Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, when you arrive you will feel transported to a country all its own. With culture, history, and traditional foods, this tiny island in the Caribbean packs a punch when it comes to things uniquely Puerto Rican. 

Since the devastation of hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican people have shifted their focus to creating a more self-sustainable life, which now includes producing a lot of their own crops. Due to the fact that many people were stranded without access to food, water, and electricity for days, weeks, and even months, the island came together to focus on preventing this same type of devastation in the future. Because of this, different food focused initiatives have come to foreground of life in Puerto Rico. 

Granted food is a large focus post Maria, it has always been a part of Puerto Rican culture. Food tells a story of the island, its unique blend of history, as well as the many cultural influences the island has had. But now, you fill find that most of the crops are grown right there on the island. As they are relying less on other Caribbean nations and South American countries to import items that can be grown or raised there. You will see influences from Europe, other Caribbean countries, as well as African cuisines.

Let’s look at some of my favorites from my time in Puerto Rico:

Arroz Con Grandules: This simple dish is rice seasoned with pigeon peas, olives, capers, tomato sauce, and sofrito. It is a dish that seems to come on the side of almost anything you order.  

Mofongo: This traditional dish is mashed green plantains seasoned and sometimes stuffed with chicken, beef, shrimp, or veggies. It tastes almost like a slightly sweet American stuffing. 

Pastelon: This is a plantain dish layered with ground beef. It resembles a lasagna only the noodles are replaced by the plantains.

Pernil: This is simply a roasted pig. While in Puerto Rico I experienced a pig roast and everywhere we went people were roasting pigs for celebrations.

Rellanos de Papa: This dish is potatoes stuffed with ground beef and then deep fried. It reminded me a little bit like a hush puppy. Delicious and a great appetizer option.

Empanada: This is a fried flaky pastry generally stuffed with savory items like meats, cheeses, and veggies.

Despite the fact I was only in Puerto Rico for a short time, the food stood out as one of the highlights of my experience. The great thing is you can get traditional Puerto Rican food all over the island, but also you can find these well-known food options done in new ways at trendy restaurants. I had an eggs Benedict in San Juan where the traditional English muffins were replaced with mofongo. So, the next time you head to Puerto Rico take some time to research the different types of foods to try and sample your way around the island. Giving your taste buds the culture lesson, they deserve.

Amber Zakem

Amber Zakem has worked in the travel industry since 2014. Although, her love of travel began far before that. Amber grew up visiting cousins stationed throughout Europe and worked as an Au Pair in Germany for a year between High School and College. She started working at a local travel agency in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, after graduating from Central Michigan University. Amber began working for MAST Travel Network in 2016 and is the Social Media Specialist. She runs the MAST Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat and she teaches twice monthly webinars to travel agents on using social media to promote travel. Amber has continued her passion for travel and social media by also teaching a course at Moraine Valley Community College in their Hospitality program.