Puerto Rico: Cuisine and Recipes

Country | Puerto Rico Ponce Image

Puerto Rico is a lush, tropical jewel set in the middle of the sun-drenched Caribbean. This island nation, actually a self-governing territory of the United States, is home to a rich culinary tradition known to natives as cocina criolla. The popularity of Puerto Rican cooking reaches beyond the island's shores to a large Boricua immigrant population in New York and other American cities.

Image Creative Commons by oquendo

Puerto Rican Recipes


Ingredients | Annatto Seeds

(Puerto Rican annatto oil)

Achiote oil is used around the Caribbean to add a yellowish-orange color to dishes, especially arroz con pollo. It is known as rou-cou or huile de rou-cou in the French Caribbean. Filipinos refer to it as atsuete, or achute, oil. Read more »


Ingredients | Garlic Image

(Latin garlic-pepper-vinegar marinade)

Adobo is a very popular marinade for pork and other meats in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Central America. The ingredients vary widely, but most have a base of oil, garlic and some type of acidic ingredient. Read more »


Appetizers | Alcapurrias Image

(Puerto Rican stuffed fritters)

Say the word "alcapurrias," and most Puerto Ricans think "beach food." These scrumptious fritters are usually made with a batter of taro (yautía) and green bananas (guineos verdes), and are stuffed with either a meat (pino) filling or with crab, shrimp or lobster. Sold by vendors on the beach, they make a great snack for hungry stomachs after a long day in the sun. Read more »

Arroz con Dulce

(Puerto Rican rice pudding with coconut milk; see Arroz con Leche recipe variations)

Arroz con Gandules

Grains | Arroz con Gandules

(Puerto Rican rice and pigeon peas)

If you're going to cook Puerto Rican, you better know how to make arroz con gandules. No holiday dinner or family get together is complete without this hearty side dish of rice and pigeon peas. Infused with the flavor of sofrito and sazón, a well-cooked pot will form a much-desired crust on bottom called the pegao. Read more »

Arroz con Pollo

Poultry | Arroz con Pollo Image

(Latin chicken with rice)

Arroz con pollo, or "rice with chicken," originated in the Andalusia region of Spain. It shares similarities with several West African dishes such as jollof rice, and may in fact have origins there. The Spanish version as was introduced to the New World colonies, and arroz con pollo is very popular in the Caribbean, especially in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Read more »

Asopao de Gandules

Ingredients | Beans, Pigeon Peas Image

(Puerto Rican rice and pigeon pea stew)

Asopao is a Puerto Rican word for a stew thickened with rice, and asopaos of many kinds are very popular in Puerto Rican cuisine. Asopao de gandules is a nice vegetarian version. Read more »

Buñuelos de Queso

Ingredients | Grated Cheddar Cheese

(Puerto Rican cheese fritters)

These small cheese fritters are an excellent and easy side dish for a Puerto Rican meal. Read more »


Ingredients | Coconut Image

(Puerto Rican coconut-rum beverage)

Coquito is a popular Christmas beverage in Puerto Rico. It has similarities to American eggnog, but the use of creme de coco or coconut milk gives it a unique island flavor. A version with eggs, known as ponche crema, is a favorite in Venezuela. Read more »

Flan de Leche

Desserts | Flan de Leche Image

(Latin caramel custard)

Flan, or crème caramel, is one of the most common dessert dishes in the Latin world. Coming originally from the border area of France and Spain, this simple yet elegant dessert has spread in popularity as far as the Philippines and Japan. Read more »


Vegetables | Mofongo Image

(Puerto Rican mashed plantains and pork cracklings)

Mofongo, a dish of garlicky mashed plantains, is one of the most popular dishes in Puerto Rico. It has clear roots in the fufu of West Africa. The classic way to serve mofongo is in the mortar (pilón) in which it was mashed. Read more »


Ingredients | Garlic Image

(Latin-Caribbean garlic sauce)

Mojo (pronounced MO-ho) is used in Puerto Rico and Cuba as a condiment for tostones, deep-fried plantain chips. This pungent garlic sauce, sometimes called mojo de ajo, can also be used to flavor fried or boiled yuca, or as a marinade for pork. Read more »

Mojo Isleño

Ingredients | Red Snapper

(Puerto Rican fish with tomato-olive sauce)

Mojo isleño is a popular way to prepare fish in Puerto Rico. It's name can be translated as "islander sauce," and its components--olives, peppers, garlic and bay leaves--are typically Puerto Rican. Read more »


Breads | Pasteles Image

(Puerto Rican savory cakes in banana leaves)

Pasteles are Puerto Rican special occasion food. The whole family usually gets together assembly-line-style to make large numbers of these starchy parcels and get them ready for the boiling pot. No Boricuan Christmas is complete without pasteles. Read more »


(Puerto Rican stuffed pastries; see Empanadas variations)

Pernil al Horno

Meats | Pernil al Horno Image

(Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder)

In the Puerto Rican countryside, you can often find roadside stands where whole pigs are roasted and plates of the succulent pork (lechón asado) are sold to passers-by. Pernil al horno is the popular homemade version. Pork shoulder is marinated in a flavorful mixture of garlic, oregano and vinegar and then slowly roasted until the meat is almost falling apart. Read more »

Piña Coladas

Beverages | Pina Colada Image

(Puerto Rican pineapple-coconut beverage)

This drink — whose name simply means "strained pineapple" — was invented in the 1950s or 1960s in San Juan, Puerto Rico, by either Ramon Marrero at the Caribe Hilton or by Don Ramon Portas Mingat at Barranchina Bar , depending on whom you believe. Whoever made it first, it's delicious. Read more »

Pollo en Fricasé

Poultry | Pollo en Fricase

(Caribbean chicken fricassee)

Pollo en fricasé is a simple fricasee of chicken with typically Caribbean flavors like ham, oregano, cilantro and olives. Sometimes called fricasé de pollo, it is especially popular in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Leftovers taste even better when reheated the next day. Read more »

Pollo Guisado

Poultry | Pollo Guisado

(Dominican, Puerto Rican stewed chicken)

This delicious dish of chicken stewed with vegetables is an indispensable part of Dominican cooking. Along with arroz con habichuelas (red beans and rice) and a side salad, pollo guisado makes up a patriotic lunch called la bandera, or "the Dominican flag." Even so, Puerto Ricans are fans of pollo guisado too. Read more »

Quimbombó Guisado

Ingredients | Okra Image

(Puerto Rican stewed okra)

Okra, or "quimbombó," was introduced to Puerto Rican cooking by African slaves. This easy dish makes excellent use of these green pods with their unique texture and taste. Read more »


Soups | Sancocho Image

(Latin root vegetable stew)

Sancocho is a nourishing stew popular throughout the Latin World, especially in the Caribbean and northern South America. It originated in Spain's Canary Islands where is is a simple and spicy fish and potato stew. Most New World versions contain a variety of root vegetables, meats and chicken. Read more »


Sauces | Sazon Image

(Puerto Rican seasoning salt)

Sazón means "seasoning" in Spanish. In Puerto Rico, it also refers to a seasoned salt that is used everywhere in Puerto Rican cooking. The seasonings add not only flavor, but also a subtle orange hue to many dishes. Many island cooks use the store-bought Goya-brand version. Here is a homemade approximation. Read more »


Sauces | Sofrito Ingredients

(Latin flavoring base)

Sofrito is a mixture of flavorful vegetables and sometimes herbs that is lightly sauteed and used as a base for soups, stews, rice, beans and braises. Read more »

Sopa de Mondongo

Soups | Sopa de Mondongo

(Latin American tripe and vegetable soup)

This simple, nourishing stew of tripe and vegetables is found in innumerable variations throughout Latin America and around the Caribbean. On the islands of Aruba and Curaçao it is known as sopi mondongo. Read more »


(Puerto rican coconut pudding; see Haupia recipe variations)