Tostones and Amarillos
These are two classic ways to prepare plantains. Tostones are made from green plantain, which is savory. The plantain is cut into thick wheels which are marinated in water and garlic, then deep fried in oil to soften, smashed, and deep fried again until crispy. Amarillos on the other hand, are ripe plantains that are cut into pieces and fried until the outside is almost blackened and the inside is soft and sweet.
Arroz y Habichuelas
Rice and beans are the quintessential Puerto Rican side dish. Pink beans are stewed with onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, calabaza squash, and sofrito, a cooking base made by blending together onion, garlic, peppers, culantro, cilantro, and oregano (as well as other herbs, spices, and aromatics depending on the family recipe).
White, medium grain rice is cooked separately from the beans and seasoned with olive oil and salt. The two are served next to each other so the diner can choose how much of the beans to add to the rice.
A true Christmas specialty, pasteles resemble tamales and are traditionally made with green banana masa stuffed with stewed pork meat. Sometimes yuca or other root vegetables are added; the masa can also be made with just yuca. Pasteles can also be stuffed with chicken or bacalao (salted cod), and some vegan versions have been introduced recently.
To form the pastel, masa is pressed onto a plantain leaf, the stuffing added in the center, and the plantain leaf is folded, tied with string and covered in parchment paper. The pasteles are then boiled, unwrapped, and served.
Arroz con Gandules
Considered a Christmas staple, this signature Puerto Rican rice dish is consumed year-round. Pigeon peas, or gandules, are small, dense legumes which are cooked with the rice in a large pot. First, salted pork or ham hock is sautéed in olive oil. Sofrito is then added, along with bay leaves, tomato paste, annatto, and often olives or capers. The rice and pigeon peas are then coated with this sauce, water or broth is added, and everything is cooked together until the rice is done.