A Puerto Rican Thanksgiving

by Melanie Edwards on November 26, 2008 · 10 comments

in Puerto Rico

I often get asked what type of Thanksgiving my family and I have. The question arises from the fact that folks know I’m Puerto Rican and that I don’t always eat dishes common to the American culture.

For example, my co-workers were recently very surprised to learn that I have never eaten green bean casserole. It’s not a dish that my family even knows how to make.

So, naturally, the next questions are, “What kind of food do you serve? Do you have rice and beans? Do you even make a turkey?

The answers to those questions are: 1) We serve a variety of dishes; 2) Yes, definitely rice and sometimes beans; and 3) Yes, we have turkey.

As I’m sure is true in your families, every household does things a little different. Side dishes vary. Desserts and appetizers vary. Such is the case in our culture and even within my immediate and extended family.

I figured I’d go ahead and share with you the menu that I will be serving for tomorrow’s dinner, as a sample. It might help to put it all in perspective. I have made notes to explain the dish and if there are any differences from what you might know it to be.

Modern Mami’s 2008 Thanksgiving Feast

  1. Turkey – We season the turkey a bit differently using Adobo
    and Sazon as opposed to cloves, etc.
  2. Stuffing – My family’s stuffing is meat-based (ground beef specifically) and then we add bread
    crumbs, potatoes, and carrots to it.
  3. Arroz con Vegetales – Translation is Rice with vegetables. This will be a yellow rice with some mixed vegetables (peas & carrots, corn, etc).
  4. Sweet Potatoes – Standard sweet potatoes but instead of adding brown sugar or marshmallows and such, we just cut them up into thirds or quarters and boil them with salt. Sweet potatoes already have a great taste on their own.
  5. Macaroni Pie – Ok, this dish is actually not Puerto Rican, but from Trinidad. It has been added to my menu in recent years because my husband is Trinidadian and I have begun to blend some of his traditions with mine so that our daughter can learn about both of her cultures. Macaroni pie is similar to mac & cheese, but different. I’m unable to find the recipe I actually use, but this one uses the same ingredients. It just puts it all together in a different order.
  6. Guineos en Escabeche – I see this being translated around the web as Green Banana Salad. I suppose that’s an ok way to say it. This picture and recipe from sazonboricua.com will help. The recipe is in Spanish, but here’s one in English from elboricua.com.
  7. Macaroni Salad – Macaroni, shredded carrots, cut-up green olives, and mayonnaise.
  8. Cranberry Sauce – straight out of the can 😉
  9. Pumpkin Cheesecake – This one too is absolutely not Puerto Rican. I found a recipe a few years ago from Kraft and it actually came out good on my first try, so it’s become part of my Thanksgiving now.


There’s nothing particularly special about the appetizers I will be serving tomorrow, except for item #2.

  1. Chips & dip – no note needed here
  2. Pasta de guayaba w/ queso blanco & crackers – Enough spanglish for you there? 😉 This is slices of guava paste and white cheese served with crackers.
  3. Chex Mix – This is actually a new one for me/us. I’m going to give it a try because I want a dish that my two year old can help me “cook.” She should have fun mixing it all up.

I hope that this has helped you get a glimpse into our traditions.

Now it’s your turn.

I’d love to hear about any special dishes and/or traditions you and your family include as part of your Thanksgiving. Looking forward to reading all about it in your comments.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Philippa November 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

My husband and I are both Jamaican and we go through the same thing around the holidays. Since this isn’t a holiday in Jamaica most of didn’t really learn of the customs and dishes until we moved here and were invited to join someone for Thanksgiving. Through those events we have adopted several of the traditional American dishes but added a few elements of Jamaican tradition.

We have the typical:

1.Turkey w/Stuffing’s
2.Honey Glazed Ham
3.Mashed Potatoes
4.Baked Macaroni & Cheese
5.Sweet Potatoes (w/marshmallows)
6.Apple Pie

And then we have added:

1.Roast Beef
2.Rice & Peas
3.Curry Goat

I am sure I am missing some dishes but if I think of it too much I wont be able to go back to work.


Jai November 26, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I love this post. I love food. 🙂 So we do turkey the same way you do with adobo and sazon. But I am Dominican so we also like to add as appetizers some tostones, empanadas and my fave dessert is abichuela con dulce. Yes it may sound gross but honestly it’s really good. My mother makes the best and I always bring back left overs. Since my hubby is Puerto Rican he doesn’t think this dessert is natural and refuses to even taste it. Of course we’re also doing rice with pigeon peas because we’re going to his family for Thanksgiving. I miss my aunt’s house at Thanksgiving. She’s the best cook ever and I practically lived at my aunt and uncle’s house growing up. I actually did Thanksgiving at their house because my aunt was a better cook than my mom (shh! don’t tell her I said that!!) Her huge 6 person table used to be full of food. Those were the good old days!


Modern Mami November 27, 2008 at 12:36 am

Philippa: I know what you mean. It was hard writing it all out without going hungry. Thanks for sharing your Jamaican traditions. 🙂

Jai: We sometimes have the same appetizers, but empanadas are a bit too much work for my liking. 😉 Now you’ve peaked my interest; what is abichuela con dulce? Is it similar to arroz con dulce?


Jai November 28, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Abichuela con dulce has beans, cinnamon sticks, cloves, sweet potatoes, sugar, evaporated milk and other stuff. It’s served cold. Really good.


Modern Mami December 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Never heard of it. Sounds like it might be good though. Thanks for sharing.


BlapherMJ December 10, 2008 at 10:52 am

This is my first time on your site and it’s great! I married a man from Trinidad (although now divorced) and love food from the Caribbean. I try to give my kids a blend of foods and traditions from their cultures (I’m Irish). Your Macaroni Pie recipe will be used for Christmas! Thanks!


Modern Mami December 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Glad you stopped by and enjoy it! Let me know how you like the macaroni pie.


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