American Indian Health

Foods of Puerto Rico

El Mercado Puerto Rico Puerto Rican Foods. Mango, papaya, guava, passion fruit, guanabana, peppers, coconuts, fish. Traditionally, the people had a wealth of fresh foods to chose from. Like other places, however, processed foods have often taken center stage on the tables.

Popular foods in Puerto Rico include the national dish, mofongo (below), made with fried and mashed plantains that are mixed with shrimp, bacon, olive oil and garlic. I found it very dense and could only eat about a third of it.


This is the dense arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas, mashed together and fried in a patty) and a side of mofongo.

arroz con gandules

Puerto Rican Fish Fried red snapper and a basic salad served at our hotel, the Hotel La Playa


I have always envisioned Puerto Rican foods as fresh, without too much embellishment. I was surprised to discover that much of the food in Puerto Rico is deep-fried and that fast food establishments have infiltrated the entire island. See below. Luckily there were many Subway sandwich shops that at least had dependable ingredients.

We found plenty of side-of-the-road kiosks that mainly serve fried foods, such as pinchos, empanadas or pastelillos, tostones,etc. We tried a few empanadas but found it hard to identify the filling.

Puerto Rican Road Stand Puerto Rican road stands

Puerto Rican road stands Puerto Rican stands

Puerto Rican road stands Puerto Rican road stands and horsesEverything in the stands were fried.

You can find fruit if you look. No doubt, locals can easily find some. The fruit we bought by the roadsides was hit-and-miss. Some were mushy. These shots were taken June 2011 in the Plaza del Mercado, where we had better luck.

Plaza de Mercado puerto rican fruit

right: Chayote, a staple of Aztecs and Mayans

passion fruit yucca

left: Passion Fruit right: taro root

Puerto Rican fruit Puerto rican fruit

left: Calabaza, bananas right: Yuca (also known as cassava), taro, guava, chayote root

aloe vera puerto rico fruits

left: Aloe vera right: Cachucha chili peppers.


Above: papayas

Below The store features a fruit smoothie stand that uses real fruit chunks--very different from many of the stands we encountered that only used flavored syrup and ice. Right. A bottle of very hot sauce.

Plaza de Mercado fruit smoothies Puerto Rican peppers


Below. This fried food (empanadas) was across the aisle from the smoothies.

Puerto Rican Fried foods

Puerto Rico "snacks" A "Native Snacks" stand at Old San Juan. All the foods were fried and the smoothies made with sugar syrup.

Signs of the Times:

Puerto Rico fast foods Puerto Rican fast foods Puerto Rican fast foods