Mashed plantains, pork cracklings, and garlic combine to create a creamy, comfort food flavor bomb. A heaping plate of mofongo is especially filling when topped with steak, chicken, or fresh-from-the-ocean shrimp. There are endless variations and everybody thinks their favorite spot serves the best version. Trying them all would take a lifetime.
2. Piña Colada
The first piña colada was concocted behind a San Juan bar (although enthusiasts debate if it was at Caribe Hilton in the 50s or Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan in the 60s) and the sweet, frothy blend of pineapple juice, coconut cream and a healthy pour of Puerto Rican rum is the island’s signature umbrella drink. One Barrachina bartender estimates that she serves about 2,200 of these babies on a busy night.
Crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside and flavored with oregano, garlic, or sweet chili peppers, these round, sometimes flat cod fritters just might be Puerto Rico’s most addictive fried snack. They’re a tasty staple of beachside kiosks and roadside stands.
4. Lechon asado
This smoky, salty, spit-roasted suckling pig is a Puerto Rican obsession. You’ll find it roasted whole over an open fire at countless open-air lechoneras, casual roadside joints that turn into community parties on the weekends. For the ultimate pork pilgrimage, join the exodus of locals on Route 184 in Guavate.
5. Sorullitos De Maiz
Deep fried corn meal sticks don’t sound particularly sexy, but the crunchy exterior and sweet, creamy, buttery inside will change your freaking life. Sometimes they’re stuffed with a mellow cheese and served with mayo-ketchup (an equally addictive blend of ketchup, mayonnaise, garlic and spices).
These hearty fritters tuck spicy ground beef, pork, or crab inside a dough made of taro, green bananas, or cassava. (Puerto Rican cooks have a thing for root vegetables.) Alcapurrias are a total beach food, a classic summer snack you can find at a beachfront food kiosks on every coast.
You’ll find a pushcart selling sweet, syrupy shaved ice treats in every town square. Unlike a snowcone, piraguas are pointy at the top and the ice is hand shaved, often right in front of you. Tropical flavors like coconut, mango, and parca (the Puerto Rican word for passion fruit) are especially great on the island.
8. Tostones Rellenos
Tostones are plantains pounded flat and fried twice for a super satisfying crunch. They’re a solid snack on their own, but tostones rellenos take it up a notch, stuffing the crispy plantains with fresh ceviche, octopus salad, garlic shrimp or whatever meat or chicken combination the chef can dream up.
9. Queso Frito
The contrast between salty, silky deep fried cheese cubes and a sweet, fruity dipping sauce is the stuff that dreams are made of. Queso frito hits all those late night craving buttons, but it’s also a popular breakfast dish.
10. Arroz con habichuelas
Puerto Ricans do rice and beans a little differently than the rest of the Caribbean. First, beans are called habichuelas here, not frijoles like you learned in school. And they’re almost always fat red or pink kidney beans. And heads up, vegetarians: this dish is usually prepared with a healthy dose of salty stock made from whatever pork dish is cooking alongside it.
Batidas (or frappes) are Puerto Rico’s thirst-annihilating fruit smoothies. They’re incredibly refreshing after an afternoon walk or the salt of an ocean swim. And you won’t have to look far to find a shop or stand that sells them — they’re everywhere.
How is it even possible that pork odds and ends (and sometimes chicken and beef pieces too) can taste so darn amazing? Simple – everything is delicious when it’s seasoned, dredged in batter, and fried or baked to a salty, delicious crisp. Let the meat coma begin.
This post is proudly presented in partnership with See Puerto Rico.