Festive Dishes and Magnificent Markets: Puerto Rico Food Culture
Dazzling colors, exuberant dishes and vibrant music illuminates the food scene in the Caribbean’s most enchanted isle. From the succulent dishes of lechón asado (BBQ pig) to the boudin de pasas con coco (coconut bread pudding), there is a plethora of delights to sate the taste buds of food lovers from all over the world. As an integral part of Puerto Rican society, food is more than just sustenance for life – but a celebration of the many cultural flavors which have come to define this beautiful island.
From the moment the New Year explodes into action, Puerto Rico’s towns, villages, and cities are packed month to month with delightful events which showcase the island’s vast culinary scope. Iconic festivals include:
- Coffee Harvest Festival (February) in Maricao
- Feria Agricola (February) in Trujillo Alto
- The Taste of Rums (March) in San Juan
- Maratón de la Chopa (March) in Toa Alta
- Five Days with Our Land (March) in Mayaguez
- Festival del Pescador (April) in Fajardo
- Fiesta Nacional del Mango (June) in Mayaguez
- …and many more!
Embracing the abundant bounty of Puerto Rico’s eclectic foodscapes, everything from fruit, fish, and national recipes are embraced with a theatrical fervor which is truly unparalleled. The tapestry of African, Spanish, Taíno, Arawak, South American, and American influences which have developed such a diverse national palate – and the very soil from which the ingredients are cultivated – have come to define what makes Puerto Rico one of the Caribbean’s culinary hotspots. And even life between festivals is equally animated, as many restos, cafes, bars and other establishments offer live music and feature exhibits from local artists, creating a fascinating path of culinary adventures from the tip of the island to the radiant streets of San Juan.
Natural Beauty, Natural Cuisine
With its welcoming atmosphere, incredible architecture, and pastoral landscapes, Puerto Rico is becoming an extremely popular destination for food and wine tours, one of the travel and culture industry’s most lucrative branches which give vacationers the unique opportunity to mingle with fellow foodies, enjoy world-class wine and cuisine, and visit the pastures and vineyards where they are artfully crafted. Puerto Rico’s lush and fertile land makes it ideal for wine makers as well as farmers, and the region is leading in its endeavors to invest in a more sustainable future. Eco-farms and farmers’ markets, like the Mercado Agricula Natural (Old San Juan Farmers’ Market) and several others situated across the island feature fresh, healthy, and delicious goods for excellent prices, making them a great alternative. With a friendly, festive flair, Puerto Rico’s markets – or Mercado – are lively occasions for locals and visitors alike, particularly active on weekends. Some, like the Old Market in the capital, are steeped in history – while other small community-run ventures are emerging onto the scene as well.
With its wide variety of multinational influences, Puerto Rico’s dishes are wonderfully varied; the most common ingredients include legumes, grains, vegetables, herbs, tubers, meats, seafood, fruits, spices, and seasonings. Traditional and innovative, some of the token eats are:
- Pastelón – made from sweet plantain and lasagna (beef)
- Mofongo – a delectable side made from fried plantains with garlic, olive oil, chicarrones (pork skin), seafood or meat in tomato sauce
- Asopao – a gumbo-like dish with soup and rice, served in various flavors like chicken, seafood, oregano, pepper, garlic, cilantro, tomato, olives, and other ingredients
- Alcapurria – a patty made from beef and fried green bananas
- Carne Guisada – stewed beef
- Arroz con Gandules – rice and pigeon peas
Puerto Ricans are just as passionate about beverages as food, and the island’s traditional drinks are fresh, delicious and tangy. Banana milk, piña colada, cocorico, Kola Champagne, frappe tropical, and piragua are just a few of the staple drinks. Coconut, cinnamon, milk, vanilla, banana, egg, bark, cherry, lime, rum and vodka comprise some of the primary ingredients for these truly magical cocktails.
Experiencing Food at Its Finest
With so many incredible dishes to choose from and such a fine variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and markets to discover, San Juan Food Tours will deliver your taste buds to some of their most memorable experiences. Throughout the festive markets of the capital to the lush vineyards scattered across the island, the finest taste of the Caribbean and cultural flair which thrives upon it is sure to delight you – so take a trip to Puerto Rico today!
Post written by foodie and travel writer Anne Meades