The Best Street Food In Puerto Rico
Beach day? Jungle hike? Bike tour? Your island bucket list is long. Which means finding the time to settle in for a long meal can be a rare treat.
That’s where Puerto Rican street food comes in.
Fast, delicious and typically fried, the snacks and street food of Puerto Rico make the perfect fuel for any adventure. We’re talking order-at-the-counter, grab-and-go, quick and satisfying bites that you can take to the beach, pack into a picnic or just cruise the boardwalk with. Hot, golden brown, wrapped in a paper towel—our mouths are watering already.
Types of Puerto Rican Street Food
While typical Puerto Rican fare leans more towards hearty, balanced plates of meats, vegetables and rice, the island’s street food is overwhelmingly fried. (And we’re not complaining!) A blend of Spanish, Caribbean and African influence, the delicious fried foods of Puerto Rico came about by a need for cheap, tasty, calorie-dense food.
While today, rich meat and seafood fillings accompany many of these fried treats, the goal remains the same. To eat well, eat cheap and eat fast.
There’s simply no leaving the island without trying one of the most popular Puerto Rican snacks known to mankind. A simple masa of green plantains and yucca or taro root stuffed with a meat filling is fried in hot oil to create the well-loved, absolutely delicious, alcapurria.
Typically served with a beef picadillo, or seasoned ground beef mixture, you can also find alcapurrias in Puerto Rico made with fillings like braised meats, seafood, cheese or vegetables. You can find these grab-and-go snacks just about anywhere; but the best place to grab one is at a chinchorro, a humble roadside kiosk where they’re hot and freshly fried.
Discover more golden, crispy goodness in the ever popular bacalaito. This deep-fried, salted codfish fritter is punctuated with fresh herbs and spices. It’s crunchy, light and the ultimate snack for a day at the beach.
Despite deep frying them, local vendors manage to keep these crispy fish fritters light and fresh tasting. Made famous by their satisfying combination of salty and crispy, the bacalaito is linked to the island’s Spanish colonists who brought salted cod to Puerto Rico.
A street food heavy hitter, the empanada is well-loved all across nearly all Latin cultures. In Puerto Rico, this crispy, handheld turnover is better known as an empanadilla, or sometimes, a pastelillo. Similar to the alcapurria, empanadillas feature a deep-fried dough commonly stuffed with a beef picadillo.
Where they differ is in the dough. Trading in the more dense masa for a light and flaky pie crust, empanadillas tend to be more about the filling than what it’s wrapped in. You can find them in every flavor combination you can dream of. From decadent seafood empanadillas to simple cheese-stuffed versions, the only way to find out which you like best is to try them all.
4. Papas Rellenas
We’re back on the classic combo—fried dough and beef picadillo. Only this time, there’s a twist. In place of the green banana masa or pastry crust, the dough is made from mashed potatoes. Papas Rellenas, or stuffed potatoes in Spanish, are yet another Puerto Rican street food staple that you’re sure to love.
That’s right. There is a Puerto Rican street food that hasn’t touched the fryer. Meet the pincho, a sauced and seasoned chicken or pork skewer grilled over a charcoal grill. Incredibly simple—just grilled meat—the pincho somehow feels like more than that.
Maybe it’s the skewer, which makes it handheld and easy to eat on-the-go. Or perhaps, it’s the blackened grill marks that add extra flavor and texture to the dish. Whatever it is, nothing really beats a fresh from the grill pincho, especially when you pair it with one of your other new favorite fried street foods.
Not only are they fun to say, piononos are fun to eat. Little round balls of flavor, piononos are little pockets of beef picadillo wrapped with a soft, sweet plantain and smothered in cheese.
They can be either pan-fried or deep-fried, but the end result is always perfection. A little sweet, a little salty, these bite-sized snacks are bursting with all the classic Puerto Rican flavors.
7. Cold Beer & Fresh Coconuts
Not exclusively Puerto Rican and not a unique delicacy by any means, but cold beer and fresh, young coconuts needed to make an appearance. Listen carefully—every item on this street food list will only get better when paired with a cold beer or fresh coconut water. That’s a promise.
So whether it’s bacalaito or alcapurria on the menu, you better wash it down with Puerto Rico’s national beer, the Medalla Light, or a coco frio.
Where To Find Puerto Rican Street Food
So where’s the best place to go for street food in Puerto Rico? Piñones and Luqillo are the most notorious spots to grab a deep-fried treat, as their beachside boardwalks are lined with tasty food kiosks.
There’s also plenty of street food in San Juan. You can find all the flavors and styles of your favorite snacks between the street vendors and local restaurants. And if you’re still hungry for more—check out a food tour of Old San Juan! You’ll get a taste of the best street food, plus try plenty of other Puerto Rican food.