North America is home to a lot of cuisines, but there is one that has yet to reach its deserving heights: Puerto Rican cuisine!
Known for its spice blends and complex flavors, Puerto Rican food has a lot to offer. If you have been looking to dive into this flavorful cuisine, then you are at the right place!
What are the best Puerto Rican cookbooks? The best cookbooks for this cuisine are the ones that take full advantage of the basics like sofrito, plantains, adobo, and more! They should offer authentic recipes that are easy to follow.
Read below to learn more about Puerto Rican food, its highlights, a buyer’s guide for the best cookbooks, and our recommendations!
Puerto Rican Food Basics
Puerto Rican food is closely associated with comfort food due to its use of starchy ingredients and amazing spice blends.
This cuisine has something to offer in just about every food category. Whether you are a fan of fried, baked, grilled, sauteed, or other types of food, you will surely find something of value when browsing through a typical Puerto Rican menu.
But why is this cuisine unique in its own right? Well, it may have something to do with a balanced mixture of ingredients and spices.
See, Puerto Rican food is more of an ideology than a cuisine. It combines the best of contrasting textures, ingredients, and flavors and presents something much greater than the sum of its parts.
Take a basic Puerto Rican meal as an example. You will always find double starch and protein in almost every meal. This means that you can expect short-grain white rice, some fried plantain, and either beef or pork.
Here are some of the most essential components in Puerto Rican cuisine:
Rice is an extremely important grain in Puerto Rico. It is an absolute staple and many meals will simply not feel “complete” without it.
Puerto Rican cuisine employs the use of short-grain white rice more than any other kind because of its unique starchiness and texture.
This type of rice can soak up more moisture and is widely used with “wet” food like beans, gravies, stews, and more – and is cooked by boiling it in a combination of oil, salt, and water.
Beans, also known as abituelas, are an equally beloved staple in Puerto Rica. Just as black beans are famous in Cuba or pinto beans are famous in Mexico, the humble pink bean is the go-to choice in Puerto Rican cuisine – although, white beans are just as ubiquitous too.
Beans can be made in a number of ways! They are usually paired with smoked ham, sofrito, peppers, potatoes, and more.
The great thing about bean-based dishes in Puerto Rican cuisine is that you usually don’t just drain them and serve them as-is with rice – which adds to their flavor and textures.
You will find a homemade blend of sofrito in almost every Puerto Rican home.
Sofrito is made from olive oil, vegetable oil, garlic, two types of non-spicy peppers, cilantro, fresh oregano, and culantro.
Yes, you read that right, Culantro is a popular ingredient in Puerto Rico! It provides the same flavor as cilantro but has taller leaves and a much more defined and stronger flavor.
Sofrito is used in many savory recipes and is an absolute essential due to its ability to amplify subtle notes and to add a delicious and complex layer of flavor.
If you are not served with rice then you will likely get a serving of pigeon peas instead!
Pigeon peas are eaten throughout the year but their use is noticeably more abundant during Christmas.
They taste earthy and can be compared to lentils. These peas can be combined with vegetables, rice, sofrito, peppers, achiote oil, and more to create a hearty and delicious veggie meal.
Beef and pork are more commonly used in Puerto Rican cuisine. The meat is usually cooked until well-done and is marinated overnight for a deeper and more developed flavor.
The most famous spice rub used to marinate the meat is called, adobo, which is as common as salt in Puerto Rican cuisine. This rub is made from a combination of salt, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, cumin, and white pepper.
The last component in any Puerto Rican dish is a serving of plantains on the side.
Plantains are a foundational ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine and are cooked in many ways. They can either be thinly sliced and eaten on their own like fried crisps or they can also be added with meat or baked in a lasagna.
This banana-looking fruit can add bulk to recipes and provide a very delicious sweet flavor.
Even though they are a variety of bananas, they do not provide a banana-like flavor, which is why they are so versatile and omnipresent in this cuisine.
Puerto Rican cuisine is full of color, flavors, and an interesting combination of ingredients.
Now that you know the basics of what makes Puerto Rican food so great, it’s time to look at a guide for picking out the best cookbooks that will help you make easy and delicious recipes at home!
Puerto Rican Cookbooks – Buyer’s Guide
This buyer’s guide is designed to help you choose a cookbook that best fits your flavor palette.
Puerto Rican cuisine is extremely diverse and it can be quite confusing when picking up a cookbook that provides a balance of all the basics along with some advanced or niche recipes.
Here are a few things that you need to look out for when purchasing a Puerto Rican cookbook:
- Indexing and Diversity
- Food Photography and Styling
- Ingredients and Accessibility
- Popularity of Author
Indexing and Diversity
Proper indexing may not seem like a big deal but once you start using an appropriately indexed cookbook, you will realize how big of a difference indexing makes in finding the right food categories and picking individual meals off a list with hundreds of recipes.
Cookbooks with correct indexing will save you time, and effort – and will make it easier to plan and cook meals without putting a lot of thought into it.
Diversity is another great factor to consider when purchasing a cookbook. A good cookbook must have a balanced mix of traditional and contemporary recipes along with a backstory of the traditions and history of the cuisine.
Bonus points if it includes some modern twists on old dishes! This will help keep things fresh and will certainly expand on your existing arsenal of recipes as well.
Don’t want to get stuck with just one recipe book? Then we recommend purchasing two or more books with different points of focus.
You can purchase one that dives deep into the basics of Puerto Rican cuisine and another for snacks, dessert, or novel recipes within the cuisine.
Diversity is key when exploring and discovering a new cuisine – so, the more recipe ideas you have, the better!
Food Photography and Design
Verbal descriptions of complex recipes are never fun. This is especially true for beginners who depend on visuals to help them figure out the presentation or general look of a dish.
Even if you are an intermediate or professional, having a beautifully photographed dish next to the recipe just adds to the appeal of a cookbook.
Keep in mind that photography and styling are particularly important when you want to dive into a new cuisine.
Puerto Rican food is an excellent example of this because it includes a wide variety of different ingredients that are combined in interesting ways – So, in this case, a little visual aid will go a long way.
Ingredients, Glossary, and Accessibility
Don’t bother purchasing a cookbook that does not provide you with substitutes for ingredients.
Why is this important? Well, because when you try to cook food that originates from a different continent, there are bound to be some ingredients that you simply can’t source from your local superstore – and this can become very annoying when the cookbook does not provide suitable alternatives.
Imagine purchasing a cookbook with 100 exotic recipes – but in reality, you can only cook around 60-70 due to a lack of ingredients.
A good cookbook from a professional and knowledgeable chef will always provide you with not just great options, but also with ways on how you can mimic or add the same flavors with common ingredients!
Having an ingredient glossary is also very important. While you could survive without having this feature, a glossary can come in handy in understanding local jargon and terminologies.
Check the end of the cookbook for the glossary – or it might even be provided to you as a footnote at the end of every page.
Popularity of Author
This is perhaps the most essential factor in choosing the right cookbook.
For a quick second, let’s just forget about the flashy food photography, marketing/clout, vibrant styling, and endorsements – and focus solely on the author.
Odds are, if you pick a cookbook from a well-known and accomplished chef then the rest of the factors may either just fall into place or they may not even matter that much at all!
A cookbook written by a chef that has ample experience and is (or has been) a local will be far more valuable than anything else.
Sure, there are exceptions to this but if you are after pure authenticity, technique, and in-depth insight into a foreign cuisine then we can’t recommend looking into the author first!
A 2–3-minute web search should be more than enough to help you figure out the credentials of a chef.
Don’t feel like doing the research? Then just take a glance at the average review of the cookbook that you want to purchase.
The Best Puerto Rican Cookbooks
|1.||Puerto Rico True Flavors||Chef Wilo Benet||The bible of Puerto Rican Cuisine. An essential to have!|
|2.||Puerto Rican Cookery||Carmen Aboy Valldejuli||A journey into classic recipes with modern twists.|
|3.||Latin American Paleo Cooking||Amanda Torres||For all paleo lovers. A great cookbook that accounts for dietary restrictions and sensitivities.|
|4.||Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories||Von Diaz||Beautifully crafted recipes and touching stories that dive deep into the roots of Puerto Rico and its food.|
|5.||Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico||Jose Santaella||The best recipe book for traditional and classical Puerto Rican food.|
|6.||A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes||Yvonne Ortiz||Get a blend of new and old classics with this well-designed cookbook.|
|7.||Most Popular Puerto Rican Recipes – Quick & Easy||Grace Barrington-Shaw||Easy and quick recipes that will give you a crash course on Puerto Rican cuisine without rushing over details.|
|8.||Puerto Rican Cuisine in America||Oswald Rivera||Get a local perspective on Puerto Rican food and a range of classic and new recipes.|
|9.||Sofrito, the Essence of Puerto Rican Cuisine||Blanche Gelabert||A novel approach and a beautifully crafted cookbook that is designed to be eye-catching and knowledgeable.|
|10.||The Easy Puerto Rican Cookbook: 100 Classic Recipes||Tony Rican||Get access to all the classic Puerto Rican recipes that you want in a simple and neat cookbook.|
|11.||Aida's Kitchen a lo Boricua||Aida Lugo McAllister||Learn techniques and tricks! Contains 42 classic and new recipes with a focus on history and traditions.|
Our recommendation list below features well-reviewed cookbooks that are handpicked according to our buyer’s guide. Pick anyone (or get two) and begin cooking delicious and authentic Puerto Rican recipes with ease!
1. Puerto Rico True Flavors
Considered by many to be the bible of Puerto Rican cuisine, this cookbook has all the traditional recipes that you would want plus a selection of modern takes on old recipes that will tantalize your tastebuds in surprising ways!
This cookbook is designed and written by celebrity chef Wilo Benet who takes full advantage of a range of ingredients.
Whether you want to dive into the world of fried plantain recipes or prepare a quick and authentic meal for your family, this cookbook will have you covered.
It has an outstanding list of diverse recipes, beautiful photography, and a glossary to boot! We think this is the essential Puerto Rican cookbook that everyone should have.
2. Puerto Rican Cookery
An excellent primer for beginners! This famous cookbook has allowed people to fully grasp Puerto Rican cuisine in all its glory.
It doesn’t shy away from traditional and complex recipes and explains them in a way that is easy to understand and fun to try!
There are loads of interesting recipes that you can attempt with your loved ones and since this cookbook is also designed for people outside of Puerto Rico, you can be sure to find something new, yet familiar!
Even if you don’t have all the ingredients, this cookbook does a fine job at providing substitutes and relevant information on recipes that are very easy to follow.
3. Latin American Paleo Cooking
Go back to basics and the roots of Puerto Rican Cuisine.
This cookbook will not just highlight some fantastic traditional recipes, but it will also provide you with a background of Puerto Rican traditions and heritage.
It is an essential cookbook to have and if you are someone who enjoys a paleo diet, then this is surely going to be the go-to cookbook for all your Puerto Rican food cravings.
Have sensitivities or restrictions? This cookbook also provides a range of dairy and gluten-free recipes that you can make using simple and basic ingredients!
4. Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories
Chef Von Diaz’s credentials speak for themselves and this cookbook is a testament to her love of Puerto Rican food.
The book provides a beautiful story of the traditions of Puerta Rico and how its cuisine has helped women nourish and nurture each other to build a stronger and more interconnected community.
It includes all the basics and plenty of contemporary Puerta Rican recipes.
It’s a memoir-cum-cookbook that will keep you hooked and will take you through an outstanding journey full of stories, flavor, exotic ingredients, and moving traditions.
5. Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico
Chef Jose Santaella provides a local perspective and dives deep into a world of interesting combinations and basic flavors.
This cookbook is a classic and is a great way to expand your knowledge of Puerto Rican cuisine.
It covers a lot of traditional recipes and provides a mix of techniques, methods, and ideas that will help you further your understanding of the cuisine without leaving the comfort of your kitchen.
Go through 100 recipes that include Puerto Rican essentials such as Salt Cod Fritters, Fried Snapper, Salsas, and much more!
6. A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes
What makes this cookbook so great is not its obvious focus on traditional recipes – but how it puts the vibrancy and diversity of Puerto Rican cuisine front and center!
This cookbook has been able to accomplish a feat that was once considered rare or even impossible: it has been able to beautifully capture the essence of the cuisine – along with its color, its heart, and its belief in using discrete ingredients to create something out of this world.
With over 150 recipes in almost every category, you are bound to find something new, familiar, and traditional in this goldmine of a cookbook.
7. Most Popular Puerto Rican Recipes – Quick & Easy
As the name suggests, this cookbook has one focus above all else: to arm you with basic recipes that you can find in any typical Puerto Rican home.
This cookbook is for people who want to understand and learn what Puerto Rican cuisine is all about.
It is an excellent way to get acquainted with some common terms, lingo, and spice blends that will help you cook not just Puerto Rican food, but will also expand on your general cooking skills as well.
We recommend this book to anyone who wants quick, easy, and convenient recipes that gets straight to the point without diving into a lengthy preamble.
8. Puerto Rican Cuisine in America
Looking for a fusion of Puerto Rican cuisine inspired by North America?
Chef Oswald Rivera provides an interesting take on new recipes that are inspired by the foundations of Puerto Rican recipes.
This cookbook also shares a lot of history and background on the cuisine which will keep you turning the page.
With over 250 family-favorite recipes, you can be sure to find new, old, and even novel recipes in this beautifully crafted cookbook.
Love wine? Then you will also enjoy Chef Rivera’s wine pairing suggestions at the end of every recipe!
9. Sofrito, the Essence of Puerto Rican Cuisine
This cookbook is a piece of art in every way. It’s a new approach to traditional cookbooks and is full of lush photography and styling.
You get to explore the history and makings of Puerto Rican cuisine with eye-popping and gorgeous illustrations that will keep you mesmerized.
Go through the art of using Sofrito to your advantage and learn how to make delicious recipes on the fly.
If you want more, then this cookbook will also challenge you to use your imagination with traditional and complex recipes that are made easy thanks to its visual-first approach.
10. The Easy Puerto Rican Cookbook: 100 Classic Recipes
Quick, easy, and convenient. This cookbook is for every beginner or even advanced home chef who wants full access to everything that Puerto Rican cuisine has to offer.
From staples to weekend-friendly meals, cook everything and anything in this wonderful cuisine with ease!
It’s designed to help you learn techniques and to make recipes using the equipment that you already have.
This cookbook is extremely user-friendly – you can flip through the pages, land on a random section, and cook a full-course meal without hesitation!
11. Aida’s Kitchen a lo Boricua
Get time-saving ideas and personal stories from chef Aida Lugo McAllister. This cookbook focuses on healthy, everyday recipes that you can cook at home with ease.
The book consists of 42 timeless recipes that have been updated and modified to fit modern palettes.
Worried about authenticity? Even though this book contains a lot of modified takes on traditional recipes, it leaves the flavors and textures untouched.
It is the perfect blend of new and traditional recipes that will expose you to the same great flavors and ingredient combinations that make Puerto Rican food so famous and delicious.