Sofrito is a pantry staple in Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s used to marinate and stew meats, flavor rice, and season beans.
Sofrito is the base of many Hispanic dishes and the ingredients vary by country. It a sauce made of fresh vegetables that are blended together into a sauce. The freshness of the sauce comes through in the finished dish adding to its deliciousness. It’s an easy flexible sauce being easily adjusted for taste and available ingredients taking all of 15-20 minutes to prepare from start to finish.
Substitutes for traditional Puerto Rican sofrito ingredients
Puerto Rican sofrito base ingredients include bell peppers, onion, culantro leaves, garlic, and aji dulce chiles. Culantro leaves and aji dulce chiles are not indigenous to the US and are difficult to find in my area so I don’t bother looking for them. Instead, I’ve researched equitable substitutes that maintain the taste of the traditional.
Culantro is said to have an intense flavor of cilantro and parsley combined. My personal preference is to use cilantro only but it is recommended to use half of each in the recipe to reproduce the taste of culantro. Aij dulce are sweet peppers that look like habanero peppers. I use green bell pepper as a replacement however, you might try red or orange bell pepper if you’d prefer.
Modified Puerto Rican sofrito ingredients
This recipe is based on the Puerto Rican version that includes tomatoes. I also add a few other non-traditional ingredients like scallion instead of onion, jalapeño for a tiny bit of spice, and turmeric, which is optional. I like to use it for added color to my recipes. These are ingredients according to my taste preference that works really well while maintaining the essence of the traditional recipe.
How to make, use, and store homemade sofrito
Remove the roots and most of the green stems from the scallions, then trim and remove seeds from jalapeno if using.
Add all of the ingredients to a blender until smooth. Then gently heat the purée over medium flame in a saucepan before cooking and storing.
I use this sofrito in my Puerto Rican Chicken and Sofrito Yellow Rice recipe but it is amazing in Beef Empanadas and Stewed Chicken.
This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce. The leftovers can be frozen in batches for future use. To store leftover sofrito, pour 1-2 cups into a single quart-size freezer-safe bag. Seal the bag removing extra air. Lay it flat on a baking sheet in the freezer until solid. To defrost, run the frozen bag under warm water; use as normal.
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*This recipe was updated on 9/19/2020 for improved content. It was first published on 7/9/2018.*
Puerto Rican-Style Sofrito Recipe
- 1 lb plum tomatoes quartered
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 green pepper seeded
- 5 scallions trimmed
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 jalapeno seeded optional
- 1/3 c canola oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp turmeric optional
- Remove the roots and most of the green stems from the scallions, then trim and remove seeds from jalapeno if using.
- Put all of the ingredients into a blender and make a puree. Pour puree into a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. You should see a few bubbles but not much more. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool before storing or using it right away according to the recipe.