What to Eat in Puerto Rico for an Ultimate Authentic Experience
Puerto Rican Cuisine
From elaborate tasting menus served in elegant and historic settings to atmospheric hole-in-the-walls serving traditional fare, Puerto Rico is a wonderful destination for foodies. Puerto Rican cuisine is a vibrant fusion of West African, Spanish, indigenous Taíno and American influences.
While you’ll find many similarities to Latin American cuisine, the bold use of indigenous seasonings and ingredients, combined with fresh, local produce makes Puerto Rican fare truly unique. Post Hurricane María, restaurants fostered new relationships with local farmers as consumers became ever keener to support local agriculture and celebrate food that is grown entirely on the island.
Wherever you travel in Puerto Rico, be sure to pass on the chain restaurants and tourist traps. At Platea, all our restaurant listings have been carefully curated and constantly updated by locals to connect travelers with the most authentic and memorable culinary experiences.
Hearty dishes served with rice and beans may form the mainstays of traditional Puerto Rican cuisine but, wherever you wander, you’ll find up-and-coming chefs iterating wildly to create innovative recipes that showcase local produce, meat and seafood.
Locals and visitors never have to stray far for inexpensive staples—there’s literally a place on every corner. Near the entrance to El Yunque National Forest, the legendary Luquillo kiosks provide the perfect initiation into Puerto Rican grazing culture with over 60 establishments ranging from rustic beach bars to full-service restaurants that run the gamut of authentic Creole cooking as well as Latin American signature fare—ceviche, tamales, empanadas and guacamole.
The much-loved national dish is mofongo, deep-fried mashed plantains served with a side of seafood or meat and chicken broth soup. Among the best places to try mofongo are Santaella in San Juan and Mi Casita in Piñones.
Pork is another key component of Puerto Rican cuisine, especially in the form of lechón, a whole pig roasted over a fire for at least four hours. Around an hour’s drive south of San Juan, scores of lechoneras dot the famed Ruta de Lechón, or “Pork Highway,” where trays of succulent, tender pork are served at communal tables, and best accompanied by cold beer and live music.
Harvested in volcanic soil, Puerto Rican coffee is world renowned for its deep, rich flavor. Over 60 percent of coffee production is dominated by Café Crema, Yaucono, and Café Rico, but a growing number of organic and sustainable brands are gaining a foothold, including Café Lareno and Cafe Di Laris. Gorgeous coffee plantations and haciendas are scattered across the island and often provide family friendly tours for coffee aficionados.
For breakfast, taste the bounty of Puerto Rico’s freshly picked tropical fruits: pineapple, coconut, mango, papaya, guava, passion fruit, carambola (star fruit), guanabana (soursop) and quenépa (Spanish lime).
Be sure to make reservations well ahead of your trip, especially in the Metro area, islands and resort towns.
Must-try Puerto Rican Dishes
Bacalaitos: Codfish fritters
Alcapurrias: Deep-fried stuffed fritters
Arroz con dulce: A sort of rice pudding, soaked with coconut cream or milk
Arroz con gandules: Pigeon peas and rice, a ubiquitous side typically served with lechón
Aguacate Relleno: Avocado filled with creamy garlic shrimp
Empanadillas: Similar to an empanada but with less dough
Mamposteao: A dish combining olive oil, cilantro, beans, green peppers, tomato sauce and onions
Pionono: The local specialty of Piñones, a yellow plantain dough stuffed with ground beef and deep-fried
Pinchos: Grilled meat on a stick with garlic sauce, or similar
Pasteles: Yucca or green banana, usually filled with beef or pork and wrapped in banana leaf
Tostones: Fried slices of plantain, flattened and then fried once more
Tembleque: A decadent form of coconut pudding
Sorullitos: Corn fritters stuffed with cheese