Puerto Rico is home to a rich culinary tradition known as Cocina Criolla or creole cooking. Some of us may associate creole with Louisiana cuisine but out there in Spanish-speaking islands, this term refers to Spanish Americans of European descent.
The island has had a reputation of being the world’s longest colony. And while it is now a self-governing territory of the US, its colonial past has left its mark heavily on its cuisine. Puerto Rican food is the result of a blend of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino Arawak influences. Its dominant flavor profile is sweet-sour, with a lot of traditional dishes relying on vinegar and lime to create the sour flavor and fresh fruits to provide sweet balance.
The foundational elements in this ethnic cuisine rely on the use of the sofrito and adobo. Sofrito is an aromatic paste made from tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic which is used for stews, soups, and sauces. Adobo, meanwhile, is a marinade or rub, typically with garlic and lime juice or vinegar, that is used to season meat and poultry.
A good Boricua cookbook will teach you the basics of making sofrito and adobo, and teach you how to use them to provide authentic Puerto Rican flavor to whatever dish you’re making. The cuisine itself is basically simple, relying on locally grown fresh produce and herbs to provide flavor. It’s a reflection of how traditional cooking used to be on the island, making everything by scratch and improvising with whatever ingredients are on hand.
There are not that many Puerto Rican cookbooks but those that have been published range from memoir-based cookbooks to English translations of Boricua cookbooks written in Spanish. Here are ten of the best ones that should be included in any collection.
Table of Contents
- Best Puerto Rican Cookbooks
- 1. Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico Hardcover
- 2. Aida's Kitchen a lo Boricua Hardcover – Unabridged
- 3. Sofrito, the Essence of Puerto Rican Cuisine Hardcover
- 4. Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking: Traditional recipes with a modern touch Paperback
- 5. Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes Paperback – Illustrated
- 6. Puerto Rican Cookery Hardcover
- 7. A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes from the Puerto Rican Community Hardcover
- 8. The Easy Puerto Rican Cookbook: 100 Classic Recipes Made Simple Paperback – Illustrated
- 9. Rice and Beans and Tasty Things Paperback
- 10. Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South Hardcover
- Top Pick
Best Puerto Rican Cookbooks
- Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico Hardcover
- Aida's Kitchen a lo Boricua Hardcover – Unabridged
- Sofrito, the Essence of Puerto Rican Cuisine Hardcover
- Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking: Traditional recipes with a modern touch Paperback
- Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes Paperback – Illustrated
- Puerto Rican Cookery Hardcover
- A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes from the Puerto Rican Community Hardcover
- The Easy Puerto Rican Cookbook: 100 Classic Recipes Made Simple Paperback – Illustrated
- Rice and Beans and Tasty Things Paperback
- Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South Hardcover
1. Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico Hardcover
This is a collection of classic Puerto Rican dishes that have updated using modern cooking techniques and global ingredients. There more than 100 recipes here like familiar favorites Salt Cod Fritters with Pique and Fried Whole Snapper with Pineapple and Cilantro Salsa to contemporary dishes like Avocado and Papaya Salad and Curried Goat with Lime and Orange Rice.
The selection is heavy on meal mainstays and light on desserts. There are basic recipes like tostones and more complicated ones like alcapurrias. Directions are clear and straightforward. There is also gorgeous photographic detail on every page.
Readers found this book’s recipes authentic and their ingredient combinations interesting. Some of them will be hard to come by if one isn’t in the Caribbean region. One found this a good book to pair with other more traditional Puerto Rican cookbooks.
Good for anyone interested in modern Puerto Rican cuisine.
2. Aida's Kitchen a lo Boricua Hardcover – Unabridged
This is a bilingual cookbook, with Puerto Rican recipes written in English and Spanish. There are only 42 recipes here but these recipes have been modified to be healthy by baking them, instead of frying, and using olive oil, instead of fat. There are also tips on prepping the ethnic ingredients, as well as time-saving ideas for cooking them.
Recipes are straightforward and easy to follow. Some of them have step-by-step instructions. All of them have food photos. There are also photos of the special ingredients for easy reference.
Readers found the recipes accessible, with the texture and flavors intact even with the healthy substitutions. One liked that the author’s culinary love story at the beginning of the book. Another found the upside-down layout of the book a convenient way for reading the recipe in one’s preferred language.
Recommended for collectors interested in bilingual cookbooks and anyone looking for healthier versions of traditional Puerto Rican recipes.
3. Sofrito, the Essence of Puerto Rican Cuisine Hardcover
Sofrito refers to a puree staple that serves as a foundation for Puerto Rican soups, stews, and sauce. Similarly, the selection features foundational recipes that have been passed down from the author’s Puerto Rican mother-in-law, along with ones that they’ve collected from families living on the island.
Recipes are easy to follow and are written in large print. There are lots of lavish and colorful illustrations of the food and island scenery. Recipes range from appetizers to main courses and desserts. As is common with most heirloom cookbooks, some recipes will use ingredients that are not readily available outside of Puerto Rico, but there are enough recipes here that use ingredients which can be obtained easily in mainland supermarkets or specialty stores.
Readers liked the authenticity of the recipes. One liked how the cookbook explores the culinary history with its commentaries and documentation of cooking traditions.
Recommended for home cooks of all skills and anyone looking for a great introductory cookbook to Puerto Rican cuisine.
4. Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking: Traditional recipes with a modern touch Paperback
This is another collection of home-style Puerto Rican recipes that are easily adaptable for the American home kitchen. The majority of the recipes have been cribbed from the author’s family recipe book along with a small selection of the author’s own. The selection emphasizes variations as some recipes basically use the same ingredients but are prepared differently. For example, this book presents different varieties of flan.
Recipes are accessible with ingredients that can be substituted or omitted. All of them call for some experience in the kitchen because the directions aren’t as specific as normal; for instance, sugar and salt are left to the reader to vary them according to their desired tastes. All recipes have full-color food photos for easy reference.
Readers liked that most of the recipes have step-by-step directions on how to prep the ingredients. Another liked that it also provides some sources where one can find the specialty ingredients needed for some recipes.
Ideal for experienced home cooks and anyone looking for basic home style Puerto Rican recipes.
5. Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes Paperback – Illustrated
This cookbook features Nuyorican recipes – Puerto Rican recipes that have been influenced by New York cuisine. There are over 250 family favorite recipes here that should be familiar to any Puerto Rican who grew up in New York. The cookbook also includes 90 delicious drink recipes and suggested wine pairings for every dish.
Recipes are straightforward with lots of illustrations. Sourcing ingredients for the recipes shouldn’t be hard as most are available in a standard grocery store like Kroger or a supermarket chain like Walmart. Typical serving sizes range from 8-10 on average. Samples of the selection include Sancocho, Cabro Borracho (drunken goat), Camarones Guisados (stewed shrimp), and Flan de Calabaza (pumpkin flan).
Readers found this cookbook practical and easy to use. One liked that only a few recipes called for specialty ingredients and these are ones that can be used for other recipes, hence balancing out the cost. Another liked that the recipes can feed a family in one sitting.
Great entry-level cookbook for Nuyorican cuisine.
6. Puerto Rican Cookery Hardcover
The Spanish version of this cookbook is the go-to primer for home cooking in most Puerto Rican homes. It’s the classic Puerto Rican cookbook with its selection of authentic, turn-of-the-century recipes. This English translation follows the old format of the original so the layout may be confusing for anyone used to modern cookbook design.
In general, recipes are easy to follow but some instructions have been poorly translated into English. This won’t bother an experienced cook but newbies may find it difficult to understand some of the steps. For those looking for heirloom recipes, however, this book offers a lot of them. It’s why the original Spanish edition is considered a culinary bible among Caribbean foodies.
Great for cookbook collectors and experienced home cooks looking for heirloom Puerto Rican recipes.
7. A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes from the Puerto Rican Community Hardcover
This cookbook features a mix of traditional and mainland (American-influenced) Puerto Rican recipes. There are 200 of them in the selection that ranges from hearty meal mainstays to modern and light creations. This include familiar favorites like arroz con pollo, pasteles, asopao, mofongo and tostones.
Recipes are generally simple and easy to make. The ingredients list is accessible, and most of them can be substituted. There are also suggestions on where to buy specialty ingredients, although one noted that some suggestions are out-of-date.
Those who tried them found the recipes easily adaptable for the home kitchen. Many said that the dishes were delicious. One particularly mentioned how the sauce recipes were very good.
Recommended for anyone looking for easy Puerto Rican recipes.
8. The Easy Puerto Rican Cookbook: 100 Classic Recipes Made Simple Paperback – Illustrated
This is a collection of Puerto Rican recipes that can easily be prepared for daily family meals or for special gatherings. Most of the dishes are traditional favorites and what isn’t authentic, has been Puerto-Ricanized by way of ingredients or cooking method. There is also an introductory chapter that gives an overview of the ethnic cuisine and lists essential spices and pantry items.
Recipes are separated by ingredients and level of difficulty. There are lots of recipes for 30 minutes or under, two or three steps, 10 minute cook time or less, etc. Each one of them includes various tips on substituting ingredients, prepping, storing leftovers, and making variations of the recipes. Some of them feature colorful food photos. Samples include Chicharrón de Cerdo (Fried Pork Belly), Mojo Criollo (Garlic Marinade), and Pique (Puerto Rican Hot Sauce).
Readers found this a great sampler for easy-to-do Puerto Rican recipes. One liked that the recipes can be made both for everyday meals and special occasions. Another liked that the recipes call for whole food ingredients.
Great starter cookbook for anybody unfamiliar with Puerto Rican cuisine.
9. Rice and Beans and Tasty Things Paperback
This is an English language translation of the best-selling Puerto Rican chef Dora Romano's Cocine Conmigo cookbook. It features a collection of healthy recipes that are low-salt and low-fat. It also includes a glossary of common Puerto Rican ingredients.
Those who tried the recipes found them to be authentic enough, although one found it to be more gourmet than typical everyday Puerto Rican food. Another, however, recommended this book as essential reading for second-generation Puerto Ricans.
Ideal for anyone looking for healthy Puerto Rican recipes.
10. Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South Hardcover
Part memoir and part recipe collection, this cookbook features recipes that blend Puerto Rican flavors and ingredients with Southern cooking. These are the recipes that the author grew up with: Catfish Corn Chowder that uses white beans, Shepherd’s Pie that has sweet plantains, and Stewed Okra that uses a sofrito base.
Recipes are accessible with full-color food photos for easy reference. Most of them can easily be modified with vegetarian alternatives. There’s also a substitution list for difficult-to-find ingredients.
Many readers loved the personal essays that came with the recipes. Those who tried the dishes found them to be doable and are delicious.
For collectors interested in memoir-cookbooks and home cooks looking for Southern fusion Puerto Rican cuisine.
THE EASY PUERTO RICAN COOKBOOK: 100 CLASSIC RECIPES MADE SIMPLE by Tony Rican
Easy and practical, this cookbook will appeal to any home cook who’s looking to try some Puerto Rican cuisine for a casual weeknight meal.
Recipes are easy, with minimal prep involved. More importantly, they use ingredients that can be obtained at an American grocery store easily and the resulting dishes still retain the distinct Boricuan flavor and texture.
Basic serving sizes, prep time, and cook time are listed, along with nutritional labels (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc). There are also notes on recipe variations.
Overall, a great basic primer for anyone unfamiliar with Puerto Rican cooking.