If you visit regularly or have been reading this blog for a while you probably have seen the ingredient “sofrito” or “recaito” mentioned a few times in my Puerto Rican recipes. This is a must-have condiment to keep on hand for any Puerto Rican dish. It is the entire island’s secret ingredient. Don’t tell them I told you.
What is Puerto Rican Sofrito?
Sofrito is the beginning of all the best recipes and gives Puerto Rican cuisine its distinctive flavor. It is an aromatic base much like the Cajun holy trinity or mirepoix.
Because there are so many more ingredients in PR sofrito it is worthwhile to make it ahead and freeze some in an ice cube tray. Those little cubes of flavor loaded with garlic, culantro, peppers, and capers will jazz up beans and rice dishes and Latin American soups as well as serve as your base for most Puerto Rican cookery.
Some of my favorite recipes that use Puerto Rican recaito base are arroz con pollo, sopa de pollo con fideo, and pasteles de yuca.
Recaito vs. Sofrito
You may have noticed that I use the words recaito and sofrito interchangeably. They are basically the same thing. Traditionally, Spanish sofrito contains tomatoes making it red. Puerto Rican sofrito does not include a tomato product so it retains the green coloring of the herbs.
Goya makes a sofrito and recaito which you can find in the Latin freezer section of most grocery stores. They also carry a jarred version in the dry goods department. For Puerto Rican cooking you will want to use the Goya Recaito as it is the green one. Think green go, red no.
That said, it is worthwhile to skip the grocery store and make a batch at home. It will last up to a year in your freezer and add a Puerto Rican kick to your cooking.
What is recao (culantro)?
Recao is also called culantro and will probably be the hardest thing to find on your list of ingredients. If you have a local Asian or Latin market, go there first. Besides the culantro, you’ll find all kinds of interesting foods to try.
Other names for this pungent herb are Mexican coriander, ngo gai, sawtooth coriander, and shadow beni.
Culantro smells and tastes a lot like cilantro but it is not the same thing. It is a completely different plant with longer, broader serrated leaves. The flavor is stronger than cilantro so you don’t need as much for the same effect. Furthermore, it can be cooked up in your recipe rather than added later as a condiment or garnish.
As I said, it is hard to find so if you do run across some, buy a bunch to make up a big batch of homemade sofrito.
Puerto Rican Sofrito Ingredients
- Spanish olives
- extra virgin olive oil
- sweet chili peppers
- green bell pepper
- roasted red peppers
- crushed oregano
- salt and pepper
How to Make Puerto Rican Sofrito
Don’t give up on the sofrito if you can’t find culantro or sweet chili peppers. Simply add another handful of cilantro to replace the cilantro and use red bell pepper in place of the sweet chili peppers.
Once you have the ingredients assembled, give the vegetables a rough chop, and place them in your food processor or blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick pesto.
It is ready to use if you are. If not, scoop it into clean ice cube trays and freeze the recaito before storing in plastic freezer bags.
A note on the peppers: sweet chili peppers, aji dulces, are a staple in PR cookery. However, they look a lot like hot Jamaican peppers or tiny habaneros, these peppers are easily mistaken for each other.
Ask me how I know. The hot Jamaican peppers are very hot, so make sure you have the sweet chili peppers. Always handle any pepper carefully, keeping your hands away from your face.
Finally, here are a couple of great resources for other aromatic bases for cooking Mirepoix 101 from the Pioneer Woman and The Spruce Eats treatment of the cajun trinity.
Recaito (Puerto Rican Sofrito)
Puerto Rican sofrito is the aromatic base that defines the flavor of Puerto Rican cuisine. It is also known as Recaito.
- 2 bunches culantro (if you can't find you can sub cilantro)
- 2 small heads of garlic
- 2 large onion
- 1/2 lb. sweet chili peppers
- 2 large green bell peppers
- ½ cup olives with pimientos
- 1 4 oz jar roasted red peppers
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 2 tablespoon crushed oregano
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse, peel, and chop vegetables. Combine in blender or food processor and puree.
- Spoon into an ice tray and freeze. Store cubes in a zip-loc bag. Each cube measures 1 tbs.
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Ozera 2 Pack Silicone Ice Cube Tray, Ice Cube Trays Molds, Large Ice Cube Tray for Whiskey, Easy Release Flexible Ice Cube Molds 15 Ice Cubes for Cocktail, Chocolate
KitchenAid KSB4027WH K400 Countertop Blender, 56 Ounce, White
Cuisinart DFP-14BCNY 14-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless Steel - Silver
Serving Size:1 cube
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 53Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 158mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
more Puerto Rican recipes you’ll love
Include some more Puerto Rican flavors on your dinner table! Try some of these traditional recipes:
- Habichuelas Guisadas | Puerto Rican Beans
- Arroz con Gandules | How to Make Puerto Rican Rice and Pigeon Peas
- Slow Cooker Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder)
- Chicken Fricassee (Fricase de Pollo)
- Sancocho (Puerto Rican Beef Stew)
- Chuleta Frita (Puerto Rican Fried Pork Chops)
- Braised Pork Chops + Vegetables (Chuletas a La Jardinera)
- Pastelon (Puerto Rican Sweet Plantain Lasagna)
- Spanish Bean Soup
- Asopao de Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice Soup)
- Asopao de Camarones
As always you can find tons of delicious PR dishes in my Puerto Rican recipe collection.
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Do you know how long recaíto lasts in the fridge?
Looking forward to making this! But what exactly is “Culantro”? Is that just a type of cilantro? Am i dumb? lol
The Noshery says
Culantro is an herb. It is also called recao. It is not cilantro but if you cannot find it cilantro is an appropriate substitution.
Culantro can be found in many Asian and Latin markets.
kathryn kupper says
My parents split when I was in like 1st grade, but as far as I can remember, my step dads family sent pastels in the mail straight from Puerto Rico Every year. It was the most amazing treat. This recipe sounds just like what I’ve been looking to recreate!! I will post photos and comments when I’m done!
Anxious to try your Spanish Garbanzo Soup! Trying to figure out how to do that without making a trip to Cleveland’s (OH) West Side where all the Goya aisles are:) I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your website. I wish it had been there 37 yrs ago when I was a young bride. My Puerto Rican husband’s mother was THE BEST cook! I learned a lot from her but, of course, no recipes and little English. Puerto Rican cuisine was unknown territory to me back then but now, after more than 40 yrs, I consider myself not too bad…but still not as good as Doña Cielo! Keep up the excellent work, Meseidy!
Brenda Rosario says
where i live i cannot find sweet chili peppers..( aji dulce ) can i replace them with something else
Yes, I use sweet mini peppers. They usually are tri-color. I find them in a bag at my local grocery store.
About the Habaneros. Well, I live in Dallas, TX and when I saw what I thought were round sweet peppers from P.R, I was so glad to find them. I bought a bunch and decided to prepare sofrito. Then I decided to prepare red beans. After been in the kitchen a couple of hours, I was serving my husband his dinner and we were sitting and there it was a scream of desesperation….
I saw your recipe over on Tasty Kitchen…and I just had to come see what the ingredients were. Living in the mountains of NC I was not likely to find sofrito….so I will try and make some from your recipe. Thanks.
Hi, I just found your website via your “Pollo Sofrito” recipe at Tasty Kitchen. I’m looking forward to making this, but I don’t know what “cappers” are. Do you mean “capers”?
LOL yes, apparently I hit the “p” one time too many.
I’m so glad I found your blog! Thanks Tasty Kitchen! I am planning on making your chicken curry tomorrow and then I clicked on your blog and found out you were Puerto Rican. My husband is Puerto Rican also, so my last three years have been a crazy foray into learning some Puerto Rican cuisine. I have learned about all things Goya, especially Adobo, and sofrito. I make my own, though I have never been able to find culantro (I actually just get weird looks at every Latin American market I go to) or aji dulces so I just use extra cilantro and red bell peppers. I don’t use olives either, though I might include them next time. Now I’m off to explore more of your blog!
I am so happy to find your site! I’m making your slow cooked pork today and the house smells so good… I found you thru Tasty Kitchen. I’m trying to learn to make as many puerto rican dishes that my fiance loves while he is working overseas. He loves to cook as do I. Most of my dishes are Asian (I’m Vietnamese) and I just want to impress him when he comes home for Christmas… so I’m working on my skills! Thank you!