If you’re having Puerto Rican food, you can safely bet that sofrito will be one of the ingredients. Since coming to the Caribbean via Spanish colonizers in centuries past, sofrito has become a crucial ingredient in many popular dishes on the island of Puerto Rico. This Puerto Rico sofrito recipe is similar, but not quite the same as many others including Italian sofrito or even the Cuban version. Italian sofrito uses achiote (annatto) seeds instead of saffron, which gives the sauce its distinctive yellow color. In years past, Sofrito would have been made by hand: each ingredient carefully chopped and mixed. Today, you can use a blender or food processor, which makes a recipe which is almost as delicious but much, much faster to prepare. Use it in making rice, beans, soups or anything that calls for Puerto Rican flavor.
You can also buy fresh, pre-made sofrito (in many varieties and with or without annato) in Puerto Rican grocery stores on the island. It won’t be as good, but does the trick when you are looking for convenience. This recipe comes is adapted from Doña Carmen Aboy de Valldejuli’s cookbook Puerto Rican Cookery.
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of achiote grains (also known as annatto seeds), cleaned
- ½ pound of cooking ham, cubed
- 2 pounds of green peppers
- ½ pound ajíes dulces (sweet peppers)
- 2 pounds of onions
- 1/4 pound of garlic
- 1 bunch of recao (also known as cilantro—similar to cilantro, but more flavorful)
- 1 bunch of culantrillo (cilantro)
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan on high. Reduce the heat, add the achiote and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until oil turns red. Let cool completely and strain the mixture through a colander or absorbent paper in order to remove the achiote or annatto. Put oil in a large pan.
- In a blender or food processor, blend the cooking ham, green peppers, ajíes dulces, onions, garlic, culantro, culantrillo, and oregano. Do not add water.
- Add blended mixture to the pan of oil; cook under high heat until mixture boils. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Let sauce cool completely; then pour into an ice cube tray (place about 2 tablespoons of the sauce in each cube). Place in the freezer until frozen. When solid, remove cubes and seal them in a plastic bag inside of the freezer.
- Your sofrito stock is ready to add to any Comida Criolla (that is, Puerto Rican food) recipe!