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Cooking Puerto Rican food is fairly straightforward, and the key to doing it well is to have the right spices and seasonings as your base for any recipe. The flavor profiles are unique and by using the following ingredients, you will be able to cook the perfect Puerto Rico meal every time.
Sofrito is a blend of various spices, including garlic, recao (culantro), sweet Aji peppers, and olive oil. It can be bought pre-made at the grocery store, in two versions: with and without tomato. But the secret to every excellent Puerto Rican meal is the use of a homemade Sofrito. For Mom’s highly regarded recipe, you can click here to get it and make your own.
Don’t think you need to go to Puerto Rico to find these ingredients. It can be found in international and ethnic food markets across the US. Sofrito is used as the base to marinate meats and when cooking legumes, rice dishes, sauces, soups and stews. Put a tablespoon in to the base of your dish or marinade for a really nice flavor.
Sazon is a type of seasoned salt blend found in Spanish and Mexican cuisine. These can be found in little packets in any grocery store and Goya makes one of the more well-known options. The ingredients vary, but typically include coriander (cilantro), annatto (achiote), garlic and salt. The seasoning is used to flavor meats, fish, poultry, soups, rice dishes and stews. The Annatto is what gives many dishes an orange color. It can be found with and without pepper, and a little bit will go a long way!
Adobo is a dry seasoning mix that is used in all Puerto Rican meals as a flavoring and marinade. The central ingredients of adobo are garlic, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric. This is a necessity for any Puerto Rican recipe – Goya produces several varieties of it, but many other brands are available, including Caribbean Trading Company’s Puerto Rican Adobo Seasoning.
(Pictured) These seeds are one of nature’s most vivid forms of food coloring and are commonly used to color cheddar cheeses, butters, and margarines in the US. It has a mild flavor, similar to a peppercorn but without the peppery-ness. It is important to all Puerto Rican dishes – you can use a Sazon that contains a lot of it as your base, or you can buy the seeds and make an infused oil, which works very well for cooking.
Also known as long coriander or sawtooth, it is sometimes used as a substitute for cilantro, but it has a much stronger taste. This is a main ingredient in Sofrito, but can be chopped up and used in any dish
Cuban Oregano is a succulent leafy herb that is commonly used in the Caribbean, particularly in Puerto Rico and Cuba. It has a very strong flavor, so a little goes a long way. It is a great compliment to Mexican cooking and is great in curries, and it has a property in it that helps to neutralize spice or capsicum. These leaves are often used in stuffing and flavoring meat…..basically you could really use this herb the same way you would use sage.