1.  Mofongo

Mofongo is the unofficial king of Puerto Rican cuisine. This is a tasty and filling concoction of mashed plantain, seasonings and a virtually unlimited choice of filling; vegetarian, shrimp, steak, pork, seafood … whatever your dietary preference, there is a mofongo to match it! You can also find mofongo everywhere.

Mofongo relleno with jumbo shrimp Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. - Aaron Perkins/aaronperkins/flickr.com Creative Commons License

2.  Lechón

Ahh, the famous, succulent roast suckling pig of Puerto Rico, also known as lechón. People have come from far and wide to sample this delicacy, and I know at least one person who broke their no-pork-eating vow to try it. It’s that irresistible.

Photo © Zain Deane

3.  Arroz con Gandules

If mofongo is the unofficial standard of Puerto Rico, arroz con gandules is the national dish of the island. Pigeon peas with rice has distinctly Caribbean roots, but the ‘Rican twist to the dish is its secret sauce, known as sofrito. Arroz con gandules is typically made with ham, pork, chorizo, red peppers and olives (if you’re paying attention to the historical connection, the Spanish certainly responsible for these ingredients).

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4.  Asopao

Remember mom’s chicken soup? Well in Puerto Rico, they remember mom’s asopao. This is a homemade classic – a savory soup usually made with chicken and rice. Fortunately, many restaurants have the dish on their menus, as it’s a perennial favorite with islanders. It’s more like a gumbo than a soup, and it can come in several variations, including chicken, shellfish, pork, ham, peppers, pigeon peas, olives, and tomatoes, among other ingredients.

Photo © Zain Deane

5.  Fritters, Alcapurrias, and Other Fried Snacks

The final entry in the top five is not so much a dish as a whole smorgasbord of finger foods that can be found all over the island. These include cuchifritos, alcapurrias (a kind of fried turnover), frituras, almojábanas (cheese-flavored rice fritters), bacalaítos (codfish-flavored fritters), and buñuelos (yam fritters), to name just a few.

Chuletas Can Can

A melodic name for a Puerto Rican original, chuletas can can is a butterflied pork chop served with ribs and cuero, or fried pork skin. The dish was invented at a famous Puerto Rican restaurant called La Guardarraya.

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Pernil

Pernil, or pork shoulder, has much of the same flavor as lechón asado. A popular item during the holidays, it is seasoned with garlic, black pepper, oregano, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Pernil is also a favorite meat for sandwiches at panaderías.

Gandinga

This one’s for the gourmand who likes to try new things. Gandinga is a rich stew that features pig organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. Flavored and cooked with tomatoes, onions and sofrito seasoning, it’s a heavy meal and not found in many restaurants.

Pastelón

This is a dish that you might have to hunt for, even in Puerto Rico. Pastelón is a kind of lasagna made from sweet plantains. The dish is usually made with ground beef and tomato sauce  (like a regular lasagna), but the plantains give it a sweetness and a texture that’s completely unique.

Pastelón