Recipe Review

I Tried Piononos for the First Time and They Were So Much Better than I’d Imagined

published Apr 1, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
I Tried It Piononos
Credit: Carlos Matias

For those unfamiliar with the term, piononos are petite versions of pastelón — a layered plantain dish that’s similar to a Puerto Rican lasagna and popular across the Caribbean. The savory plantain pockets are stuffed with a ground beef mix named picadillo that varies from country to country, and topped with cheese.  

Unlike the pastelón, which is a casserole dish and a more laborious undertaking, these fried ripe plantain rolls are quicker to prepare and you don’t need a get-together as an excuse to make them. Unfortunately, as much as it shames me to admit it, I had never heard of piononos until I came across @deyasdishespiononos recipe. And let me tell you, my life is forever changed by them.

Get the recipe: Piononos

How to Make Piononos

I made mine with beef, but as Deya mentions, ground turkey also works. You’ll want to prepare a beef picadillo ahead of time to fill the plantain cups. Recipes for the ground beef dish vary greatly, but I made mine with tomato paste, sautéed onions, ground cumin, dried oregano, and both garlic and onion powder. 

Credit: Carlos Matias

While the picadillo is cooking, peel some ripe plantains and slice them horizontally into long strips. Each plantain can give you about five slices, depending on the size. Next, you’ll fry the plantains in oil until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Once done, place the plantains on a paper towel so they can drain and cool off. 

Some pionono instructions use toothpicks to hold the plantain rolls together, but Deya’s recipe uses a cupcake mold, which I personally think is ingenious. Rub butter on each cupcake mold and wrap the inside with a plantain strip before pouring in a bit of raw egg to help hold everything in place. Place a spoonful of meat inside the plantain cup and top with shredded cheese and more meat. Pour a bit more of the egg over the meat and place the tin in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes. After you remove it from the oven, top with more cheese and place back in the oven for another 7 minutes — until the cheese is melted and browning. Garnish with chives, and enjoy!

My Honest Opinion of Piononos

I knew these would be good, but they were so much better than I could have imagined. The sweet plantains and the seasoned beef balance each other out beautifully. Pastelón is one of my favorite dishes, but truthfully it’s one I only get to enjoy at family dinners and big celebrations. Piononos make the perfect appetizers and I don’t need a crowd to help me eat them. Thanks to this recipe, I can have them any time, and I see myself making them again soon.

Credit: Carlos Matias

3 Tips for Making Piononos

  1. Choose the perfect plantains. You’ll want to use ripe plantains with black spots on the peel, as these will be sweeter and softer. Green plantains will be too firm to fold and have a completely different flavor profile. 
  2. The power is in the picadillo. The ground beef should complement the ripe plantains, so generously season the meat or turkey with various herbs and spices. I like mine with a bit of kick, so I season accordingly. 
  3. Don’t skip the butter on the tin. I thought I would have to fight the pan to get the individual piononos out of the mold, but thanks to the butter, they slipped right out and everything was intact.

Get the recipe: Piononos