Puerto Rican Christmas Foods for a Feliz Navidad

There are only 1.7% Puerto Ricans in the US population, and they make up only 9.5% of the country’s Latin population. You may or may not be not too familiar with Puerto Rican dishes or people. But you should!

Puerto Rico is filled with amazing traditions and culture. If you’re looking to make your holiday seasons more exciting, then you’ve got to try some of their food from this tiny island nation.

In this article, we’ll show you some of the best Puerto Rican foods for the holidays so that you can add to your recipes list!

Gandules en Escabeche

Gandules en escabeche is also known as green pigeon pea escabeche. It’s like ceviche, but foods that are “en escabeche” are usually cooked and pickled. The ingredients include shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, lemon peel, green pigeon peas, white vinegar, salt, and red bell pepper.

This Puerto Rican dish is usually served as an appetizer, but you can also eat it throughout your Christmas meal as a small side dish.

Other popular “en escabeche” dishes include yuca (or cassava) and guineitos (green bananas).

Pasteles

Puerto Rican Christmas Pasteles wrapped in banana leaf
Puerto Rican Christmas Pasteles

You may be familiar with Mexican tamales and Chinese zongzi; they’re both wrapped (with leaves and corn husks) and steamed.

Pasteles are very similar! These are wrapped in plantain leaves and stuffed with ajices dulces (small sweet peppers), onion, recaito (sofrito sauce), garlic, adobo, oregano, bay leaf, and meat, usually pork. But instead of steaming them, you boil pasteles.

Pastelitos de Morcilla

Puerto Rican Pastelitos de Morcilla on rustic wooden tray
Pastelitos de Morcilla

Pastelitos de morcilla are fried empanadas stuffed with blood sausage (morcilla).

While your family and friends are waiting around for the main course to be served, you can throw a few of these into the deep fryer so they have something warm and filling to munch down on as you prepare the Christmas main course.

Pernil

Puerto Rican Christmas Pernil asado shredded pork on white plate
Pernil

Pernil is pork shoulder, which is both soft and rich in taste.

When you get your Puerto Rican pork shoulder, season it with adobo the night before so it absorbs all the flavor.

Then, trim off the excess fat, and score it. What results is a delicious pork shoulder roast which melts in your mouth.

Lechon Asado

Puerto Rican Lechon Asado with lime wedge on a plate
Puerto Rican Lechon Asado

This is another main dish to consider. Lechon asado is a roast suckling pig that is prepared on a spit, and it’s popular in many other Latin cultures.

It’ll make for a grand spectacle at your Christmas dinner!

Of course, if you don’t have the time, money, or space to roast a whole suckling pig, you can scale down the recipe to make just the pernil pork shoulder.

Pastelon de Yuca

Pastelon de Yuca is a yuca (cassava) casserole. If you have vegetarian friends, or you just don’t like eating much meat, this can be a nice dish to add to your Christmas dinner versus the traditional Puerto Rican pastelón dish.

The ingredients include yucca, coconut milk, annatto oil, salt, banana leaf, and soy picadillo.

To make this into a meaty dish, you can substitute the soy picadillo for beef picadillo or shredded chicken.

Risotto de Gandules

Remember gandules en escabeche from above? You can buy a little extra and make risotto de gandules with it!

While you can make a vegetarian dish by only using gandules, rice, and other veggies, you can also add some chorizo or ham to give it some more depth. Either way, you’ll have a rich dish to serve at your Christmas dinner.

Guineitos en Escabeche

Guineitos en escabeche is a pickled green banana dish. It’s served with onions and capers, so this is definitely a dish for people who love pickled foods.

If you want to save some time on making this dish, you can buy green bananas that are already boiled from the lechonera. That way, you’ll have more time to prepare everything else!

Coquito

Puerto Rican Christmas Coquito Eggnog with cinnamon stick in glass mug
Puerto Rican Coquito Eggnog

You can’t have Christmas without eggnog. Thankfully, Puerto Rico has their own version of it: Coquito.

This drink has coconut milk, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, and egg and rum, of course. While Puerto Ricans traditionally drink it in a shot glass or small cup, you can just pour a mug for everyone at your party.

Arborio Rice Pudding with Guava Sauce

Time for some Puerto Rican desserts! This sweet but light dessert will delight your palate with the unique guava sauce.

To make the guava sauce, you’ll need to puree fresh guava and combine with sugar. Once it’s heated up on the stove for a bit, it becomes an amazing guava sauce.

The rice pudding itself is pretty simple, as you’ll only need salt, milk, white sugar, and vanilla extract. It takes about an hour to boil all the ingredients and get rice pudding out of it.

Tembleque

Tembleque is another Puerto Rican pudding. It’s made of coconut milk, milk, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and cornstarch. You can also add some extra spices if you’d like, such as vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, rum, cream of coconut, orange blossom water; the sky’s the limit!

When you and your guests are all full from Christmas dinner, tembleque is the perfect dessert to finish off your meal!

Mallorca Bread & Bread Pudding

Mallorca Puerto Rican Breakfast Pastry
Mallorca Puerto Rican Breakfast Pastry

This bread pudding is reminiscent of coquito in the taste. The ingredients include stale mallorca (sweet bread), heavy cream, whole milk, eggs, white sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and vanilla extract.

This warm dessert will have everyone gathered around the fireplace, sipping coquito and reveling in the amazing tastes of this bread pudding.

Taste the Flavors of Puerto Rico this Christmas

Puerto Rican Flag Christmas Holly and balls
Feliz Navidad!

Sure, there are traditional American dishes for Christmas, but don’t you want to make things more festive? Now that you know a bit about Puerto Rican Christmas treats, you can!

For the next holiday season, surprise all your loved ones with an array of Puerto Rican dishes like the ones we’ve talked about above. They’ll appreciate the surprise, and more importantly the deliciousness!

If you’re interested in other Puerto Rican foods, then check out our selection now!

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