Start the day off right with a warm cup of traditional Puerto Rican café con leche, made with Puerto Rican coffee, sugar and steamed milk. This traditional Latin drink can be found at any given time in panaderías, restaurants and home kitchens across the island.

a mug of coffee with milk

I grew up with this recipe brewed in our kitchen daily by my mom. It’s a huge part of our culture.

Café con Leche is one of those drinks that you won’t really need a recipe for once you’ve made it once. It’s the classic drink that’s paired with countless Puerto Rican recipes.

In fact, you’ve likely already made a variation of it in your own kitchen. All it consists of is strong brewed coffee, steamed whole milk and sugar.

If you’re looking for something to serve with your coffee, this flan is one of my favorite desserts to enjoy with it! More perfect pairings: Pan de Mallorca, quesitos, and pastelillos de guayaba.

You can also serve with a bowl of these homemade sugar cubes, for those who like their coffee on the sweeter side.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make your café con leche:

  • strong, full-bodied coffee (bonus points if it’s Puerto Rican)
  • whole milk
  • white sugar (optional)

See recipe card for exact quantities.

The traditional Puerto Rican method my mom grew up with started with freshly ground coffee and water in a pot on the stove. Once the coffee was sufficiently brewed, it was then strained through a colador (a type of cloth strainer) to strain out all the grounds.

While this method produces really delicious coffee, I know it’s not necessarily the most convenient or the most relevant these days.

For this recipe I recommend brewing your coffee in whatever method you already use at home.

Whether it’s a French press, pour over, Mokapot; they will all get the job done. Just make sure to brew it strong, almost like espresso. I like to use a 1:1 ration with water and coffee.

Puerto Rican coffee in a pot

Some Puerto Ricans (like my grandma) will put instant coffee, sugar and milk in a saucepan and simmer it all together until the coffee infuses into the milk; making a super quick version of café con leche!

How to Make it

Tip: feel free to use white or brown sugar, or omit the sugar completely based on your preference.

What Makes Café con Leche Unique?

Now that you’ve read how to make your café, you may be thinking to yourself “well that was easy”. And you’re right! It really is that simple.

Similar to many popular American coffee drinks, it’s quite easy to make and requires simple ingredients. That said, there are a few things that make this recipe different from your average cup of Joe.

Let’s compare Café con Leche to other popular drinks:

  • Cappuccino – this drink is likely the closest to the Puerto Rican style of making coffee, however a cappuccino uses frothed milk with espresso, instead of steamed.
  • Latte – lattes also use frothed milk with espresso, but the ratio of milk to coffee is less proportionate. In general, lattes have much more milk than the Puerto Rican style coffee with milk.
  • Black coffee – this one speaks for itself, it’s black coffee with no milk! Plenty of Puerto Ricans love their coffee black, but it’s not considered café con leche 🙂
a cup of coffee with a pastry

What to Eat with Your Coffee

You’re officially an expert at making Puerto Rican coffee and you’re on your third cup. It’s probably time to eat something, so let’s talk food pairings!

At any Puerto Rican panadería you’re going to be offered a plethora of sweet and savory pastries to enjoy with your coffee, so you’ll be set.

Here are some recipes you can make at home:

When all else fails, try a slice of toast with jam and butter. No really, any classic breakfast food is going to be super satisfying with café con leche. You can’t go wrong!

Equipment + Tools

Here are the tools I used to make my coffee:

  • Moka pot for brewing the espresso
  • Small pot for steaming the milk (this can also be done in a microwave)

If you want to get super traditional and go the colador route, all you’ll need is that and a small pot for brewing the coffee and milk.

milk pouring into a mug

Top tip

Whether using a pot or the microwave, make sure you steam your milk before pouring it into the coffee to keep everything warm. No one likes cold milk in warm coffee.

Happy brewing!

Salima written in cursive
Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
a mug of coffee with milk

Puerto Rican Café con Leche

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Salima Benkhalti
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 cups 1x
  • Category: drinks, beverages
  • Method: boiled
  • Cuisine: Puerto Rican, Latin
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Start the day off right with a warm cup of traditional Puerto Rican café con leche, made with Puerto Rican coffee, sugar and steamed milk. This traditional Latin drink can be found at any given time in panaderías, restaurants and home kitchens across the island.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup ground coffee
  • 1/2 cup filtered water (for brewing the coffee)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Brew your coffee according to the instructions on the coffee making device you’re using. See notes for directions if using a saucepan to make your coffee.
  2. While your coffee brews, add milk to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a light simmer before killing the heat.
  3. Fill your cup with coffee until just halfway full. Add sugar and stir with a spoon. Pour steamed milk in to fill the cup. Enjoy!

Notes

If brewing coffee in a saucepan: add water and bring to a simmer before adding in coffee grounds, simmering together for a minute, killing the heat, allowing it to steep for 2 minutes, then straining through your colador into a large cup. Add brewed coffee, sugar and milk to a clean saucepan and steam until hot. Enjoy!