Sofrito is at the base of many different cuisines, with a beautiful combination of fresh herbs and vegetables. Many countries have their own variation of sofrito. You’ll find that countries like France, Italy, and Spain have their version and Latin American countries and the Caribbean islands.
A basic sofrito consists of onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic cooked lightly in oil. The ingredients vary depending on the country of origin. In Puerto Rico, sofrito includes culantro aka recao, native to the island. Cilantro is also used as it is similar in taste. Although they don’t look alike, culantro is a botanical cousin of cilantro.
Most people that cook with sofrito as a base prepare big batches at a time and keep them refrigerated until the next time they cook. Some people choose to buy jarred or frozen sofrito at the store, but it’s best when made at home as you know what is going on in it and have control of the flavors you like.
Here at Healthy Rican, we decided to create our own version of sofrito using dehydrated ingredients. Why? Because making a dehydrated sofrito allowed us to avoid adding unnecessary preservatives, unhealthy oils, and ingredients that come in most jarred and frozen store-bought sofrito. This also allows for a longer shelf life of the product as it can last from 2-to 3 years in the pantry. To use, it’s as simple as sprinkling it over meats, soups, and stews or rehydrating it to use in typical Latin-inspired rice and beans recipes.
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Sofrito comes from another Spanish word, “sofrier” which means stir-fry. Typically the sofrito is stir-fried in a bit of oil before using in a recipe. As a Puerto Rican, I grew up enjoying the aroma and flavors of sofrito as it is a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine. We just can’t cook without it. It is literally a staple used in almost every single meal.
Please visit our sister blog Nutrition Dork – Health and Wellness Simplified, to learn how to make Puerto Rican Sofrito from scratch.
Here are 7 ways to use Sofrito:
1. Arroz Junto – Puerto Rican Yellow Rice
Puerto Rican rice, known as “Arroz amarillo or arroz junto,” is rice known for its distinctive yellow color. It is a prevalent dish on the island and is consumed almost daily. Arroz junto means “rice with…” meaning that the rice has an added ingredient to compliment the dish. It can be made with various ingredients like the famous “Arroz con pollo,” chicken and rice. It’s also made with “gandules,” aka pigeon peas, beans, “salchichas,” aka Vienna sausages, corn, vegetables, sausage, and so much more. The variations can be somewhat endless. Regardless of the combination, sofrito is a key ingredient for its aroma and delicious flavor.
2. Habichuelas Guisadas – Bean Stew
Habichuelas guisadas is a bean stew also highly popular in Puerto Rico. It all starts with a big batch of pressure-cooked pink or pinto beans. Canned beans are also encouraged for those of us with busy lifestyles. The stew begins with a few heaping spoonfuls of sofrito, stir-fried with oil, tomato sauce, and sazón (another key ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine), then slowly cooked with broth, potatoes, and/or “calabaza” (squash). Find a recipe for our Healthy Rican-style bean stew below.
3. Asopao – Puerto Rican Rice Stew
An Asopao is a Puerto Rican stew made with rice. There are different variations, including chicken, pork, beef, seafood, and more. Asopao is made similar to a pot of yellow rice but cooked with extra water and broth for its soup-like consistency.
Click here for our healthy Asopao recipe.
4. Sancocho – Root Vegetable Stew
Sancocho is another famous stew in Puerto Rico. It’s made primarily with chicken and beef. The ingredients can vary upon availability and include root vegetables like yautia, yuca, and malanga, along with other ingredients like plantains, corn on the cob, carrots, potatoes, and more.
5. Bistec Encebollado – Steak and Onions
Bistec originates from the English word beefsteak. Bistec encebollado consists of cubed beef or flank steak, marinated in adobo, sazón, sofrito, and vinegar, then slowly cooked with sliced onions.
6. Empanadilla (Pastelillo) Ground Meat Filling
The biggest debate in the Puerto Rican World is whether it is empanadilla or pastelillo? Whatever you want to call it, an empanadilla (as I knew them growing up) is a fatten flour dough filled with delicious savory fillings like beef, chicken, cheese, and even guava paste for a sweet treat, then fried until golden crispy deliciousness. Fillings like beef and chicken are typically cooked with the Puerto Rican trifecta (adobo, sazón, and sofrito), with added diced potatoes and tomato sauce. Check out Nutrition Dork’s delicious picadillo recipe here.
7. Sopa de Pollo – Puerto Rican Chicken Noodle Soup
The Puerto Rican noodle soup is very similar to a traditional one. However, the difference is that it includes sofrito and other key Puerto Rican ingredients like adobo, sazón, and culantro. Typically it’s made with a whole chicken chopped in pieces and slowly cooked with all the ingredients, including potatoes, celery, and “fideos” (spaghetti or angel hair spaghetti).
Habichuelas Guisadas “Al estilo de Healthy Rican”
Puerto Rican Bean Stew – Healthy Rican Style
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- If desired: ½ cup (or more) diced ham (or turkey ham)
- 2 tbsp Healthy Rican Sofrito (hydrated with ¼ cup water)
- ¼ cup diced onions
- 2 tbsp cento sweet pimientos (jarred sweet red peppers)
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp Healthy Rican Sazón
- 1 tbsp organic tomato paste (or ¼ cup tomato sauce)
- 2 cans or 4 cups cooked organic pinto beans
- 1 tbsp organic bouillon with 1 cup water (or 1 cup of broth)
- 3/4 cup diced potatoes (and/or calabaza/squash)
- Pink Himalayan salt to taste
- Optional: Culantro or Cilantro
- On high heat, add the oil, ham, sofrito, onions, peppers, garlic, and stir fry for about a minute.
- Add the sazón, tomato sauce and stir. Add the beans, broth (bouillon and water), potatoes, and salt to taste. Allow to boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes and/or squash are cooked.
- Top with culantro or cilantro if desired.
- Enjoy with your favorite rice!
*For a vegetarian version of this bean stew, you can use a vegetable broth or vegan bouillon and omit the ham (or use smoked tofu or tempeh instead).
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Visit our online store here. You will find our Healthy Blends of Latin Adobo & Sazón made with all-natural ingredients. Plus, our innovative dehydrated sofrito. Our NO-JUNK seasonings are made with pure flavor “Puro Sabor” and are free of MSG, GMOs, artificial ingredients, and artificial colors. Find out more at our online shop.
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