There are two rules to live by while on vacation: calories don’t count and there is always room for dessert.
In Puerto Rico, sweet treats are ready to tempt you around every corner, mostly from behind the glass counters of local panaderías, or Spanish-style bakeries. From smaller establishments like La Tortuga or Pan Rico to full-blown restaurants like La Bombonera or La Ceiba, bakeries around the Island are a way to experience not only local bread, desserts, and pastries but a slice of everyday life.
Much like in Spain, panaderías are social hubs where you can mingle with regulars while enjoying a unique breakfast, dessert, or afternoon pick me up.
Not sure where to start? These desserts and pastries are a must during your trip around the Island.
Whoever said you couldn’t buy happiness has never tried a quesito! Yes, they are that good. Quesitos are Puerto Rico’s most popular treat and can be found almost everywhere – from bakeries to coffee shops and even supermarkets. Imagine a cigar-shaped, melt-in-your-mouth flaky crust filled with luscious sweet cream cheese (usually whipped with eggs, vanilla, and sugar) drizzled with light honey or caramelized sugar glaze, sometimes combined with guava or chocolate. Doesn’t that sound like happiness on a plate? Quesitos go perfectly with a strong cup of gourmet Puerto Rican coffee.
You can also try palmeritas or gafitas, an unstuffed version of the quesito shaped like two swirls and slightly crunchier.
Pastelillos de guayaba
Layers of light, buttery filo pastry stuffed with sticky guava sauce and topped with powdered sugar are known as pastelillos or pastelillitos de guayaba (guava turnovers). These fruit-filled squares make for a wonderful (albeit messy) sweet treat after any meal. And, let’s face it, doesn’t everything taste better with guava?
Other popular turnovers are stuffed with apple or pineapple.
Polvorones or Mantecaditos
Sugar, butter, milk, flour... listo!
Especially popular during Christmastime, polvorones or mantecaditos are the Puerto Rican version of shortbread cookies. This delicacy is rooted in Spanish culinary traditions that are very much alive on the island. Polvorones are sometimes topped with sprinkles or guava or just eaten plain. They're often sold by the pound and with good reason, once you bite into the crisp-but-crumbly, buttery cookie, you won’t be able to stop.
Besitos de Coco
Coconut kisses, the name says it all. They have no standard shape — sometimes they come in spheres, squares, or rich mounds of sweetness — but regardless of the form, besitos de coco are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside with subtle coconut flavor throughout. Wash down these golden treats with a glass of milk for a very local experience.
While there are many versions of this cake across Latin America, the Puerto Rican version originated in Mayagüez. Traditionally, a thin sponge cake is filled with guava paste, then rolled into a log and topped with powdered sugar or grated coconut flakes. Over the years, Franco Bakery, the panadería that claims to have invented the Brazo Gitano, developed over 24 different flavors, including cream cheese, mango, papaya, and pineapple.
Known everywhere else in the world as ensaimadas, mallorcas are soft, sweet bread rolls topped with generous amounts of powdered sugar. A staple at panaderías across the island, mallorcas are eaten in many ways: by themselves, with butter, toasted with ham and cheese, filled with cream cheese and guava. In any of their iterations, mallorcas are perfect for dipping into coffee and are usually served for breakfast.
Bring a piece of Puerto Rico home
Brands of Puerto Rico seeks to tell stories through products created by Puerto Rican hands.
To export the Island's talent and creativity, the family company Brands of Puerto Rico created a platform that serves as a stage for local artisans and small business owners to showcase their products to audiences worldwide. Find local products like coffee, bread, homemade seasoning, handmade jewelry and accessories, books, traditional sweets, and more.