Beyond the sun and sand, Puerto Rico really is a foodie’s paradise. Cocina Criolla blends Spanish cooking with Caribbean ingredients, and it makes for some unique and tasty dishes. Here’s my list of the top meals you must have when visiting the island.
This starchy mix of mashed plantations and meat is the first meal I order when I get to Puerto Rico. It’s hearty, garlicky goodness, and you can’t go wrong when shrimp, pork or chicken are added. You’ll find it on every restaurant’s menu, and I’ve had some great mofongo at Plato’s and Cafe Puerto Rico in San Juan. Side note – if you don’t like garlic, this dish may not be for you.
From lechon to pernil, Puerto Ricans know how to cook their pork. Lechon, a suckling roasted pig, is the go-to for celebrations and large gatherings. Pernil is roasted pork shoulder that’s a centerpiece at holiday dinners. Both are juicy, tender and full flavor from sofrito, garlic and adobo. If you’re look for an authentic experience, head to a lechonera. The best ones can be found in Guavate. And where there’s pork, there’ probably chicharrones nearby. These are tiny pieces of pork belly that have been fried to crispy goodness.
These are fried fritters filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. Some of my favorites include tostones (fried plantains), alcapurrias and balalaitos (cod fritters). These finger foods are widely available from street vendors, along with at pretty much every restaurant. While they may be tasty, they’re probably not for the health conscious.
4) Breakfast Sweets
I love pastries, and the island has some great ones. Mallorcas are one thing that’s not to be missed. Fluffy, buttery bread is rolled into something similar in shape to a cinnamon roll, then topped with powdered sugar. It’s also common to see them filled with cheese and ham. Be sure to also try quesitos, little cream cheese filled twists. If you can’t make it to Puerto Rico anytime soon, I found a pretty good recipe here.
Nothing’s better on a hot day than shaved ice covered in fruity syrup. Get one of these refreshing Puerto Rican snow cones from a piraguero, or street vendor. Watermelon and passion fruit are my go-to flavors.
6) Tropical Drinks
Rum is king here, and that means that there are plenty of tropical drink options to choose from. The pina colada was even invented in Puerto Rico! You’ll find drinks in exotic flavors like tamarind and coconut. Some of the best mojitos I had were at Raices in Old San Juan. You can read more about my visit to Raices here.