Regional Cuisine of Puerto Rico - Puerto Rican Cuisine
by Kirsten Hawkins
Puerto Rico is an island nation that is officially a territory
of the United States. Puerto Rican cuisine has evolved from
several strong influences, including those of the original
peoples, such as the Tainos, and the Spanish conquerors that
drove most of the natives out and enslaved the remaining.
African and Caribbean influence is also reflected in the
cuisine of the island, which has also been shaped significantly
by its climate and geology.
Cocina criolla, one of the main cuisine styles particular to
the island has deep roots, extending far back to the native
Tainos and Arawaks. Their culinary traditions were based
tropical fruits, native vegetables, seafood, and corn. With the
Spanish came a host of other ingredients that expanded the
criolla style. These included olive oil, rice, wheat and meats,
such as pork and beef. As enslaved African peoples were imported
for work on the sugar cane plantations, their culinary
traditions took root as well, and their contributions, which
included taro and okra, became assimilated into the whole of
Many of the island’s main dishes are seasoned with adobo and
sofrito, spice mixtures that impart those flavors that the
island is so well known for. Adobo, which can vary from cook to
cook, or if bought prepared, from manufacturer to manufacturer,
generally consists of black peppercorns, oregano, salt, garlic,
olive oil, and lime juice. When bought prepared in powdered
form, most include salt, powdered garlic, citric acid, pepper,
oregano, turmeric and MSG, which is a good reason to spend a
little time making your own if experimenting with Puerto Rican
cuisine at home. While generally used for seasoning meats, it
is considered to be a sort of all-purpose seasoning mixture.
Sofrito is made from onions, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and
often includes achiote, which is from the seeds of the annatoo
plant, and helps to produce a bright yellow color in the
finished product. This, too, is used in a variety of dishes,
ranging from meat dishes to soups to standard forms of beans
One pot dishes, or stews, are common to Puerto Rican cuisine.
These are often made of meats, and flavored with a variety of
spices and ingredients in addition to adobo and sofrito. Among
these are Spanish olives stuffed with pimiento, sweet chili
peppers, capers, potatoes, onions, garlic, fresh cilantro, and
Chicken with rice is a dish that has become a Puerto Rican
specialty, with many families having their own special style,
handed down from generation to generation. Chicken is a main
ingredient of many criolla dishes, and these dishes, while
careful attention is given to spicing techniques, rarely are
they what could be termed hotly spiced.
Naturally, seafood is an important part of the island cuisine.
Fried fish is often served with a special sauce made of olives,
olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar,
garlic and bay leaves. Broiled, steamed or grilled fish is
lightly seasoned, if at all, during the cooking process and
served with a splash of lime juice with perhaps just a hint of
Puerto Rican cuisine has many facets, arising from the island’s
long, complex history. The blend of native culinary traditions
with those of the European settlers and the enslaved African
populations that they brought with them has resulted in a
unique and flavorful cuisine that is beloved by many.
About The Author: Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition
expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food.
Visit http://www.food-and-nutrition.com/ for more information
on cooking delicious and healthy meals.