Sofrito is the not-so-secret Puerto Rican secret ingredient to great cooking and food. Sofrito is almost always present as a compound like the one pictured below or listed ingredients within the recipe. Like a mirepoix in French cuisine or a trinity in Creole, sofrito is the flavoring agent that ties together all the dishes.
Three reasons why you would love this recipe
- Extremely EASY to make: In the past, sofrito was cooked and stored, with what my mother always thought to be labor-intensive. But it is not. The best sofrito is fresh sofrito, which will lend its flavor and nutrients to the foods you prepare as you prepare them.
- It is also very quick: 15 minutes tops!! And no expert knife skills either. All you need is a blender. I am sure puritans might disagree with me, but I believe in quick and out.
- It will be YOUR sofrito recipe: Sofrito is a culinary signature for Puerto Ricans. We all make sofrito a bit differently. My mother didn't like cumin, but I love it. She didn't like black pepper or heavy garlic; I LOVE garlic. Sofrito is what you make it, and this recipe is a base for you to build your flavor profile.
- Cilantro: Another flavor agent of freshness, cilantro adds to the final color.
- Culantro: Culantro is a much deeper flavored cousin of cilantro. The leaves are long and saw-shaped. I have replaced culantro with cilantro before. But remember that cilantro has a much sweeter taste than culantro. So, it is not an exact replacement, more like a 1 part culantro for two parts cilantro. Culantro can be found at Latin markets or under specialty items in the produce department of major supermarkets.
- Oregano: I use dried oregano because a little goes a long way. Rub the dried oregano in the palm of your hand or crush it with some salt in the pestle and mortar before adding it to the mix.
- Onion: I prefer to use small yellow onions or sweet onions for this recipe. Red onions lose color, changing the final product's appearance as it sits in the refrigerator.
- Cubanelle: I do not care for peppers, but by all means, add some to your recipe. I find Cubanelle peppers an exception. They look like Hungarian pepper but are mild in flavor, almost sweet.
- Garlic: Garlic adds a bit of a bite to the recipe. Remember, you will cook as you add it to your cooking.
- Acid: Acids combine citrus juices (lemon or bitter orange) and vinegar. I have used apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and malt vinegar to make my sofrito, and they have all come out great. Again, it is about what you want your flavors to be like.
- Olive Oil: I use my Extra Virgin Olive Oil or EVOO, but a virgin or pure olive oil will do the trick. You can change it up with avocado oil. The amount of oil in this recipe will not necessarily impact the final product of the beans you make with this sofrito because the amount of oil per tablespoon will be so small.
- Parsley: Parsley gives sofrito freshness and bright green color. This is an optional ingredient. I like what it brings to the recipe so I use it.
Variations or Substitutions
- Pork Fat? The original sofrito called for cooking all the ingredients in rendered pork fat. Pork and many byproducts have significantly been used in the Puerto Rican kitchen. Waste-not mentality.
- Spicy: Puerto Rican food is not "spicy" as it is flavorful. I do not think Puerto Rico is known for their off-scale hot peppers. But if you want to change your sofrito profile with some heat, add a few jalapeños to the mix. Remember, this is a raw sofrito, which, once it cooks, will render all its flavor to the food to which it has been added to. Also, remember that the hot peppers might intensify in heat as they sit, marinating with the other ingredients.
- Cooked Sofrito:
These are the steps to make a RAW sofrito. You can, however, cook your sofrito ahead of time.
- In your blender container, add onions.
- Add garlic
- Cubanelle peppers.
- Peppercorns, sazon, pinch of salt.
- Vinegar, in this case, or lemon juice.
- Add your herbs.
- And blend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sofrito is a blended combination of key ingredients to give your food a signature Puerto Rican flavor. At its most basic, it is a mix of onions, garlic, peppers, sweet peppers, chiles, culantro, salt, pepper, vinegar (or lemon juice), and oil. Other ingredients commonly found in sofrito include; ham, salt pork, cilantro, parsley, oregano, cumin, coriander, paprika, and saffron. The individual taste of the person making it means that not all sofrito taste the same.
Culantro is a much deeper-flavored cousin of cilantro. The leaves are long and saw-shaped. I have replaced culantro with cilantro before. But remember that cilantro has a much sweeter taste than culantro. So, it is not an exact replacement, more like a 1 part culantro for two parts cilantro. Culantro can be found at Latin markets or under specialty items in the produce department of major supermarkets.
Tocino, aka salt pork. If you cannot find it at your local supermarket, look for it at a Latin market or bodega. I see a much thicker cut of bacon labeled salt pork at my supermarket. Salt porks are part of the bacon-belly area of the pork, but what Puerto Ricans consider salt pork looks like the picture below. Salt pork is the fat just below the skin with the skin still attached. I only use a strip about a quarter-inch thick and score or partly cut it until I reach the skin. This is added to the frying pan and rendered for fat. Cooked long enough, the fat will shrink considerably, but your pan will have the liquid product that could be used to sweat onions, peppers, and garlic.—giving your final product depth in flavor.
There are many ways to use sofrito. Add sofrito to sauces, stewed beans, rice pilaf, and soups and stews in the middle of the cooking process. Or use sofrito as a seasoning agent or as a marinade. I have used it on chicken, shrimp, pork, and fish with excellent results. To turn it into a marinade for lighter meats, I will add a liquid, i.e., bitter orange, lemon, or regular orange juice.
You can fill ice cubes with sofrito and use a cube per recipe. I keep my sofrito in a mason jar, and I use it almost daily.
I want to know what you think! Did you make this recipe? Please, leave a review and a rating below. You can also find me on Instagram! Please sign up for my email list to receive my newest and latest recipe.
Other Puerto Rican Inspiration Recipes
- Immersion Blender
- 3 ounces peeled garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried orégano
- 1 onion peeled, and large diced
- 3 cubanelle peppers
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 fresh culantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon peppercorn
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil