Sofrito: A Puerto Rican Food Tradition

by captaintim on June 20, 2013

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sofritoSofrito could almost be termed the nectar of the Gods, it is so delicious.  Sofrito is the seasoning base used in almost all Puerto Rican food.  This can be store-bought, and can be found in larger cities or ethnic shops.  However, there is really nothing to companre to homemade Sofrito.

Growing up, my mom had her own recipe that was coveted and requested by all of the extended family.  Every couple of months, we would all as a family go into the kitchen and spend the day peeling garlic, de-seeding Aji peppers and making the mix.  We would make large batches and then individually package and freeze smaller portions so that it would last several months.  And then of course we would gift some to our begging family and friends.  In fact, one Christmas, I decided to gift some of Mom’s sofrito in mason jars with some suggested uses to co-workers and friends.  My boss at the time went through 18 oz of the stuff in 3 weeks by using it as a topping on her breakfast eggs.  This is not a traditional use, but goes to show that the uses for this tasty seasoning/marinade are endless!

The term ‘sofrito’ was brought to the island by Spanish colonizers who prepare it in a tomato base with paprika.  It is widely used throughout the Caribbean, although Puerto Ricans consider it their very own and integral to Puerto Rican cuisine.  There are actually many variations to sofrito – there is one with a tomato base and a green sofrito without the base.  Some recipes will call to include olives or capers as well.  However, here is our simplified version, based on Mom’s recipe that has served me very well for many years!

Puerto Rican Sofrito

  • ·         2 lbs.- large green peppers
  • ·         1 lb.- garlic cloves
  • ·         3 lbs.- large onions
  • ·         1- bunch of cilantro
  • ·         1/2 cup- extra virgin olive oil
  • ·         50- recao leaves (culantro)
  • ·         1 lb.- ajies dulce (small sweet cooking peppers – red, yellow and green

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and chop coarsely. It is now ready to jar, freeze, or use.  Add it to all of your rice, meat, and soups and stews.  It is also great on eggs!

You may encounter some problems finding fresh recao and ajis dulces, but these are essential to the marinade.  Check ethnic markets or larger stores for a larger selection, or if you are lucky enough, convince your friends or family living in or visiting Puerto Rico to mail you some.

To try a tomato – based sofrito, consider the Cuban Sofrito version.  This recipe here is courtesy of About.com:

Cuban Sofrito

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 large Spanish onions (peeled and diced)
  • 2 large red bell peppers (seeded and diced)
  • 4 tablespoons diced ham
  • 5 roma tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch cilantro (chopped fine)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (chopped fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, saute garlic, bay leaf, onions, peppers, diced tomatoes and ham until onions and peppers are soft.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and allow to carmelize. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and oregano.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the bay leaf.
  5. Puree the cooled mixture in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. You can use it right away in a recipe calling for sofrito or place the mixture in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

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