Cook With Compassion: Rellenitos

rellenitos I got all giddy as a schoolgirl at the thought of cooking with the ministry. After all, I do read the Pioneer Woman daily and watch Anthony Bourdain weekly. I have a not-so-secret wish to be a travel food writer. So while making this dish, I maintained a “Bourdain-esque” monologue inside my head … but with less cursing and smoking.

I made rellenitos, a dessert submitted by Claudia de Ramirez, a ministry Tours and Visits Specialist in Guatemala.


I chose this recipe because:

  1. I love dessert.
  2. I got a deep fryer for Christmas (mmm … donuts … ).
  3. I had a couple of ripe plantains sitting on the counter that my husband had bought on a whim.

And besides, isn’t it fun to say? Say it with me three times:

Rellenitos. Rellenitos. Rellenitos!

Don’t you feel better already?

It was also super cheap to make, as all I had to buy was one can of refried beans and a couple of plantains.

First up, I googled “how to peel plantains,” as I’ve had several unfortunate trysts with plantains in the past. Here’s what I learned:

You cut off the ends of the plantains first, then slice through the peel, lengthwise. Then you just pop that plantain right out.

(That is, if it’s a ripe plantain, it will pop right out. If it’s a green plantain, it will cling stubbornly to the peel and make you say less than polite words as you repeatedly and unsuccessfully try to pry the yellow flesh from the vice-like grip of the peel. Not that I would ever say anything like that.)

Next, I cut the plantains in chunks and tossed them in a pot and covered them in water. I brought this to a boil, then turned down the heat and simmered for 10 minutes. The recipe said 15 minutes, but it only took mine 10, as I was using quite ripe plantains.

While that was a-simmerin’ away, I heated the refried beans and mixed in the sugar and cinnamon. “Hmm, beans and sugar?” I thought to myself, but I decided to be magnanimous and give it a try.

When the plantains were fork-tender, I drained them and mashed them in the pot. I even got to pull out and use my handy-dandy potato masher that has just been sitting in the drawer for several years!

Now it was assembly time. I scooped the plantain goo into my hand, about the size of a golf ball — though I now know the circles would have been better a little smaller. They stuck to my hand too much to flatten in my palm as the recipe called for, so instead I flattened them on a cutting board.

Then I dolloped a bit of the suspicious bean-sugar mixture on top of each.

Next I folded them all up like a pretty little purse.

The assembly was a bit intimidating at first, but once I had it down, I got into a rhythm and imagined myself a street vendor in Guatemala, expertly shaping my rellenitos, slapping them back and forth from palm to palm.

Enter the deep fryer. You don’t have to have a deep fryer to make this recipe, but whenever I tried pan frying in the past, my oil was always too hot or too cold. With a deep fryer, I get it just right.

For this recipe, heat that oil up to 375 degrees, and plop in those puppies. It only took mine about 3 to 5 minutes to get golden brown and crispy.

Finally, I rolled the rellenitos in sugar.

The recipe says to cover the rellenitos in sugar or sour cream, but sour cream sounded a bit out of my comfort zone for a dessert, so sugar it was.

The verdict: Banana bean donuts, anyone?

My feelings were ambivalent on these little suckers. While I am morally obligated to love anything resembling a donut, I just couldn’t get over refried beans in a dessert. The beans looked deceptively like chocolate, adding insult to injury. I think I would have enjoyed these minus the beans, rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

They were served to our small group and met with mixed reviews. One friend really liked them. Our friend from Mexico really did not like them. But at the end of the night, they were all gone!

10 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Rachel Dean April 3, 2012

    I am morally obligated to enjoy blog posts that are this entertaining. Plus I love testing weird new foods on my friends. Excited to try these out! 🙂

  2. jose carlos prem March 5, 2012

    Sounds you really enjoyed them. Now you are ready for stage 2 and 3: chuchitos and tamalitos.

  3. Katie Axelson March 1, 2012

    These look so yummy! Your writing is full of humor, Amber; from one writer to another: I loved it. 🙂


  4. Orfa February 29, 2012

    Amber, your description of peeling a green plantain was funny :-). It is not so hard when you get used to it. Also, i agree with Nadia, the rellenitos look good although i have only try them with cheese instead of beans.

    1. Amber Van Schooneveld February 29, 2012

      Hmm, Orfa, cheese sounds even more different than beans! I think I’d put chocolate in them next time. 🙂

      1. Lizzie June 27, 2012

        Cream cheese would probably be really good too 🙂

  5. Daniel February 29, 2012

    Even I can smell it, I wish one in  this moment

  6. Jill Foley ~ Compassion Family February 29, 2012

    I’m thinking I will make these tonight to go with our rice and beans meal….but I don’t see an actual recipe up there. Could you share that?

    1. Jacquie Parella February 29, 2012

      Sure Jill! Here is the recipe:


      • 6 plantains, peeled and broken into chunks
      • 1 (16 ounce) can refried black beans
      • 3 tablespoons white sugar
      • cinnamon powder as desired
      • 1 quart oil for frying
      • Sugar or sour cream to decorate


      1. Place the plantains in water to cover in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, 15 minutes. Drain and mash.
      2. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the refried beans. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Remove from heat.
      3. To make the rellenitos, form a palm-sized amount of mashed plantains into a ball; flatten and place about a teaspoon of the bean mixture in the middle; then mold the sides of the plantain around the beans, making an egg-shaped ball.
      4. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), or until a small amount of batter sizzles and browns in the oil. Fry rellenitos in oil until browned. Drain on paper towels.
      Serve hot, covered with white sugar or sour cream.

  7. nadia February 29, 2012

    Amber the rellenitos look great! Good Job! 😀

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