Puerto Rico’s cuisine landscape is a blend of recipes, cultures, and ingredients—a perfect demonstration of the influences from India, Spain, and Africa. Most of the local dishes, as well as the food you will find being sold on the streets, feature various types of meats, olive oil, rice, and garlic as some of the predominant spices. It is also common to find various dishes being accompanied or served with starches such as plantains, potatoes, and bananas. Most notably, spices are core components across a variety of Puerto Rican cuisines, and this promises a smorgasbord of flavors with every bite you take. Read below to learn about some of the top street food you must try in Puerto Rico.
1. Alcapurrias (fritter dish)
Alcapurrias is one of the most common street foods you will find throughout the island. Just a glance at it will make you start salivating before you even take the first bite. And this is rightly so because this dish is aesthetically appealing as it is filling to the stomach. This beach staple is made with grated yucca or a batter of green bananas, which are then stuffed with lobster, crab, or shrimp. The entire combo is then deep-fried until it becomes crispy golden brown. Not only can you find this treat on the beaches and at street food joints, but most hotels and restaurants will offer it to you as a free sample the moment you walk into the joints.
2. Empanadilla (fried turnover)
Empanadilla or empanada is another hugely famous street food in Puerto Rico. It is a versatile snack that you will have no problem eating at breakfast, lunchtime, and after dinner. It is everywhere on the island, including bars, restaurants, street food joints, and corner stores, just to name a few. The snack features dough stuffed with various kinds of meats, including shrimp, chicken, and ground beef. It is then deep-fried. When eating it, you can use condiments such as tomato sauce and cheese to bring out its full flavors.
3. Sorullitos (fried cornmeal-based dish)
When you see sorullitos, what comes to mind is a hot dog without the fillings, but the two are worlds apart in terms of ingredients and modes of preparation. Sorullitos are made from cornmeal, and they are mostly used as a side dish or starter. Some might be stuffed with cheese or bananas before being deep-fried to have a crispy outer shell. They appeal to the eyes in equal measure as they appeal to the tongue when you take a bite.
4. Bacalaitos (salt cod pancake-like fritters)
If you are looking for a good introduction to Puerto Rican seafood, then you have every reason to try out the famous bacalaitos. Bacalaitos are thin codfish fritters that have been deep-fried in large circular shapes. A look at this dish might make you think that you are looking at a ruined pizza, but one bite will deliver a ton of flavors to your mouth. They are mostly utilized as snacks at the beach, though if you finish a couple, you might not have enough space for another meal in your stomach.
5. Chicharrones (fried pork belly)
Chicharrones is another street food you have to try in Puerto Rico, especially if you love pork. It is a common roadside snack made from fried pork rinds or fried pork belly. This bite-sized treat is usually served with a slice of lemon and a special dipping sauce to add extra flavors. It is a favorite snack among the locals, and just a taste will make you understand why it so popular on Puerto Rico’s beaches and streets.
6. Tostones (fried plantain slices)
Not only are tostones popular in Puerto Rico, but you will also come across them on most Latin American streets. They are a favorite fritura or snack by the locals, and this is mainly because they are delicious and easy to prepare. The delicacy primarily comprises of double-fried slices of plantains. If you don’t find them on the streets, you are likely to encounter them as appetizers or side dishes in most restaurants and eateries you might visit in the country. To get the most out of their flavors, be sure to salt them generously before dipping into mayo and ketchup and then tossing straight into your mouth.
7. Relleno de papa (croquettes)
If you look at it for the first time, you might not tell whether you are seeing a piece of doughnut or a piece of perfectly grilled beef or chicken. However, a bite will reveal to you that it is neither of the two. Relleno de papa is made from fried mashed potatoes, stuffed with ground beef, and then rolled into the size and shape of a baseball. It is then deep-fried to achieve a mouthwatering golden color that makes you want to have a taste immediately. Eat it while hot if you want to enjoy the juices of the beef and all the ingredients.
Meat skewers are a street staple in most countries, and the Puerto Rican version is the pinchos. However, these are not your ordinary skewers. Chances are you will always find a line at street sections where the skewers are being grilled. This street favorite is made with chicken and then doused in a generous amount of thick, sticky marinade before being grilled on a smoky barbeque. You can eat a pincho as is it, but if you want more flavors, pair it with a soft piece of white bread. This way, you can have a mini-meal that is also filling, to keep hunger pangs at bay while you wait for the main dish.
9. Pernil Asado (pork snack)
Pernil asado is a Puerto Rican signature sandwich and one of the top street foods you must try when you are in the country. The sandwich contains a blend of ingredients, with the most common ones being slow-roasted marinated pork, carrots, cilantro, and fried plantains. This snack is made fresh, and the flavors and crunchiness it delivers to your mouth are simply out of this world. Eating one might even make you forget how your favorite burger tastes like.
10. Piononos (a type of sweet pastry)
A pionono makes for the perfect ending to this list of foods you have to try while strolling along the streets of Puerto Rico. It is a type of fried pie that comprises green plantains filled with spiced ground beef, though other meats are available for variety. In its preparation, all the ingredients are mashed together and then rounded in baseball sizes before being deep-fried. Note that this treat tastes best when hot.
Get acquainted with Puerto Rico’s culinary diversity
The culinary diversity in Puerto Rico is immense, owing to the fusion of cultures that make up its population. As a part of every travel experience, sampling the local foods is something that is never to be missed. Read our top recommended street foods in Puerto Rico to give you an idea of how to introduce yourself to the country’s culinary diversity.
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