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Puerto Rican Food: Discovering the Flavors of Puerto Rico
5 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Latin America has a rich gastronomy and Puerto Rico is no exception. Prepare yourself to be amazed by the classic Puerto Rican food when you plan to visit this country. There are plenty of popular Puerto Rican dishes that you should try on this trip!

In this article, iVisa will provide you with a list of the top Puerto Rican dishes. Puerto Ricans will show you that the way to anyone's heart is through his stomach!

Fill me in

Exploring the Rich Culinary Heritage: Traditional and Modern Puerto Rican cuisine

Puerto Ricans call the local cuisine cocina criolla, a term that defines the complex culinary with many influences. Everything started with Puerto Rican indigenous residents, the Taínos. These native people farmed the land and gathered seafood from the island's bountiful coastline.

Later, the Spanish conquered the country and brought their own ingredients, such as wheat, domesticated animals, rice, and olive oil. The Spanish colonization brought enslaved Africans to work in the large sugarcane plantations. So the Africans also contributed to the now traditional Puerto Rican food with their own flavours, more ingredients and cooking techniques.

In the past century, the country has been US territory. American food traditions also gave a special touch to the local cuisine. So, the mix of different roots resulted in a tasty gastronomy. Below, you will find some recommended Puerto Rican foods to get a taste of this delicious and diverse combination.

Traditional Puerto Rican food: The Best Puerto Rican dishes

iVisa prepared a list of Puerto Rican foods you should try during your trip to this beautiful country. The recipes show the Indigenous, Spanish, African, and American influences. You’ll see that Puerto Ricans know how to cook mouth watering dishes!

1. Puerto Rican pasteles

This can look like a Puerto Rican version of the Mexican tamales, although with some key differences between the dishes. It’s also prepared with a slow-cooked pork filling wrapped in dough and steamed in a leaf, but in this case, they use banana leaves. Puerto Ricans make the pastel dough with green plantains and various root vegetables. The pork is cooked with sofrito, vinegar, capers, and sazón, which gives a particular taste.

2. Fricase de Pollo

This Puerto Rican dish is of Spanish heritage, but it looks like Puerto Rico’s version of the French coq au vin. The Puerto Rican families simmer the chicken in a broth of red wine and aromatic vegetables, adding tomatoes, cilantro, bell peppers, and adobo. It can be served with arroz con gandules, a Puerto Rican rice that will soak up all the juices and make a great combination.

3. Mofongo

This is one of the traditional Puerto Rican dishes. This recipe is a Puerto Rican equivalent of the fufu, a West African dish made by pounding tubers like yam or cassava into a paste. Puerto Rico's cuisine is adapted to the local ingredients, so it swapped out plantain for yam and added pork and garlic. It combines fried plantains, pork skin or bacon, and garlic into a rich mash.

4. Caldo Santo

This is a holiday specialty, usually made on Good Friday, but you can find it in many Puerto Rican restaurants. It is made with a mix of seafood, including shrimp, bacalao (salted cod), and fresh snapper. The fish is simmered with root vegetables and plantain balls in a broth of coconut milk, coriander, achiote oil, peppers, and garlic. It’s a great option if you love seafood!

5. Arroz con gandules

This is one of the popular Puerto Rican foods you can serve with other meat dishes. It consists of rice and beans cooked with bacon. Fresh pigeon peas, herbs, and additional seasonings can be added to turn this dish into a base for a starter.

6. Rellenos de Papa

This street food is a delicious snack! They are crispy fried balls stuffed with mashed potatoes and ground beef (or picadillo). It mixes the mashed potatoes with eggs and cornstarch to make them stick together without falling apart.

7. Alcapurrias

This snack has dough made of green plantain and yautía root. The dough is dyed orange-gold with achiote(known in English as annatto). It's stuffed with picadillo, crab, or bacalao. Then, it gets formed into a little cigar and deep-fried. Delicious!

8. Flan de queso

Flan is one of the popular Puerto Rican desserts. The difference in this flan is that it is made with cream cheese, which changes the texture, looking a bit more like a cheesecake. The final touch is always the caramel and eggy custard batter over the top, just like all the flans.

9. Arroz con dulce

You can translate arroz con dulce as rice with sweetness. It’s a sweet rice pudding that looks like a tasty mush. Puerto Ricans cooks the white rice with coconut milk, cloves, canela (Mexican cinnamon), and fresh ginger. Different from other American and European recipes that use sweetened condensed milk, this is a vegan dessert.

10. Quesitos

These are small baked treats made with puff pastry and filled with sweetened cream cheese. You can find them in panaderias (bakeries) throughout San Juan or other cities in Puerto Rico. After they're baked, they get brushed with a simple sugar syrup that gives them sweetness and a glossy look. The most basic filling is a simple mixture of sugar and cream cheese, but many Puerto Ricans use flavors like guava paste, dulce de leche, jam, and nuts.

At this point, you must be dying to try some of these delicious Puerto Rican dishes. You can check out our Puerto Rico Travel Guide to learn all you need to start planning your trip to this country, such as the trip budget, fun things to do, and the best transport to travel around the country.

If you travel to Puerto Rico, you may need a visa or an ESTA

You must be excited to travel to Puerto Rico! But before packing your bags, you must prepare your travel documents to enter the country. The requirements can change depending on your nationality. You can use the iVisa Checker Tool to see what documents you need for this trip. Most visitors can apply for the ESTA to visit Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico ESTA - Visa Waiver Program

The Puerto Rico ESTA is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization available for some nationalities exempt from a US visa or part of the visa waiver program. It is a Multiple Entry authorization with a validity of 2 years after issued. This document allows you to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days Per Entry. You can use it to travel for tourism or business purposes.

Enjoy iVisa services and get your document in a few clicks and travel hassle-free to this exciting and flavoursome Caribbean destination!

  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This site does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. The source of information: https://www.statedepartment.pr.gov/foreigners
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