Helpful Spanish terms commonly used in cooking!
A Caballo ~ a folkloric expression that means a plate of rice and beans with a fried egg "mounted" on top.
Aceite con Achiote ~ annatto oil.
Aceite de Maiz ~ corn oil
Aceituna ~ olive . The olive most used in Puerto Rico is the manzanilla, which is a pitted green olive stuffed with pimiento.
Acelga ~ Swiss chard . Used to make caldo Gallego (Galician Soup).
Acerola ~ West Indian or Bardados cherry. This fruit is best known for its high vitamin C content. Traditionally it was used to make refresco de acerola, or acerola juice.
Achiote or Achote ~ annatto seeds.
Achiotera ~ a container used to store annatto oil with its seeds. The oil is heated every time it is needed so the seeds can release their yellow color.
Adobo ~ The basic seasoning combination of Puerto Rican cooking.
Aguacate ~ avocado
Agua de Azahar ~ orange blossom water. A distilled water made of orange blossoms, used to flavor traditional desserts like rice ~ flour stovetop custard.
Aji Caballero or Aji Picante ~ hot chili pepper. A hot pepper about 1 inch long. It is the only hot pepper used in traditional cooking. It is also used to make pigue, a fermented vinegar used as a condiment.
Aji Dulce ~ sweet chili pepper.
Ajilimojili ~ a traditional sauce made with garlic, peppercorns, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. It is served with boiled root vegetables or over grilled meats.
Ajo ~ garlic
Ajonjol i ~ sesame seeds
Alboronia de Chayote ~ chayote salad
Alcaparra ~ caper . Most frequently used in alcaparrado.
Alcaparrado ~ a mixture of green olives, capers, and pimientos.
Alcapurria ~ a traditional fritter made of grated yautia (taro root) and green bananas, stuffed with picadillo. It can also be stuffed with crabmeat or chicken
Almojabana ~ rice ~ flour fritter
Amarillo ~ ripe yellow plantain
Anafre ~ portable burner. Used in the old days in place of a stove. It was usually made of a cracker ~ tin can, with holes added to improve the ventilation. Anafres were also made of iron and placed on top of the fogon.
Ani en Semilla ~ aniseed. Used mostly to prepare desserts.
Apio ~ a root vegetable with brown skin, yellow flesh, and a very strong starchy taste. It is used mostly to make heavy soups like sancocho and tripe soup.
Arroz ~ rice
Arroz Amarillo ~ basic yellow rice made with annatto oil, which can also be combined with meat, seafood, or vegetables.
Arroz con Dulce ~ Puerto Rican rice pudding. A traditional dessert made with rice, coconut milk, ginger, and spices.
Arroz con Gandules ~ yellow rice with green pigeon peas. This is Puerto Rico's national rice dish.
Arroz con Pollo ~ yellow rice with chicken
Arroz y Habichuelas ~ rice and beans
Asalto Navideno ~ Christmas caroling. Traditionally, a group of people get together and surprise a neighbor in the middle of the night with Christmas songs. They go from house to house, and at the last stop they prepare a chicken asopao.
Asopao ~ one of the national soup of Puerto Rico. It has a thick consistency and is derived from the Spanish paella. It is a mixture of rice, chicken, alcaparrado and recaito. Asopao can also be made with seafood, green pigeon peas, or salt codfish.
Avellana ~ hazelnut. Hazelnuts and walnuts are traditional Christmas nuts of Puerto Rico
Bacalao ~ salt codfish
Bacalaito ~ salt codfish fritter
Barrilito ~ a type of Puerto Rican rum that is 86 proof
Batata, Batata Blanca ~ Puerto Rican yam or sweet potato. A root vegetable with a skin that varies from pink to purple. It has a gray ~ white flesh and a very sweet taste. Batatas are eaten boiled, baked, or fried.
Berenjena ~ eggplant
Besito de Coco ~ coconut kiss . A traditional dessert made with fresh ~ grated coconut, sugar, and spices.
Bili ~ a mix of rum and quenepas that gets fermented. The rum is then drained and served. This is a typical drink of Vieques, and island located on the east coast of the island of Puerto Rico
Bistec ~ cubed steak. Used to prepare Puerto Rican pepper steak.
Bodega ~ Spanish grocery store
Bollo de Pan ~ a loaf of bakery bread
Boronia de Chayote ~ Chayote stew
Botana ~ means dip; can also mean snack
Bunuelo Beignet ~ a fritter made with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. It can be sweet or savory (made with Parmesan cheese)
Buñuelos ~ fried fritters topped with a brown sugar syrup
Buren ~ flat griddle. This was traditionally made of clay and used by the Taino natives to cook casabe
Butifarra ~ pork sausage seasoned with spices like cinnamon and anise, usually eaten for breakfast
Cabrito ~ young goat. Usually prepared in a stew
Cafe ~ coffee
Cafe con Leche ~ strong black coffee with steamed milk
Cafe Negro ~ black coffee
Cafe Puya ~ unsweetened black coffee
Cafe Tinta ~ espresso
Calabaza ~ West Indian pumpkin
Calamar en su Tinta ~ squid in its ink. Sold canned, it is used to make rice with squid
Caldero ~ cauldron or cooking pot. This traditional pot, made of iron or thick almuminum, is used to make Puerto Rican rice dishes.
Camaron ~ shrimp
Canela ~ cinnamon
Cana de Azucar ~ sugar cane
Caramelo ~ caramel. Made of granulated sugar; used to coat the pan in which flan is cooked
Carne Vieja ~ dry salted beef, sold in small slabs covered with a layer of lard. It is usually prepared with scrambled eggs and onions
Casabe ~ cassava bread. A flat bread made with grated cassava
Cascos de Guayaba ~ guava shells. They are usually cooked in a sugar syrup and re readily available canned
Cazuela ~ a dessert casserole made of calabaza and yam
Champola ~ a soursop drink made with milk
Chayote ~ a vegetable of the squash family, also known as mirlition, vegetable pear, or christophine. It has a white or green skin and cream ~ colored flesh, with a somewhat bland taste.
Chayotes ~ can be stored at room temperature and are available year ~ round
Chicharron ~ pork crackling. Deep ~ fried pieces of pork skin or cut ~ up pieces of boneless pork shoulder. Small pieces of deepfried chicken are also called chicharron
Chillo ~ red snapper
China ~ orange
Chironja ~ a cross between an orange and a grapefruit
Chorizo ~ Mexican sausage, a common breakfast food
Cilantro ~ coriander, best used fresh dried
Clavo ~ clove
Coco Rallado ~ shredded coconut
Coco Seco ~ dry, mature coconut with a brown, hairy shell and firm white flesh
Coco Verde ~ green coconut, usually sold refrigerated at roadside stands. The flesh is soft and the water, which is usually sweet, can be drunk straight from the coconut shell.
Codito ~ elbow macaroni
Colador de cafe ~ cloth colander used in the old days to prepare coffee
Comino ~ cumin, used in salsas, to season many dishes
Conejo ~ rabbit. Stewed rabbit meat is eaten on holidays and special occasions like weddings or christenings
Coquito ~ rum eggnog. This is a traditional Christmas drink
Cream de Coco ~ coconut cream
Criolla ~ creole. This term is used to denote traditional Puerto Rican cooking.
Cuchifrito ~ deep ~ fried pork pieces sold at roadside stands. These usually consist of pig's ears, tails, stomach, ets. Cuchifrito is also the name given to the fast ~ food establishments on the island of Puerto Rico that serve traditional fritters to go
Culantro ~ is another name for recao
Dita ~ a bowl carved from the higuera tree. In the old days it was used to wash rice and measure beans
Domplin ~ dumpling
Dulce ~ a sweet, usually eaten as a dessert, made with yam, pineapple, or coconut
Dulce de Platano ~ a dessert dish made with very ripe yellow plantains cooked in red wine, sugar, and spices
Empanada ~ turnover. A fritter made of dough stuffed with picadillo, crab stew, or chicken
Empanadilla ~ small turnover
Escabeche ~ pickled
Fideo ~ noodle
Filete ~ beef tenderloin
Flan ~ custard. A national dessert of Spanish heritage made of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices
Fogon ~ a hearth made of three stones arranged in a triangle, with pieces of wood placed within
Fritura ~ fritter
Funche ~ Puerto Rican polenta. This has been a staple dish since the Tainos lived on the island. It used to be made with lard, but today corn or olive oil is used instead.
Galleta por Soda ~ soda cracker. Eaten as an afternoon snack with cafe con leche. Crushed soda crackers, known as galleta molida (cracker meal), are used for breading.
Gallina ~ hen
Gandinza ~ pork liver
Gandul ~ green pigon pea
Garbanzo ~ chick ~ pea
Granada ~ pomegranate
Grano ~ dialect term for rice ~ flour fritter on Puerto Rico's east coast, and the word for beans on some parts of the island
Greca de Cafe ~ Italian coffee pot used to make strong black coffee
Grosella ~ gooseberry. Cooked in water and sugar to make a compote
Guanime ~ Puerto Rican tamal. Guanimes have been a staple food since the Taino days. They are made plain, without stuffing and are wrapped in banana leave. Served with salt codfish stew, guanimes are an everyday peasant lunch
Guarapo de Cana ~ sugar can juice. Sold freshly squeezed at roadside stands
Guayaba ~ guava . Fruit with a green skin, pink flesh, and small seeds. Fresh guavas are hard to find and can be expensive. Frozen pulp and juice concentrate are easily found year ~ round. On the island of Puerto Rico where they are abundat, guavas are made into a paste and the shells are cooked in sugar syrup. Both are served as desserts with white cheese
Guayo ~ grater . Used to shred root vegetables
Guineo ~ banana
Guineo Maduro ~ ripe yellow banana. Eaten as a fruit
Guineo Manzano ~ apple banana. Eaten green as a vianda (root vegetable), or ripe, as a fruit
Guineo Nino ~ lady ~ finger banana. Eaten only when ripe. Dipped in flour and deep ~ fried, it is served as a side dish
Guineo Verde ~ green banana. Eaten as a side ~ dish starch. Green bananas are a part of the viandas family. The leaves are used to wrap guanimes, pasteles, and arroz apastelado.
Guingambo ~ okra
Guisado ~ stewed
Haba ~ lima bean
Habichuela ~ bean
Habichuela Blanca ~ white bean
Habichuela Colorada ~ small red kidney bean
Habichuela Marca Diablo ~ red kidney bean
Habichuela Rosada or Rosita ~ pink bean
Hoja de Guineo ~ banana leaf. Used to wrap pasteles and guanimes
Hojaldre ~ puff pastry
Hojas ~ dried corn husks used as wrappers to make tamales
Horchata de Ajonjol i ~ a drink made of ground sesame seeds, water, and sugar
Horno de Microonda ~ microwave oven
Jamon de Cocinar ~ smoked cooking ham
Jibaro Envuelto ~ lady ~ finger banana dipped in flour, fried, and served as a side dish
Jicama ~ a sweet crisp vegetable used as potatoes are used
Juey ~ Caribbean land crab
Kahlua ~ a dark rich Mexican coffee liqueur
Langosta ~ lobster. The lobster commonly found in the Caribbean Sea is the spiny or rock lobster. It is very hard to find on the mainland, but American (Maine) lobster can be substituted
Leche de Coco ~ coconut milk
Lechon ~ pig
Lechon Asado a la Varita ~ a whole pig seasoned with adobo and cooked slowly over a charcoal pit
Lechon de Mechar ~ beef round cut, used on the island to make pot roast
Lechonera ~ a stand where pit ~ roasted pig is sold by the pound or by the portion
Lechosa ~ papaya
Leren ~ a plant similar to a water chestnut, cultivated by the Tainos
Limber ~ fruit juice frozen into ice cubes and eaten as a snack. The most famous limbers are sold in Old San Juan
Limon ~ lemon
Limon Verde ~ a lime with very acidic juice, known on the mainland as key lime
Lima ~ lime
Longaniza ~ Spanish pork sausage, seasoned with cilantro, spices, and bay leaves. Used to make yellow rice
Mabi ~ a fermented drink made from the bark of the mabi tree. On the island this is a daily drink. On the mainland, especially in the New York area, it is available only from April to September
Maicena ~ cornstarch. Cornstarch is prepared as a hot breakfast cereal on the island, with milk and egg yolks. It is also used in the preparation of many custard desserts
Maiz ~ corn
Majarete ~ a rice ~ flour dessert made during the Christmas season, especially on Three Kings Day (Epiphany)
Malanga ~ a root vegetable with brown skin and white or purple flesh. It is used to make sancocho and tripe soup. It is also boiled and served with salt codfish salad
Mamey ~ a fruit with a rough brown skin and bright red flesh. It is mostly eaten in preserves and compotes. Fresh mamey is very hard to find, but the frozen pulp is available year ~ round in Hispanic markets
Mandarina ~ mandarin orange
Masa ~ corn dough used for making tortillas, tamales, enchiladas, ect.
Masa Harina ~ an instant corn flour
Mero ~ red grouper. This fish is traditionally used to prepare escabeche during the Lent season
Mofongo ~ fried green plantain mashed in a mortar and shaped into a ball. Traditionally it was seasoned with fresh garlic and pork cracklings. New versions are stuffed with seafood, chicken, or vegetables
Mojo ~ a classic sauce that originated in the coastal town of Salinas, made with olives, tomato sauce, and vinegar
Mojo de Ajo ~ a garlic dipping sauce served with tostones or boiled cassava
Mole ~ a sauce made from a paste of chiles, chocolate, spices, used to top meat entrees
Molleja ~ chicken gizzard stewed in tomato sauce; usually served as an appetizer
Mondongo ~ a thick soup made with beef tripe, assorted root vegetables, and seasonings
Morcilla ~ blood sausage. A black sausage made from fresh pork blood and cooked rice. This is a traditional Christmas food
Name ~ yam . A root vegetable with brown skin and white flesh. It is used in sancocha and eaten boiled
Naranja ~ orange
Naranja Agria ~ sour orange, used mainly to prepare marinades. The white shell of the fruit is cooked in sugar and served as a dessert
Nopal ~ cactus, only tender young leaflets are used to make candy, mixed with various other foods such as eggs, chiles, ect., can also be eaten alone
Nuez Moscada ~ nutmeg
Olla ~ soup pot. Usually made of aluminum
Oregano Brujo ~ Puerto Rican wild oregano. This oregano, with its distinctive pungent aroma, grows wild on the island. It is mostly used to make sofrito. It is very hard to find on the mainland
Paella ~ a Spanish dish that consists of rice, saffron, chorizo and meat or seafood
Paellera ~ a round, shallow iron pot with two handles, used to cook paella
Pana or Panapen ~ breadfruit. A round fruit with green skin and white flesh that came to the island of Puerto Rico from Tahiti. When green, it is eaten as a vianda or made into chips and tostones. When ripe, it is made into a dessert custard or boiled and mashed like potatoes. Breadfruit is available only during August and September. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two and can also be frozen. Peel and remove the middle seed before cooking.
Pana de Pepita ~ breadfruit nut. A chestnutlike seed that is generally eaten boiled.
Papa ~ potato
Parcha ~ passion fruit
Pasteles ~ dumplings made from shredded root vegetables, stuffed with picadillo and boiled in banana or plantain leaves
Pasta de Guayaba ~ guava paste. This is found in most bodegas and many supermarkets. It is used in many desserts, and as a jam
Pastel de Masa ~ grated assorted root vegetables stuffed with pork, olives, and raisins and wrapped in banana leaves. A traditional Christmas food
Pastelon de Platano ~ yellow plantain pie made of fried slices of yellow plantain, beef picadillo, and green beans
Patas de Cerdo ~ pigs feet. Usually prepared as a stew with chick ~ peas
Pegao ~ the crusty bottom of the rice that sticks to the pot. It is scraped and served with bean stew
Pernil de Cerdo ~ pork shoulder
Picadillo ~ a basic beef stuffing mix made of ground beef, sofrito, raisins, and olives
Piloncillo ~ unrefined Mexican brown sugar sold in small cone shape
Pilon ~ mortar and pestle. A cooking utensil traditionally used to prepare recaito. Taino pilones were made of stone. More recently they were made of wood; nowadays they are usually made of aluminum or plastic
Pimiento ~ bell pepper
Pimiento de Coconar ~ Italian frying pepper
Pimiento Morron ~ roasted red pepper. Usually sold in cans or jars, preserved in water and salt. This is a classic garnish for rice dishes like arroz con pollp, potato salad, and asopaos
Pincho ~ skewered beef cubes
Pina ~ pineapple. The best pineapples grown on the island are from the Lajas Valley on the southwest coast. Puerto Rican pineapples are rately available on the mainland, but the Hawaian pineapples available there can be used instead
Pinole ~ toasted ground corn, makes a delicious drink with milk
Pinon de Amarillo ~ yellow plantain pie
Pionono ~ a fritter made with yellow plantain. The plantain is cut lengthwise and fried. It is then shaped into a cup, stuffed with beef, chicken, or crab, sealed with eggs, and pan ~ fried
Pique ~ vinegar seasoned with hot peppers, spices, and sour orange. Mostly used as a condiment
Platano ~ plantain
Platano Maduro ~ yellow plantain
Platano Verde ~ green plantain
Platanutre ~ plantain chip
Polvo de Galleta ~ soda ~ cracker meal
Pote ~ an empty metal can, used in the old days as a cup to drink black coffee
Presa de Pollo ~ chicken pieces
Punto de Nieve ~ egg whites beaten until very stiff (literally, "snow peak")
Quenepa ~ the fruit of a Caribbean tree, with green skin, pink flesh, and a large pit. The best ones are grown in Ponce, a town on the sourth coast of Puerto Rico. Quenepas are available fresh mostly during August. They are sold in bunches or packed in small plastic bags, and can be stored at room temperature.
Queso Blanco, Queso de Hoja or Queso del Pais ~ Puerto Rican white cheese. A lightly salted white cheese made of cow's milk. A distinctive characteristic of this cheese is that it does not melt
Queso de Papa ~ Cheddar cheese
Quimbombo ~ okra
Rajas de Chile ~ strips of chile
Recaito ~ a key seasoning in Puerto Pican cooking. It is a combination of onions, garlic, peppers, and recao or cilantro
Recao ~ green spiny leaf
Relleno ~ a fritter made of mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo, shaped into a ball, and deep ~ fried. Canned corn beef is also used as a filling
Repollo ~ cabbage
Salchicha ~ Vienna sausage
Salchichon ~ salami. The salami used in Puerto Rico is similar to Genoa salami. Salchichon is widely available in bodegas and supermarkets
Salmorejo de Jueyes ~ crabmeat stew
Salsa de Tomate ~ tomato sauce
Sancocho ~ a thick soup made of assorted meats, root vegetables, sofrito, and corn on the cob, and traditionally served with plain white rice
Sangria ~ Spanish wine punch
Sarten ~ frying pan
Serenata de Bacalao ~ salt codfish salad. Made with salt codfish, potatoes, eggs, tomato, and avocado
Sirop ~ syrup
Sofrito Recaito ~ cooked with ham, alcaparrado, and tomato sauce. Sofrito is the base for many stews and sauces
Sopon ~ another name for asopao
S orullo de Maiz or Sorullito ~ a fritter made of cornmeal and shaped like a cigar, stuffed with cheese, and deep ~ fried. The most famous ones are made in Lajas, on Phosphorescent Bay (the same town where the island's best pineapples are grown). They are served with a sauce made of mayonnaise and ketchup.
Sorbet ~ sorbet
Tamarindo ~ tamarind
Tasajo ~ Puerto Rican dry cured beef
Tayote ~ another name for chayote
Tembleque ~ a stirred custard made of coconut milk and sugar (literally "shaky")
Tocino ~ fatback
Tomate ~ tomato
Tomatillos ~ small green tomatoes, used in soups, salsas, salads
Toronja ~ grapefruit
Toston ~ a slice of green plantain fried, smashed flat, and refried
Tostonera ~ the utensil traditionally used to prepare tostones. It is made of two flat pieces of wood screwed together.
Tostoneras ~ can be found in bodegas and supermarkets. If they are not available, smash the plantain between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper.
Turron ~ almond nougat. A sweet eaten during the Christmas season
Uva de Playa ~ sea grape
Verdolagas ~ a common weed in the Southwest and other dry, desert regions. Purslane is another name.
Verduras ~ root vegetables
Viandas ~ root vegetables
Vinagre de manzana ~ cider vinegar
Yautia ~ taro root
Yuca ~ cassava, a root vegetable with hard white flesh and a rough brown skin