Learn how to make my family's version of Puerto Rican Sofrito and use it as an easy and flavorful base for stews, rice dishes, and more!
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March: made in Puerto Rico
If you've been following the blog for the last year, you know March has become a month for highlights from my parents' culture. Last year I shared a series of my favorite Moroccan recipes, inspired by my dad and grandmother.
This March, I'm sharing my mother's top 5 Puerto Rican recipes, starting with this easy and popularly used Sofrito.
Growing up in a multi cultural household, there was always fusion of cultures and flavors in our kitchen. That said, things weren't always 50/50.
Maybe it had something to do with how young my mom was when her family moved from Puerto Rico to California. Or maybe it was my dad's love of cooking. Whatever the reason, Moroccan culture reigned dominant most of the time in our household.
Naturally, I ended up learning more about Moroccan cuisine than Puerto Rican. That's why this month is all about Puerto Rican food, starting with my mom teaching me how to make her traditional Puerto Rican Sofrito.
I like to think of Sofrito as like the latin equivalent to what is known in French cuisine as Mire Poix.
It's a beautiful blend of alliums, herbs and veggies, blended up, stored in your fridge and ready to use as a soup starter, rice flavoring, or stew base.
Traditional Puerto Rican Sofrito uses a combination of these ingredients:
- sweet peppers
- bell peppers
Culantro is an herb that is basically a cousin to cilantro in flavor and smell. This along with sweet peppers can be difficult to find, so we are making this recipe a bit more accessible by using cilantro and bell peppers instead. If you know a Spanish store or product stand where you can find culantro and other varieties of sweet peppers, feel free to add in a small handful and a pepper or two!
In addition to the more traditional ingredients listed above, my mom will sometimes throw a jalapeno or serrano pepper in for some added spice so that's what we're doing today.
Depending on which Puerto Rican family you're asking, this recipe will vary.
Some Puerto Ricans will go heavy on the spice while others prefer to use only sweet peppers. Others may even add in whole ripe tomatoes to the mix, so don't be afraid to experiment with this and adjust the flavors to make something you will love!
How to make sofrito
Making sofrito is one of the easiest Puerto Rican recipes you will ever make. It requires a knife, a cutting board and a food processor.
Start by prepping your ingredients. Remove any seeds and stems from the peppers, and toss them into your food processor. With the peppers, add in a roughly chopped onion, some peeled cloves of garlic, your cilantro and get pulsing!
I let my go-to food processor do all the work here and the recipe comes together in less than 5 minutes.
Where to use it
We've already talked briefly about a few places to use your Puerto Rican sofrito.
That said, one batch makes enough for several uses, so let's dive in to some of my favorite ways to cook with sofrito:
- Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Arroz con Gandules) - an easy vegan dish to dip your toes into the Sofrito party!
- Arroz con Pollo- this classic Puerto Rican dish is the perfect example of how to use sofrito in rice dishes!
- Steak Stuffed Avocados - as if this dish wasn't already full of flavor, using Sofrito to cook your steak adds a level of spice that is truly unmatched.
- Empanadillas - these picadillo stuffed empanadas start with a generous spoonful of Sofrito
- Alcapurria - this fried Puerto Rican delicacy uses picadillo filling, which like many of the recipes above, starts with our delicious sofrito
Recaito vs. Sofrito
What's the difference between recaito and sofrito?
Many people who love Puerto Rican cuisine may get confused about the difference between the two, very popular recipes. The truth is that they are extremely similar!
Both are made with a blend of aliums, veggies and herbs that result in big flavor.
The main differences I've noticed in the variations I've had is the use of tomato and spicy peppers. At the end of the day, I will happily eat any dish made with recaito and sofrito 🙂