Tostones and Amarillos
These are two classic ways to prepare plantains. Tostones are made from green plantain, which is savory. The plantain is cut into thick wheels which are marinated in water and garlic, then deep fried in oil to soften, smashed, and deep fried again until crispy. Amarillos on the other hand, are ripe plantains that are cut into pieces and fried until the outside is almost blackened and the inside is soft and sweet.
Arroz y habichuelas
Rice and beans are the quintessential Puerto Rican side dish. Pink beans are stewed with onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, calabaza squash, and sofrito, a cooking base made by blending together onion, garlic, peppers, culantro, cilantro, and oregano (as well as other herbs, spices, and aromatics depending on the family recipe).
White, medium grain rice is cooked separately from the beans and seasoned with olive oil and salt. The two are served next to each other so the diner can choose how much of the beans to add to the rice.
A true local specialty, pasteles resemble tamales and are traditionally made with green banana masa stuffed with stewed pork meat. Sometimes yuca or other root vegetables are added; the masa can also be made with just yuca. Pasteles can also be stuffed with chicken or bacalao (salted cod), and some vegan versions have been introduced recently.
To form the pastel, masa is pressed onto a plantain leaf, the stuffing added in the center, and the plantain leaf is folded, tied with string and covered in parchment paper. The pasteles are then boiled, unwrapped, and served.
Arroz con gandules
Considered a boricua staple, this signature Puerto Rican rice dish is consumed year-round. Pigeon peas, or gandules, are small, dense legumes which are cooked with the rice in a large pot. First, salted pork or ham hock is sautéed in olive oil. Sofrito is then added, along with bay leaves, tomato paste, annatto, and often olives or capers. The rice and pigeon peas are then coated with this sauce, water or broth is added, and everything is cooked together until the rice is done.
Here are a few of the common types of frituras you might see during your visit:
Alcapurrias are a fritter shaped like a torpedo, made from shredded root vegetables like yuca and yautía, stuffed with a choice of meat, and fried. Deep-fried fritters normally found in open-air, beachside restaurants that pair beautifully with a cold beer. These are usually stuffed with ground beef, crab meat, chicken, fish, octopus, conch, or other types of seafood. There are a variety of different fritters you will find in Puerto Rico.
Empanadillas are a larger version of empanadas, also stuffed with a choice of meat and fried. There’s also a popular pizza version filled with melted mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.
Puerto Rican arepas are flour based, sometimes made with coconut for a slightly sweet flavor, fried and then stuffed, usually with seafood.
Bacalaítos are not stuffed, just a simple batter of flour and water with chunks of salted cod and parsley, deep fried into what look like giant corn flakes.