How to create a traditional Puerto Rican Thanksgiving feast

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When most Americans think of Thanksgiving, they envision a Norman Rockwell-esque scene of a family gathered around a large table, heaping plates of turkey and all the fixings. But for Puerto Rican families, Thanksgiving is a slightly different affair.

While the holiday is still centered around food and family, the dishes served are unique to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican Thanksgiving usually consists of roasted pork, pigeon peas and rice, yams, and plenty of fresh fruit.

If you’re looking to add a little island flair to your Thanksgiving this year, why not experiment with some new recipes and try out these traditional Puerto Rican dishes? Your family and friends will be sure to love them!

Traditional Puerto Rican Thanksgiving feast

In Puerto Rico, the Thanksgiving feast is a time-honored tradition that includes some delicious and unique dishes. Although the menu may vary from family to family, some of the most common dishes include roasted pork, arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), and pasteles (stuffed dough wrappers). Of course, Puerto Rican family gatherings are never complete without a plate of traditional holiday desserts such as tembleque (coconut pudding) and flan de coco (coconut Flan). Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with your family or friends, these mouthwatering dishes are sure to bring everyone together in thankful harmony.

Arroz con gandules 

Arroz con gandules is a traditional Puerto Rican dish made with rice, pigeon peas, and pork. The dish is typically cooked in a pot over an open fire, which gives it a smoky flavor. Gandules are a type of bean that is native to Puerto Rico and has a mild, sweet flavor. Though the main ingredient in this dish is rice, it is fully flavored with sofrito, a blend of onions, green peppers, and garlic, chicken broth and tomato paste. And is typically served with a side of Maduros (made with ripe green plantains). Arroz con gandules is considered a festive dish and is often served during holidays or special occasions. The dish has African, Taíno, and Spanish influences, and it is one of the most popular Puerto Rican dishes both on the island and in the diaspora. Though the dish is usually served with meat or poultry, it can also be enjoyed as a vegetarian meal. Arroz con gandules can be made in a variety of ways, but no matter how it is prepared, it is always delicious.


Pasteles are a type of Puerto Rican tamale made with green banana, yuca, and plantain masa and filled with meat (usually chicken or pork), Spanish olives, and raisins. The combination is wrapped in banana leaves and boiled until tender. Pasteles are often served with side dishes like arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and tostones (fried Plantains). Unlike most tamales, pasteles are not typically served with sauce. Instead, they are typically eaten as is or with a dipping sauce on the side. The most popular dipping sauces for pasteles are mango salsa or mojo (a type of Cuban garlic sauce). While the dish may sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple to make at home. With a little practice, anyone can master the art of making perfect pasteles. And once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with this delicious traditional dish.


While the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is usually roasted with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper, there are endless ways to give the bird a flavor boost. For a Puerto Rican-inspired twist on the holiday classic, start by marinating the turkey in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. Then, stuff the cavity with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, such as orange slices, plantains, and yams or sweet potatoes. When it comes time to roast the turkey, be sure to baste it frequently with the marinade. The result will be a juicy, flavorful bird that is sure to please even the most discerning palates. So go ahead and give your Thanksgiving turkey a Latin twist this year – your guests will be glad you did and it’s sure to be the best part of the Thanksgiving dinner table!

Pernil with yellow rice

Pernil is a dish typically served in Puerto Rican households during the holidays. It is made with yellow rice, beans, and pork shoulder that has been marinated in a garlic-citrus mojo and slow-roasted until the pork is incredibly tender. The dish is usually served with tostones, which are fried ripe plantains that have been flattened. It is also often served with avocado, onions and lime wedges. Pernil is a flavorful and comforting dish that is perfect for celebrating with family and friends.


Mofongo is a traditional dish from the Dominican Republic that is typically made with fried plantains. The plantains are mashed with a mortar and pestle, then mixed with garlic, pork cracklings, and olive oil. This mixture is formed into a ball or mound, and served with a meat or seafood stew. Mofongo has a unique flavor that is both sweet and savory, and the dish is often considered to be a national treasure by Dominicans. While mofongo is usually made with pork cracklings, it can also be prepared with beef, chicken, or shrimp. No matter what ingredients are used, mofongo is sure to delight anyone who tries it.

Mofongo stuffing is also very popular during the holiday season for Puerto Ricans. When used as stuffing, mofongo is usually mixed with sauteed onions, bell peppers and garlic. This mixture gives the dish a flavorful and moist texture that is perfect for stuffing roasted meats. Additionally the mofongo can be seasoned with cumin, oregano and chili powder to give it a bit of spice. Whether enjoyed as a side dish or used as a stuffing, mofongo is sure to please any appetite.

Guineos en escabeche

This side dish is made with green bananas that are peeled and then boiled. Once they are cooked, they are placed in a vinegar-based sauce that contains onions, peppers, and garlic. The sauce is then simmered until it thickens and the flavors come together. While the ingredients may sound simple, the dish is actually quite flavorful and can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The dish is often made ahead of time and then reheated the next day, which allows the flavors to deepen and develop. For those who enjoy a little spice in their food, guineos en escabeche is a perfect option. The vinegar and onions give the dish a slight tang, while the peppers add just the right amount of heat. Whether you’re looking for an easy side dish or a tasty appetizer, guineos en escabeche is sure to please.

Rellenos de Papas

Rellenos de Papa (potato stuffing) is a traditional Puerto Rican dish that is typically served during the Christmas season, but also has its place on the Thanksgiving table. The dish is made by mixing mashed potatoes with onions, garlic, green peppers, black pepper and other spices, and then stuffing the mixture into large green peppers. Once the peppers are stuffed, they are fried in oil until they are crispy and golden brown. These resulting fritters are typically served with dipping sauce. Rellenos de Papa is often made with beef or chicken, but can also be made with shrimp or lobster. The dish is often served as an appetizer or main course and can be accompanied by a variety of sides, such as grilled vegetables, white rice or salads. Rellenos de Papa is a delicious way to enjoy Puerto Rican cuisine, and it is sure to please even the most discerning palate.


This dish gets its name from the Spanish word for “trembling”, which refers to the jiggly texture of the finished product. This traditional Puerto Rican coconut pudding is served chilled. It is made with coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and sometimes rum. The pudding has a unique texture that is somewhere between jello and custard. It is typically made in rectangular molds, but it can also be made in individual cups or bowls. Tembleque is usually served as a dessert, but it can also be enjoyed as a snack or even breakfast. The pudding can be topped with fruit, nuts, or spices, or it can be enjoyed plain. No matter how you enjoy it, tembleque is a delicious and refreshing treat.

Flan de coco

Flan de coco is a traditional Puerto Rican dessert made with coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. Flan de coco typically has a very creamy texture, and the flavor of the coconut is usually quite pronounced. The dish is often served with a dollop of whipped cream or dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Flan de coco is typically made in a round or rectangular baking dish, and it can be served either hot, cold or at room temperature. Although flan de coco is traditionally made with coconut milk, many modern recipes call for evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk instead. Regardless of the type of milk used, flan de coco is always a delicious and indulgent treat.

Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche is a rich, creamy confection that originated in South America. The traditional recipe calls for slowly simmering milk and sugar until it reaches a deep caramel color. This process can take several hours, but the result is worth the wait. Dulce de leche has a silky texture and a deep, complex flavor that is both sweet and subtly salty. It can be enjoyed in different ways; on its own or used as a filling for cakes, cookies, and other desserts. While dulce de leche is often associated with Argentine cuisine, it has become popular throughout Latin America and the world. Whether you enjoy it on a spoon or in a pastry, dulce de leche is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy delicious food with family and friends. Puerto Rican Thanksgiving feasts are no exception. By trying some of the above dishes, you can create a delicious feast that all will be sure to enjoy. So, why not give it a try this holiday season and check out these delicious puerto rican recipes? And be sure to brush up on your spanish words…Buen provecho!