24 Puerto Rican Christmas Foods for the Holiday

Puerto Rican Christmas Foods
Image credit: discoverpuertorico.com

Many cultures have foods that are traditionally eaten at their most festive of holidays, and Puerto Rican cuisine is no exception.

In fact, during the Christmas season, they often celebrate with several distinct types of Puerto Rican Christmas foods and drinks

See some of the holiday favorites below to learn more about these traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods.

They are served on December 25th and 26th as part of the Navidad celebration! Let’s surge!

1. Tembleque

The Puerto Rico holiday season is a time of festivities and family gatherings. Tembleque is a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas food on the table during these celebrations.

This is a Puerto Rican coconut pudding that can be either sweet or savory. There are as many variations for this dish as there are cooks in Puerto Rico, but here are some recipes for the traditional sweet version.

For the sweet version, you will need coconut milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks, and pandan leaves (optional). Meanwhile, the pandan leaves add a delicious flavor that many people love.

You can buy them from most grocery stores in the international section near Asian foods. Bring your ingredients to a boil over medium heat and then simmer until it thickens into a pudding consistency.

2. Coquito

There is nothing better than the sights and smells of Christmas in the kitchen. The smell of fresh baked cookies, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And the sound of a lively celebration going on with your family and friends around you. 

I hold Puerto Rican Christmas foods near and dear to my heart, including Coquito! This delicious drink is made from coconut milk, sweet condensed milk, cream of coconut, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon.

I can’t think about Christmas without Coquito in my life! It’s like eggnog for all those who are not allergic to eggs!

3. Puerto Rican Sofrito

Puerto Ricans make a delicious sauce called sofrito, which is used in many Puerto Rican Christmas foods. Sofrito is made with onion, garlic, cilantro, pepper, and tomatoes.

It’s important not to boil the ingredients in the sofrito because that will reduce its flavor. In Puerto Rico, it’s typically used for Arroz con gandules (rice and beans).

The rice is usually boiled, then the sofrito, beans, and some seasonings are added and boiled together until everything is cooked through. This dish can be served with plátanos maduros (ripe plantains) or pasteles (a pastry).

4. Flan

The traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods list doesn’t exclude flan. Flan is a popular dessert made from egg yolks, sugar, milk, and vanilla.

In addition, it can also be eaten in the morning. The most popular flan flavor is coconut because of the country’s tropical climate. 

5. Panetela

Panetela is a special cinnamon roll-like pastry found at Christmastime in Puerto Rico. To make this dessert, you need yeast, water, flour, and butter, which have some fat content.

Take my word for this; this is one of the best Puerto Rican Christmas foods that will make you yearn for more!

6. Puerto Rican Picadillo (Spiced Ground Beef)

A traditional dish often served during the holidays, Puerto Rican Picadillo is a spiced ground beef dish that makes for a hearty meal.

The main ingredients are ground beef, onion, tomato sauce, olives, capers, garlic, salt, and pepper. Don’t doubt it; this is one of the delicious Puerto Rican Christmas foods you can’t go wrong with! 

To make this dish, the ingredients are mixed in a pot and simmered for about an hour or until the meat has completely broken down.

Once the meat is tender enough to be cut with a spoon into small pieces (picadillo), it can then be served with rice or bread on the side. The key ingredient in this recipe is the tomato sauce which adds sweetness and acidity.

7. Arroz con habichuelas

Arroz con habichuelas, or rice and beans, is a popular dish during the holidays in Puerto Rico. This dish typically consists of white rice, black beans, olive oil, and garlic.

As one of the sumptuous Puerto Rican Christmas foods, it is usually served with a side of fried plantains or banana chips. 

Furthermore, the dish has many variations depending on the region of Puerto Rico where it’s being made.

Some people add tomatoes or other vegetables to the recipe, while others might use ham hocks as an alternative protein source.

Arroz con habichuelas can be served as a side dish or as an entree, depending on the amount of rice used.

This dish is traditionally served during holidays because it’s inexpensive and easy to make for large crowds.

8. Empanadillas

Empanadillas are classic Puerto Rican Christmas foods. They’re fried dough shaped into triangles and stuffed with cheese, ham, or other assorted fillings. It’s typically eaten as an appetizer or snack at parties or dinners. 

Usually, Empanadillas are served with a garlic sauce on the side and can be garnished with shredded lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, and ketchup.

The dough should be left in the fryer for a little longer than usual to get crispy and soft inside. The cheese filling should also be put in before frying so that it melts together better with the dough when cooking.

9. Alcapurrias

Though Alcapurrias are Puerto Rican foods typically eaten at Christmas, they are not only for the holidays.

Alcapurrias are made from mashed plantains with ground beef and cheese. Plantains are a fruit that resembles a banana, but it’s more starchy and less sweet. 

Basically, the meat is usually seasoned with cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano. Alcapurrias are shaped like thick fingers or small sausages.

The dough should be thin enough so you can see the shape of your hand through the dough, especially when you make it into an oval shape on a flat surface before frying them in hot oil.

10. Sancocho

Sancocho is a traditional Puerto Rican dish, and it’s traditionally served at Christmas time. It’s a soup that originated in Spain but has spread throughout Latin America. The word sancocho can be translated from Spanish as a soup with many ingredients. 

In Puerto Rico, the dish is typically made with root vegetables like yuca and malanga and meat like beef or chicken.

Other ingredients include plantains, potatoes, green bananas, corn on the cob, and cilantro. Frequently, Sancocho is served with rice and avocado salad on the side for added flavor.

About the various Puerto Rican Christmas foods, this dish will surely tingle your tongue and satisfy your palate!

11. Asopao

A popular dish in Puerto Rico and Latin America, asopao is a rice and chicken soup prepared with a shrimp base. It’s often eaten on New Year’s Day in Puerto Rico.

It can be made with either shrimp or chicken. The recipe below will use shrimp, but feel free to substitute the flavor with chicken if you prefer. 

First, cook long-grain rice in water for 20 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency. Once cooked, drain off excess water, so the rice is not too mushy; then set aside. You are bound to love this specialty on the Puerto Rican Christmas foods list!

12. Mofongo

Is the quintessential Puerto Rican dish served at almost every family gathering in December? The dish consists of mashed plantains mixed with garlic, olive oil, and salt and then fried in a cast-iron skillet. It’s then topped with garlicky fried pork rinds called chicharrón.

Next, crumpled bits of salted codfish called bacalao, hard-cooked eggs; shredded green olives; capers; chopped tomatoes, and onions are all mixed.

This dish is often served alongside Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or Arroz con Maiz (rice with corn).

If you’re looking for traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods that will have your guests raving, this one’s it!

13. Arroz con dulce

is one of the most traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods, and no holiday table is complete without it. It is a sweet rice dish with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and coconut milk.

The dish can also be made with either red or green plantains instead of white rice for those who are looking for a healthier option.

Uniquely, Arroz con dulce will have you bursting with energy from all the sugar in just one bite! You’ll love that there’s always plenty of this delicious dish at every party during this time of year. Try adding your favorite fruits like pineapple or mango for an even more flavorful taste sensation.

If you’re not a fan of so much sweetness, try making this dish with plantains instead-they; they provide plenty of natural sugars to satisfy your craving!

14. nsalada de coditos or papas

Talking about the various traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods, this dish is salted codfish, mashed potatoes, and green peas.

This food is called Ensalada de coditos or Ensalada de papas, as it was traditionally served on Good Friday. Another popular Puerto Rican dish is pasteles, which are made of pastry dough. 

It is stuffed with seasoned meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and boiled until the dough becomes soft.

There are many different versions of these two dishes, but they have one thing they have in common. They can be eaten with rice, pigeon peas (or garbanzo beans), or a side of mashed plantains.

15. Guineitos en escabeche

Likewise, Guineitos en escabeche is on our list of traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods that can be served as an appetizer or a main dish.

Guineitos are small pork sausages that are pickled in vinegar and spices. The sausage itself is not spicy, but the vinegar gives it a tangy, sour taste. 

Usually, they are served with boiled green bananas called platanos Verdes. This dish is usually eaten at Christmastime and tastes best while still warm on Christmas Eve. But if you have leftovers, guineitos en escabeche tastes great the next day for brunch.

You can also cook them up for your Easter celebrations since there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence during these times of fasting and prayer.

16. Guanime

Guanime is a traditional Puerto Rican dish that is eaten during the Christmas season. It’s usually served as a side dish with turkey, ham, or other main dishes.

Meanwhile, it is made from root vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes boiled in water and seasoned with salt and cumin. Also, it’s cooked with meat broth for added flavor. 

Besides, the guanime can be made ahead of time and then reheated before serving, so it’s perfect for busy holiday dinners.

And while some people call it porridge, others call it soup because of its thickness. It’s traditionally served during the holidays as one of the delectable Puerto Rican Christmas foods. However, it can also be enjoyed year-round.

17. Pasteles

Pasteles aren’t left out of this list of the best Puerto Rican Christmas foods. It is made from mashed plantain, grated coconut, and seasoned pork.

The mixture is wrapped in a banana leaf and then boiled until it becomes soft and moist. Usually, these are served with salsa or honey as a dipping sauce. 

Not only are they delicious, but they also have an interesting history behind them that makes them even more special!

Pasteles were created by enslaved people who wanted something of their own to celebrate with their families during the holidays.

They would stuff whatever extra ingredients they had (such as plantains) into the leaves of banana trees and then cook them up for themselves.

18. Cuajito

Cuajito is a Puerto Rican holiday drink made with coconut milk, coffee, chocolate, and sugar. The drink is served cold in a glass or a mug.

To make the cuajito, you will need coffee beans, water, coconut milk, sugar, and dark chocolate.

First, grind up the coffee beans into a powder using a blender or grinder if you are not using pre-ground coffee beans. Then, pour boiling water onto the coffee grounds and let it brew for 5 minutes.

Finally, filter out the grinds by pouring through a strainer or cheesecloth if you want to remove any additional flavor from the grounds.

19. Pernil

To make this dish of Puerto Rican Christmas foods, first marinate the pork shoulder overnight with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Then, brown the meat on all sides in a frying pan or skillet with vegetable oil. Pour in water to cover the meat and simmer it over low heat for two hours. 

Next, add salt as needed during cooking, so it doesn’t dry out. Once cooked through, remove from the pan and allow the meat to cool enough that you can pull off large chunks of it without burning your fingers. This is easier if the meat has cooled in the refrigerator after cooking.

20. Longaniza

Longaniza is a Spanish word from the Latin lingua, which means tongue. This type of sausage, made from pork and beef, is popular in many Latin American countries.

Puerto Ricans are especially fond of longaniza during the holidays; no wonder this is one of the must-have Puerto Rican Christmas foods. 

In fact, it is a tradition for people in Puerto Rico to cook longaniza for their family on Christmas Eve and serve it with rice, beans, and plantains.

It is common to see these sausages hanging in markets where they can be purchased fresh or cooked by the vendor.

If you want to try this traditional dish but need more time to prepare it, there are various grocery stores throughout San Juan where you can find them ready to eat.

21. Morcilla

Look no further if you’re looking for Puerto Rican Christmas foods that aren’t rice, beans, and plantains. Morcilla is a blood sausage traditionally eaten as part of the Puerto Rican breakfast and at Christmastime. 

This delicacy is made with pork blood, rice, and spices like pepper, garlic, and onions. Additionally, it can be served fried or boiled.

If you try this dish, make sure not to overcook it! Good morcilla should still have a bit of Sangre (blood) left in it when cooked.

22. Lechón Asado

Looking for delicious Puerto Rican Christmas foods? Lechón Asado is a traditional Puerto Rican dish typically served on Christmas Eve.

A whole pig (usually around 20-25 pounds) is roasted over a spit. Then it is basted with a combination of garlic, citrus juices, spices, and other ingredients like annatto oil. 

Usually, it’s accompanied by various side dishes such as rice, beans, and sofrito (a stew made from onions, peppers, celery, tomatoes, and carrots).

Fried plantains, escabeche (a dish prepared by pickling), morcilla (blood sausage), or pernil de cerdo (pork shoulder) can also accompany it. Uniquely, Lechón Asado is an iconic dish in Puerto Rico that has been around for centuries.

23. Arroz con gandules

One of the most popular Puerto Rican Christmas foods is Arroz con Gandules. It’s a dish that includes rice and pigeon peas, and it’s flavored with sofrito, garlic, tomatoes, onions, cumin, salt, and pepper. This dish can serve as a main course or a side dish. 

24. Puerto Rican Gazpacho

One of the traditional Puerto Rican Christmas foods is Gazpacho. It is a cold soup made with raw vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, onion, and garlic. It is often seasoned with salt and pepper. 

Coupled with that, the dish is thickened by blending the vegetables and then adding olive oil. This refreshing soup will make your holiday bright!

Add some of your favorite ingredients to the recipe for an extra kick (such as cilantro, basil, or avocado). Now, we are done with this list of Puerto Rican Christmas foods!


Puerto Ricans take great pride in their Christmas celebrations, which include more than just Christmas Day and the following day. But instead, go on throughout the entire season of Navidad, lasting through January 6th. 

One of the best ways to welcome the holiday season includes baking and sending Christmas cookies to your loved ones.

Asides from those, another way would be to make Puerto Rican Christmas foods that you and your family can enjoy together.

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