Food in Puerto Rico: Guide to Puerto Rico Food
Indulging in authentic Puerto Rican cuisine is a highlight for many visitors. It's an experience where the vibrancy of their culture comes alive in the dishes served. You can start with crispy and garlicky fried plantains, succulent slow-roasted pork, and savoury rice and beans. This can be chased down with a cold local beer or fruity rum cocktail. And that's just your first meal!
There are several must-try dishes for Puerto Rican cuisine, such as mofongo, tostones, pasteles, arroz con gandules, tembleque, and coquito. To ensure you get all these delights, we have compiled a guide to help you navigate your culinary adventure.
Mofongo is traditionally prepared by deep-frying green plantain pieces and then mashing them with garlic and a choice of salt-cured pork, pork crackling, butter, or oil. Some recipes also call for a salty broth to soften the plantains while mashing.
Mofongo can be served as a side dish or stuffed with any meat you choose. Popular options include stewed chicken, crab meat, octopus, skirt steak, fried pork, seafood, or stewed vegetables. Other variations of mofongo include yuca mofongo and trifongo, which are made with green, sweet, and yuca.
Tostones and Amarillos
There are two traditional ways to prepare plantains. Tostones are made from green plantains, which have a savoury taste. First, the plantain is cut into thick wheels and then marinated in water and garlic. It is then deep-fried in oil to soften, smash, and deep-fried until crispy. On the other hand, Amarillos are ripe plantains cut into pieces and fried until the outside is almost blackened while the inside remains soft and sweet.
Puerto Rican cuisine has a rich and delicious tradition of roasted pork dishes. These delicacies start with marinating a pig in adobo, a mixture of garlic, oregano, black pepper, vinegar, and water. Slow-roasting the pig over coals for several hours results in tender and juicy meat with crispy skin. If you want to taste some of the best lechon in Puerto Rico, take a day trip to Guavate. As you head up the mountains of Cayey, you'll find numerous lechoneras serving locally sourced pork. Another pork speciality dish is pernil, which is made by seasoning pork shoulder with adobo and roasting it in the oven.
Arroz y habichuelas
Rice and beans are considered to be the quintessential Puerto Rican side dish. The pink beans are stewed with onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, calabaza squash, and sofrito, which is a cooking base made by blending onion, garlic, peppers, culantro, cilantro, and oregano along with other herbs, spices, and aromatics depending on the family recipe.
White, medium-grain rice is cooked separately from the beans and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Both dishes are served side by side so that you can decide how much beans to add to your rice.
In Puerto Rico, there are many traditional seasonal desserts to enjoy. Tembleque, a silky coconut custard, and arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins, are some of the most popular. Additionally, flan, a vanilla custard cake, casquitos de guayaba, and guava paste paired with local white cheese are traditional treats worth trying.
If you are anan eggnog fan, try coquito, a Puerto Rican version of eggnog. It is made with evaporated, condensed coconut, cinnamon, and white rum. You can also find flavoured versions of coquito, including chocolate, pistachio, and guava.
Pasteles are a genuine local speciality that is similar to tamales. They are traditionally made using green banana masa stuffed with stewed pork meat. Root vegetables such as yuca are sometimes added, and the masa can also be made using only yuca. Chicken or bacalao (salted cod) can also be used for the filling, and some vegan versions are available nowadays.
To make a pastel, the masa is pressed onto a plantain leaf, the stuffing is added in the centre, and the plantain leaf is then folded, tied with string, and covered with parchment paper. The pasteles are then boiled, unwrapped, and served.
Arroz con gandules
This Puerto Rican rice dish is a staple of Boricua cuisine and can be enjoyed all year round. The dish consists of small, dense legumes called pigeon peas or gandules cooked with rice in a large pot. First, salted pork or ham hock is sautéed in olive oil, followed by sofrito, bay leaves, tomato paste, annatto, and often olives or capers. The rice and pigeon peas are mixed with this flavorful sauce, and water or broth is added before everything is cooked together until the rice is fully cooked.