Don’t waste banana peels: Turn them into tasty vegan ‘pulled pork’

Don’t waste banana peels: Turn them into tasty vegan ‘pulled pork’ thumbnail

The average US household wastes 32 percent of its food, costing each family about $1,600 a year. While everyone can practice more responsible buying , and be better about eating leftovers before going bad ,, some of that waste, such as fruit peels, cannot be avoided. Or so you might think.

In truth, you can eat apple cores and kiwi seeds, use orange peels as garnish, and even eat banana peels. These often-discarded skins can be used as a substitute for barbecue pulled pork sandwiches if you use heat, sauce, and spices correctly.

Believe it. Although the idea isn’t yet popular in the US, people in India, Venezuela, and Southeast Asia have been using banana peels to make delicious and nutritious food for many years. And not only are they edible, they’re good for you, too: banana peels contain potassium, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium, and even protein.

Annually, the average American eats 13.4 pounds of bananas–our favorite fresh fruit. But since peels can comprise 35 percent of the fruit, a large portion of what we buy goes in the trash. The peels can be eaten to reduce food waste. And by the way, discarded food is the single largest category of material that ends up in municipal landfills, producing methane–a potent greenhouse gas–as it breaks down.

So, why haven’t you been making banana peels, caramelizing the sugar, and adding them to smoothies or frying them in barbecue sauce? Americans seem to have trouble overcoming the ick factor. There are certain things that we, as a culture, consider unfit for consumption. If you’re willing to try banana peels, these barbecue banana peel sandwiches might be the best introduction.

First, choose the perfect bananas

As with many dishes, it is important to choose the right ingredients. You can put very ripe, soft peels in banana bread or smoothies, but you will need to buy fruit that is just underripe to achieve a similar texture as pulled pork. The bananas should have a slight greenish tint to their tops and bottoms or be fully yellowed and still firm. When cooked, soft banana peels can become mushy and unpalatable.

[Related: Craving a radioactive snack? Grab a banana.]

When you find bananas that are at the ideal level of ripeness check to make sure they are pesticide-free. If they can’t be peeled, wash them well as you would any other fruit with an edible peel.

Now, don’t do a 180 and waste the actual fruit: eat it as a pre-meal snack, make a fruit salad, whip up some banana pudding, or freeze some slices to use later.

Stats

  • Time: 20 minutes (prep), 10 to 15 minutes (cooking)
  • Material cost: $10 to $15
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 6 banana peels, scraped clean and shredded
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, plus more to taste
  • Sharp knife
  • Spoon
  • Fork
  • Cutting board
  • Medium (or large) pan with a lid
  • Spatula (or flipper)

Instructions

1. Prepare the bananas. Cut off the top and bottom quarter-inch of each fruit and peel them, ideally into four sections. This will ensure that the peels are as narrow as possible, approximately the width of a dinner knife. Scrape any white banana flesh remaining with a spoon. You can then compost it.

2. Use a fork to shred the banana peels. Try to end up with thin strips similar to the size of pulled pork. Cut the strips into pieces measuring between 2 and 3 inches in length. It will take some elbow grease.

A person shredding banana peels with a fork on a teal plastic cutting board, with a knife on the cutting board and banana peels all around it.
A fork is really just four little knives if you think about it. Alisha McDarris

3. Make the sauce. Combine the water, olive oil and cumin. Mix well.

4. Add the shredded banana peeles to the sauce. Then, toss to coat them in delicious flavor.

5. Cook the peels. Heat a pan with a lid over medium heat and add the contents of the bowl to the pan. Stir and cover the pan with a lid. Let everything steam for about 10 minutes. The time it takes to cook will depend on how ripe the banana peels are. Start tasting around 8 minutes into the cooking process. If the pan looks dry, add a few tablespoons of water.

6. Cook for another 5 minutes. When the shreds are no longer crunchy, but not mushy, remove the lid and add the half-cup of barbeque sauce. Sauté the sauce and shreds for 1 to 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

7. Build your sandwiches. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the saucy shreds to hamburger buns. Add pickles, coleslaw or lettuce to the hamburger buns. Enjoy immediately.

This is what we call a plant-based, cheap meal that saves money, reduces food waste, and tastes great. You shouldn’t expect to have leftovers.

Alisha McDarris

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