10 Traditional Dishes of Puerto Rico That Will Make Your Mouth Water
Delicious traditional Puerto Rican food features plantains, rice and beans, and lots of meat. Getting to enjoy authentic Puerto Rican dishes is a highlight for many visitors. Puerto Rico’s vibrant culture is visible in its flavorful food.
Food is a key part of our lives, and how we eat is a main factor in how we view the world and its diverse cultures. Culture and food are highly intertwined. The significance of food within contemporary society and culture merits the exploration of different national cuisines, including Puerto Rican gastronomy!
Read on to learn more about the wonders of Puerto Rican food. You’ll discover 10 wonderful dishes to try, whether on a trip to the island, at a local Puerto Rican restaurant, or in your own home (each dish on the list includes a link to a recipe for you to try)!
Top 10 Mouthwatering Puerto Rican Dishes
Puerto Rican cuisine is a créole that blends international culinary traditions from Europe, Africa, America, and the Caribbean. Ingredients that are native to the island include coriander, papaya, cacao, and plantain. Puerto Rican dishes with pork are wildly popular, as well.
Europeans brought beef, pork, rice, wheat, and olive oil to Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Spanish traders brought African slaves, who cooked with sugarcane, taro, and yucca. This combination of cultures and ingredients make for a unique and tasty gastronomy!
These ubiquitous deep-fried treats are simply delicious. Puerto Rico boasts a variety of fritters stuffed with cheese, ground beef, crab meat, chicken, fish, or other seafood.
Warm, crunchy, and flaky, more exotic variations come with guayaba (guava), dulce de leche, salted caramel, or bacon. Common types of frituras include arepas with seafood and bacalaítos with chunks of salted cod and parsley.
These terrific turnovers are filled with a savory mix of ground beef and potato. Puerto Rico’s most popular fillings are lobster, conch, and shrimp. Two Puerto Rican staples are key to the seasoning of the filling:
- sofrito – a cooking base with browned onions, garlic, cilantro, oregano, and peppers seasoned with olive oil (plus other herbs and spices depending on the family recipe)
- achiote – a nutty, sweet, and earthy spice that comes in both powder and oil form.
This Puerto Rican street food starts as the masa (batter) of green plantains and grated yautia. It’s typically stuffed with crab, shrimp, or lobster and deep fried. Sample them alongside:
- cuchifritos – fritters stuffed with pork
- almojabanas – cheese-filled rice flour fritters
- bunuelos – yam fritters
4. Tostones y maduros
Puerto Ricans love tostones, double-fried plantains that are often paired with meat. They’re crisp and golden brown, making for a crunchy and filling snack. Puerto Ricans serve them with a sprinkle of salt and garlic sauce for dipping.
Tostones are basically the Puerto Rican french fry. Maduros are their sweet cousins (made from ripe plantains). Lightly fried maduros are ideal for balancing salty fare.
5. Arroz con gandules o habichuelas
Although this national dish of Puerto Rico has a clear Caribbean influence, Puerto Ricans have made it their own with their unique sofrito sauce (see #2).
The dish contains pork, red peppers, and olives tossed with sofrito sauce. Fresh peas, herbs, and seasonings turn this hearty side dish into a sturdy base for an entrée. They serve the beans along with white rice (cooked separately) and seasoned with olive oil and salt.
Mofongo is traditionally made from deep-fried green plantain pieces mashed with garlic and butter or oil. In some recipes, a salty broth softens the plantains while mashing.
Mofongo serves a side dish or an entree stuffed with stewed pollo (chicken), cangrejo (crab meat), pulpo (octopus), mariscos (seafood), or vegetales (vegetables). A variation of mofongo is trifongo with green plantain, sweet plantain, and yuca.
7. Flan de queso
Flan de queso is a delightful, rich cross between caramel custard and cheesecake. This traditional Puerto Rican postre (dessert) consists of simple ingredients: huevos (eggs), azucar (sugar), evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream cheese.
It’s typically vanilla-flavored and covered with homemade caramel sauce. Variations of this sweet treat may involve chocolate, coconut, or fresh fruit and cream.
Tembleque is a coconut pudding. Its name means “wiggly” because of its jelly-like texture. It’s a light-baked dessert made of sweet coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch.
9. Lechón asado
When it comes to Puerto Rican dishes with pork, this one takes the cake! Puerto Ricans have perfected the preparation of lechon asado (roasted suckling pig), making it a culinary legacy on the island.
They douse the pig in salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, vinegar, water, and aji dulce (sweet cooking peppers) and cook it over a charcoal fire for hours until the meat is tender and the skin is crispy.
A tripleta is the mother of all sandwiches. This traditional Puerto Rican food is for meat lovers, as it has chicken, ham, and beef.
This popular street food may also be stuffed with Swiss cheese, lettuce, ketchup, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, mayonnaise, and potato sticks. It’s a delicious, messy, meaty, and cheesy meal.
Learn the Sweet Language of Puerto Rico
If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, why not take the initiative to break the language barrier by studying Spanish in advance? Learning Spanish not only helps you to get access to authentic recipes but also makes your trip to Puerto Rico (and any other Latin American country or Spain) both easier and more meaningful.
Sign up for a free trial class with one of our certified, native-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy to improve your comprehension and conversation skills! With over 10,000 weekly 1-to-1 classes, our teachers are experienced at tailoring the curriculum to fit your needs and goals!
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