Puerto Rican cuisine, also known as Comida Criolla, is an
amalgamation of cooking traditions and practices from Spanish, African, and
native Taino cuisine. This triad form the core of the basic ingredients
and techniques used for Puerto Rican cooking, all passed down from generation
This sounds like a delicious gastronomic mix, right?
Well, let me tell you that it is! So, here’s my recommendation of
must-try foods when in Puerto Rico.
I’m starting the list with Mofongo because this is THE
must-try food of Puerto Rico. Mofongo is a fried dish made with
green plantains mashed together with a concoction of garlic,
olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon – and often
served with broth.
The fried plantains are filled with anything you can imagine
like pork, beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables, shrimp and more.
Mofongo can be found in any roadside shack, local
restaurants, and even in high-end eateries. Mofongo is the crowning dish
of Puerto Rican cuisine, and once you taste it, you’ll see why.
The word lechón means roasted suckling pig, but in Puerto
Rico it means that you’re going to have a delicious meal! Lechón is an
irresistible delicacy that is often prepared during the holidays, but really
Puerto Ricans love to enjoy this succulent dish all year round.
You must not miss the Ruta del Lechón (Lechón route) in
Guavate, where they serve some of the best lechón you’ll find on the entire
Arroz con Habichuelas and Arroz con Gandules
Arroz con gandules, or yellow rice with pigeon peas and
pork, is not just from Puerto Rico, but what makes Puerto Rican arroz con
gandules so special is the “secret seasoning”, which we call sofrito. In
addition to pork, this dish is also typically made with ham, chorizo, red
peppers, and olives; and is often served with chicken or beef.
On the other hand there’s arroz con habichuelas (rice and
beans), which every Puerto Rican eats probably once a day. Again, imagine
your traditional rice and beans but with more seasoning! It is delicious!
Asopao is a rice soup that can be best described as a cross
between soup and paella. This is an easy, hearty one-dish meal with juicy
chicken thighs or shrimp, diced lean ham, rice, and assorted seasonings. Ask
any Puerto Rican about this dish and they will tell you how it reminds them of
their Mom. It’s true… but don’t worry, you don’t need to find anyone’s
mom to cook it; you can find asopao in any self-respecting traditional
restaurant around the island.
Alcapurrias, Bacalaítos, Piononos, and other fritter or
Go to any popular beach and you’ll find there a food cart or
several roadside restaurants serving frituras. These are traditional
fried snacks that include alcapurrias (a kind of fried turnover made of yuca,
green banana or green plantain with seasoned meat), almojábanas
(cheese-flavored rice fritters), bacalaítos (codfish-flavored fritters), and
buñuelos (yam fritters), among many others.
They might be greasy, but they are just as delicious, so you
must try them all!
If you see pasteles around, it means we are near celebrating
Christmas. Pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe Puerto Ricans love to cook
at home during the holidays. They are
like tamales, with the masa (mixture) consisting of one or more frequently used
ingredients, like grated green banana, green plantain, yautía, potato, and/or
pumpkins. The mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and then boiled. This
dish is believed to have been made by the native Tainos of the island.
This one dish is one of my all time favorites! Imagine
making lasagna, but instead of using pasta, you use plantains. Got it?
This is the perfect sweet and salty blend of sweet plantains, meat,
cheese and sauce.
Which of these dishes sounds the best to you?