30 Puerto Rican Pantry StaplesThis post may contain affiliate links which might earn us money. Please read my Disclosure and Privacy policies here
Are you looking to add some Caribbean flavor to your pantry? Puerto Rican cuisine has a delicious blend of Spanish, African, and Taíno influences. Here’s a list of the essential items you need to stock up on for recreating these traditional dishes at home.
As a Puerto Rican, it is an honor to share this guide with you. I will show you the essential ingredients to create flavorful and traditional Puerto Rican dishes in your kitchen.
From coffee and canned beans to sazón and plantains, these ingredients are the keys to unlocking the unique flavors of Puerto Rican cuisine.
I will discuss why each of these ingredients is so important and how they can help you recreate the taste of Puerto Rico at home.
Let’s start by introducing some of the basic ingredients you’ll need for any Puerto Rican dish.
1. Coffee: Puerto Rico’s Most Popular Pantry Staple
Coffee is an essential part of any Puerto Rican pantry. From the smooth and mellow Cafe Crema to the strong and robust Cafe Oro, Puerto Rico offers a wide selection of coffees to suit all tastes. To enjoy a truly authentic cup of Puerto Rican coffee, try one of the premium packs offered by PuertoRicoCoffeeShop.com.
Their selection includes some of the finest coffees in Puerto Rico, including Cafe Crema, Cafe Oro, Cafe Rico, and Yaucono.
Enjoy a traditional cup of coffee in the morning, or use it as an ingredient in your favorite recipes for a unique flavor!
2. Budget-Friendly Canned Beans
Canned beans are a great pantry staple for creating budget-friendly meals in Puerto Rico. Red beans, black beans, and pinto beans are all common types of canned beans that can be used to create a variety of dishes.
Whether you’re making a classic Puerto Rican dish like red beans and rice or whipping up some salmon patties, adding canned beans to the mix will boost your dish’s flavor and protein.
Canned beans are also incredibly versatile: they can be used in soups, salads, stews, burritos, and more! With the right seasonings, canned beans can be transformed into a delicious meal in no time.
3. White Rice: Top Essential Pantry Staple
White rice is an essential pantry staple for Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s a great side dish to a variety of dishes, from Arroz con Gandules to carne guisada. It’s also budget-friendly and easy to make. The basic version is steamed white rice seasoned with olive oil and salt.
It can also be cooked with beans to make the classic Puerto Rican rice and beans side dish. White, medium-grain rice perfectly accompanies any of your favorite Puerto Rican dishes.
Whether you’re making a hearty Arroz con Pollo or asopao, white rice is sure to complete the meal.
4. Sazón: The All-Purpose Spice Blend
Sazón is a popular seasoning blend in Puerto Rican cooking, and it’s an essential pantry staple for anyone looking to recreate the flavors of the Caribbean in their own kitchen. This all-purpose blend typically contains annatto, coriander, oregano, garlic, and a variety of other spices, and it’s often used to add flavor and color to dishes like beans, rice, soups, and stews.
Making your own homemade sazón is a great way to control the ingredients and eliminate MSG while ensuring you get a delicious flavor.
You can create a unique version that adds depth to any recipe with just a few simple ingredients.
5. Sofrito: The Base of Many Dishes
Sofrito is a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine and is used to add flavor and aroma to many dishes. This condiment combines peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro to create a puree. This puree can then be added to soups, stews, rice dishes, beans, and more.
It is an essential ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking and adds depth of flavor to any dish. The combination of ingredients in sofrito adds a unique flavor to Puerto Rican dishes that can’t be replicated with other ingredients.
This versatile condiment is an essential part of the Puerto Rican pantry and is a must-have for anyone looking to recreate traditional Puerto Rican flavors at home.
6. Plantains: Sweet & Savory Versatility
Plantains are a staple in the Puerto Rican pantry. From sweet to savory dishes, plantains are a versatile ingredient that adds flavor and texture to any meal. Fried, boiled, or mashed (mofongo), plantains can be served on their own or as a side dish to any protein.
Popular recipes include mofongo, which is made with mashed, fried plantains and chicharrones; the Puerto Rican version of a classic burger uses sweet ripe plantains and ground beef; and baked ripe plantains with brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, and bourbon until caramelized.
With so many possibilities in the kitchen, it’s no wonder why plantains have been a favorite ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine for centuries.
7. Cornmeal: Perfect for Making Arepas
Cornmeal is an essential ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine and is one of the most versatile pantry staples. It is most commonly used to make crema de maiz, a Puerto Rican version of polenta. Cornmeal is also used to make sorrullos, a popular Puerto Rican dish consisting of fried corn fritters, sometimes filled with cheese or ham.
One of the most popular Puerto Rican dishes is tortitas de maiz, or cornmeal pancakes. This dish is traditionally served with cheese or eggs.
It can also be used to make arepas, which are corn cakes filled with savory proteins and vegetables. Cornmeal is essential for recreating Puerto Rican flavors in your own kitchen.
8. Goya Products: A Pantry Must-Have
Goya products are a pantry must-have for anyone looking to explore the rich culinary history of Puerto Rico. From Goya’s classic Sazón seasoning to their budget-friendly canned beans, these products are essential to creating flavorful and traditional meals.
With Goya, you’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to Latin ingredients. Their products make cooking up a delicious Puerto Rican-style feast in no time easy.
Goya has been a trusted name for generations of Latinos, providing access to essential pantry items before canned and dehydrated goods became commonplace.
Of course, over the years, many Latino brands have become popular, but Goya remains an indispensable Puerto Rican pantry staple.
9. Adobo Seasoning: Puerto Rican Versatile Seasoning
The distinct and savory flavor of Adobo seasoning is an absolute must-have for any Puerto Rican kitchen. This seasoning blend combines garlic, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric to add a unique Puerto Rican flavor to any dish.
Adobo is the perfect all-purpose seasoning for Puerto Rican cuisine, and it is often used as a dry rub for meats or an ingredient in soups and stews. It can also be used to season Puerto Rican classics like arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) or pernil asado (roasted pork).
10. Condensed Milk: The Puerto Rican Sweetener
Condensed milk is another pantry staple that sweetens traditional Puerto Rican desserts. It’s commonly used in Puerto Rican flan, a custard-like dessert with a creamy texture and caramelized top.
Condensed milk also makes Puerto Rican arroz con leche or rice pudding.
This Puerto Rican pantry staple adds richness and sweetness to any dish with its thick, creamy texture. It’s a key ingredient for Puerto Rican desserts, pastries, and other sweet treats.
11. White Sugar: Puerto Rican Baking Necessity
White sugar is another key pantry staple if you’re looking for something to sweeten up your Puerto Rican treats. Puerto Ricans love their baked goods and often use white sugar to sweeten cakes, Puerto Rican cookies, muffins, and other pastries.
This versatile pantry can also make Puerto Rican classics like bizcocho de queso (cheese cake), arroz con dulce (rice pudding), and tembleque, a Puerto Rican coconut custard.
White sugar is an essential Puerto Rican pantry item for baking sweet treats at home.
12. Coconut Milk: An Essential Puerto Rican Ingredient
Coconut milk is a beloved staple in Puerto Rican households, used to create both sweet and savory dishes. Its distinctive flavor adds life to sauces, stews, drinks, soups, and desserts – proving its versatility as an essential ingredient for island cuisine.
Coconut milk is essential for creating Puerto Rican favorites like asopao de Pollo (a Puerto Rican-style chicken and rice stew) or tembleque, a Puerto Rican coconut custard.
This pantry staple is a must-have for recreating Puerto Rican cuisine in your own kitchen.
13. Cilantro: Puerto Rican Classic Ingredient
Cilantro is an irreplaceable ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine, as it can be found in a plethora of traditional dishes. Puerto Ricans love the flavor of cilantro in their food, and it is often used as a garnish for stews, soups, and rice dishes.
It can also be chopped up and added to Puerto Rican salsas or used as an ingredient in sofrito, Puerto Rico’s signature sauce. Cilantro is a key Puerto Rican pantry staple for adding flavor and freshness to your Puerto Rican dishes.
14. Achiote: Puerto Rican Savory Spice
Achiote is an integral ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine, adding a sweet and earthy flavor to every dish. What is achiote, and what is it used for? This Puerto Rican spice is made from annatto seeds and is often used as a rub for Puerto Rican dishes like pernil (roasted pork), pasteles, and alcapurrias or as an ingredient in Puerto Rican stews and soups.
Achiote is a must-have Puerto Rican pantry item for adding depth and flavor to Puerto Rican dishes.
15. Bay Leaves: Puerto Rican Aromatic Spice
Bay leaves are a Puerto Rican pantry staple that adds an aromatic flavor to Puerto Rican dishes. This Puerto Rican spice is often used to season Puerto Rican classics like arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) or Pollo Guisado (chicken stew).
This Puerto Rican pantry item adds flavor and depth to Puerto Rican dishes, making it a must-have for recreating Puerto Rican cuisine at home.
16. Culantro: Puerto Rican Culinary Must-Have
Culantro is an essential ingredient in many savory Puerto Rican dishes, imparting a distinct and earthy flavor. This Puerto Rican herb is related to cilantro but has a more intense flavor.
Culantro is often used as an ingredient in Puerto Rican sofrito and other Puerto Rican sauces. It’s also used as a garnish for Puerto Rican stews, soups, and rice dishes.
This Puerto Rican pantry staple is a must-have for recreating Puerto Rican cuisine at home.
17. Avena: Puerto Rican Breakfast Staple
The beloved Puerto Rican oatmeal, commonly known as Avena, is an essential item in every Puerto Rican pantry. Puerto Ricans love to eat oatmeal for breakfast and often sweeten it with staples like coconut milk, condensed milk, raisins, and guava paste.
This Puerto Rican pantry staple is a must-have for recreating breakfast dishes at home.
18. Garlic powder: Puerto Rican Flavor Booster
A must-have in any Puerto Rican kitchen, garlic powder is a flavor enhancer that adds an extra jolt to all types of culinary creations. Puerto Ricans love the flavor of garlic and often use it in Puerto Rican stews, soups, sauces, and rice dishes.
Garlic powder is a must-have pantry item for adding flavor and depth to Puerto Rican dishes.
19. Cream of Coconut: Puerto Rican Sweetener
Cream of coconut is an essential ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine, providing a sweet flavor to dishes that can be found in every Puerto Rican pantry. Puerto Ricans love coconut flavor, and coconut cream is used to sweeten Puerto Rican favorites like tembleque (Puerto Rican coconut custard) or for cakes and pastries.
20. Brown Sugar: Puerto Rican Sweetness
From coffee to desserts, brown sugar is a key component of many traditional Puerto Rican dishes. This essential ingredient adds a unique sweetness that has become integral to the island’s beloved cuisine.
Puerto Ricans love the flavor of brown sugar and often use it in cakes, cookies, and so much more.
21. Canned Octopus: Puerto Rican Seafood Delight
Ensalada de pulpo, or octopus salad, is a Puerto Rican favorite, and Puerto Ricans often turn to canned octopus for a convenient way to make this beloved dish. Puerto Ricans love the flavor of octopus, and canned octopus is often used as an ingredient in Puerto Rican stews, soups, salads, and rice dishes.
Check out this Ensalada de Pulpo recipe!
22. Green Olives: An Essential Puerto Rican Ingredient
Green olives are an essential Puerto Rican pantry item that adds a salty, briny flavor to Puerto Rican dishes.
We love the flavor of green olives and often use them in Puerto Rican stews, meats, soups, and rice dishes.
For crafting the flavor of Puerto Rico in your own kitchen, this pantry staple is an absolute must-have.
23. Chocolate Cortes: Puerto Rican Chocolate Treat
Chocolate Cortes is an iconic Puerto Rican treat that is often enjoyed as a dessert or snack. Puerto Ricans love Cortes’s creamy, chocolatey flavor and use it in cakes, cookies, hot chocolates, and other desserts.
If you’re looking to bring the flavors of Puerto Rico into your kitchen, then this pantry staple is an absolute necessity.
24. Olive oil, Vinegar, Oil: Puerto Rican Cooking Essentials
Olive oil, vinegar, and oil are all essential components of Puerto Rican culinary culture. The vibrant flavor is heightened by infusing olive oil into dishes like sofrito or stews, allowing for a truly authentic experience.
Additionally, by using vinegar in dishes such as pickled salads and Puerto Rican-style beans, Boricuas can create a truly mouth-watering flavor that is often found in their cuisine.
Oils are used for frying Puerto Rican favorites such as plantains and tostones, completing other traditional dishes with a delicious crunch. Crafting Puerto Rican dishes at home is effortless with these essential pantry staples from the Caribbean.
25. Mayonaisse and Kethcup: Puerto Rican Condiment
Mayonnaise and ketchup are staples that Puerto Ricans use to add flavor to Puerto Rican dishes. When combined and adding other seasonings, you can create Puerto Rican dressings and sauces, such as Mayokethcup (a Puerto Rican favorite!).
Puerto Ricans love the flavor of these condiments and often use them as a topping for meats, sandwiches, and Puerto Rican-style burgers.
26. Flour: Puerto Rican Baking Essential
Flour is an essential Puerto Rican pantry item that Puerto Ricans use to make cakes, cookies, and other treats. We love the flavor of Puerto Rican baked goods, and flour is essential for recreating desserts at home.
One popular recipe is guanime, which is made of cornmeal, flour, and basic pantry staples.
27. Canned Tomato Sauce: Puerto Rican Favorite
Puerto Ricans often rely on canned tomato sauce to unlock the flavors of their country and bring those tastes into their kitchens. We love the flavor of sofrito and sauces, and canned tomato sauce is essential for making Puerto Rican dishes at home.
Tomato sauce is also used in stews, soups, rice dishes, and other Puerto Rican dishes.
28. Canned Meat: Puerto Rican Pantry Essential
Canned meat is essential in Puerto Rican cuisine, allowing locals to create traditional dishes and flavors. Canned meat such as corned beef, canned ham, such as “jamonilla,” spam, and Vienna sausages as they don’t require refrigeration, and often use these canned meats for dishes such as Arroz on Jamonilla, beans with Vienna sausages and Puerto Rican-style spaghetti.
You might enjoy this post, 20 Cheap and Easy Canned Ham Recipes!
29. Red Peppers: Puerto Rican Ingredient
Puerto Ricans often incorporate red peppers into their cooking, as they add a burst of flavor and vibrance to any meal. These scrumptious peppers are an indispensable part of the Puerto Rican pantry!
Boricuas use canned or jarred red peppers in rice dishes, stews, sauces, dips, and soups. The addition of this Puerto Rican pantry staple really brings Puerto Rican flavors to life.
30. Ham and Chicken Flavor Concentrates: Puerto Rican Flavor Boosters
Puerto Ricans often use ham or chicken flavor concentrates on heightening Puerto Rican dishes. You can add flavor to your dishes by using ham or chicken flavor concentrates, which come in powder form and can be added to soups, rice dishes, and stews.