a plate of rice, beans and churrasco

Foods to Try in Puerto Rico: 47 Traditional & Popular Dishes

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Puerto Rican cuisine melds various cultural influences, including Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno. The blend of these diverse flavors results in a unique culinary experience.

Puerto Rican cuisine is diverse, flavorful, and satisfying, from hearty stews and savory meat dishes to tropical fruits and refreshing beverages.

Whether you’re a huge foodie or just looking to sample some new foods, there are many delicious traditional Puerto Rican dishes to try.

In this article, we’ll explore 47 of the most popular and best traditional foods to try in Puerto Rico!

Foods to Try in Puerto Rico

When you visit Puerto Rico as a traveler, you’re in for a treat when it comes to dining. This vibrant Latin Caribbean island has a reputation for its rich and diverse cuisine.

From succulent roasted meats and fried treats to tropical fruits and some of the best rum in the world, there is something for everyone!

To help you navigate the variety of foods to try in Puerto Rico, here is a list of 47 delicious and popular dishes!

Best Breakfast Foods to Try in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican cuisine offers a diverse range of breakfast foods that are flavorful and unique. From hearty dishes like Mallorca sandwiches to lighter options like oatmeal, there’s something for everyone.

Here are three breakfast foods to try on your next visit to Puerto Rico.

1. Quesitos

Indulge your sweet tooth with a mouthwatering Puerto Rican treat – quesitos. These delicious pastries are a staple in Puerto Rican bakeries and cafes.

Quesitos are small, sweet puff pastry pastries filled with cream cheese. But the real magic happens when you try them stuffed with ingredients such as guava or Nutella, taking the flavor profile to the next level.

2. Mallorca

A Mallorca is a popular breakfast sandwich in Puerto Rico.

The sweet, fluffy, and doughy bread roll is topped with powdered sugar and is filled with options such as ham, cheese, bacon, or scrambled eggs. The bread is toasted on a griddle until it becomes crispy.

A delicious mallorca breakfast sandwich made with sweet bread and powdered sugar is one of the best foods to try in Puerto Rico!

3. Pan Sobao

Pan sobao is a type of bread that is popular in Puerto Rico that is sweet, soft, and fluffy and similar in texture to brioche or challah bread.

You can find it at most grocery stories and local bakeries. I love it with butter, alongside a cup of Puerto Rican coffee!

4. Avena

Puerto Rican oatmeal or avena is a traditional breakfast dish in Puerto Rico. Typically, people make it with ground oatmeal, milk, cinnamon, and sugar, and serve it hot.

It is sweet, comforting, and one of my favorite breakfasts while visiting the island!

Best Meat Dishes

Meat dishes are a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, with influences from Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno cultures. From succulent roasted pork to savory stews, the island offers a variety of flavorful meat dishes. Here are a few meat dishes to try the next time you visit the island.

5. Pernil

Pernil is a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, especially popular during the Christmas holiday. The cook will marinate the pork shoulder with garlic, oregano, and other spices, and slow-roasts it for hours.

The result is a juicy, tender, and flavorful pork typically served with arroz con gandules. You cannot visit Puerto Rico without trying pernil!

6. Pinchos

Pinchos is one of my favorite street foods to try in Puerto Rico, especially at the beach!

Like a kebab, the skewers of grilled meat are often seasoned with a blend of spices and served with bread. You can find chicken, pork, beef, and even shrimp pinchos.

Grilled chicken kebabs; one of the best foods to try in Puerto Rico

7. Chuleta Can Can

Chuleta Can-Can is a pork dish that is very popular in Puerto Rico. The pork chop is seasoned with a blend of spices, including adobo and sazon, and then deep-fried.

Chuleta can-can is typically huge and enough to share by two people.

8. Carne Frita

Puerto Rican carne frita is a dish consisting of pork chunks seasoned with a blend of spices and then fried until crispy.

My favorite place to eat carne frita is at La Alcapurria Quemá in La Placita de Santurce. Try it with a side of arepa de coco, and thank me later for the recommendation!

9. Pollo Fricase

Fricase de Pollo is a flavorful chicken stew that is a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine.

The dish contains chicken pieces that simmer in a rich savory sauce with vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and olives. People usually serve it with white rice.

Puerto Rican chicken stew in a savory broth, a must try food in Puerto Rico

10. Corned Beef

To make Puerto Rican corned beef, a cook will chop canned corned beef and sauté it with onions, garlic, bell peppers, and tomato sauce. It often will have potatoes mixed in, a fried egg on top, served over steamed white rice.

In some places, you may even find fritters stuffed with corned beef! I love alcapurrias de corned beef. You may not see this on many menus, so when you do, be sure to order it and give it a try!

Best Rice Dishes

Rice is a staple ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine, and the island offers a variety of flavorful and delicious rice dishes. From the classic arroz con gandules to the soupy asopao, Puerto Rican rice dishes are full of flavor and cultural significance. Here are three rice dishes to try next time you are in Puerto Rico.

11. Arroz Con Gandules

Arroz con gandules is a classic Puerto Rican dish popular across the island. The dish is a mix of rice, pigeon peas (gandules), sofrito (a mixture of herbs, garlic, onion, and peppers), tomato sauce, and various seasonings. This dish goes great as a savory side to pernil and always reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking!

12. Arroz Mamposteao

This flavorful rice dish is similar to arroz con gandules but typically made with stewed red beans instead of pigeon peas. The rice is a bit mushy and soggy. Instead of just being a mix of rice and beans, there are usually pieces of ham and sometimes even sweet plantains mixed in the rice. This is a personal favorite of mine!

13. Asopao

Asopao is a hearty and comforting soup that is a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine. The stew is similar to gumbo and jambalaya, but with distinct Puerto Rican flavors and no heat.

It is unique because it is full of more rice than anything; it is more rice with broth. It is my favorite rainy-day food!

Arroz con gandules on a plate with a Puerto Rican pastel

Best Plantain Dishes

Plantains are a versatile and beloved ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine, used in both sweet and savory dishes. Whether fried, mashed, or boiled, plantains add a unique flavor and texture to traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Here are plantain dishes to try in Puerto Rico.

14. Mofongo

Mofongo consists of twice-fried mashed green plantains mixed with garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings. The mashed plantains are in the shape of a mound and topped with seafood, chicken, or beef.

This is possibly one of the most popular foods from Puerto Rico and on most travelers’ bucket lists of foods to try when they visit the island.

15. Pastelon

Pastelón is a delicious Puerto Rican dish that is similar to lasagna but with layers of thinly sliced fried sweet plantains instead of pasta, ground meat, and cheese.

The sweet and savory combo is delicious and something you will want to try in Puerto Rico.

16. Guineitos en Escabeche

To make guineitos en escabeche, Puerto Ricans typically boil green bananas in a vinegar-based sauce. It is served as a cold side salad alongside other savory Puerto Rican dishes.

17. Pasteles

Pasteles are a traditional Puerto Rican dish, popular during the holidays, similar to tamales but with different ingredients and flavors. Unlike tamales, the dough is made from green bananas, plantains, taro root, and other root vegetables.

Making pastele is labor-intensive, but totally worth it!

Mofongo on a plate topped with pieces of a meat

18. Trifongo

Trifongo is a popular mofongo variation combining mashed plantains, yucca, and sweet ones. The name “trifongo” comes from the combination of the three ingredients: “tri” for three and “fongo” from mofongo. The different textures and flavors make for a delicious and unique dish that’s worth trying.

19. Tostones

Tostones or fried plantains are sliced, fried, flattened, and then fried again until crispy. The result is a delicious, crispy, and savory snack that’s perfect as a side dish.

In Puerto Rico, tostones are served hot and topped with salt. These crispy, fried, salty snacks are hard to stop eating and pair perfectly with any dish.

20. Maduros or Amarillos

Unlike tostones, maduros are made from ripe plantains. They are sliced on a diagonal and fried until they are golden brown. This gives them a sweeter taste and softer texture than tostones.

Maduros are often served as a side dish with other traditional Puerto Rican dishes such as meat and rice dishes. Their sweet taste is the perfect compliment for more savory foods.

21. Arañitas

Aranitas means little spider; fear not; the name is totally misleading! I have only had this dish in Puerto Rico and could not stop obsessing over this leveled-up tostone!

They are made by slicing or grating green plantains into thin strips, which are then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown. The resulting fritters are shaped like spiders, hence the name “arañita”.

a plate of platanos, one of the main ingredients in most foods to try in Puerto Rico

Best Seafood Dishes

The island’s cuisine features a variety of seafood dishes that reflect the island’s coast and access to the ocean. From bacalao fritters to mofongo topped with shrimp, seafood is an integral part of Puerto Rican cuisine and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

22. Bacalaito

While this is technically a fritura (fried food), it is probably the most popular seafood dish from Puerto Rico! Bacalaito is a popular Puerto Rican fried snack that is made by deep-frying a batter of salted codfish, flour, eggs, and seasoning.

Once the batter is mixed, spoonfuls are dropped into hot oil and fried until crispy and golden brown.

23. Serenata de Bacalao

Serenata de Bacalao is a traditional Puerto Rican codfish salad. It is made with salted codfish, onions, garlic, root vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs dressed with a vinaigrette. It is a delish way to enjoy codfish.

24. Ensalada de Pulpo

Puerto Rican Ensalada de Pulpo, or octopus salad, is a refreshing dish made of tender octopus mixed with a variety of fresh vegetables and herbs. The salad is dressed with a simple vinaigrette, usually made from olive oil, vinegar, and lime juice. This flavorful salad is perfect as an appetizer or side dish!

Best Sandwiches

Puerto Rican cuisine has a reputation for its bold flavors and creative culinary combinations; sandwiches are no exception. Here are a couple of popular sandwiches to try in Puerto Rico, that I know you will love as much as I do.

25. Jibarito

A jibarito is a unique sandwich where the bread is replaced with flat, fried tostones. This yummy sandwich is filled with meat, usually steak or chicken, and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. The Jibarito is filling and perfect for a day of sightseeing!

a delicious Puerto Rican jibarito sandwich consisting of meat sandwiched between two flat fried plantains

26. Tripleta

The Tripleta is possibly the most popular sandwich in Puerto Rico. It is massive, consisting of three types of meats – ham, roast pork, and steak, layered on a soft roll with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and ketchup. The sandwich is typically served with potato sticks and sometimes cheese.

Best Fried Snacks

Fritura is a popular type of street food in Puerto Rico, consisting of various deep-fried snacks and appetizers. From all kinds of fritters and turnovers, you will find some of the best-fried snacks in the world here!

27. Alcapurrias

Alcapurrias are a popular Puerto Rican fritter made from a mixture of mashed plantains, taro, and/or cassava. The mixture is seasoned and stuffed with a filling of either seasoned ground beef, chicken, or seafood. The fritters are then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.

These are my favorite fritura! Don’t forget the hot sauce!!

28. Queso del Pais

Queso del Pais is a type of cheese that is commonly produced and consumed in Puerto Rico. It is a soft, mild cheese with a creamy texture and is made from cow’s milk.

You can order it at most restaurants fried and serve with guava sauce for the most delicious combination of salty and sweet!

29. Arepa de Coco

Arepa de Coco is one of my absolute favorites, a must-have food when I land in Puerto Rico. This flaky, light coconut-flavored fry bread is delicious! I enjoy it on its own or paired with carne frita.

empanadilla filled with chicken

30. Empanadilla or Pastelillo

Empanadillas and pastelillos are very popular Puerto Rican turnovers! They are first filled with a variety of savory ingredients, such as ground beef, chicken, cheese, vegetables, or seafood. Then, the turnovers are deep-fried until golden brown and crispy.

The term empanadilla describes turnovers that are sealed by hand, while pastelillos are sealed using a fork!

31. Sorrullos

Another favorite of mine, sorrullos are a popular snack made from a mixture of cornmeal, cheese, and sugar. The dough is rolled and then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown. The result is a delicious sweet, and savory snack that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. These go perfect with mayo ketchup!

32. Papa Rellena

Papa rellena is a traditional Puerto Rican fritura that consists of a mashed potato ball stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions, peppers, and spices. The fritter is coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried. The outside is crispy, while the center is soft and savory.

33. Pionono

This fritter is a delicious example of the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors. Known as the pionono, it consists of a cup made of thinly sliced sweet plantain filled with juicy and flavorful ground beef.

The plantain cup provides a sweet and crispy exterior that perfectly complements the savory and seasoned beef filling, creating a delectable snack that you will obsess over.

Delicious fried Alcapurrias, a must try food in Puerto Rico

Best Desserts

Puerto Rican desserts are equally mouthwatering to their savory counterparts and reflect the island’s tropical location.

From creamy custards to sweet pastries, Puerto Rican desserts are a delectable way to experience the island’s unique flavors and traditions.

34. Arroz con Dulce

Puerto Rican Arroz con Dulce is a traditional rice pudding popular during the holidays. This sweet and creamy dessert consists of rice cooked in milk (usually coconut) with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Raisins and shredded coconut add texture and sweetness.

The dish is typically chilled and cold, making it a refreshing dessert.

35. Tembleque

Tembleque is a popular dessert made from coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. The ingredients are mixed and cooked in a mold. Once refrigerated, it will reach a custard-like consistency. The result is a creamy and delicious coconut pudding!

36. Flan

Most Latin American countries enjoy Flan, a custard-like dessert made from a mixture of eggs, milk, and sugar. Additionally, it is often flavored with vanilla, coconut, Nutella, or other flavors!

People love this creamy, rich, and delicious dessert for a reason. Its popularity is well-deserved.

37. Brazo Gitana

Originating in Spain, Puerto Rican Brazo Gitano is a dessert that became renowned on the island’s west coast, thanks to the Ricomini bakery.

The brazo gitano is a thin sponge cake first filled with a range of delectable fillings such as cream cheese and guava, then rolled into a spiral shape and finally dusted with powdered sugar.

brazo gitano, a cake roll stuffed with jelly

38. Piragua

Vendors typically sell a shaved ice treat called a piragua on streets and beaches. It resembles a snow cone but has a finer, smoother texture. To make a piragua, the piraguero shaves ice from a block, then, shapes it into a cone and finally adds flavored syrups like tamarind, coconut, or other tropical fruit flavors on top.

A piragua is perfect for hot days as they are both refreshing and delicious.

39. Limber

Limber is a popular frozen dessert in Puerto Rico. Similar to a popsicle, it is a mix of fruit juices, sugar, or other sweeteners frozen in a small paper cup, plastic cup, or ice pop mold.

Limber is available in various flavors, such as passion fruit, coconut, guava, and pineapple, and is a refreshing treat often sold by street vendors.

40. Budin de Pan

Budin de pan, a popular Puerto Rican dessert, is a delicious and comforting bread pudding. Served warm or cold, with its warm and comforting flavors, budin de pan is a beloved food you need to try in Puerto Rico. It is an absolute fav of mine!

41. Dulzura Borincana

Dulzura Borincana is not technically a food to try in Puerto Rico but a Puerto Rican brand that produces a variety of traditional sweets and snacks. Some of the popular products offered by Dulzura Borincana include coconut candy, lollipops, and sesame seed candy.

You can find these sweet candies and treats at most supermarkets and gift shops across the island.

piragua being squirted with red fruit juices

Best Fruits

Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise with a wide range of delicious fruits to try. From the sweet and juicy papayas to the tangy guavas and sour tamarinds, there are plenty of exotic flavors to discover.

42. Tropical Fruits

When you visit Puerto Rico, try the delicious tropical fruits grown on the island. In my experience, mango and pineapple are musts.

Don’t miss the chance to stop at roadside vendors selling fruits, as they consistently offer some of the best tropical fruits you’ll ever taste on the island.

Best Fast Food

Fast food is a popular dining option in Puerto Rico, with a variety of international chains and local favorites to choose from. Here are some of the best local options to try when you visit.

43. El Churry

El Churry is a beloved food truck and store chain that is a must-visit spot for foodies in Puerto Rico. With their mouth-watering menu of sandwiches, wraps, and fries, it’s no surprise that they have a cult following among both locals and tourists.

The sandwich options are tasty, like tender chicken, juicy churrasco, or a combination of both. When you’re exploring the bustling streets of San Juan, you’re likely to stumble upon one of El Churry’s locations throughout the metro area.

44. Puerto Rican Chinese Food

This unique cuisine is a delicious fusion of Chinese and Puerto Rican flavors and cooking styles, producing mouth-watering dishes such as fried rice with chunks of ham, fried chicken, and garlic tostones.

Puerto Rican Chinese cuisine has become an integral part of the island’s gastronomy, with numerous restaurants and food trucks serving up this unique culinary experience.

45. Taco Maker

For over 30 years, Taco Maker, a fast-food chain born in Puerto Rico, has served a wide array of Mexican-inspired dishes, including tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas. Taco Maker prides itself on its speedy service, budget-friendly prices, and the use of fresh ingredients.

Unsurprisingly, this eatery has earned a reputation as a go-to spot for locals and tourists seeking a delicious and convenient meal.

cuban sandwich

46. El Meson Sandwiches

El Meson Sandwiches is a chain of fast-food restaurants in Puerto Rico that specialize in sandwiches and other quick bites.

The chain has many locations throughout the island and is known for its fast service, reasonable prices, and convenient locations with drive-thru available!

And last, but never least…..

I want to save the best for last. Even though you will never eat this on its own, it is served all the time alongside many of the foods on this list. When in Puerto Rico, there is no way you can try foods without trying…

47. Mayo ketchup

Mayo ketchup is a condiment commonly used in Puerto Rican cuisine that combines mayonnaise and ketchup. It is often used as a dipping sauce or topping for a variety of dishes, such as frituras and sandwiches.

Anytime you order appetizers or fried snacks, you will likely find mayo ketchup on the side! The combination of the tangy ketchup and creamy mayonnaise creates a unique flavor that is undoubtedly beloved by many in Puerto Rico and beyond.

Foods to Try in Puerto Rico: FAQ Section

Puerto Rico is a food lover’s paradise, with a rich culinary heritage that draws on a variety of cultural influences, including Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno.

From savory dishes like mofongo and arroz con gandules to sweet treats like tembleque and coquito, there are many delicious foods to try in Puerto Rico.

In this FAQ section, we’ll answer some common questions about this beautiful Caribbean island’s must-try foods and drinks!

a plate of rice, beans and churrasco

What food is Puerto Rico known for?

Puerto Rico is home to rich and flavorful cuisine! Some of the most famous dishes from Puerto Rico include Mofongo: a dish made from mashed, fried plantains mixed with garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings, Arroz con Gandules: a traditional rice dish made with pigeon peas, pork, and a variety of seasonings, Pernil: slow roasted pork shoulder, and a variety of fritura or fried snacks!

These are just a few examples of the many delicious foods that Puerto Rico is known for. The island’s cuisine is diverse and constantly evolving, so there are always new flavors and dishes to discover.

What are the best foods to try in Puerto Rico?

Maybe I am biased, but it’s hard to go wrong with any food you try in Puerto Rico. The island’s cuisine is flavorful, vibrant, and delicious.

Whether you’re enjoying a traditional dish at a local restaurant or street food from a vendor, you’re sure to find something that will delight your appetite.

Puerto Rico is truly a food lover’s paradise, with many unique and delicious foods. So, if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful Caribbean island, be sure to come with an empty stomach and an open mind. You won’t be disappointed!

What is a Typical Puerto Rican breakfast?

Puerto Rican breakfasts are known for their hearty and filling nature, and they often include a mix of sweet and savory dishes. While some breakfast options, such as omelets and breakfast sandwiches, may be similar to those in the states, there are also unique dishes to try like mallorcas or quesitos! Café con leche is almost always served.

Regardless of your choice, you can be sure that a Puerto Rican breakfast will satisfy you for the day ahead.

What is a typical Puerto Rican dinner?

The main course is usually comprised of a rice dish such as arroz con gandules or rice and beans. Additionally, a mouth-watering meat dish, be it chicken, pork, or beef, is always present. A side of crispy and tasty fried sweet or green plantains known as tostones is also a staple. Finally, a simple yet refreshing salad is often served to complement the flavors of the other dishes.

a sign outside of los pinos lechonera in guavate, puerto rico, a must stop for foods to try in puerto rico

What is the famous food strip in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is known for its vibrant food scene; several famous food strips are scattered throughout the island.

One of the most well-known is Piñones, a coastal area near Loiza, near the airport. Here, visitors can find a range of street food vendors selling fritters, seafood, and other local delicacies.

Luquillo, a beach town close to El Yunque National Rainforest, is also home to a famous food kiosk area where visitors can sample a variety of Puerto Rican fritura and more. It is located right next to the beach, making it a great way to end a day in the sun!

Finally, the mountain town of Guavate is known as the pork highway due to the number of lechoneras or roadside eateries that specialize in roasted pork in town. Visitors can feast on crispy skin and juicy meat while enjoying live music and a festive atmosphere, especially on weekends.

What is a mofongo in Puerto Rico?

Mofongo is a popular Puerto Rican dish that is made from mashed plantains, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings, also known as chicharrones. The plantains are mashed and then mixed with the other ingredients to form a mound.

Mofongo can be served as a side dish or as the main course, often filled with seafood, meat, or vegetables. It is a hearty and flavorful dish that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, and it has become an iconic symbol of Puerto Rican cuisine.

What are drinks to try in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is famous for its delicious drinks that are perfect for any occasion. One of the most popular drinks is the Piña Colada, which was actually invented in Puerto Rico. It is a refreshing cocktail made from coconut cream, pineapple juice, and rum blend.

Another traditional alcoholic beverage is pitorro, which is a type of moonshine made from fermented fruits. This potent drink has a high alcohol content and is often flavored with coconut, passionfruit, or other tropical fruits.

Gasolina or Palo Ready are also popular premixed alcoholic drinks that come in small pouches and are perfect for beach days or outdoor activities. You can buy these in most supermarkets or liquor stores.

During the holiday season, coquito is a must-try drink. This creamy and sweet coconut-based drink is similar to eggnog but with a tropical twist.

And, of course, no trip to Puerto Rico is complete without trying the local rum. Puerto Rico is home to several world-renowned rum brands, including Bacardi, Don Q, and Ron del Barrilito, and visitors can take distillery tours to learn about the history and production of this beloved spirit.

For non-alcoholic drinks, locals and visitors enjoy malta, a sweet carbonated malt beverage, and local coffee grown in the mountains of Puerto Rico, rich and bold in flavor.

women working in a lechonera in guavate puerto rico

Wrap-Up: Foods to Try in Puerto Rico

Indeed, Puerto Rican cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors and influences that is sure to satisfy any palate.

Accordingly, if you are looking for hearty dishes like pasteles and mofongo or fried treats like alcapurrias and empanadillas, you are undoubtedly able to find something that suits your taste buds.

And don’t forget to wash it all down with some of the delicious drinks Puerto Rico offers, from local coffee and rum to refreshing piña coladas and coquito.

Whether you’re a foodie looking to expand your culinary horizons or simply seeking out some delicious meals to enjoy on your vacation, Puerto Rico is the perfect destination.

So come and indulge in the flavors of this beautiful island and discover why Puerto Rican cuisine is so beloved around the world. From street food to fine dining, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this culinary paradise.

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