San Juan dishes are as flavorful as its cobblestone streets are colorful. Therefore, this is one cruise destination that always delights the taste buds of food lovers across the globe. San Juan’s food scene is known for pushing boundaries, blending tradition with Spanish, African and French influences, as well as adding its very own special twist.
While you’re enjoying the colonial architecture, sandy beaches and rich heritage of Puerto Rico’s capital, here’s what to eat in San Juan along the way.
The first dish you need to try on your cruise to San Juan is mofongo, often touted as the best Puerto Rican food. Whether it is or isn’t is debatable with so many tasty options to choose from; however, it’s certainly the most famous. It’s a mashed concoction of fried green plantains with garlic seasoning filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, steak, or pork. Think of your favorite mashed potato but oh so much better!
If you love lasagna, then you’ll love the Puerto Rican version. Perhaps this dish is best to try after a full day of activities and shopping in San Juan, so you’ve worked up a hearty appetite. It’s made with layers of thinly sliced plantains, ground beef and topped with delicious, melted cheese to make your mouth water.
One of the top things to do in San Juan is to spend time on beautiful beaches. When it’s time for a snack after a long day in the sun, follow the lead of the locals and try alcapurrias. They’re basically fritters, with a batter made of green bananas and stuffed full of yummy fillings such as crab, lobster or meat.
4. Chicharrones de Pollo
What could be better than fried chicken, you might ask? Fried chicken, Puerto Rican style. Often served with mofongo as a tasty side dish, these chicken legs are juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, with seasonings of garlic, achiote and oregano.
5. Sorullitos de Maiz
Trying the staple dishes of local cultures is an exciting activity during a cruise and in San Juan that means biting into golden fried sorullitos de maiz. The corn fritters resemble a mozzarella stick that’s crispy on the outside with a soft, buttery filling. They’re best served for breakfast, as a side dish or an appetizer.
6. Arepas de Coco
Street food in San Juan doesn’t come much better than arepas de coco — just ask the locals! While arepas are served in a range of countries, in Puerto Rico the fried bread is generally made with coconut flour, as opposed to corn flour. This gives it a tropical sweet flavor, to enjoy on its own or stuffed with fillings like seafood, vegetables or meat.
7. Serenata de Bacalao
Serenata de bacalao is a favorite dish of Puerto Ricans, as a refreshing salad enjoyed year-round. The twist to this particular salad is that it’s made with salted cod, usually complemented by potatoes, capers and eggs. It’s perfect for lunch on a hot day while you’re out and about on one of your shore excursions.
8. Chillo Frito
Trying the local seafood is a delight in any cruise destination by the sea and San Juan offers Chillo Frito as one delectable way to enjoy it. It’s a simple dish of fried red snapper, often served whole to keep the fish juicy and tender, with fried green plantains on the side.
The word “arañitas” means “little spiders” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what these appetizers look like, making them a thrilling treat for the kids. They’re made of shredded green plantain strips that are fried to crunchy perfection with squiggly tendrils of batter on the outside. If you’re looking for meat-free snacks, arañitas are a great choice.
On weekends or at large family gatherings in Puerto Rico, the most popular dish of choice is lechón. Suckling pig is traditionally prepared with loads of herbs and spices for seasoning, then roasted over wood or coals for hours. This results in moist, tender pork on the inside that’s scrumptiously crispy on the outside. So it’s little wonder why it’s the weekend family dish of choice!
To satisfy your sweet tooth in San Juan, look no further than tembleque. This coconut custard pudding dusted with cinnamon is refreshing and light, which makes it a perfect match to its tropical surrounds. However, don’t think that means it doesn’t pack a punch in the dessert stakes, as it’s decadently creamy all the same.
12. Piña Colada
It’s not food, but the perennially popular cocktail, piña colada, is worthy of a mention here. Why? Because it was invented by a bartender in San Juan, who captured the flavors of the island with an exotic mix of rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream.
Along with exciting exploration of beaches, culture and vibrant city colors, a cruise to San Juan offers an extra special culinary treat, with flavors to suit every type of craving.