How to Celebrate a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving

How They Celebrate in Puerto Rico

Thanksgiving is one of the most special vacations around. And even though Puerto Ricans weren't really part of the original festivities, they have embraced it eagerly. But they've also put their twist on this classic American tradition.

Much of the holiday is spent the same way as it is in the States. Most businesses are closed, the family gets together, there is a ridiculous amount of food, and people go shopping afterward.

So what's the difference? The answer is what's for dinner. Puerto Ricans have a feast all their own. Here's what's on the menu:

Appetizers

  • Guineos en escabeche: boiled bananas in garlic sauce (combining plantains and bananas with savory flavors is a common Puerto Rican culinary practice.)
  • Tostones, another plantain-based starter that tastes wholly different from the above.
  • Fried plantain chips served with a garlic mojo dipping sauce.

Entrees

It's all about the turkey but on the island, it's cooked a little differently:

  • Roasted and stuffed with mofongo
  • Pavochón

For sides, expect amarillos, morcilla, or blood sausage (a Spanish import) and arroz con gandules, the 'Rican version of rice 'n beans.

Dessert

What's Thanksgiving without dessert? Instead of pumpkin pie, Puerto Ricans typically finish off their meal with tembleque, a kind of cinnamon-coated coconut custard. Another favorite is dulce de leche, a custard made from caramelized milk.

Recipes

Here are a few recipes for those who want to celebrate a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving even after you get back home.

  • A Pavochón recipe from an expert on Caribbean food, Hector Rodriguez, who adds an Arroz con Gandules recipe for your side. He also has a great recipe for pasteles, another holiday tradition.
  • Another Pavochón recipe from The 'Rican Chef, who adds a classic mofongo stuffing to make it truly boricua.
  • A recipe for Tembleque, also from Hector Rodriguez.

The Aftermath

After Thanksgiving, Puerto Ricans like to take it easy... just like Americans. Many go to the beach. Many find a hammock or a bottle of something strong. The next day, people go shopping, just like Americans. And lastly, Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas season in Puerto Rico, which is truly a wonderful time of the year.