Mouthwatering Puerto Rican Food Dishes to eat
Puerto Rican cuisine does not get the hype it deserves. The island is known for its piña coladas (invented here), friendly people, generous sunshine and beaches. But it's time for food to become part of that list.
Rich, juicy and with just the right amount of spice, Puerto Rican food was born from the mix of Taino, African and Spanish culinary traditions. It is one of the best cuisines in the Caribbean. Which is saying a lot.
These are the best, must-try Puerto Rican foods.
Sandwich lovers, rejoice. Your search for the perfect sub has finally ended.
This gigantic Puerto Rican sandwich stuffs beef, ham and chicken together with cheese, tomatoes, onions and mayo. If you want to take it to the next level, get it with fried potato sticks and grilled bread.
You've probably guessed that this is a late-night favorite, particularly for people stumbling out of bars in need of some greasy goodness that will immediately bring them back to life.
Where to Try Tripleta
Serving up sandwiches since 1999, Tripletas Mi Sueño has established itself as the place to get authentic tripletas in San Juan.
Other sandwiches are on the menu, but who are we kidding? Ninety-nine percent of people rightfully come here for a perfectly juicy tripleta.
Tostones are usually a side dish, but they still are one of the most beloved foods in all of Puerto Rico.
The island has the perfect terrain for plantain trees, so you'll see many dishes incorporate plantains in various forms. For tostones, plantains are smashed flat and then fried twice in olive oil or the like. Salt and salsa are added for more flavor.
Forget mashed potatoes! Both tasty and easy to make, crispy tostones are the perfect starchy addition to the juicy meats that often appear in Puerto Rican dinner plates.
Where to Try Tostones
Any traditional Puerto Rican restaurant that doesn't have tostones as a side dish is a scam.
At Salitre Mesón Costero, they have fresh seafood and an interesting twist on tostones, which are shaped into cups and stuffed.
As a bonus, you'll get a gorgeous view of the ocean and a whisper of breeze while you enjoy your food.
13. Puerto Rican Arepas
Puerto Rican arepas are similar in principle yet very different from South American arepas.
The island's version consists of a kind of wheat bread that is fluffy on the inside. You'll find them stuffed with different ingredients, including various types of seafood.
Another way Puerto Rico differentiates its arepas is by having a sweet option made with coconut.
Where to Try Puerto Rican Arepas
For some of the best arepas go to La Preñá.
The casual eatery offers a variety of arepas stuffed with everything from spicy crab to fried cheese. Though it only opened in 2014, it's proven so successful that it already has five locations and a food truck around the island.
Word of advice: Come very hungry and ready to have your mind blown.
If you took high school Spanish, you might be surprised to learn that Puerto Rican pasteles have nothing to do with cake. Instead, they are a type of tamal.
The exterior is made with a ground green banana flour and stuffed with tender pork and root vegetables like yuca. Some versions use cod or chicken instead.
Like tamales, pasteles are boiled and wrapped in a plantain leaf tied with string.
Where to Try Pasteles
Located in colorful Old San Juan, El Jibarito is one of those places that has managed to stay true to its Puerto Rican soul despite its soaring popularity.
You'll probably have to wait in line, but that's a testament to how good the food is here. You won't find a dish here that's not impeccably done, but we suggest getting the pasteles, which El Jibarito does with expertise.
One of the most underrated Puerto Rican snacks, sorullitos are small corn fritters, usually dipped in pink sauce (a mix of mayo and ketchup).
Sorullos, or sorullitos, are mostly enjoyed as appetizers and can sometimes come stuffed with melted cheese.
Where to Try Sorullos
You will find sorullitos basically anywhere on the island, since they are a very popular appetizer. But if you want to have a unique story, make them part of your chinchorro experience.
These typical food stalls are found on the side of roads and are part of a tradition akin to barhopping, except you do it all over the island and eat great food along the way. You'll find sorullitos along the route, so you'll be able to enjoy them to your heart's content.
One of the best chinchorros on the island (and also one of the best places for sorullitos) is Las Cabañas de Doña Juana.
10. Asopao de Pollo
Chicken soup has never led anyone astray. Whether you're feeling under the weather or need a pick-me-up for the soul, asopao de pollo will lift your spirits.
The soup is made with green olives, peas, tomatoes, rice and chicken. The island's version of sofrito is added for a distinctly Puerto Rican flavor.
Sofrito is a mix of finely chopped ingredients that act as a base condiment. It is made with various types of peppers, coriander, garlic, onions, tomatoes and saw-toothed mint.
Where to Try Asopao de Pollo
When in doubt, go to where the locals go. And the locals go to La Villa Dorada de Alberto in Dorado.
The seafood restaurant specializes in fresh fish, but it also does a mean asopao de pollo that will not disappoint.
You'll also find this typical dish at any traditional Puerto Rican restaurant on the island.
Roughly translating to "wiggly," tembleque is one of Puerto Rico's most popular and delicious desserts — on par with arroz con dulce (rice pudding).
Usually made with coconut milk, the dessert has a texture between pudding and Jell-O and is soft and creamy.
For hot days when you want something sweet but refreshing, tembleque always does the trick.
Where to Try Tembleque
You'll likely find tembleque in most bakeries on the island. For some of the best, go to Kasalta in San Juan.
Their desserts are heavenly, and you'll also be able to get a cup of locally sourced coffee. You never know who you will see at Kasalta.
And they always are pleased with the choice.
Is there anything better than fried fritters? We don't think so, especially when they're eaten at small roadside stands while on a short road trip.
Alcapurrias are made with green banana batter and American taro, stuffed with seafood like crab or lobster, then deep-fried until they're crisp and golden.
They are popular roadside snacks, but you can find alcapurrias pretty much anywhere in Puerto Rico, from restaurants that serve them as entrees to bakeries.
Where to Try Alcapurrias
As with other snacks and appetizers, you'll find alcapurrias on almost any road in Puerto Rico.
In San Juan, La Alcapurria Quemá wins the heart of anyone who comes in for the fritters. You'll have your choice of stuffings, though the crab really hits the spot.
The restaurant also offers full meals, in case the alcapurrias open your appetite.
Translating to "little cheeses," quesitos will change your entire life. Shaped like chunky cigars, these pastries are filled with cream cheese and glazed with honey. As you bite the crispy exterior, the soft filling bursts in your mouth, giving you a taste of heaven.
To make it even better, sometimes quesitos come with guava or chocolate, so you can pick the filling that suits your sweet tooth.
Where to Try Quesitos
Once again, you'll find quesitos at any bakery in Puerto Rico. Since the pastry is sometimes had for breakfast, they are also popular in cafes.
Carolina's Panadería España is renowned for its quesitos and other pastries, breads and desserts.
Pastelón looks like lasagna, but as soon as you bite into it, you'll know it is very different.
Instead of pasta, pastelón uses fried plantains to make the layers, which are filled with ground beef and lots of cheese.
Plantains are a staple food on the island, so we highly recommend this unique dish if you want to go locavore.
Where to Try Pastelón
San Juan locals love Bebo's Cafe for its authentic Puerto Rican dishes that taste as if your grandma made them.
While the menu is extensive and the pastelón often gets ignored, Bebo's makes it so perfectly that you simply have to try it here.
Piononos are usually an appetizer, and they still often steal the show of the entire meal.
Ripe plantains are rolled into a cup-like shape, then filled with meat, grated cheese and other ingredients that usually include vegetables. They are then baked until the plantain and the meat are thoroughly cooked and the cheese is hardened.
Yes, we're drooling just thinking about it too.
Where to Try Piononos
Traditional piononos are usually found in the appetizer section of menus.
For a classic dish in a modern setting, head to Eñe, a Puerto Rican tapas restaurant in the heart of Old San Juan.
Lechón is much more than a dish in Puerto Rico. It's a veritable part of the history and culture of the island.
To make this dish, you marinade a whole pig in adobo, a special sauce made with garlic, vinegar, black pepper and oregano. The pig is then roasted for hours until the skin is golden and crispy, and the meat is tender.
Puerto Ricans love lechón so much they use it as one of their preferred and most special Christmas dishes.
Where to Try Lechón
To get the authentic lechón experience, you have to make a day trip to the island's famous Ruta del Lechón, or Pork Highway.
The name isn't used lightly. Hungry groups drive along Route 184 in Cayey, which is dotted with countless lechoneras, or pork joints, specializing in Puerto Rican lechón.
The legendary Lechonera El Cuñao has been around since 1940 and is still considered one of the best restaurants on the island for its roast pork.
3. Rice and Beans (Arroz con Habichuelas)
You can't go to Puerto Rico and not have arroz con habichuelas, or rice and beans. An essential side dish, the rice is cooked separately from the pink beans (or pinto beans), which are mixed with onions, squash, peppers, garlic, and the ever-present sofrito.
You can serve the beans on top of the rice or to the side, though most people mix them in to create a flavorful melange.
The dish is so important to Puerto Rican that the group El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico has an entire album and a single named after it.
Where to Try Rice and Beans
Nestled in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, La Casita Blanca is just what its name suggests: a little white house.
As soon as you step in, the smell of something succulent cooking makes your stomach grumble. You'll find almost all Puerto Rican staple dishes here, but the arroz con habichuelas in particular will make you feel as if you're having Sunday lunch at grandma's house.
It's a surprise that mofongo isn't more famous in the global culinary scene, given how absurdly good it is.
Green plantains are deep-fried, then smashed with broth, oil, garlic and salt. When served as a side dish, cured pork is often added to the mix for juiciness. Mofongo can also be served on its own, stuffed with different kinds of meats and/or vegetables
The result is both sweet and salty, and crunchy and soft. After trying this, you'll no doubt become a regular at your nearest Puerto Rican restaurant.
Where to Try Mofongo
Every place does mofongo their own way, but we trust Café Manolín, which has been serving traditional food, or cocina criolla, for over 70 years.
This casual restaurant in Old San Juan isn't as fancy as some of its competitors, but that's a plus in our books when it comes to trying authentic mofongo. If you want the dish as a meal on its own, order it stuffed with shrimp, or get it as a simpler side dish.
1. Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz con Gandules)
Arroz con gandules, or rice and pigeon peas, is considered the national dish of Puerto Rico.
To achieve the signature juiciness of this rice dish, a sauce is prepared by sauteing salted pork, sofrito, tomato paste and other condiments like olives and capers. Once the sauce is done, it's doused over the rice and peas on a large pot. Broth is then added for even more flavor, and the whole concoction is cooked together.
Yes, it's definitely as good as it sounds.
Where to Try Rice and Pigeon Peas
When in Ponce, don't miss the chance to stop at El Barril de la Mulata.
Besides having a mean arroz con gandules and other typical island food, the small restaurant has a captivating ambience, with tables made with old wine barrels and a changing menu that ensures fresh ingredients.