Today, I will present to you some of the best Puerto Rican foods, including some delicious street foods, snacks, and top dishes you absolutely have to try if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.
Plantain, for example, a heritage of African cuisine, is a staple food often found in Puerto Rican recipes. Street food is another of Borinquen’s attractions, with its spectacular sandwiches and well-known snacks.
Puerto Rico is one of the Caribbean islands with an excellent culinary offering for all lovers of good food. It’s hard to find a place where you can’t eat well on the island, so here are some of the most popular delicacies from Puerto Rico.
One of the dishes that is prepared to perfection in Puerto Rico is Pernil Asado.
The tender pork meat, seasoned with garlic, sweet peppers, pepper, salt and oregano, basically comes off the bone by itself, while the skin is super crispy.
For its flavor to be unequaled, it must be marinated for at least two hours. Many leave it for up to 24 hours so that it absorbs all the ingredients. It is important to cover the pork leg with plastic wrap to help concentrate the flavors.
In Puerto Rico it is customary to consume pernil on special occasions, patriotic dates and family celebrations, among others.
Pernil is usually accompanied with mofongo or rice with pigeon peas and plantains, other traditional dishes of the so-called Island of Enchantment.
According to historians, pernil comes from the Spanish word pierna (leg), which in turn derives from the Catalan word for jamón (ham).
Mofongo is a typical dish of Puerto Rican cuisine, which can be found almost anywhere. In a way, it is the North American version of mashed potatoes, but made with fried mashed green plantains, ajó (garlic) and chicharrones (pork rinds).
The chicharrones (pork) can also be substituted with beef, chicken, shrimp, or even vegetables. It can be accompanied by white rice, or be served as a side dish with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, lobster, conch, fish, or even inside a warm fish broth or soup.
This recipe, the pride of the Puerto Ricans, transcends the borders of the island and can be found across the Caribbeans in different variations. Originally it is a fusion of Taino, African and Spanish cultures which has evolved over time to present the delicious dish that can be enjoyed today.
Arroz Con Gandules (Rice with pigeon peas)
Arroz Con Gandules is a perennial dish in the Puerto Rican diet. It is one of the typical dishes that many grandparents taught their grandchildren to prepare, to initiate them in the culinary customs of the island.
This national dish is composed of capers, olives, tomato sauce, pigeon peas, sofrito and bay leaves, in addition to other condiments.
Rice with pigeon peas, which dates back to the 18th century, has a sauce made with various aromatic ingredients, essential for the exquisite flavor characteristic of this dish.
Rice with pigeon peas is closely related to the Christmas and New Year holidays, when it is most frequently consumed. However, few people resist the dish and prepare it at any time of the year.
Pasteles are rectangular pies filled with meat, chicken or pork and various ingredients wrapped in a banana leaf. The dough is made with yucca, taro, or green plantains.
Culantro, also known as recao or recaito, and garlic are two of the most essential ingredients. It is usually served with ketchup, pique criollo (a native sauce prepared with hot peppers from Puerto Rico, pickled in vinegar) or tabasco sauce. The origin of this dish is not clearly defined, some say it was brought by African slaves, others give credit to the Tainos who occupied the place prior to the colonial era.
It is a mistake to confuse pasteles with pastelones, since the former are a dough of green plantains with yucca and pumpkin. It is similar to a tamale, but instead of using corn flour, plantains are used.
These pasteles boricuas, regardless of the filling, have become the delight of young and old. Therefore, they are the perfect excuse to get together with family, friends and acquaintances.
Tripleta is a gigantic Puerto Rican sandwich whose flavor is directly proportional to its size. This snack, which is prepared with ham and beef, is often offered by the numerous food trucks that swarm the streets of the island, especially during the nighttime.
To get the crunchy version, simply place the bread on the griddle after the sandwich has been assembled. This is no exaggeration, one of these sandwiches can easily satisfy the appetite of two people.
Tripleta, Puerto Rico’s quintessential street food, can also be found on the island’s paradisiacal beaches.
Tostones are one of the legacies of African cuisine. They are prepared with green plantain slices (fundamental in the Puerto Rican diet), fried, flattened and fried again. Finally, a pinch of salt is added and served.
It is customary to serve tostones as a garnish for most main dishes such as pigeon peas or rice and beans. In addition to salt, some ketchup and mayonnaise, fresh spices and a touch of fresh garlic are also applied.
San Juan is perhaps the place where tostón enjoys the greatest popularity. There you can find it in several versions, especially the one accompanied with beef.
To know if you really have an excellent tostón, you should check that they are perfectly flattened forming small golden circles. This way you will know that they are crispy.
At lunchtime, tostones are very popular among Puerto Ricans. Thanks to their high vitamin and potassium content, they are an excellent nutritious snack during the afternoon hours.
Tembleque is the perfect dish for those with a sweet tooth. Its preparation heralds the arrival of Christmas in Puerto Rico, which has the particularity of being quite extensive, beginning on November 23 and lasting until the end of January.
It is a kind of coconut pudding, creamy, made with sugar, corn starch and coconut milk, similar to coconut rice, but its consistency is much softer. Cinnamon is added as a topping, which gives it a great flavor.
San Juan, emerging as the gastronomic center of the island, is where this dessert can be found everywhere. According to connoisseurs, the word tembleque means wavy, possibly because of its gelatinous texture.
One of the advantages of this recipe is its ease of preparation. It only requires cornstarch, sugar and milk as the basic ingredients.
Alcapurrias are one of the most popular fried foods in Puerto Rico. They can be made of yucca or unripe green plantain. They are filled with chopped meat, pepper, capers and tomatoes. When made with yucca, they are often filled with crab.
These fritters, which can be purchased in the streets and beaches of the island, are given an oval shape after being filled and fried. In addition to the meat, you can use the protein filling of your choice. Sometimes stewed cod is used, for example.
The alcapurrias, also called cuchifritos, originated during the time of the Spanish occupation, when the slaves ate the leftovers left by the owners of the houses.
The African slaves took advantage of those leftovers, mashed them, added any other leftover meat and then fried them to eat. Today, alcapurrias have become one of the most prominent typical dishes in all of Borinquen.
Pastelón is the Puerto Rican version of Italian lasagna, but with ripe plantains as the determining ingredient, as opposed to the sheets of pasta of the European dish, although the cheese is invariable. The ripe plantains are cut across the plantain, in a long cut, and then fried until golden.
The ground meat of the pastelón is seasoned with oregano and cumin, mixed with sofrito, olives and tomato sauce. The result is a hearty dish with a unique blend of salty and sweet flavors that distinguishes it from its Caribbean counterparts.
In some regions of Puerto Rico, ground beef is substituted for the picadillo, mixed with some beaten eggs and baked in a casserole.
Regarding its origin, many claim that it comes from New York, this is derived from the fact that Italians and Puerto Ricans came into contact in that city and shared culinary knowledge. Later, the Puerto Ricans who returned to the island brought the recipe with them.
This stew made with plantains, which is also called piñón, can be enjoyed as a main dish or as a side dish.
Arroz Mamposteao is a dish made with leftover beans and rice from the previous day. Due to the popularity of this dish, restaurants usually prepare rice on purpose to cover the almost daily demand of arroz mamposteao.
Although there are several ways to prepare it, some ingredients are elementary, such as garlic, peppers and onion; pieces of chorizo, chopped ham or bacon can also be added. For many, the ripe plantain must be present and they add it in small pieces.
Experts in the island’s culinary art assure that this dish originated when Puerto Ricans, at the time of colonization, combined beans with leftover white rice, seasoned it with a sofrito and then let it stew.
The key to the success of this dish is to combine all its ingredients at the same time and cook them together. In this way, the flavors are elevated as the cooking takes place.
Arroz Mamposteao is usually served with fried chicken or chops, a steak is also a good idea. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, so the waiting time in a restaurant is not very long. Either way, the combination of these ingredients makes this iconic Puerto Rican dish one of the most sought after by locals and visitors alike.
Although Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States, its culture is more similar to that of Latin Americans. This is reflected primarily in its language and of course in its cuisine.
The gastronomy, shaped since ancient times by the Tainos, Spaniards and Africans, is characterized by its intense color and variety of flavors that has led it to become a gastronomic reference in the Caribbean. A short culinary stroll through the streets of Puerto Rico is all it takes to make you want to return to the island again and again.