Puerto Rico is well-known for its delicious food. Heavily influenced by Spanish and African cultures, the island’s local dishes are savory treats for the tastebuds. Plantains, rice, pork, and beef are stapled ingredients in most of the traditional fare. Let’s explore some of the best treats of Puerto Rican cuisine!
Mofongo is a wildly popular Puerto Rican dish made with fried and mashed plantains. Plantain is a fruit closely related to a banana and widely grown in tropical climates. More starchy than sweet, plantains are prepared like vegetables. Mofongo is impeccably flavored with broth, garlic, and pork cracklings. The mashed plantains absorb the flavors, and the result is a perfectly moistened (but not overly saturated) delectable treat. It is typically served with the meat of one’s choosing but can be enjoyed on its own as a side dish.
Pasteles are a popular main dish that resembles tamales but is prepared very differently. The dough of pasteles is made of plantains and yautia (taro root), then stuffed with seasoned pork. Unlike some of the other dishes incorporating plantain, pasteles are boiled rather than fried. Pasteles are often served in Puerto Rican homes as a traditional Christmas dish, but can be found year-round at restaurants featuring local cuisine.
Many of the island’s signature dishes are cooked with rice (arroz). Arroz con gandules, rice with pigeon peas, is the national dish of Puerto Rico. Like many of the popular local dishes, arroz con gandules is often cooked with pork but can be made with other meats. The flavor of the dish comes from its savory sofrito sauce. The sauce is made with a blend of onions, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and spices, and is sauteed to perfection.
A warm and filling comfort food, asopao de pollo is a stew made of chicken and rice. It is similar in consistency to gumbo, and its ingredients are comparable to Spanish paella. The stew is seasoned with sofrito and traditionally includes vegetables such as peppers and onions. Other varieties of asopao are served with pork, beef, or seafood, and some recipes combine several of the meats for a heartier stew.
Delicious Puerto Rican food can be enjoyed all day long, and there are many great offerings for quick bites between meals. Cuchifritos, which translates loosely to “fried pork” but is applied to a variety of fried foods, are the gold standard for snacking in Puerto Rico. A must-try among cuchifritos are tostones, plantains fried to a crisp and commonly served with a mayoketchup dip. Another popular snack that is readily available at local eateries and food trucks are alcapurrias. These fritters are made with yautia and green banana, and stuffed with beef, pork, chicken, or seafood.
Indulging in Puerto Rico’s fried and savory foods requires something refreshing to cool the palate. Fortunately, San Juan is the birthplace of the pina colada, so locally made versions of the cocktail are some of the best in the world. The tropical drink is a delightful concoction of rum, fresh pineapple, and coconut cream, and pairs perfectly with the day on the shores of the Caribbean.