I’m going to be honest with you here, I’m not the biggest fan of traditional Thanksgiving Day foods. I’ve never really enjoyed the stuffing, turkey, or sweet potatoes which is why you’ll usually find me stuffing my face with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. However, growing up Puerto Rican, I was able to experience quite a few Turkey Day meals that had more than just your typical recipes.

A lot of Puerto Rican meals take a while to make, but that only gives the person making them more time to add love and care… At least that’s what I was always told growing up. While some recipes do take longer than others to make and are a bit difficult, that only gives you more reason to invite some friends and family over to join in and help out beforehand.

After a quick phone call to my mom and aunt, I was able to come up with the top recipes to add to your Thanksgiving Day (or Christmas) menu this year for a little somethin’ extra.

1. Arroz con Gandules

Arroz con gandules is typically a dish made on holidays or any other type of celebration. The dish is primarily made of yellow rice and pigeon peas, and no matter whose house we went to, there would always be a heaping bowl of it. 

2. Pernil


Pernil is pork shoulder that is slow roasted in the oven until the skin is nice and crispy and the meat is tender. It often takes the place of turkey and is paired with the arroz con gandules and tastes amazing together. It does take about 5 hours to make, though, so keep that in mind if you plan on trying it out.

3. Pasteles

Pasteles are probably my favorite part of the holidays. Now, keep in mind, pasteles are completely different from pastel, which often means cake or pastry in some Spanish-speaking countries. Pasteles are essentially made by taking a masa (a dough which is typically made of green banana/plantain or yuka) and then filling it with meat. Quite honestly, I could eat them all day. 

4. Surullitos de Maiz


A photo posted by Rony Peña (@ronychef) on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:43pm PDT

As fried corn meal sticks with cheese inside (they can also be made without cheese as well), these guys make the perfect appetizer. They’re often served with a sauce (the most commonly used is a type of mayonnaise and ketchup mixture with a bit of seasoning) that adds a bit of sweetness to the otherwise savory taste. Beware though, once you have one, you won’t be able to stop eating them.

5. Arroz con Dulce


A photo posted by King Immortal (@immortal_x) on Dec 27, 2014 at 11:57pm PST

Coconut rice pudding with mixed in flavors of cinnamon, clove, and fresh ginger, this is one of my mom’s favorite desserts. You can have it warm or chilled, it tastes good either way.

6. Flan

A photo posted by Essen (@essenoficial) on Oct 28, 2015 at 10:09am PDT

Flan is a baked custard similar to Creme Caramel. My grandmother used to make a fantastic flan and it was always the perfect dessert to finish off the night (or to accompany that lonely slice of pumpkin pie calling out to you).

7. Coquito

A photo posted by Rich Gonzalez (@cookgonzocook) on Oct 20, 2015 at 2:36pm PDT

Last but not least, coquito. Coquito is probably my favorite drink during the holidays and it’s not just because of the rum (wink, wink). Almost like eggnog, it is a thick, milky, coconut drink mixed with rum and always served cold.

Although it’s typically considered a Christmas drink, my mom starts selling bottles of this every year starting around Thanksgiving and I always manage to convince her into giving me a bottle for myself which usually lasts the entire holiday season.

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