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Puerto Rican desserts are the mouthwatering marriage of tropical Caribbean ingredients like pineapple, guava, and coconut with the classic staples of vanilla, caramel, sugar, milk, and bread. Uncomplicated and straight to the point, desserts from Puerto Rico are humble and not the least bit showy. It’s as if they’ve all agreed upon one important question: how can we make the most divine desserts, without too much hassle? Here’s our list of the most heavenly desserts from Puerto Rico.
These tasty little pastries are a Puerto Rican staple that you can easily make at home. It’s simple enough: a puffy, doughy pastry stuffed with guava paste and topped with powdered sugar. They look like fancy, oozy little squares of magic, but they’re quite quick to prepare. Head to the store and grab some puff pastry in the freezer aisle, and you’ll usually find guava paste in the Hispanic aisle. Sandwich slices of paste between two squares of dough and bake them for 20 minutes. They make for a good breakfast as well.
Also in the guava category, Quesitos de Guayaba are sweetened cream cheese and guava pastries that are a little more substantial if you’re looking for something filling.
Arroz con Dulce/Arroz con Leche
Rice pudding is arguably the most well-known Puerto Rican dessert (depending on who you ask). The Puerto Rican style of rice pudding has milk, vanilla, sugar, and spices such as ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Sometimes you’ll see arroz con leche with a creative twist with additions of various dried fruit, rather than the standard raisins. Arroz con dulce is made when you add coconut milk and coconut shavings into the equation.
Tembleque — which means ‘jiggly’ in Spanish — is a little dome-shaped pudding dessert with a texture that can only be described as fun. Again, the ingredients are super simple: coconut milk (not coconut cream), sugar, salt, and cornstarch. All you have to do is heat up all the ingredients on the stove, pour portions into little molds, and refrigerate for a few hours. When it’s cooled and hardened, throw on some cinnamon and you’ve got yourself a jiggly Puerto Rican staple.
Flan de Queso
Flan — Latin America’s take on creamy, custard-doused cheesecake, is a phenomenal dessert option in Puerto Rico. Flan dates back centuries (it was originally brought over from Spain) and has become an integral part of Latin culture. Flan de queso specifically is a slight alternative that includes cream cheese. The other ingredients are eggs, evaporated milk, condensed milk, sugar, and vanilla. The result is an oven-baked dish that’s layered in caramel and sometimes topped with fresh fruit and cream. You can also find chocolate, coconut, and Nutella flans, but the traditional Puerto Rican style is with cheese. Whichever style you order, flan absolutely needs to be on your itinerary for How to Plan a Weekend in Puerto Rico.
Dulce de Coco
All around Latin America you’ll find street vendors slinging dulce de coco, and Puerto Rico is no exception. The shape isn’t standard — sometimes they come in spheres, squares, or just a heaping mound of goodness — but the taste is always the same. Imagine a crunchy Rice Crispy but with a base of coconut. Wash down these sweet treats in Puerto Rican fashion with a rum trip around San Juan — cheers!
Pineapple Rum Cake
With pineapple rum cake we have a combination of the best tropical fruit, ice cream, and alcohol. Throughout the Caribbean, rum cakes are a common holiday dessert, and traditionally it was made by soaking dried fruit in rum for a matter of months and then adding it to sugary dough. Thankfully modern advances have sped up the process without sacrificing any of the flavor. Rum cake, or bizcocho de ron as it’s called in Puerto Rico, is a deliciously bread-based pineapple-flavored dessert that’s dripping in ice cream. What else needs to be said?
While they probably won’t fall into your traditional dessert category, sweet plantains (and plantains in general) are such a staple in Caribbean cuisine that it’d be a crime to leave them off the list. They make a great snack, and they don’t even require added sugar. All you need is vegetable oil and ripe plantains. Often, they’re served with lunches to satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of a hearty meal.