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The Best Puerto Rican Food: Traditional Dishes You Must Try

by Pilar Dujan | April 27, 2023
Discover traditional Puerto Rican food with your ESTA

Are you going to travel to Puerto Rico? One of the two associated free states of the US, it is a land of colors, amazing beaches in Puerto Rico, unique things to do in Puerto Rico and joy… and also delicious food! 

Here you will discover the best of traditional Puerto Rican food, or cocina criolla, both sweet and savory.


It may sound weird, but rest assured: it is delicious. It is a traditional Puerto Rican food and it’s made by mashing fried green plantain, garlic and pork (salt-cured, crackling, pork skin or bacon). Some use butter, oil or a salty broth to soften the mash. 

It can be a side dish or a main dish, and you can change the stuffing to any meat you desire, such as chicken, crab, octopus, skirt steak, seafood or stewed vegetables. 

You can also enjoy yuca mofongo or trifongo, which is made with green plantain, sweet plantain and yuca.

Good places to try Mofongo

Café Manolín

Address: 251 C. de San Justo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico


La Vergüenza

Address: 280 C. Norzagaray, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico


Puerto Criollo

Address: 360 C. Tetuán, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico



The Puerto Rican pasteles are similar to Mexican tamales. It is a widely known Puerto Rico traditional food. They are made with green plantain masa stuffed with stewed pork meat, but some variations may include yuca or other root vegetables. Yuca can also be used as the main ingredient for the masa, and the stuffing can be of chicken or cod instead of pork. 

To make pasteles, you need to press the masa onto a banana leaf and put the stuffing in the center. Then you fold the banana leaf, tie it with a string and cover it with parchment paper. After that, the pastel is boiled inside the leaf and, when it’s time to serve it, you remove the string. 

The meat is previously cooked with sofrito, vinegar, capers, salt and pepper. 

This dish is part of the holiday tradition of Puerto Rico, so this would be the perfect time to try it!

plantains traditional Puerto Rican food

Lechón asado

This is a staple of Puerto Rican food. Lechón asado is made with a whole pig marinated in adobo (garlic, oregano, black pepper, vinegar and water) and then roasted slowly over coals. This process takes several hours, until the meat is soft and juicy but with crispy skin. It is one of the best Puerto Rican food.

The best Lechón Asado

Lechonera Hecho En Guavate

Address: Av. José de Diego, San Juan, 00927, Puerto Rico


Lechonera Angelito’s Place

Address: PR 175 Km. 4.8 Bo. Carraizo Puerto Rico 3h. Bs, Trujillo Alto, 00976, Puerto Rico


El cuerito de la 15

Address: 751 C. Monserrate, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico


Arroz con gandules

This savory staple food in Puerto Rico food is made with rice and gandules, which are pigeon peas. To cook it, first you have to sautée pork meat in olive oil with sofrito, bay leaves, tomato paste and annatto. Sometimes olives or capers are also added. 

After this is done, you mix the rice with the peas in a large pot and coat them with the sauce you have made, add water or a broth and leave everything cooking until the rice is done. 

It can serve as both a side dish and a main dish.

Good places to try arroz con gandules

El Jibarito

Address: 280 C. del Sol, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico


El Gigante Dormido

Address: Bayamón, 00961, Puerto Rico


Molini's Cafe and Restaurant

Address: 1859 Puerto Rico, 1857 C. Loíza, San Juan, 00911, Puerto Rico


Tostones and amarillos

These are the two main ways to cook plantains.

Tostones are savory. They are made from green plantains cut into thick slices marinated in water and garlic and deep-fried two times: the first time is used to soften and smash the plantains, the second deep-fry is to leave them crispy.

Amarillos are made from ripe plantains cut into pieces. They are also fried, but the idea is to leave the outside almost black and the inside soft and sweet

These are side dishes and, as such, are easily available throughout Puerto Rico.

Arroz con habichuelas

Arroz con habichuelas, or rice and beans, is the most common side dish of traditional Puerto Rican food, which means you can eat it basically anywhere. To make it you have to prepare a stew of pink beans, onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, squash and sofrito. 

The rice is cooked separately from the beans and it’s always medium-grain white rice. It’s cooked with olive oil and salt.

They are served next to each other, not on top, so you can choose how much to eat from each part of the dish. This is available throughout the island, both in restaurants and as street food. 

Rice and beans, Puerto Rican food


This dish is heaven on Earth. The most popular dessert of Puerto Rican food, you can find them everywhere around the island. 

A quesito is a flaky puff pastry filled with sweet cream cheese, usually whipped with eggs, vanilla and sugar, and shaped like a cigar. Then it’s drizzled with honey or caramelized sugar. They can also be filled with guava, dulce de leche or chocolate. 

The unstuffed crust is also used to make palmeritas, which is another sweet dessert that consists of making two swirls with the puff pastry and then cooking it until it’s crunchy. The shape is similar to a pretzel but the taste is sweet. You will fall in love with this popular food in Puerto Rico.

Where to try Quesitos in Puerto Rico

Panadería España

Address: Centro Comercial, 1105 C. Marginal Villamar, Carolina, 00979, Puerto Rico



Address: 1966 Av. McLeary, San Juan, 00911, Puerto Rico


Sobao by Los Cidrines

Address: 1369 Av. Ashford, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico


Arroz con dulce

As you can tell, rice is a key ingredient of traditional Puerto Rican food. The arroz con dulce is a sweet rice pudding.

To make it, you have to cook white rice with coconut milk, cloves, canela (also called true cinnamon, it’s used in Mexican cuisine) and fresh ginger. This sweet rice mush doesn’t use condensed milk so it’s vegan. You can get this everywhere around Puerto Rico as it’s a staple of Puerto Rican food.

Pastelillos de guayaba

The pastelillos de guayaba are made from filo pastry stuffed with guava sauce and then covered with powdered sugar. Other choices of filling are apple or pineapple. 

Where can you try pastelillos de guayaba?

Boquerón Bakery

Address: 101 PR-101, Cabo Rojo, 00623, Puerto Rico


Ricomini Bakery

Address: 70 C. Méndez Vigo, Mayagüez, 00680, Puerto Rico


El manjar criollo

Address: Mall, Carretera PR #1, Caguas, 00727, Puerto Rico


Flan de queso

This dish would be the Puerto Rican food’s answer to cheesecake. It’s a flan made with cream cheese, which changes the texture of a traditional flan and puts it closer to a cheesecake. Just like a regular flan, it’s also covered with caramel and custard batter. A delicious food in Puerto Rico!

This is a very common dessert that most places tend to have. Be adventurous and try it wherever you like!