Cuban Cooking Terminology

A Caballo-a folkloric expression that means a plate of rice and beans with a fried egg "mounted" on top.

Aceite con Achiote-annatto oil.

Aceite de Maiz-corn oil

Aceituna-olive. The olive most used is the manzanilla, which is a pitted green olive stuffed with pimiento.

Acelga-Swiss chard. Used to make caldo Gallego (Galician Soup).

Acerola-West Indian or Bardados cherry. This fruit is best known for its high vitamin C content. Traditionally it was used to make refresco de acerola, or acerola juice.

Achiote or Achote-annatto seeds.

Achiotera-a container used to store annatto oil with its seeds. The oil is heated every time it is needed so the seeds can release their yellow color.

Adobo-The basic seasoning combination of Puerto Rican cooking.


Agua de Azahar-orange blossom water. A distilled water made of orange blossoms, used to flavor traditional desserts like rice-flour stovetop custard.

Aji Caballero or Aji Picante-hot chili pepper. A hot pepper about 1 inch long. It is the only hot pepper used in traditional cooking. It is also used to make pigue, a fermented vinegar used as a condiment.

Aji Dulce-sweet chili pepper.

Ajilimojili-a traditional sauce made with garlic, peppercorns, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. It is served with boiled root vegetables or over grilled meats.


Ajonjoli-sesame seeds

Alboronia de Chayote-chayote salad

Alcaparra-caper. Most frequently used in alcaparrado.

Alcaparrado-a mixture of green olives, capers, and pimientos.

Alcapurria-a traditional fritter made of grated yautia (taro root) and green bananas, stuffed with picadillo. It can also be stuffed with crabmeat or chicken

Almojabana-rice-flour fritter

Amarillo-ripe yellow plantain

Anafre-portable burner. Used in the old days in place of a stove. It was usually made of a cracker-tin can, with holes added to improve the ventilation. Anafres were also made of iron and placed on top of the fogon.

Ani en Semilla-aniseed. Used mostly to prepare desserts.

Apio-a root vegetable with brown skin, yellow flesh, and a very strong starchy taste. It is used mostly to make heavy soups like sancocho and tripe soup.


Arroz Amarillo-basic yellow rice made with saffron or Bijol, which can also be combined with meat, seafood, or vegetables.

Arroz con Dulce-Rice pudding. A traditional dessert made with rice, coconut milk, ginger, and spices.

Arroz con Gandules-yellow rice with green pigeon peas. This is Puerto Rico's national rice dish.

Arroz con Pollo-yellow rice with chicken

Arroz y Frijoles-rice and beans

Asalto Navideno-Christmas caroling. Traditionally, a group of people get together and surprise a neighbor in the middle of the night with Christmas songs.

Asopao-one of the national soup of Puerto Rico. It has a thick consistency and is derived from the Spanish paella. It is a mixture of rice, chicken, alcaparrado and recaito. Asopao can also be made with seafood, green pigeon peas, or salt codfish.

Avellana-hazelnut. Hazelnuts and walnuts are traditional Christmas nuts

Bacalao-salt codfish

Bacalaito-salt codfish fritter

Barrilito-a type of Puerto Rican rum that is 86 proof


Besito de Coco-coconut kiss. A traditional dessert made with fresh-grated coconut, sugar, and spices.

Bili-a mix of rum and quenepas that gets fermented. The rum is then drained and served. This is a typical drink of Vieques, and island located on the east coast of the island of Puerto Rico

Bistec-cubed steak. Used to prepare breaded steak.

Bodega-Spanish grocery store

Bollo de Pan-a loaf of bakery bread

Boronia de Chayote-Chayote stew

Botana-means dip; can also mean snack

Bunuelo Beignet-a fritter made with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. It can be sweet or savory (made with Parmesan cheese)

Buñuelos-fried fritters topped with a brown sugar syrup

Buren-flat griddle. This was traditionally made of clay and used by the Taino natives to cook casabe

Butifarra-pork sausage seasoned with spices like cinnamon and anise, usually eaten for breakfast

Cabrito-young goat. Usually prepared in a stew


Cafe con Leche-strong black coffee with steamed milk

Cafe Negro-black coffee

Cafe Puya-unsweetened black coffee

Cafe Tinta-espresso

Calabaza-West Indian pumpkin

Calamar en su Tinta-squid in its ink. Sold canned, it is used to make rice with squid

Caldero-cauldron or cooking pot. This traditional pot, made of iron or thick almuminum, is used to make Puerto Rican rice dishes.



Cana de Azucar-sugar cane

Caramelo-caramel. Made of granulated sugar; used to coat the pan in which flan is cooked

Carne Vieja-dry salted beef, sold in small slabs covered with a layer of lard. It is usually prepared with scrambled eggs and onions

Casabe-cassava bread. A flat bread made with grated cassava

Cascos de Guayaba-guava shells. They are usually cooked in a sugar syrup and re readily available canned

Cazuela-a dessert casserole made of calabaza and yam

Champola-a soursop drink made with milk

Chayote-a vegetable of the squash family, also known as mirlition, vegetable pear, or christophine. It has a white or green skin and cream-colored flesh, with a somewhat bland taste.

Chayotes-can be stored at room temperature and are available year-round

Chicharron-pork crackling. Deep-fried pieces of pork skin or cut-up pieces of boneless pork shoulder. Small pieces of deepfried chicken are also called chicharron

Chillo-red snapper


Chironja-a cross between an orange and a grapefruit

Chorizo-Mexican sausage, a common breakfast food

Cilantro-coriander, best used fresh dried


Coco Rallado-shredded coconut

Coco Seco-dry, mature coconut with a brown, hairy shell and firm white flesh

Coco Verde-green coconut, usually sold refrigerated at roadside stands. The flesh is soft and the water, which is usually sweet, can be drunk straight from the coconut shell.

Codito-elbow macaroni

Colador de cafe-cloth colander used in the old days to prepare coffee

Comino-cumin, used in salsas, to season many dishes

Conejo-rabbit. Stewed rabbit meat is eaten on holidays and special occasions like weddings or christenings

Coquito-rum eggnog. This is a traditional Christmas drink

Cream de Coco-coconut cream

Criolla-creole. This term is used to denote traditional Puerto Rican cooking.

Cuchifrito-deep-fried pork pieces sold at roadside stands. These usually consist of pig's ears, tails, stomach, ets.  

Culantro-is another name for recao

Dita-a bowl carved from the higuera tree. In the old days it was used to wash rice and measure beans


Dulce-a sweet, usually eaten as a dessert, made with yam, pineapple, or coconut

Dulce de Platano-a dessert dish made with very ripe yellow plantains cooked in red wine, sugar, and spices

Empanada-turnover. A fritter made of dough stuffed with picadillo, crab stew, or chicken

Empanadilla-small turnover



Filete-beef tenderloin

Flan-custard. A national dessert of Spanish heritage made of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices

Fogon-a hearth made of three stones arranged in a triangle, with pieces of wood placed within


Funche-Puerto Rican polenta. This has been a staple dish since the Tainos lived on the island. It used to be made with lard, but today corn or olive oil is used instead.

Galleta por Soda-soda cracker. Eaten as an afternoon snack with cafe con leche. Crushed soda crackers, known as galleta molida (cracker meal), are used for breading.


Gandinza-pork liver

Gandul-green pigon pea



Grano-dialect term for rice-flour fritter on Puerto Rico's east coast, and the word for beans on some parts of the island

Greca de Cafe-Italian coffee pot used to make strong black coffee

Grosella-gooseberry. Cooked in water and sugar to make a compote

Guanime-Puerto Rican tamal. Guanimes have been a staple food since the Taino days. They are made plain, without stuffing and are wrapped in banana leave. Served with salt codfish stew, guanimes are an everyday peasant lunch

Guarapo de Cana-sugar can juice. Sold freshly squeezed at roadside stands

Guayaba-guava. Fruit with a green skin, pink flesh, and small seeds. Fresh guavas are hard to find and can be expensive. Frozen pulp and juice concentrate are easily found year-round. On the island of Puerto Rico where they are abundat, guavas are made into a paste and the shells are cooked in sugar syrup. Both are served as desserts with white cheese

Guayo-grater. Used to shred root vegetables


Guineo Maduro-ripe yellow banana. Eaten as a fruit

Guineo Manzano-apple banana. Eaten green as a vianda (root vegetable), or ripe, as a fruit

Guineo Nino-lady-finger banana. Eaten only when ripe. Dipped in flour and deep-fried, it is served as a side dish

Guineo Verde-green banana. Eaten as a side-dish starch. Green bananas are a part of the viandas family. The leaves are used to wrap guanimes, pasteles, and arroz apastelado.



Haba-lima bean


Habichuela Blanca-white bean

Habichuela Colorada-small red kidney bean

Habichuela Marca Diablo-red kidney bean

Habichuela Rosada or Rosita-pink bean

Hoja de Guineo-banana leaf. Used to wrap pasteles and guanimes

Hojaldre-puff pastry

Hojas-dried corn husks used as wrappers to make tamales

Horchata de Ajonjoli-a drink made of ground sesame seeds, water, and sugar

Horno de Microonda-microwave oven

Jamon de Cocinar-smoked cooking ham

Jibaro Envuelto-lady-finger banana dipped in flour, fried, and served as a side dish

Jicama-a sweet crisp vegetable used as potatoes are used

Juey-Caribbean land crab

Kahlua-a dark rich Mexican coffee liqueur

Langosta-lobster. The lobster commonly found in the Caribbean Sea is the spiny or rock lobster. It is very hard to find on the mainland, but American (Maine) lobster can be substituted

Leche de Coco-coconut milk


Lechon Asado al pincho-a whole pig seasoned with adobo and cooked slowly over a charcoal pit

Lechon de Mechar-beef round cut, used on the island to make pot roast

Lechonera-a stand where pit-roasted pig is sold by the pound or by the portion


Leren-a plant similar to a water chestnut, cultivated by the Tainos

Limber-fruit juice frozen into ice cubes and eaten as a snack. The most famous limbers are sold in Old San Juan


Limon Verde-a lime with very acidic juice, known on the mainland as key lime


Longaniza-Spanish pork sausage, seasoned with cilantro, spices, and bay leaves. Used to make yellow rice

Mabi-a fermented drink made from the bark of the mabi tree. On the island this is a daily drink. On the mainland, especially in the New York area, it is available only from April to September

Maicena-cornstarch. Cornstarch is prepared as a hot breakfast cereal on the island, with milk and egg yolks. It is also used in the preparation of many custard desserts


Majarete-a rice-flour dessert made during the Christmas season, especially on Three Kings Day (Epiphany)

Malanga-a root vegetable with brown skin and white or purple flesh. It is used to make sancocho and tripe soup. It is also boiled and served with salt codfish salad

Mamey-a fruit with a rough brown skin and bright red flesh. It is mostly eaten in preserves and compotes. Fresh mamey is very hard to find, but the frozen pulp is available year-round in Hispanic markets

Mandarina-mandarin orange

Masa-corn dough used for making tortillas, tamales, enchiladas, ect.

Masa Harina-an instant corn flour

Mero-red grouper. This fish is traditionally used to prepare escabeche during the Lent season

Mofongo-fried green plantain mashed in a mortar and shaped into a ball. Traditionally it was seasoned with fresh garlic and pork cracklings. New versions are stuffed with seafood, chicken, or vegetables

Mojo-a classic sauce that originated in the coastal town of Salinas, made with olives, tomato sauce, and vinegar

Mojo de Ajo-a garlic dipping sauce served with tostones or boiled cassava

Mole-a sauce made from a paste of chiles, chocolate, spices, used to top meat entrees

Molleja-chicken gizzard stewed in tomato sauce; usually served as an appetizer

Mondongo-a thick soup made with beef tripe, assorted root vegetables, and seasonings

Morcilla-blood sausage. A black sausage made from fresh pork blood and cooked rice. This is a traditional Christmas food

Name-yam. A root vegetable with brown skin and white flesh. It is used in sancocha and eaten boiled


Naranja Agria-sour orange, used mainly to prepare marinades. The white shell of the fruit is cooked in sugar and served as a dessert

Nopal-cactus, only tender young leaflets are used to make candy, mixed with various other foods such as eggs, chiles, ect., can also be eaten alone

Nuez Moscada-nutmeg

Olla-soup pot. Usually made of aluminum

Oregano Brujo-Puerto Rican wild oregano. This oregano, with its distinctive pungent aroma, grows wild on the island. It is mostly used to make sofrito. It is very hard to find on the mainland

Paella-a Spanish dish that consists of rice, saffron, chorizo and meat or seafood

Paellera-a round, shallow iron pot with two handles, used to cook paella

Pana or Panapen-breadfruit. A round fruit with green skin and white flesh that came to the island of Puerto Rico from Tahiti. When green, it is eaten as a vianda or made into chips and tostones. When ripe, it is made into a dessert custard or boiled and mashed like potatoes. Breadfruit is available only during August and September. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two and can also be frozen. Peel and remove the middle seed before cooking.

Pana de Pepita-breadfruit nut. A chestnutlike seed that is generally eaten boiled.


Parcha-passion fruit

Pasteles-dumplings made from shredded root vegetables, stuffed with picadillo and boiled in banana or plantain leaves

Pasta de Guayaba-guava paste. This is found in most bodegas and many supermarkets. It is used in many desserts, and as a jam

Pastel de Masa-grated assorted root vegetables stuffed with pork, olives, and raisins and wrapped in banana leaves. A traditional Christmas food

Pastelon de Platano-yellow plantain pie made of fried slices of yellow plantain, beef picadillo, and green beans

Patas de Cerdo-pigs feet. Usually prepared as a stew with chick-peas

Pegao-the crusty bottom of the rice that sticks to the pot. It is scraped and served with bean stew

Pernil de Cerdo-pork shoulder

Picadillo-a basic beef stuffing mix made of ground beef, sofrito, raisins, and olives

Piloncillo-unrefined Mexican brown sugar sold in small cone shape

Pilon-mortar and pestle. A cooking utensil traditionally used to prepare recaito. Taino pilones were made of stone. More recently they were made of wood; nowadays they are usually made of aluminum or plastic

Pimiento-bell pepper

Pimiento de Coconar-Italian frying pepper

Pimiento Morron-roasted red pepper. Usually sold in cans or jars, preserved in water and salt. This is a classic garnish for rice dishes like arroz con pollp, potato salad, and asopaos

Pincho-skewered beef cubes

Piña-pineapple. The best pineapples are grown in Hawai

Pinole-toasted ground corn, makes a delicious drink with milk

Pinon de Amarillo-yellow plantain pie

Pionono-a fritter made with yellow plantain. The plantain is cut lengthwise and fried. It is then shaped into a cup, stuffed with beef, chicken, or crab, sealed with eggs, and pan-fried

Pique-vinegar seasoned with hot peppers, spices, and sour orange. Mostly used as a condiment


Platano Maduro-yellow plantain

Platano Verde-green plantain

Platanutre-plantain chip

Polvo de Galleta-soda-cracker meal

Pote-an empty metal can, used in the old days as a cup to drink black coffee

Presa de Pollo-chicken pieces

Punto de Nieve-egg whites beaten until very stiff (literally, "snow peak")

Quenepa-the fruit of a Caribbean tree, with green skin, pink flesh, and a large pit. The best ones are grown in Ponce, a town on the sourth coast of Puerto Rico. Quenepas are available fresh mostly during August. They are sold in bunches or packed in small plastic bags, and can be stored at room temperature.

Queso Blanco, Queso de Hoja or Queso del Pais-White cheese. A lightly salted white cheese made of cow's milk. A distinctive characteristic of this cheese is that it does not melt

Queso de Papa-Cheddar cheese


Rajas de Chile-strips of chile

Recaito-a key seasoning in Puerto Pican cooking. It is a combination of onions, garlic, peppers, and recao or cilantro

Recao-green spiny leaf

Relleno-a fritter made of mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo, shaped into a ball, and deep-fried. Canned corn beef is also used as a filling


Salchicha-Vienna sausage

Salchichon-salami. The salami used in Puerto Rico is similar to Genoa salami. Salchichon is widely available in bodegas and supermarkets

Salmorejo de Jueyes-crabmeat stew

Salsa de Tomate-tomato sauce

Sancocho-a thick soup made of assorted meats, root vegetables, sofrito, and corn on the cob, and traditionally served with plain white rice

Sangria-Spanish wine punch

Sarten-frying pan

Serenata de Bacalao-salt codfish salad. Made with salt codfish, potatoes, eggs, tomato, and avocado


Sofrito Recaito-cooked with ham, alcaparrado, and tomato sauce. Sofrito is the base for many stews and sauces

Sopon-another name for asopao

Sorullo de Maiz or Sorullito-a fritter made ov cornmeal and shaped like a cigar, stuffed with cheese, and deep-fried. The most famous ones are made in Lajas, on Phosphorescent Bay (the same town where the island's best pineapples are grown). They are served with a sauce made of mayonnaise and ketchup.



Tasajo-Puerto Rican dry cured beef

Tayote-another name for chayote

Tembleque-a stirred custard made of coconut milk and sugar (literally "shaky")



Tomatillos-small green tomatoes, used in soups, salsas, salads


Toston-a slice of green plantain fried, smashed flat, and refried

Tostonera-the utensil traditionally used to prepare tostones. It is made of two flat pieces of wood screwed together.

Tostoneras-can be found in bodegas and supermarkets. If they are not available, smash the plantain between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper.

Turron-almond nougat. A sweet eaten during the Christmas season

Uva de Playa-sea grape

Verdolagas-a common weed in the Southwest and other dry, desert regions. Purslane is another name.

Verduras-root vegetables

Viandas-root vegetables

Vinagre de manzana-cider vinegar

Yautia-taro root

Yuca-cassava, a root vegetable with hard white flesh and a rough brown skin



Midnight Sandwich- Media Noche
Media Noche