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There is nothing like escaping to an island. The sea breeze, warm temperature and blue skies melt the stress away. Puerto Rico has all these wonderful traits and one other thing: amazing food!
If you've never ventured to this Caribbean island we compiled a list of Puerto Rican dishes that will help you get acquainted with the local cuisine. We've also tossed in recipes so you can whip up your own Puerto Rican dishes at home.
Puerto Rican Cuisine: Origins
Puerto Rican cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African and Taíno cultures (Taínos were the indigenous people of the island). The dishes are colorful, flavorful and laced with herbs like culantro, oregano and bay leaves.
Common aromatics include sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and seasonings like sazón and adobo (both of which are dried seasonings widely available in Latin markets). Cumin and annatto seeds are popular spices.
Favorite ingredients include plantains (which look like giant bananas but are not bananas at all), yuca, bacalao (salted codfish), extra virgin olive oil, green olives, local sweet potatoes and root vegetables like ñame and malanga.
8 Puerto Rican Dishes Worth A Try
Arroz con Gandules
There is no denying that Puerto Ricans love rice and one of the island's iconic dishes is arroz con gandules, which translates to rice with black pigeon peas.
This fragrant yellow rice is laced with olives and is sometimes prepared with roasted red peppers. Traditionally, it is made even more delicious when the pot is covered with a banana leaf and is left to steam.
A Christmas time favorite, pasteles are savory cakes similar to tamales. However, unlike tamales pasteles are not prepared with corn. Instead, the dough is made with grated plantains and root vegetables such as yautía (which has a similar texture to potatoes).
The dough is seasoned and placed a top a plantain leaf. A meat filling is placed in the center and the pastel is rolled and tied with butcher's twine. The pasteles are boiled and enjoyed with a dash of hot sauce.
image via Hungry Dudes/Flickr
Tostones are twice-fried plantains that are the perfect accompaniment to rice and beans. You can eat them with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.
This video recipe from Que Rica Vida shows you how to make them:
image via Aaron Perkins/Flickr
If there is one dish you try in Puerto Rico let it be mofongo.
This epic dish features deep fried plantains that are mashed in a wooden mortar and pestle with garlic, olive oil and pork rinds. The mofongo can either served as a side dish or it can be molded and stuffed with seafood, chicken or beef. It is heaven on earth.
Want to make it? Try this recipe for Puerto Rican mofongo.
Coquito is basically the Puerto Rican version of eggnog. What's the twist? It is made with coconut milk and no eggs.
The flavor is rich, creamy and tropical. It is a drink to be enjoyed during the holidays.
Pastelitos de guayaba
This is hands down one of the best Puerto Rican pastries out there. Flaky, butter and with a sweet guava center, they are just the thing to enjoy with a cafecito (Puerto Rican coffee).
Flan de Queso
Flan is a common dessert across Latin America but in Puerto Rico we love making a version with cream cheese. It is called flan de queso and has the consistency of cheesecake.
Coconut flan is another Puerto Rican dessert worth trying.
Curious about Latin foods? Try these tips for using dulce de leche.