"There's not a single word that I could use to define Puerto Rican cuisine. If I were forced to pick one, I'd choose sofrito. This herb paste made of culantro, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and chiles or other peppers is the bedrock of our cuisine, which is a straightforward, proletariat proposition - something flavorful, hot, and filling to maintain your strength while you work."
- Illyanna Maisonet
There's nothing like learning alongside the kids to create the most enjoyable experiences for everyone. And in the kitchen with this Puerto Rican sofrito recipe, you'll find that everybody wins.
As we continue to make healthier, more flavorful homemade dishes, we're getting ample opportunities to practice skills such as working with fractions. I've also noticed we're slowly breaking up with ketchup, consuming a fraction of what we once were. I can't help but feel like, as a Mom, that's some math I can really get behind.
Learn more about cooking with kids.
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Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook
This sofrito recipe comes from Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook by Illyanna Maisonet.
Illyanna is the first Puerto Rican food columnist in the U.S. Her cookbook, Diasporican, contains over 90 recipes. Everything about it, from the food, family, and landscape photography to the history and wit, welcomes you in and invites you to explore.
As Illyanna points out in Diasporican:
You cannot have the creation of Puerto Rican food without the influence of the Taino, Spanish, and the Africans. Many of our ingredients are straight from Africa. But, according to archaeological evidence, the Taino of Puerto Rico cultivated several crops contemporaneously with the Incas of Peru and other peoples of the Andean region.- Illyanna Maisonet
Pair the recipes in Diasporican with Illyanna's custom adobo and sazón blends to create flavorful Puerto Rican cuisine at home.
Learn more about Illyanna and Diasporican.
Family & Kids' Cooking Resources
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What is Sofrito Sauce?
As mentioned above, sofrito is a paste (not a sauce) made from cilantro, culantro, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and chiles (or some other peppers) and it's the soul of Puerto Rican cuisine, the foundation of many important recipes.
What is Sofrito Used For?
In Diasporican, Illyanna states:
Most Puerto Ricans tend to add sofrito to the heating oil as the first step of a recipe, just as one might add spices to the oil to allow them to bloom. The pungent sofrito kind of gets lost and subdued along the way in the cooking process. Its my own personal preference to add the sofrito toward the end of cooking because it contains fresh cilantro, and I like that fresh herb flavor to pop! I treat it as I would pesto. Sometimes, if I'm cooking for a Puerto Rican, I'll add the sofrito to the oil for ceremony and toward the end for flavor. Putting the sofrito in first reminds me of the start gun at the Olympics - sofrito is the pop that lets everyone know the event has started. But it's the sofrito added at the end that wins us the gold.- Illyanna Maisonet
Is Culantro the Same as Cilantro?
As discussed in Diasporican:
Culantro (also known in Puerto Rico as recao) is used in Latin American and Southeast Asian cooking and is also called sawtooth and long-leaf cilantro. How do you describe culantro's flavor? Culantro is like cilantro's cousin who comes to visit from the hood. Yeah, they're family. But it's also way more "punchy," "vocal," "spirited" - all those politically correct euphemisms - and possibly wearing FUBU. Someone who did not come to play and who gives zero fucks. And yet, you're still happy it showed up to the party because it has the charisma to pull everyone onto the dance floor.- Illyanna Maisonet
Wondering How to Make Sofrito Puerto Rican?
Honestly, if you're working it right, it's already Puerto Rican. Follow this recipe to learn how to make sofrito and you're setting the stage for an abundance of opportunities to enjoy Puerto Rican cuisine at home.
Montessori Fraction Work
Looking to introduce or reinforce knowledge of fractions? These Montessori Fraction Skittles provide a concrete representation of fractions as small as ¼ and they can be introduced as early as preschool. Once kids are comfortable with the fraction skittles, this Fraction Sorting printable contains images of food and is an excellent extension of that work. Save 16% off your first purchase from Montessorikiwi.
Fraction Fun is an exciting picture book that includes opportunities for kids to work with fractions and food.
You can also stop by our shop to check out our collection of math books.
Puerto Rican Sofrito Recipe
- tomatoes - Roma tomatoes are the preferred tomato for this homemade sofrito recipe
- onion - yellow onion is recommended but you can use what you have on hand
- bell pepper - this recipe calls for green bell pepper for the perfect sofrito
- culantro - if you can't get your hands on culantro, you can substitute it with cilantro
1. Quarter the Tomatoes
Wash your hands with soap and water. Use a child-friendly knife and cutting board to cut the tomatoes into quarters. Place them in a clean bowl and set aside.
2. Quarter the Bell Pepper and Onion
Cut the green bell pepper and onion into quarters as well. Place them in a clean prep bowl.
3. Chop the Cilantro and Culantro
Chop the cilantro and culantro. You can give it a rough chop or do like Katalina and Noah did and just cut the stems off once you realize it's going into the blender.
This is also a great time to smash those garlic cloves if you have them. If you're using already minced garlic like we did here, you can move on to the next step.
4. Transfer the Sofrito Ingredients to the Blender
Transfer the tomatoes to the blender and turn the blender on. Blend until they are finely chopped and then stop. Do the same with the onion and garlic. Finally, repeat for the bell pepper, culantro, and cilantro.
5. Process Until Well Combined
Process until the sofrito is mostly smooth as seen above. You can use or serve immediately.
Free Sofrito Recipe for Pre-Readers and Up
Grab your free printable recipe cards above. Kids can gather ingredients using the ingredient list, gather their equipment with the tools list, and prepare the meal using the step-by-step recipe cards, with assistance as needed.
The cards are easy to use, include pictures, and encourage confidence and independence in the kitchen. They also make an excellent addition to your Montessori continent box for North America.
Montessori Continent Boxes
Explore every continent with these solid maple hardwood boxes.
Puerto Rican Sofrito
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch culantro
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Use a child-friendly knife and cutting board to cut the tomatoes into quarters. Place them in a clean bowl and set aside.
- Cut the green bell pepper and onion into quarters as well. Place them in a clean prep bowl.
- Chop the cilantro and culantro. Place in a clean bowl and set aside. This is also a great time to smash those garlic cloves if you have them. If you're using already minced garlic like we did here, you can move on to the next step.
- Transfer the tomatoes to the blender and turn the blender on. Blend until they are finely chopped and then stop. Do the same with the onion and garlic. Finally, repeat for the bell pepper, culantro, and cilantro.
- Process until the sofrito is mostly smooth as seen above. You can use or serve immediately.
- Wash produce under running water
- Use a vegetable brush to scrub firm produce
- Cover and store in the fridge for up to 1 day
- Pour into an ice-cube tray to freeze for up to 6 months
- See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
- Full Lesson Info and Pictures at: https://happyhomeschooladventures.com/puerto-rican-sofrito
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.