eat raw than potatoes. They can be pink, green, red, blackish-brown, and yellow with black spots.

In different areas, plantains are prepared and eaten as other starchy vegetables. In East Africa, they are beaten and boiled into a type of porridge. Elsewhere, roasting and baking are among the more popular preparations. Perhaps the most familiar plantain preparation in this hemisphere, though, is for tostones, in which slightly under-ripe plantain slices are fried, pounded flat or squeezed in a small press, and fried again until crisp.