In Puerto Rico, jibaro is a reference to the island's rural, agrarian population. However, in Chicago, a jibarito is a unique and original sandwich created by Puerto Rican immigrants at the Borinquen restaurant in Humboldt Park. Today it is served throughout the city.
The distinguishing feature of this sandwich is the replacement of bread with smashed, fried plantains. It's brilliantly delicious and you can add any of your favorite sandwich fixings.
This particular jibarito recipe features roast beef topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a spiced mayonnaise. You can make these full-sized and enjoy them as a meal or cut the plantains down and build them into small party sandwiches.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 large plantains (green)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 handfuls lettuce
- 1 tomato (thinly sliced)
- 1 onion (peeled and cut into slivers)
- 4 slices Swiss cheese (sliced for sandwiches)
- 1/4 pound roast beef (thinly sliced)
- Garnish: olives
- Heat the oil to 375 F.
- Peel the plantains, cut them in half, then cut each half lengthwise.
- Fry the plantains in oil for 4 minutes. Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towels.
- Flatten the plantains. Re-fry in the hot oil for another 4 minutes until the plantains are crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, chili powder, cumin powder, and garlic powder.
- Spread the mayonnaise mix on one side of the flat plantains.
- Build your sandwich by layering the tomatoes, onions, cheese, and roast beef, using the flat plantains as if it were bread.
- Stick a toothpick with olives in the middle of the sandwich. Serve immediately.
This recipe makes 4 jibarito plantain sandwiches and it's easy to increase or decrease the size to fit your needs. Simply keep in mind that one plantain will make two full sandwiches.
Tips and Variations
The key to making the plantain substitution work is to ensure they're fried until they're nice and crispy. Also, the fried plantains need to be drained very well otherwise you will end up with a greasy mess.
Almost anything you can put on a sandwich can also be put on a jibarito. Thinly sliced steak is the original meat of choice, though any of your favorite deli meats will make an excellent base as well. If you scour Chicago's restaurant menus, you will find jibaritos with everything from chicken to shrimp, even vegetarian versions with tofu. Whatever you choose, be sure to top it with a great cheese and the freshest, crispest vegetables you can find.
Garlic mayonnaise is a popular condiment for jibaritos as well. It's easy to make at home, simply mix garlic with mayo, salt, and lemon juice as seen in the classic aioli recipe.