A Beginner's Guide To Understanding Puerto Rican Cuisine

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding Puerto Rican Cuisine
Arroz Con Pollo, traditional Caribbean delicacy, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Planning a holiday to Puerto Rico? Here’s what you should eat

OT Staff
November 07 , 2019
05 Min Read

The sun-kissed Caribbean beauty with its sandy beaches and rainforests has managed to charm tourists from around the globe. The tropical Caribbean islands are one of the most culturally rich regions on the earth and Puerto Rico with its natural splendors, a legacy of 500 years and warm hospitality is everything that you’re seeking for. With Spanish,native Indian and African influences, the country is a melting pot of cultures. From the old word charm of the capital San Juan to the undisturbed beauty of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico makes for the perfect exotic getaway. But what Puerto Ricans take most pride in is the irresistible local cuisine. Drawing influences from Spanish, Taino, African and American cooking, a traditional Puerto Rican spread consists of an array of delicious exotic treats. Colloquially called, Cocina criolla or creole cooking, this exotic blend, contrary to popular belief, offers a lot more than seafood and is a reflection of the vibrant culture. 

Here’s a guide on what not to miss when in Puerto Rico.



It would be a crime to not try mofongo when on a trip to Puerto Rico. What mashed potato is to America, mofongo is to Puerto Rico. A local favourite here, mofongo’s charm lies in its simplicity. Essentially, it’s made of garlicky mashed plantains, blended with seafood, meat and vegetables. Unofficially hailed as the national dish of Puerto Rico, it’s often treated as a meal in itself.  It can be also served as a complementary dish alongside beans, rice and creole sauce. Traditionally prepared using a mortar and pestle, there are several variations of the dish available across the Caribbean region. While it’s called mangu in Dominican Republic, Cubans refer to it as fufu de platano. Though its origins are highly debatable, it is a must-try when on a Puerto Rico trail.

Arroz con Gandules

Looking for an authentic Caribbean festive dish? Well, we have just the thing for you. This Puerto Rican-style preparation is immensely popular in other Latin Amerian countries as well. Though not the most aesthetically appealing dish, Arroz con Gandules is essentially a rice preparation consisting of pigeon peas (gandules), meat, olives, homemade sofrito (a green seasoning base) and a combination of seasoning. Served usually around christmas, Puerto Rican holidays are not complete without this dish. 



Who’d have thought salted cod fish could taste this good. Well,it’s Puerto Rican twist that makes it a lot more appetising. Smashed into a patty and deep fried, they are a traditional Puerto Rican fare. In addition to being filled with cod fish, the fritters are garnished with cilantro, tomatoes and onions. A beloved snack, it goes great with garlic dipping sauce. Also an essential element of the Dominican cuisine, there isn’t much of a difference between the two versions. Bacalaitos make for a great street side snack too. Available at beach shacks and carnivals, these salt codfish fritters have a crispy coating and are chewy inside. Well, now you know what to grab on your next surfing trip here.


From Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago, if there’s one thing that binds the Caribbeans together, it’s the love for pasteles. Quite similar to the Mexican tamales, pasteles are a festive delicacy. Made with pork and adobo sauce and wrapped in banana leaves, pasteles are served in large batches. With a starchy encasement of masa, a combination of green banana, green plantain, potatoes and calabazas, pasteles guarantee an explosion of flavors. Prepared especially during celebrations, this dish will sure put you in the festive mood. 


A combination of rice and soup, asopao de pollo is the perfect meal for the biting winters. Essentially, a stew consisting of broth, rice, chicken, tomatoes, garlic, olives, oregano and other seasoning, this comfort food reminds most Puerto ricans of home. Quite similar to gumbo, it can be served with either seafood or chicken and even pork. A staple in most traditional kitchens, family gatherings are incomplete without a big batch of Asopao de pollo. 


A typical beach snack, these scrumptious fritters are made of masa and stuffed with a wholesome filling of ground beef. There are several variations to this snack. While some contain meat, others have filling of crab, shrimp or lobster. 

Arroz con dulce

Puerto Rican Desserts 

If you’re still looking for reasons to pay this island nation a visit, the heavenly desserts here are definitely a strong contender. Keeping in view the culinary diversity that this country offres, we aren’t surprised at the Puerto Rican obsession with sweet treats.

A common perception is that the local population here is not known to be the one with sweet tooth. If like us, you were also under this misconception, then mind you, you’re in for a treat. The simple yet divine desserts will for sure leave you craving for more. With typical tropical ingredients like pineapple, guava and coconut, Puerto Rican desserts are the perfect way to end your meal. From the creamy flan to flaky guava pastelitos, Puerto Rican rice pudding,arroz con dulce to the jiggly tembleque and even frozen sweet-eats like limber, you’ll be spoilt for choice.


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