Cultural Kid-Friendly Food: Top 5 Puerto Rican Recipes for National Puerto Rican Day

June 9th marks New York City’s 62nd annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. An estimated 2 million are expected to attend this enormous celebration, complete with marchers in colorful costumes and decorative floats. This year’s theme is “Un Pueblo, Muchas Voces” – One Nation, Many Voices – and will feature prominent Puerto Ricans like baseball legend Edgar Martinez, musician Jose Feliciano, and pop star (and this year’s grand marshal) Ricky Martin.

The parade kicks off at 11:00 am at the southern end of Fifth Avenue, traveling north between 42nd and 79th streets, to the Upper East Side. The official city festivities go until 5:00 pm, but you may also enjoy cooking an ethnic dish at home with your children as part of the celebration. Cooking can help preschoolers with mathematical concepts and language development, and leads to better nutrition a decade later, so what better gift to give your children?   


Arroz con Gandules

Recipe by The Freakin’ Rican

Anyone who has tasted Puerto Rican cuisine knows that rice is most assuredly NOT a “side dish.” Puerto Rican rice is one of those things you dream about at night, weeks after you’ve been to The Freakin’ Rican Restaurant in Astoria. You might have to visit the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market to find some of the unique ingredients – like banana leaves; frozen gandules, which are also sometimes called pigeon peas; Sofrito, a powerful base sauce made of garlic, onions, different color bell peppers, tomatoes, annatto (achiote) seeds, cilantro, and Mexican oregano or parsley; and Sazon, a distinctly Spanish seasoning made of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, ground coriander, cumin, oregano, and annatto seed. There are enough ingredients in this recipe to keep the kids busy tossing items into the pot as it simmers.

Get the recipe here.


Shrimp Mofongo

Recipe by Manolo Lopez, proprietor of the MofonGO Smorgasburg stall, courtesy of NY Times Cooking

“Mofongo is the unofficial dish of the islands,” according to Old San Juan native Chef Manolo Lopez, who has earned a passionate following since offering his interpretation of the comfort food made from mashed plantains, pork rinds, and garlic. Manolo makes his own pork rinds, but you can buy yours. The plantain leaves and adobo seasoning (made from garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and dried citrus) add a distinctly Puerto Rican touch to this seafood dish. You’ll notice there is white wine in this recipe, but the alcohol cooks off, leaving behind a slight taste, without the intoxicating quality.

Get the recipe here.

Tembleque with Mango-Kumquat Relish

Recipe by Carmen Gonzalez, Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Carmen Gonzalez is a New York Restaurant School graduate who is celebrated for combining contemporary cuisine with mouth-watering flavors of her Puerto Rican homeland. This simple-yet-sumptuous creamy custard is made from coconut milk, sugar, salt, mint leaves, cornstarch, and orange blossom water. The base is good enough to eat on its own, but most people love adding a tropical relish topping featuring kumquats, mangoes, anise, cinnamon, and cloves. If you’re worried about the one cup of orange rum, you may substitute orange juice to make it a more kid-friendly topper. 

Get the recipe here.


Garlicky Roasted Pernil

Recipe by Chef Jose Enrique, Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

Chef Jose Enrique was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America before opening a restaurant back home, where he gained a following for his “pared down cooking style” and “dedication to fresh, local ingredients.” After marinating a pork shoulder in orange and lime juices and seasonings, you’ll simply roast the meat in the oven four hours for a feast little foodies will love. Pair with black beans and rice for a full meal.

Get the recipe here.


Sorullitos de Maiz

Recipe Courtesy of AllRecipes

Sorullitos win kids over with their exterior crisp and interior buttery goodness. In the homeland, these Puerto Rican cornmeal fingers (similar to polenta or hushpuppies) are traditionally served as breakfast, but they can easily be converted into party appetizers or a side dish. This dish is fun to form and easy to fry up. Traditionally, they’re dipped in a mayo / ketchup / garlic salt sauce. 

Get the recipe here.


Whether your family simply enjoys learning about different cultures, or your kids are chefs-in-the-making, Shine has a program for you! Contact us  to inquire about our monthly workshops (which may include cooking) and about our partnerships with local youth culinary schools. 

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