The Best Spicy Puerto Rican Food You Should Try

Spicy Puerto Rican Food

Spicy dishes are part of many cuisines worldwide, adding a bit of flavor to any food. The Caribbean isn’t an exception to this rule, and Puerto Rico has a rich and extensive list of dishes that include hot species that every tourist needs to try.

Origins of Puerto Rican Cuisine

It’s very well known that Puerto Rican food isn’t tough to master since most dishes are straightforward to prepare. Most of its complexity involves a proper selection of spices like Cuban oregano, Adobo, sazón, and sofrito since local food combines many vegetables and herbs.

With a strong influence from Spanish and Mexican cuisine, Puerto Rico recipes are straightforward, heavily relying on seasoned salts, garlic, achiote, and coriander. Oregano and pepper are also used for other typical foods like Adobo.

These hot pepper sauces are characteristic of Puerto Rico because they’re crushed instead of mushed, providing an awesome hearty, flavorful spicy sauce. They range from mild to extreme heat, covering all ranges of hot preferences.

Best Spicy Dishes to Try

Spicy Puerto Rican food attracts many newcomers to the island looking to try it out. These are some of the best ones that nobody should miss:

Asopao de Pollo

The Puerto Rican chicken soup is a perfect dish for those looking to lift their spirits when needing a pick-me-up or feeling down. The main ingredients of Asopao de Pollo are rice, tomatoes, chicken, green olives, and peas. Another version known as Sofrito combines other chopped ingredients too.

These chopped ingredients act as a base condiment for the dish, made with spic, garlic, onions, coriander, tomatoes, spicy mustard, and saw-toothed mint.

Caldo Santo

A traditional dish for festive days and many holidays. Referred in English as “Holy Stew,” this recipe is mainly composed of fish, following the catholic proscriptions of eating land animals during Good Friday. The origins of this preparation have African influence based on some flavors and ingredients.

Originally on the island, this dish wasn’t famous outside the Loiza region. Its appearance in the cookbooks of chef Emma Duprey de Sterling made it gain notoriety, becoming a top-rated recipe all around the island.

Other combinations of these ingredients include seafood such as salted cod, fresh snapper, and shrimp. Fish is simmered with plantain balls, root vegetables, milk, oil, peppers, and garlic to give that spicy touch.


There’s something that makes Sofrito very different from the other dishes: it’s not a dish, but a sauce, that, due to its fame, deserves a spot among the others.

Used for many food recipes, Sofrito preparation can differ slightly for each food. The main ingredients that can never be missed are red peppers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and aji. Slice and throw them into a processor to start the preparation. It adds a fantastic sauce and spiciness to any food to make it great.


Renowned as one of the most iconic Puerto Rican foods, Pernil consists of a roasted pig with a prolonged cooking process. It’s often reserved for moments like family functions or other significant events.

Pernil is often enjoyed in the company of known dishes such as Mofongo or Arroz con Gandules, which are very tasty.

Seasoned with oregano, garlic, black pepper, and chili, Pernil is cooked tenderly with time, with some spicy spices added to give it a more exotic touch.


The “Jibarito” is a juicy and delicious sandwich composed of steak, garlicky mayo, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, all mashed between two slices of fried plantains. Many chefs include a sprinkle of hot sauce to add a spicy condiment.

Guineitos en Escabeche

It comprises green banana salad that is made by boiling and cooking in an Escabeche sauce with many bay leaves. Vinegar, garlic, onion, pepperonis, salt, and pepper are other essential ingredients, as well as a hint of hot spice.

Submerging the bananas into the sauce and then putting it into a fridge helps the marinades absorb it, making its flavor stronger. It can be served cold or at room temperature and accompanied by spicy sauces or other vegetables and dishes.


Known as the “comfort food” of Puerto Rico, the Sancocho originated in the Canary Islands in Spain. However, it became one of PR’s most iconic dishes, with a distinctive touch only in their recipe.

Puerto Rican Sancocho includes ginger root, corn, pumpkin, vegetables, yuca, beef, chili pepper, and plantains. It’s perfect for cold and rainy days since it helps to warm up.


Maduros and Tostones are some of the staples of Puerto Rico for a good reason. These crunchy snacks are prepared with a straightforward recipe of plantains and a sprinkle of salt and dipped in garlic sauce. Sometimes, people add a topping of hot sauce for a more exquisite flavor.

They’re considered the Puerto Rican equivalent of French fries. Maduros, on the other hand, are like tostones but with a sweet counterpart. Lightly fried, they make the perfect option for balancing certain dishes with a nutritious addition.


While not classically spicy, these half-moon turnovers have many savory mixes, which some of them include hot ingredients to add a little extra of flavor. Whether baked or fried, their seasonings include Sofrito and Achiote, two of the Puerto Rican staples.

Browned onions, garlic, peppers, coriander and olive oil are added to the list of things needed to make Empanadillas the best dish for a quick meal.

How to Choose the Best Spicy Sauce?

When preparing a dish, it’s essential to know the most suitable sauce because of its flavor and spiciness. Some are hotter than others, and people aren’t often used to certain body heat levels.

Puerto Rico has many sauces, such as chili pepper, crushed pepper, jalapeño sauce, garlic infused, or organic-ubá-mango.

After choosing one, use it to condiment the top of your dish or during cooking. The quality of Caribbean sauces helps them to blend perfectly with the flavors of the food, acquiring a great taste.

What You Should Avoid

Spicy food enthusiasts need to know their limits. People not used to eating hot food can suffer many consequences from this type of heat, provoking damage to their bodies. It’s vital to remain realistic and start by a little, with low levels of spiciness, until the body adapts to it.

The best way to determine how much spiciness a sauce has is by identifying its level with the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of chili peppers and derived ingredients. Some are incredibly potent, making people’s eyes water in an instant.

Its range goes from 0-100 for bell peppers. Meanwhile, the world’s hottest one, Pepper X, goes up to 3.18 million.


Spicy Puerto Rican food has been around native cuisine for an extended period, being one of the principal attractions for gourmet tourists worldwide who want to try it. This Caribbean island has exquisite dishes that blend perfectly with hot spices and sauces, adding a nice touch.

The extensive list of recipes that conform to these typical dishes, such as Sofrito, Asopao de Pollo, and Pernil, is requested by anyone looking for tropical flavors.

Still, most Puerto Rican food isn’t as spicy as other places such as Mexico. The Caribbean island advocates for a more well-seasoned dish, with only the right amount of spiciness, looking to achieve not heat, but flavor. Some hotter ingredients can be added for those who love it, such as chili or ajilimojili.

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