Continuing with the Christmas recipe series, I give you the “ensalada de coditos”, elbow pasta salad. This side dish that is seen in almost all Puerto Rican events: from Christmas parties to quinceañeros (sweet fifteens). It complements the “arroz con gandules” (rice and pigeon peas) […]
Vegan Coquito I’m continuing with the Christmas spirit, and I am sharing with y’all the recipe for vegan coquito. It’s not Christmas in Puerto Rico without coquito. Whether you like it with rum or without, this sweet, coconut-based drink is delicious. Without rum it is […]
Llegó, llegó, llegó la Navidad ♪♪ Hola! It is officially Christmas!! And those who know me know that it is my favorite time of the year. There are a lot of things I love about this time of year, including what it personally represents in my life. If you didn’t know, Puerto Rico’s Christmas is the longest in the world. It runs from right after Thanksgiving through January 6th, which is Three Kings’ Day. And after that, there’s the “octavitas”, eight more days of celebration. Yes, we love to party haha. But, aside from the actual meaning of Christmas and how long I celebrate, my favorite part of Christmas is the food! In Puerto Rico, the food we eat for Christmas is as typical Puerto Rican as you will ever get and is delicious. It is also pretty meat-heavy, unfortunately. However, plenty of the food can be made vegan! I will share with you some recipes through the following weeks, so you can be Christmas-ready.
First up, is “arroz con gandules” (rice with green pigeon peas) with pulled “pernil” (pork) jackfruit. “Arroz con gandules” is THE Christmas dish. It is eaten year-round, but not as much as during Christmas, and you definitely can’t go without it in your parties. And my Puerto Rican “pork” jackfruit recipe attempts to imitate, at least in part, a huge part of our Christmas tradition, which is eating pig, which are often roasted whole over fire. Obviously, I am not for that practice anymore, so I veganized it. I’m not going to say it tastes exactly like pork, but I did get pretty close to taste and maybe even some of the texture of pulled Puerto Rican style pork. It may look a bit odd, but I promise it does taste good. And if you’re not interested, the “arroz con gandules” is still the star of this show. I have to admit though, that I do not like beans, pigeon peas or legumes, eek! I know, I know, am I even Puerto Rican? Anyway, I just pick off the “gandules” (pigeon peas) and eat the rice. The rice doesn’t taste the same without the “gandules”, though! Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get to the recipe!
Making the Rice
To make this rice, we usually use a “caldero”, which is basically a rice-making pot, such as this one. If not, you can always make it in a stock pot. I would suggest a pot that is a bit wide, instead of tall and narrow, so that the rice cooks evenly. This recipe starts out in a pretty familiar way, with the “guiso”. Heat the oil on med/high heat. When oil is hot, add the sofrito (see my post on sofrito here), olives with peppers, and sazón (use the packets or make your own – see my post here). Turn down the heat to med/low and cook for about three minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook for another three to four minutes. Then, pour in the pigeon peas and combine with sauce; cook for two minutes, stirring every so often. Add in the rice, water and adobo, and combine with the pigeon peas, then bring to a simmer.
Simmer until most of the water has evaporated, for about seven to ten minutes. This is an essential part of the process. Depending on how much water you leave in the pot before covering it, you will get either a drier and looser, or wetter and stickier rice. It is a matter of taste, but don’t cover it before most of the water evaporates. It will be inedible if you do. While the rice is simmering, stir occasionally so the rice does not stick to the bottom. After the water evaporates, cover the rice and cook for ten minutes. Do not uncover the rice under any circumstance before those ten minutes are up. Then uncover and turn the rice. Make sure that you rotate all the rice from the bottom to the top. Cover again and cook for an additional ten minutes. Bonus, if you use a “caldero”, you will probably get “pegao”, which is a layer of rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot and gets sticky and hard (it’s yummy!). Serve right away!
Making the Pulled Jackfruit
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Drain two cans of jackfruit and shred it with your hands so it looks like pulled pork. I personally don’t like the squishy, round parts so I take them out. Pat the jackfruit dry and, in a bowl, mix with the oil, spices, sazón, and garlic. Lay the jackfruit onto a lined baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake covered for 15 minutes. Then, uncover and leave baking for another 15 minutes. Serve with the “arroz con gandules” and “tostones” (fried plantains)!
Arroz con Gandules y Pernil de Jaca/Rice and Pigeon Peas with Jackfruit "Pork"
Arroz con Gandules
- 2 cups medium grain white rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 can (15 oz) green pigeon peas
- 4 tbsp sofrito
- 1 1/2 tbsp salad olives with peppers
- 2 1/2 tsp or two packets sazón/seasoning
- 6 tbsp tomato sauce
- 2 tsp adobo
- 2 cans (14 oz) young jackfruit
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsbp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp sazón/seasoning
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
Arroz con Gandules/Rice with Pigeon Peas
- Heat the oil on med/high heat
- Turn down the heat to med/low and cook for about three minutes
- Add the tomato sauce and cook for another three to four minutes
- Pour in the pigeon peas and combine with sauce; cook for two minutes, stirring every so often
- Add in the rice, water and adobo, and combine with the pigeon peas, then bring to a simmer
- Simmer until most of the water has evaporated, for about seven to ten minutes. While the rice is simmering, stir occasionally so the rice does not stick to the bottom
- After the water evaporates, cover the rice and cook for ten minutes. Do not uncover the rice under any circumstance before those ten minutes are up
- Uncover and turn the rice. Make sure that you rotate all the rice from the bottom to the top
- Cover again and cook for an additional ten minutes.
"Pernil" de Jaca/Jackfruit "Pork"
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- Drain two cans of jackfruit and shred it with your hands so it looks like pulled pork
- Pat the jackfruit dry and, in a bowl, mix with the oil, spices, sazón, and garlic
- Lay the jackfruit onto a lined baking sheet and cover with foil
- Bake covered for 15 minutes
- Uncover and leave baking for another 15 minutes
The Thanksgiving food traditions in Puerto Rico are a bit different from the American ones. You will be hard-pressed to find any cranberry sauce at a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving gathering, for example. We usually have mostly everything we would have at Christmas: “arroz con gandules” […]
Alcapurrias! I have to say this is one of my favorite recipes ever. Not only is it super yummy, but it is very close to my heart. In Puerto Rico, family and traditions are definitely two of the cornerstones of our culture. Food is probably […]
Do you remember going to family parties and always seeing the one appetizer you never ate? Well, those were “guineítos en escabeche” for me haha. They are briny green bananas (yes, unripened bananas), and at the tender age of 5, my taste buds could not handle it. As I grew up, however, I came to absolutely love that dish. It is a simple dish, that can be made as an appetizer or as accompaniment for any dish. In Puerto Rico, it is usually served at holiday parties (i.e. Thanksgiving to Three Kings Day), and I am there for all of that. Whenever I make and eat this dish it makes me so happy. It brings back memories of good times on the island. In other Latin American countries, “escabeche” means different things. But in Puerto Rico, it means this fantastic briny marinade.
The main ingredient for this recipe is green bananas. Yes, unripened, green bananas. A lot of people do not use green bananas and are not familiar with it as an ingredient. Here in Austin it is a bit hard to come by, but the Latin and Asian supermarkets sometimes carry it. To pick out the perfect green bananas for this recipe, choose bananas that do not have even a bit of yellow. Also, make sure that the bananas are hard. If you squeeze them and they have a squishy give, they are already too ripe.
Prepare the Escabeche
First, peel the bananas and fill up a large casserole with water and some salt. Put the bananas in the water and boil for about 20 minutes, or until the bananas are soft enough for you to insert a fork, but not so soft that the bananas crumbles. Check after 15 minutes for this, just in case. While the bananas are boiling, combine the sliced onions, olive oil, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper corns, garlic, salad olives, “adobo”, and salt, in a small medium saucepan to make the “escabeche”. Leave it at a medium/low heat so that the mixture warms up but does not boil, for about 10- 15 minutes. You want it to be warm and the onions softened a bit. If you use the full cup of white vinegar, the taste will be tangier and brinier. I like the tangy flavor, but if you are not sure, start with a ½ cup of vinegar and add more after you taste it, if you like.
When the bananas are done boiling, carefully drain them and cut them up into ½ inch pieces. Place them in a glass bowl and pour the warmed-up sauce over them. Leave them in the fridge preferably overnight. The more time you leave them marinating, the better it will taste.
Serve at room temperature as an appetizer in your holiday parties, or as an accompaniment with any of the amazing holiday recipes that are coming!
Guineítos en escabeche/Puerto Rican Green Bananas
- 7-8 green bananas
- 2 onions, halved and sliced
- 6 bay leaves
- 1/2 tbsp whole black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 1/2 tbsp salad olives My favorite is Goya
- 1 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 tsp or to taste salt
- 1 tsp or to taste adobo My favorite is Goya
- Peel the bananas and fill up a large casserole with water and some salt.
- Put the bananas in the water and boil for about 20 minutes, or until the bananas are soft enough for you to insert a fork, but not so soft that the bananas fall apart. Check after 15 minutes for this, just in case.
- While the bananas are boiling, combine the sliced onions, olive oil, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper corns, garlic, salad olives, and “adobo” or salt, in a small medium saucepan.
- Leave them at a medium/low heat so that the mixture warms up but does not boil, for about 10- 15 minutes. You want it to be warm and the onions softened a bit.
- If you use the full cup of white vinegar, the taste will be tangier and brinier. I like the tangy flavor, but if you are not sure, start with a ½ cup of vinegar and add more after you taste it, if you like.
- When the bananas are done boiling, carefully drain them and cut them up into ½ inch pieces.
- Place them in a glass bowl and pour the warmed-up "escabeche" over them.
- Leave them in the fridge preferably overnight. The more time you leave them marinating, the better it will taste.
- Serve at room temperature as an appetizer or accompaniment
To me, this is one of the simplest recipes that I love. It’s just the fried chicken chicharrones (seitan – with lots of flavor, mind you), and fried plantains. However, that simplicity makes it so tasty. It’s the kind of meal I used to eat […]
Sofrito is the base for a lot of Puerto Rican dishes. Namely, “guisos” or Puerto Rican style stews. Aside from being delicious, homemade sofrito is super special to me, since it is part of my life’s, my family’s aromas. I am transported back to my […]
“Sazón”, or seasoning in English, is one of the central ingredients in Puerto Rican “guisos”, or stews. Its main function is to give a redish color to food, but it also adds some flavor. My go-to “sazón” has always been the Goya brand with “culantro and achiote” (annatto) in packets. I have always loved these little packets of magic. They smell delicious and fill the kitchen with an authentic Puerto Rican food aroma.
To be honest, I had never bothered to check what was in those magical little packets, except for annatto, obviously. It turns out it contains two artificial dyes, Red 40 and Yellow 5. These two ingredients are controversial given that, even though they don’t contain animal product, they are often tested on animals. Also, artificial dyes have been questioned for years now.
So, in order to use a more natural ingredient, I tried several combinations and got pretty close to “sazón” as it’s sold in packets. It is not exactly the same, but it comes pretty close and does the job. Combine annatto (achiote), garlic powder, cumin, coriander, and salt (see proportions below). Feel free to adjust the proportions based on what you like. And if you like your “guisos”/stews as red as I do, knock yourself out with the annatto, it doesn’t really taste like anything. This amount of mix makes the rough equivalent of about seven little packets. In my experience, it does not keep well for long.
Use this mix in all recipes that call for “sazón” if you want a natural alternative to packaged seasoning.
- 1 tbsp achiote/annatto
- 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in airtight container for later use.
Rice and beans are one of the pillars of Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s one of those things that a regular Puerto Rican household eats several times a week with white rice. And it’s perfect for vegans. Beans are chock full of protein and are very […]