Puerto Rico’s Regional Food Specialties
Guide to discovering the island’s flavors by region
Puerto Rican cuisine is a constant evolution of flavors, ingredients and influences that have transformed the island into a “foodie paradise” over the years. Blending heritage and techniques, the kitchens around Puerto Rico will present you with some of the Caribbean’s tastiest food.
From savory mofongo (a heap of mashed, fried plantains typically served with a protein, vegetables and/or sauce) to heaping amounts of pork or seafood, Puerto Rican tables are topped with the freshest ingredients the island has to offer. Experience farm-to-table dishes and international cuisine made by Puerto Rican chefs that aim to please in every bite you take.
With a unique spice that characterizes Afro-Caribbean cuisine – like the use of sofrito and adobo – the island’s gastronomy delivers a distinctive culinary experience that blends Puerto Rico’s history and culture with the food and people.
Worldwide Explosion in the Metropolitan Area
The city of San Juan and its surrounding towns have become a gastronomic hub for those looking to learn about Puerto Rico’s culture through its food. From fine dining restaurants to trendy bars and hip food trucks, the culinary scene here is gravitating toward the farm-to-table movement. Restaurateurs and local farmers have developed a new type of relationship that prioritizes delivering only the best the island has to offer.
With fresh and organic ingredients at hand, chefs in the metro area are eager to showcase both flavor and techniques, creating more spaces that highlight international fusions. You have choices like Miramar’s Food Truck Park, where you can find Greek, Mexican, Asian, Peruvian and more. The popular-chic Lote 23 in Santurce is another food garden with a little bit of everything. And Calle Loíza, the trendiest spot in town, blends cuisine with culture, history and art.
Seafood by the Sea
The coastlines in Puerto Rico are known for having the freshest seafood you can imagine. Although you can find the USA’s staple dishes, the beachfront towns stay true to their coastal vibe. Make sure to combine the laid-back essence with a savory mofongo and shrimp, or a deep-fried red snapper. On the east side of the island, don’t miss the famous restaurant strips (called kioskos) in Luquillo and Piñones. If you are on Puerto Rico’s west coast, try out local favorites like Annie’s Place in Cabo Rojo and Tamboo in Rincón.
You can find an array of fresh local fish and seafood in both fine dining and casual restaurants alike, from chinchorros (small, local-favorite eateries) to hidden gems. Most of the ingredients usually come from right outside the door. Local fishermen have developed close relationships with most restaurants, guaranteeing a bountiful supply of freshly caught conch, lobster, shrimp, snapper, cod and so much more to stuff your mofongo or pastelillo (a small, flaky empanada-like appetizer).
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Hatillo, Arecibo, Salinas, Culebra or Vieques; if you’re by the beach, your food will be fresh.
Mountains a la Criolla
In Puerto Rico, the road to culinary nirvana leads you through the mountains, home to some of the island’s most traditional cuisine. If you decide to leave the urban lifestyle behind and venture into the inner parts of the island, you’ll find restaurants that serve food just like abuelita (a nickname for grandmother) used to make. The Afro-Caribbean sazón (seasoning) is this region’s specialty, along with prime cuts of meat ranging from skirt steaks to ribeye and ribs. Discover heaping amounts of mouth-watering food like arroz mamposteao (a rice and stewed beans dish), tostones (twice-fried savory plantains), barbecue ribs and longaniza (sausage) – all at restaurants surrounded by the most breathtaking views of Puerto Rico. Head out to Guavate, the famous pork highway, as well as Roka Dura, an iconic restaurant near Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park that promises you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
To finish your culinary trip to the mountains, enjoy a café con leche or cortadito from one of the various coffee haciendas that brew the island’s specialty gourmet coffee. You can often tour the roasting facilities and farms. Regardless of where you go, the view – and flavor – will be spectacular.