When you think of Puerto Rico you think of its beautiful weather and vast landscape, but perhaps the most important part of this gorgeous island is its love for food. Puerto Rican cuisine is so important to the people who have grown up loving and eating it, and after tasting it I’m sure you would agree!
My family grew up in the suburbs of Coamo Puerto Rico, and even when my parents ventured to the United States for college, they continued to cook their homestyle dishes from Puerto Rico. I’m grateful that I’ve been introduced to these mouthwatering dishes and want to share some of my favorite Puerto Rican recipes you can make in your own home!
Before we get into the juicy recipes, let's go over one ingredient that is probably the most important part of the Puerto Rican cuisine, Sofrito. Sofrito is a fragrant blend of garlic, olive oil, onions, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, tomato puree, and salt that pair together in a season used in almost every Puerto Rican dish! Stews, beans, rice, and especially meat are seasoned with sofrito to bring out savory flavors in the dish. It is known as the foundation of Puerto Rican cuisine because of its impact on almost every recipe in the Puerto Rican cookbook.
Most recipes actually begin with “make a sofrito”. This tangy combination of herbs and spicy is a great addition to any recipe, so you should learn how to make your own if you want to replicate these tasty flavors.
A lot of the meals consist of two main ingredients, meat, and potatoes. This tasty combination is surely a lot of family favorites. Carne con Papas y Arroz Blanco is a dish that incorporates these two ingredients into a savory stew.
This stew is made of a tomato and beef base mixed with olives and bay leaf to season and infuse the flavors into the meat and potatoes.
Once the stew has cooked the meat and potatoes you can transfer the tender meat and seasoned potatoes onto a bed of white rice which absorbs the sauce and flavor of the stew. You might find that as you make this, your house will fill with a savory aroma and all your family members will come down running. At least this is what happened when I caught a whiff of the stew!
Another famous Puerto Rican dish that is Rellenos de Papas. Rellenos de Papa’s are balls of potato dough stuffed with a delicious picadillo and then fried until golden brown. The picadillo in the middle of each Relleno de Papa is a mixture of ground meat and peppers cooked and seasoned with the infamous sofrito.
You should note that you can include any meat you like into these potato balls from chicken and beef to seafood! Once you fry these Relleno de Papas you should let them sit and resist the temptation of biting into these scorching hot potatoes too soon. If you make it just right, when you bite into it you should get the perfect amount of potato hash and seasoned meat that’ll light up your eyes.
Mofongo is a classic Puerto Rican dish based off of fried plantains mashed with salt and garlic in a Pilón. If you have no clue what a Pilón is don’t worry you’re not alone.
A Pilón is a very important kitchen tool for many Spanish families which is usually composed of a hard wooden bowl with an equally hard wooden stick used to mash food, herbs, and spices together. In this case, a Pilón is used to mash the fried plantain with spices and any meat of your choice.
The result is a deliciously seasoned snack called Mofongo. My family tends to make Mofongo with seafood but if you ask me, I like it better when they use pork. If you whisper Mofongo into the ear of any Puerto Rican they’ll understand exactly what you mean, and will probably tell you what their favorite mofongo combination is too!
With every meal, you need something sweet in order to balance your palate. One of my favorite sweets that my family makes is Arroz con Leche. Arroz con Leche is a spanish take on rice pudding made with lemon and orange peels, cinnamon and sugar.
The rice incorporated into the pudding soaks up the sweetened flavor of the milk and cinnamon which adds texture to the pudding. You can even add more sugar if you’re feeling extra sweet that day.
After its cooked, you can serve in dessert glasses right away or save it in the fridge for a nice dessert after dinner. You should be careful though because usually after my grandma makes this it disappears even before dinner starts!
The King of desserts known to all Puerto Ricans as “Flan”. Flan is a simple sweet dessert made of milk, vanilla extract, sugar and eggs blended and made into a custard. This custard is poured into a baking pan with caramel glazed on the bottom of the pan. After its baked and ready the pan is flipped onto the large dish and the caramel at the bottom of the dish is gathered and drizzled generously onto the custard cake.
Most families love to make Flan around the holidays whenever all the family gets together. The combination of soft creamy custard with sugary caramel lifts Flan through the ranks as the true king of Puerto Rican desserts.
If you haven't figured it out already, Puerto Ricans love flavor. Whether salty, savory or sweet everything they make is infused with so much flavor that it surprises your tastebuds. I guess I’m lucky that my family feeds me way too much Puerto Rican food, but that doesn't mean you have to be left out!
You can make your own Puerto Rican dishes at home, and perhaps even try to replicate these delicious flavors for yourself. It may take some practice, but I’m confident that you can pull it off and represent these famous dishes of Puerto Rico!