While Puerto Rican cuisine is similar to, and heavily influenced by the cuisines of Mexico, Cuba and Spain, Puerto Rican cuisine does have its own unique and original distinctiveness. African influences, and also some American influence, have also contributed the foods of Puerto Rico. The use of such ingredients as papaya, cacao, coriander, plantains, apio, yampee and nispero create an exotic flair to Puerto Rican cuisine. Locals call their cuisine “cocina criolla”.
“Cocina criolla,” (Spanish for Créole cooking) as the people of Puerto Rico call their food, has its deep rooted origins, however, in the original inhabitants of the land: the indigenous Taíno and Arawak people. The Arawaks and Taínos thrived for centuries, eating staples of tropical fruit, seafood, and corn.
In 1493, when Columbus and Ponce de León arrived, the Spaniards contributed wheat, olive oil, and meats: pork, beef, and chicken – which quickly became popular. To this day, Puerto Ricans love chicken meat.
Before long, under Spanish rule, large sugar cane plantations were established, adding sugar to the diet as well as establishing a profitable export industry. The Spaniards imported Africans to the land, as slaves to work the plantations. Hence, the African influence on Puerto Rican cuisine began. Okra and taro root – two African favorite ingredients – worked into the mix.
This evolving, mingling of ingredients, spices, flavors and cooking methods, was handed down and added to from one generation to another for centuries. And the sum is more than the total of its parts. Today what we know of Puerto Rican cuisine is an exotic blend of many cultures, with its own unique set of characteristics.
But this is not a cultural cuisine history site, so enough of the background. You can Google all that stuff. We just like to provide a very basic understanding of the what and why of how a particular cuisine came to be.
For your convenience, you can click on the dishes listed below. You will be taken to a single, print-friendly page, with just that recipe on it. From there, you can help yourself to a tasty trip into the spicy and rich world of …
Puerto Rican Cuisine!
Habichuelas Rosadas (Puerto Rican Rice and Beans)
Lechon Asado (Marinated and Slow Roasted Pork)
Pastelon (Puerto Rican Shepherd Pie)
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