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The Cuisine of Puerto Rico

Cuisine influenced by different countries

By Rasma RaistersPublished 3 years ago 4 min read

The cooking styles of Spain among other countries in Europe and the cooking styles of Africa and the American Taimos have greatly influenced the cuisine of Puerto Rico. In the 19th century, the preparation methods and the ingredients used came from America.

The natives of Puerto Rico call their cuisine “cocina criolla.” In 1848 the first restaurant La Mallorquina opened its doors in Old San Juan. The original owners of the restaurant came from Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Loosely translated the name of the restaurant means "the girl from Mallorca." In 1849 the first cookbook was published "El Cocinero Puertorriqueno."


Tropical roots and tubers were introduced by the Taino and Arawak people. There was taro which is a root vegetable that is native to Southeast Asia. The vegetable has a starchy texture and a mild, nutty taste. They also brought yucca or cassava which is a woody shrub that is native to South America. Cassava is mostly used for making a thin cracker-like bread.

Taino foods include cachucha pepper which is a slightly hot habanero pepper, oregano brujo which has the flavor of oregano and scent, achiote that is used to make a yellow to orange food coloring and is also known as a flavoring, and culantro a spiny leaf used for flavoring.

Other kinds of food introduced were peanuts, guavas, pineapples, cocoplum (an edible fruit used for jams), quenepas or Spanish lime, Guinea arrowroot used as a starch, calabazas or tropical pumpkins and soursops as well as many other through the years.

The Spanish introduced many different foods, spices, and herbs. Among them, black pepper, cilantro, oregano, and basil. Vegetables such as onions, garlic, eggplant, and garbanzo beans. Fruits included oranges, grapefruits, and olives. There were meats like chicken, ham, beef, and pork. Settlers from Africa brought coconuts, coffee, okra, yumas, sesame seeds, sweet bananas, plantains, and the Guinea hen.

Stuffed plantains

Puerto Ricans discovered in the U.S. that it was cheaper to cook food with corn oil. They found that soda crackers could very well replace their casava bread and would remain crunchy even back home in tropical humidity. Another product they enjoyed was bacon and used it in rice, stewed beans, and for stuffing a fried plantain-based dish in which mashed green plantains were combined with broth, garlic, olive oil and bacon along with meat such as chicken.


Puerto Rican dishes use various combinations of spices. For many of their main dishes, the base consists of sofrito which is a saute of fresh ground garlic, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, red pepper, cachucha (a small mild pepper) and cubanelle (a variety of sweet pepper). Traditionally sofrito is cooked with olive oil, bacon, salted pork and cured ham. Alcaparrado is a combination of stuffed olives and capers and then mixed with bay leaf, cumin, sazon, and adobo.

Let’s look at some Puerto Rican dishes:

Almojabanas – a type of bread made with wheat and corn flour, butter or margarine, eggs, sugar, leaven and cheese combined into a smooth dough and then baked or fried.

Arroz con Pollo – which means rice with chicken in Spanish. The usual ingredients consist of rice, beer, stock, sofrito, chicken and saffron. The ingredients are sautéed together and simmered until the liquid evaporates.

Asopao Puerto Rican-style – In a dutch oven onion, green pepper, garlic, bacon and salt pork are cooked. Then tomato sauce, bay leaf, broth, salt and pepper are added. Chicken pieces are sprinkled with oregano and browned. The chicken then is placed in the tomato sauce, rice is added and cooked for 25 minutes. After which capers are added. Canned asparagus and peas are heated separately and drained. The rice mixture is placed in soup plates and the asparagus and peas are put on top.

Arroz con gandules y lechio is the national dish of the country. It consists of roast pork with yellow rice and pigeon peas.

Pernil is a dish made of slow-roasted pork shoulder. The pork is seasoned with garlic, oregano, and pepper. The pork roasts most of the day and the result is a crunchy skin and very tender meat.

Pollo guisado is a delicious one-pot chicken stew. It is made with the dark meat of the chicken. First, the chicken is browned and then to the pot you add Adobo, sofrito, achiote, garlic, cilantro, oregano and other various seasonings. Depending on your preference you can add different kinds of vegetables,

In Puerto Rico, the traditional meal is usually topped off with strong, black Puerto Rican coffee which has been manufactured and produced in Puerto Rico for more than 300 years.

The country is also popular for its cold beer known as cerveza all over the Spanish speaking world.

The national beverage is rum and Puerto Rico is one of the world’s leading rum producers. Puerto Rico is also quite famous for its delicious cocktails. Fresh fruit and vegetables are used in the making of non-alcoholic beverages.


About the Creator

Rasma Raisters

My passions are writing and creating poetry. I write for several sites online and have four themed blogs on Wordpress. Please follow me on Twitter.

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