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It's Worth Leaving Your Hotel to Try These 9 Dominican Republic Foods

Dominican Republic Food + Drink
by Lailah Prince Nov 20, 2023

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation known for beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and sweeping beach resorts around Punta Cana. Some travelers especially familiar with the D.R. may know it for colonial architecture in Santo Domingo, merengue and bachata music, or even its passionate love for baseball.

What everyone should know it for, however, is the cuisine. Dominican Republic food is fantastic and easy to find — all you have to do is pull yourself away from the fancy hotel restaurants and head straight to the streets to experience eating like a local. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than hot and fresh grub from a street cart after a long day at the beach or morning after experiencing some of the country’s vibrant nightlife.


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Most traditional foods in the Dominican Republic balance indigenous Taino, African and Spanish flavors. Cassava, a staple for Tainos, are used today for empanadas de yuca (cassava empanadas) and casabe (cassava flatbread), and plantains originally brought from Africa are a daily part of the cuisine. Spanish-inspired flavors are evident in street food staples like chimis, which originated in Argentina. And many of the island’s soups and stews are based on those made centuries ago as a way for enslaved people to make use of any leftover food and ingredients.

From hearty meat dishes to refreshing fruit drinks, Dominican Republic street food is some of the best in the Caribbean. Here’s what to seek out for an edible exploration into the country’s diverse culinary heritage.

The Dominican street burger, ‘Chimi’

The chimi is a beef burger with Dominican flair. Two slices of pan de agua (local white bread) are stuffed with grilled ground beef, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and the signature Dominican pink sauce. It never contains cheese, and some vendors may top it with variations of fresh, pickled, or steamed cabbage.

The history of this burger goes back to the 1970s when an Argentinian entrepreneur, Juan Abrales, moved to the Dominican Republic and put a cart on a street in Santo Domingo to sell choripanes (chorizo sandwiches). Abrales topped them with chimichurri sauce, and, over time, it was shortened to “chimi.”

Chimi stands and food trucks can now be found all over the D.R. and are popular spots to grab a quick lunch or post-party snack. Many chimi food trucks will also sell some of the Dominican Republic food staples highlighted below.


dominican republic food - mofongo, fufu

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Mofongo is a hearty plantain dish. It’s a national culinary treasure and one of the most popular Dominican Republic foods. It has its roots in fufu, a West African dish of pounded starchy vegetables (which led to many similar dishes). Enslaved Africans brought fufu to the Caribbean, where it was recreated with green plantains. Mofongo became a cheap, filling food that could make use of less-ripe plátanos. Today, it’s considered one of the D.R.’s national dishes and a staple in Dominican homes and food stalls. It’s very similar to another dish you may see on menus, called mangú.

To make Dominican mofongo, green plantains are peeled, cut into chunks, deep fried, and then mashed with garlic and olive oil in a pilón (mortar and pestle). The result is a mound of rich, fried green plantain goodness. For the full experience, try mofongo stuffed with stewed meat or seafood or served with meat on the side.



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Picalonga is a street food staple that combines chicharron (fried pork belly), longaniza (fried sausage), and tostones with slices of lime.

Longaniza is the Dominican version of Spanish chorizo sausage. It’s made from coarsely ground pork mixed with garlic, oregano, cumin, and vinegar, then stuffed into a sausage casing. Slices of longaniza are deep fried until the casing is crispy and the interior is juicy and flavorful. The other part of this dish, tostones, is twice-fried green plantain slices, salted and flattened with a mallet.

The combination of savory sausage, salty pork belly, and starchy tostones is pure Dominican comfort food. It’s a common food for locals to seek out after late-night parties or long days at the beach.

Look for this highly customizable dish at roadside puestos (food stands). Most of these stands will also offer pescado frito (fried fish) or shrimp as an option for those who don’t eat red meat. Grab a few napkins and be prepared to eat with your hands for an authentic experience.


Though empanadas are common across Latin America, Dominican empanadas get their distinctive flavor from local masa (corn) flour or cassava (also called empanadas de yuca). Different Dominican Republic food vendors will offer different takes on the staple, with fillings like seasoned beef, chicken, cheese, vegetables, or even seafood.

In the D.R., workers grab these on the go in the morning on the way to work, enjoy them as appetizers at family functions and holidays, and grab them from local street vendors after a late night on the town.

For Dominican-style empanadas, head to the Malecón in the capital city of Santo Domingo. It’s where you’ll find vendors dishing out piping-hot pastries filled with your filling of choice.

 Morir soñando

dominican republic food - fruit milkshake

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This creamy Dominican milkshake gets its unusual name, which means “to die dreaming,” from how thick and rich it is. The cool drink is made by blending milk, orange juice, cane sugar syrup, and ice, though you can find variations with passion fruit or mamey sapote (a local fruit).

It was invented in the Dominican Republic in the 1940s and became popular at local diners. It’s now considered an iconic Dominican beverage and is often paired with the most popular Dominican Republic street foods.

Yuca fries

For a uniquely Dominican snack, keep an eye out for yuca fries, or fried yuca (also called cassava). Sometimes, they’re shaped like fries, and other times, may be more circle-shaped and served in paper cones. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it — it’s just yuca fried until it’s crispy on the outside with a doughy interior — but they’re quite tasty. You can eat yuca fries on their own, or with toppings like ketchup, mayo, and hot sauce.


Dominican republic food - street vendor

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Every cuisine in the world has its version of fried dough. And when it comes to Dominican Republic food, it’s yaniqueques. These are a beloved Dominican food, mostly found at beaches like Boca Chica.

These fritters emerged in the mid-1900s when Dominican cooks gave the Spanish snack buñuelos a local twist by using grated yuca instead of flour. The name yaniqueque comes from the sound they make when cooked: “yan-yan, ke-ke!” Enjoy them plain, or pick from variations with a gooey cheese interior.


Sancocho is a hearty stew that shows the influence of Spanish and African culinary traditions on Dominican Republic food. It’s a rich stew with meat or fish combined with tubers like yuca, plantains, and potatoes, as well as culantro (a herb similar to cilantro). Some vendors will focus on a combination of meats, while others will use just one — usually beef or chicken.

The stew has origins in Africa, created by enslaved people trying to find ways to make use of less-desirable meats and crops. Over time, it became a country staple and is frequently found on both restaurant menus and at food trucks.

La Bandera


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La Bandera gets its name (meaning, “the flag”) from its colorful medley of ingredients that makes it match the Dominican Republic’s red, white, and blue flag. This festive layered dish combines white rice, red kidney beans, shredded chicken or beef, and diced tomatoes.

The dish emerged as a uniquely Dominican take on the Spanish rice and beans tradition. It was created more than a 150 years ago during the Dominican War of Independence, when La Bandera offered a patriotic take on traditional ingredients.

Street food vendors in the D.R. will offer La Bandera layered elegantly in clear cups or piled high on plates. The contrast of colors and textures make this salad a fresh, vibrant choice in many Dominican homes and restaurants.

Dominican Republic street food tips

street food close up dominican republic

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While Dominican street food is mouthwatering, there are a few things to know to ensure you’re staying safe. Check for chimi trucks, food stalls, or small local restaurants that have visibly clean countertops, covered garbage disposals, and running water. These factors show that both hands and utensils are being cleaned regularly. It’s also good to check that prepared food is stored in covered containers at an acceptable temperature.

You’ll want to ensure that the food is cooked thoroughly, especially meat. Avoid raw, undercooked, or stale ingredients, and make sure any fresh vegetables like lettuce or tomatoes are thoroughly washed. Busy stalls with high turnover are your best bet for making sure ingredients haven’t gone bad. Remember to carry small bills in local currency to make purchases easy, as many food stalls may not accept cards.

Feasting on Dominican street food is one of the best ways to experience an authentic part of the island’s culture. From the satisfying crunch of twice-fried tostones to the indulgent richness of morir soñando, Dominican cuisine offers a diverse range of flavors both sweet and savory. Just make sure to grab some napkins and loosen your belt before eating your way through the streets of the captivating Hispanic country.

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