Puerto Rico is an island nation that is officially a territory of the United States. Puerto Rican cuisine has evolved from several strong influences, including those of the original peoples, such as the Tainos, and the Spanish conquerors that drove most of the natives out and enslaved the remaining. African and Caribbean influence is also reflected in the cuisine of the island, which has also been shaped significantly by its climate and geology.
Cocina criolla, one of the main cuisine styles particular to the island has deep roots, extending far back to the native Tainos and Arawaks. Their culinary traditions were based tropical fruits, native vegetables, seafood, and corn. With the Spanish came a host of other ingredients that expanded the criolla style. These included olive oil, rice, wheat and meats, such as pork and beef. As enslaved African peoples were imported for work on the sugar cane plantations, their culinary traditions took root as well, and their contributions, which included taro and okra, became assimilated into the whole of criolla cuisine.
Many of the island’s main dishes are seasoned with adobo and sofrito, spice mixtures that impart those flavors that the island is so well known for. Adobo, which can vary from cook to cook, or if bought prepared, from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally consists of black peppercorns, oregano, salt, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. When bought prepared in powdered form, most include salt, powdered garlic, citric acid, pepper, oregano, turmeric and MSG, which is a good reason to spend a little time making your own if experimenting with Puerto Rican cuisine at home. While generally used for seasoning meats, it is considered to be a sort of all-purpose seasoning mixture.
Sofrito Chicken and pork adobo