5 Must-Have Ingredients for Cooking Puerto Rican Food

by Melanie Edwards on April 1, 2009 · 15 comments

in Puerto Rico

There are some very essential ingredients when it comes to cooking Puerto Rican food. They make up what’s called sofrito.

Now…the term sofrito is used a bit interchangeably because it refers to both the overall mixture of these ingredients as well as a specific item.

Either way, we use sofrito (the overall mixture) for just about everything we cook. It’s used in yellow rice, beans, stews, soups, and pretty much anything that is cooked in a sauce.

It’s a staple.

5 Ingredients for Cooking Puerto Rican Style

Sofrito or Recaito

Goya Sofrito

Like I said, sofrito can also be a specific item. Many people make their own sofrito by blending various peppers and herbs in a food processor. However, us modern mamis buy the bottled or frozen version. Goya sofrito comes in both. At least in the supermarket.

Sometimes I buy recaito instead of sofrito. It’s basically the same thing and many of the ingredients overlap. They serve the same purpose. Again, Goya recaito comes both in a bottle and frozen.

Sazon

Sazon is a blend of different seasonings and spices and also has achiote in it. Achiote (or annatto) is what gives our food the orange-y color. Sometimes half a packet is all you need.

Adobo

Adobo replaces the salt and pepper combo in a Puerto Rican kitchen. We do not season our meats with salt and pepper. Instead, we use adobo. And, please for the love of all that is right, DO season BOTH sides of the meat. I can’t for the life of me understand why you would want to eat meat that tastes good on one side only.

Tomato Sauce & Tomato Paste

Tomato sauce adds some more coloring and gives a great flavoring to the gravy/sauce. It also helps to give texture, along with…

Tomato paste goes right along with tomato sauce. You can’t really have one without the other (which is why together they count as one item). The tomato paste definitely adds a thicker consistency to the sauce.

Green Olives

I was told by a former co-worker once that she loves to eat olives, but would have never thought to cook with them. Just a couple of olives in the rice or beans adds a great flavor.

And there you have it. Five ingredients that are used in everyday Puerto Rican cooking and make-up our base seasoning for nearly all dishes.

*Please note that you don’t have to get Goya; there are other brands out there. I just couldn’t find them to showcase.*

Have you ever had or cooked any Puerto Rican dishes? Which are your favorite(s)?

P.S. Don’t forget today is also Family Eden Wednesday! Help me figure out how to use my slow cooker!

All images from Amazon.com.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miss Britt April 1, 2009 at 6:47 am

i have NO idea what Puerto Rican food is. I mean, I know what it IS – but have no concept of what it tastes like.

Clearly, you need to cook for me.

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2 Melanie (Modern Mami) April 1, 2009 at 6:50 am

You AND Shari apparently. But, it’s way on the other spectrum of low-carb. As in, NOT AT ALL.

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3 Brenda Rivera April 29, 2009 at 1:35 am

I just would like to say that Im Puerto Rican,and I love Puerto Rican food.I love Puert Rico,Its a pretty island.Te Amo Puerto Rico. Im an Puerto Rican Princess.

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4 Melanie (Modern Mami) April 29, 2009 at 6:47 am

@Brenda Rivera, Gracias Brenda! So glad you stopped by to show your pride. :)

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5 Jennifer, Playgroups are no place for children May 4, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I have never made Puerto Rican food before. I’m doing a series on my blog where my husband and I try food from the International aisle at the grocery store, though, and I’m definitely going to have to try some Puerto Rican recipes!

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6 Melanie (Modern Mami) May 8, 2009 at 7:02 am

@Jennifer, Playgroups are no place for children, Let me know if you want some ideas for dishes to begin with. You’re going to love it!

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7 rachel-asouthernfairytale May 7, 2009 at 10:56 pm

YUM YUM YUM

Love all of that. I use Adobo, too.

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8 Melanie (Modern Mami) May 8, 2009 at 7:05 am

@rachel-asouthernfairytale, That’s great Rachel! What type of dishes do you use adobo for? Btw, I still have to try that grilled cheese w/ bacon & spinach you recently posted about. It sounds divine.

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9 mamafish January 10, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I had the priviledge of living in Puerto Rico for a year while my husband was stationed at Rhamey AFB. We lived on the economy and loved getting to know the people there. I learned to love the beans and rice they made there (red sauce). The neighbors would bring me a jar of the sauce but would never teach me how to make it. I would love to learn even now and it has been 42 years since I lived there. I have been trying to find out what was in the sauce by talking to people from Puerto Rico or those who had lived there. Anyone willing to teach me? Lois

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10 Melanie (ModernMami) January 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm

@mamafish, That red sauce is what I described as “sofrito” in the post above. Basically, those same ingredients I listed in this post, make up sofrito. Sofrito is made of: oil, vinegar, sazon, tomato sauce, tomato paste, recaito/sofrito, and olives. Hope that helps!

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11 Jasmineandrade13 November 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm

muy bien

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12 Jasmineandrade13 November 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm

my  mi amor es puerto rican asi i see nd taste his mas food all the time and im cape verdean so yeah so i think i kinda no in a way tasted spanish food

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13 pompa g??binowa March 26, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading through your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics? Thank you so much!

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