Visiting Puerto Rico as a Vegetarian (or Vegan)
Puerto Rico is home to many great, original dishes, but for the vegetarian these dishes may not be so appealing. Puerto Rican food, referred to as “cocina criolla” by the locals, is generally meat. For example, some classics are Chicharron (fried pork skin), lechon asado (barbequed pig), and many different types of seafood (it is a Caribbean island after all!). However, for those of us who are plant lovers there are some great options to try.
So What Foods Should You Try On Your Visit To Puerto Rico?
No trip to Puerto Rico would be complete without trying mofongo! Mofongo is made from fried plantains. The plantains have been deep fried and mixed with garlic. Mofongo is often stuffed (Mofongo relleno) and often with meat. However, there are different options that you can ask for. Several places had mofongo filled with mixed vegetables. Trifongo is another form of Mofongo that is made with either sweet yellow plantains, unripe green plantains, or cassava root.
Side note: When ordering mofongo be sure to check with the waiter to see how it is cooked. It will often times be cooked with pork or bacon, so be sure to make the waiter aware that you want a completely meat free version.
Tostones are again green plantains. These plantains are cut into flat circles and then deep fried. The deep fried plantains are then sprinkled with salt and served like French fries and eaten with mayo ketchup, which is a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic, and other spices (this might not work for a completely vegan diet). Mayo ketchup is very popular in Puerto Rico.
3-Arroz con Habichuelas, Arroz con Gandules
Puerto Rican rice and beans is another popular dish. Rice and beans are often served as a stew with vegetables, potatoes, squash, and peppers. Again-this is commonly served with meat so be sure to make the waiter aware that you want a meat free version.
Arroz con Gandules, or rice with pigeon peas, is a national dish of Puerto Rico. It is white rice with pigeon peas, olives, capers, tomato sauce, seasoning, and often flavored with sofrito, a salsa type sauce.
Maduros are another form of fried plantains. They are made from plantains that are more ripe, thus giving them a sweeter taste. They are often times served as a side dish or a dessert alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Who doesn’t love a good treat? These turn overs are deep fried pastries that are often filled with meat, but there are options for fruit or vegetable stuffing.
6-Arroz Con Dulce
Arroz Con Dulce is a Puerto Rican rice pudding dessert. It is made up of coconut milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Okay, so you have probably have fresh fruit before, but let’s face it-Puerto Rico is a tropical island, and thus it has an plenty of tropical fruit. Fruit stands can be easily found on the island and have so much to offer. Be sure to try some fresh avocados, coconuts, and pineapples. Don’t forget to enjoy a classic refreshing tropical drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) in a coconut or pineapple! You won’t regret it!
While in Puerto Rico also be sure to try a frappe tropical. This drink is very similar to a smoothie and consists of blended fruit. You can find vendors in many popular areas selling them, and they are definitely worth a try!
Local Brews/Tropical Cocktails
Be sure to try some of Puerto Rico’s local wine and beers. Rum is the national drink and the options are endless. Try a Chichaito, which is a shot of anise liqueur mixed with white rum. Puerto Rico is also home to local beers-including Medalla and Magna.
If you are visiting Puerto Rico during the holidays be sure to try a Coquito (not a vegan option). It is a coconut drink similar to eggnog, but the egg part is replaced with coconut. It is composed of evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, rum, and vanilla.
Coco Rico is Puerto Rico’s version of coca cola. It is a carbonated beverage similar to sprite, but with coconut flavoring.
Puerto Rico is also know for its homegrown coffee with many popular brands, including Yaucono, El Coqui, and Cafe Rico.
Where Can You Find Great Vegetarian/Vegan Puerto Rican Food?
Here are some restaurant recommendations in the San Juan area that offer vegetarian meals in Puerto Rico:
(Take note, however, that many of the above listed items can be found at almost any restaurant, you just have to order them custom)
Located in Old San Juan, Café Berlin is a full-service restaurant offering international menu options with many vegetarian/vegan selections. Café Berlin offers meatless Mofongo, pasta options, a vegan burger, pizza, and vegan tacos. Prices generally range between $15-$35.
Location: 407 San Francisco St., Old San Juan, PR 00901
Located in San Juan, Cocobana Café is a casual, family friendly restaurant that offers many vegetarian friendly dishes. It offers dishes such as carrot loaf with rice and a beet burger.
Location: 2000 Calle Loiza, San Juan, PR 00911
Peace n’ Loaf
Peace n’ Loaf is located in San Juan and is well known for it’s vegetarian/vegan pizza and bread options.
Location: Avenida Americo Miranda #1402, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00921
Bori Vegan, located in San Juan, is a Puerto Rican restaurant offering many different vegetarian/vegan options, including burritos, tacos, soups, salads, quesadillas, and wraps.
Location: Calle Figueroa Villamil 610, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00907
Govinda’s Veggie Garden
Govinda’s Veggie Garden is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant offering Indian based dishes and soups/salads, sandwiches, wraps, fruit frappes, smoothies, and vegan cakes.
367 Cll Fernando Primero, San Juan, 00918, Puerto Rico
If you are looking for more vegetarian/vegan friendly options in Puerto Rico (or anywhere else) visit happycow.net. There is also a mobile app available for download (it does cost $3.99 for download, but it is worth it!).
For some inspiration on more reasons to visit Puerto Rico click here.
Visiting Puerto Rico with your young ones? Here are Ten Family Friendly Attractions in Puerto Rico.