Puerto Rican foods, also called Cocina Criolla by locals, is a culinary hybrid as complex as the island’s history.
Africa, European, Caribbean, and American influences are a product of the island’s roots, first as a Spanish colony and then a US territory.
These diverse influences have turned Puerto Rican foods into an exciting and flavorful cuisine.
The techniques and knowledge from different countries, combined with the island’s tropical climate, have produced an array of mouth-watering dishes.
We’ve listed the best 30 Puerto Rican foods that first-timers won’t want to miss.
From the Pernil to Caldo Santo to Arepas De Coco, these delicious authentic Puerto Rican dishes are going to make your taste buds sing with delight.
Check out #25 for an amazing dessert option.
Empanadillas are the Puerto Rican version of a deep-fried pie filled with meat and wheat-based dough.
The savory dish is similar to America’s Hot Pocket.
The difference is it has more flavor and fresher ingredients.
Empanadillas can be eaten on the go, so it is perfect for those who are always in a hurry.
Papas Rellenas, also called Rellenos de Papa, is a fried food usually eaten as a snack.
These crispy balls are filled with mashed potatoes and seasoned ground beef filling.
Each bite on the crispy shell quickly gives way to the fluffy mashed potatoes.
The savory meat in the middle has hints of sweetness that makes this dish special.
Pasteles, which means “pie,” is similar to Mexican tamales, although there are some key differences.
This Puerto Rican dish is traditionally prepared with a slow-cooked pork filling wrapped in masa and steamed in a leaf.
Made from root vegetables and green plantains, Pasteles are a great snack and are best paired with your favorite beverage.
Mofongo is descended from fufu, a West African dish made by pounding tubers like cassava or yam into a paste.
The Puerto Rican version swaps out plantain for the yam and adds pork and garlic.
Even though it is a starchy side dish often eaten together with other foods, it brings a lot of richness and flavor in and of itself.
Pernil is a staple on Puerto Rican tables at Christmas, but it can also be ordered throughout the year.
This roast pork is traditionally made with a whole suckling pig.
However, if you wish to replicate Pernil in your kitchen, you can roast any massive chunk of skin-on pork.
Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, all of your guests will be reaching for seconds.
Pollo Guisado is a flavorful and mouth-watering braised chicken stew that is easy to make.
This recipe has several variations, and the ingredients depend from country to country.
What makes the Puerto Rican version different is that it highlights the spices.
Made with loads of chicken, lots of seasonings, and hearty ingredients, this dish is an excellent choice for weeknight cooking.
Arroz Con Gandules is Puerto Rico’s version of the simple rice and beans dish.
This recipe uses gandules, which is a type of legume that is also called pigeon peas.
Arroz Con Gandules traditionally has pork in it, but if you are a vegetarian, you can leave out the meat.
You can even add chopped Manzanilla olives to add some color to it and briny acidity to counter the dish’s starchiness.
Chicken soup is universally loved.
It is a popular and delicious comfort food.
Asopao de Pollo hits all the comforting notes while also packing some serious flavor.
The balance of saltiness, savoriness, and acidity will put any plain chicken noodle soup to shame.
This chicken soup can be cooked ahead of time and reheated without affecting the taste.
It is perfect for when you need to warm up or when you’re feeling the weather.
Arroz Con Dulce, which means “rice with sweetness,” is Puerto Rico’s answer to rice pudding.
The dish has a Caribbean flavor thanks to coconut milk, Canela, cloves, and fresh ginger.
Creamy, moist, and perfectly done, Arroz Con Dulce can be eaten after a satisfying meal or as an afternoon snack.
This recipe is ideal for vegetarians and people who can’t eat gluten.
Tembleque is a delicious coconut pudding that has a mid-century Jell-O texture.
The dessert’s name translates to “shake,” and it lives up to its name when it jiggles after it pops out of the mold.
Tembleque is perfect for vegetarians and people who are fans of coconut-flavored foods.
11. Caldo Santo
Caldo Santo, which translates to “holy stew,” is traditionally served on Good Friday.
It is usually made with a mix of seafood that includes salted cod, shrimp, and fresh snapper.
Since the dish is made from fish, it abides by Catholic proscriptions against eating land animals during Holy Week.
Jibarito is a Puerto Rican sandwich that uses a flattened, fried piece of unripe plantain instead of bread.
You can put almost anything inside this sandwich, but the original filling is a thin-sliced steak dressed in garlic oil, mayonnaise, tomato, and lettuce.
If you are not keen on eating beef, you can swap it out with chicken, pork, or even seafood.
This makes an incredible breakfast or afternoon snack, but you can always prepare it any time of the day.
Another delicious sandwich on the list is Tripleta.
Started as a meal for working-class men, this long-rolled sandwich is served with an entire dinner shoved into it.
Tripleta is made with three types of meats, usually roast pork, ham, and sliced steak.
The meats are then dressed in Swiss cheese, tomato, onion, and lettuce.
With all of the fixings, you will struggle to fit it inside your mouth, but it is absolutely worth it.
Almojábanas is a savory leavened roll made with a dough of corn masa flour, cheese, and baking powder.
Deep-fried to perfection, this cheesy doughnut is soaked in honey and brown sugar post-fry, but if you are more into savory dishes, you can just sprinkle it with shredded cheese instead of sugar.
Almojábanas can be served as a dessert or snack.
Either way, your friends and family will surely ask for more.
15. Fricasé De Pollo
Fricase de Pollo is similar to the French dish Coq Au Vin.
The chicken is slowly simmered in a broth of red wine and vegetables, and tomatoes, bell peppers, and cilantro are added.
This is a saucy dish that is perfect for your next family dinner.
You can even adjust the ingredients to your liking and add ham, capers, and vinegar for a completely different experience.
Pastelon is a beef and plantain casserole that is the Puerto Rican equivalent of lasagna.
Instead of layers of pasta, ricotta, and ragu, Pastelon is made with stacks of thin slices of fried ripe plantains and layers of seasoned ground beef.
This dish is customizable to your taste, so you can add raisins, green beans, or even cheese if you want to.
Alcapurrias is a dish that is stuffed with Picadillo.
It goes through the dough made of green plantains and yautia root.
The dish has a subtle flavor and a certain bitter and floral character.
Formed like a little cigar and deep-fried, Alcapurrias are a popular street food on Puerto Rico’s coasts.
If you love seafood, you can swap the beef filling with crab.
Bacalaitos are pancakes made from salted fish, usually cod or pollock.
To take out the saltiness of the fish, it is poached with vinegar and seasoned with herbs.
The delicious and crispy fish pancakes are amazing appetizers and snacks, often paired with beer.
Chicharrones De Pollo is a particular type of fried chicken that is so crispy that it almost has the same texture as a chicharron.
The chicken is cut into small pieces before breading and frying, so you can pick it up like chicken lollipops.
Often served with Mofongo on the side, Chicharrones De Pollo is an incredible dish to eat while drinking beer.
Bistec Encebollado is made with a thin piece of marinated steak cooked with rings of onions.
One classic way of serving this delicious dish is by placing it on top of a bed of white rice with plantains on the side.
You can also add fried eggs or bell peppers on top of it to dress it up.
Whatever your choice is, Bistec Encebollado is a decadent meal that you can easily replicate at home.
Guineos Con Mollejas En Escabeche is a mixture of chicken gizzards and green bananas soaked in an acidic marinade.
Since it is made with gizzards, the dish has a chewy texture and robust, meaty flavor.
If you are not into gizzards, you can substitute them with other cuts of chicken.
Remember to serve this dish chilled so that the seasoning mixture will penetrate the bananas and gizzards properly.
Puerto Rico’s answer to pork and beans, Habichuelas Guisadas y Viandas is a broth made from tomatoes, country ham, sofrito, sazon and adobo.
This rustic and homey recipe is delicious and savory and can be served as a side dish in a more elaborate meal, or you can just put them on top of rice for an easy weekday dinner.
25. Flan De Queso
Flan De Queso is made with cream cheese, so the texture of the custard is different from the texture of other flan recipes.
Similar to a cheesecake filling, this mouth-watering dessert has more depth compared to a plain vanilla flan.
You can add liquid caramel on top to add extra sweetness and remember to serve it cold for heightened flavor.
Sorullitos De Maiz, also known as Sorullos, are finger-shaped corn fritters filled with cheese.
This recipe is similar to mozzarella sticks, but Sorullitos De Maiz can be sweetened if you want to.
You can eat them as a snack, appetizer, or breakfast food.
Arañitas, which means “little spiders,” are savory fritters made with fried plantain.
The crispy threads of plantain look like spider legs, hence the name.
Often eaten as a snack, Arañitas are breaded and fried in the same way as hash browns.
Quesitos, which translates to “little cheeses,” are small cigar-shaped baked treats made with puff pastry and filled with sugar and cream cheese.
Quesitos have a variety of delectable flavors, so if you have plans to bake them at home, you can change the fillings with the ones you want.
The most common substitute is guava paste, as it pairs well with cream cheese.
You can also go for jam, nuts, and Dulce de Leche.
29. Rellenos De Papa
Rellenos De Papa is a crispy ball stuffed with seasoned mashed potatoes and ground beef or Picadillo.
These delicious potato fritters can be eaten without stuffing, but the Picadillo in the middle elevates the dish to another level.
The savory meat with hints of sweetness makes the Rellenos De Papa special.
30. Carne Bif
Carne Bif is Puerto Rico’s version of corned beef hash.
The recipe uses canned corned beef, and it is mixed with chopped potatoes.
Simple and easy to make, Caren Bif is often served with rice and plantains.
The bottom line
Puerto Rican foods always stimulate the curiosity of tourists when they visit the beautiful island.
Luckily, you experience firsthand the flavors and quintessence of the island’s incredible cuisine in your own home.
Filled with delicious foods that you can sink your teeth into, you won’t struggle to find a tasty dish on their extensive list.
- Papas Rellenas
- Pollo Guisado
- Arroz Con Gandules
- Asopao De Pollo
- Arroz Con Dulce
- Caldo Santo
- Fricasé De Pollo
- Arepas De Coco
- Chicharrones De Pollo
- Bistec Encebollado
- Guineos Con Mollejas En Escabeche
- Habichuelas Guisadas Y Viandas
- Flan De Queso
- Sorullitos De Maiz
- Rellenos De Papa
- Carne Bif
- Skim through our Puerto Rican Foods list.
- Select the recipe you’re looking for.
- Prep the ingredients as instructed.
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