illyanna Maisonet’s Puerto Rican Sofrito


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illyanna Maisonet’s Puerto Rican Sofrito

July 10, 2024
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illyanna Maisonet’s Puerto Rican Sofrito

It’s the season for sofrito. This flavor-packed Puerto Rican Sofrito recipe from illyanna Maisonet takes advantage of California’s abundant summer produce. She blends fresh tomatoes with a variety of ripe peppers, garlic, and a whole bunch of fresh cilantro. The resulting sauce is an incredibly flavorful base useful for adding a punch to so many different kinds of dishes. Pro tip — make a huge batch (or two). Then, freeze it in ice cube trays so you can get a taste of summer all year long.

From illyanna:

What is Puerto Rican sofrito?

Sofrito is an extremely traditional Puerto Rican cooking base that has been in almost every savory recipe since my grandmother’s grandmother. Maybe not before that because if you know anything about the island of Puerto Rico, it would be impossible for our family to exist in the way we are now.

Each family has their own take on the flavor base, but still certain ingredients must be used. Because of geographic necessity, some things have been substituted because they simply cannot be found outside of Puerto Rico.

What ingredients are in sofrito?

womans hand holding two bunches of garlic

Garlic + Onion:

One thing is for sure, two things are certain: garlic better be in your sofrito. Fresh, whole, garlic. No disrespect to the minced garlic that sits inside of the jar (in its own sweat) waiting for some nice person to adopt it off the dusty supermarket shelf. You need onion, it doesn’t matter what color. Now here is where you might find yourself at the crossroads.


Cilantro is widely used within the Puerto Rican diaspora (those who no longer live on the island). But it’s also been adopted by the Puerto Ricans who live on the island. It takes the place of recao, also known as culantro. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find culantro more easily in Asian markets here in Northern California thanks to the fact that it’s used in Southeast Asian cuisine.


Tomatoes are a controversial ingredient in sofrito. Some would absolutely never put tomatoes in their sofrito but will add water to loosen the sofrito. However, if you’ve ever seen what a tomato looks like in Puerto Rico, you’d probably bypass this inclusion as well. Because Puerto Rico has 85% of its ingredients imported to the island, the tomatoes are mostly pale, hard and bland. The juicy, multicolored, plump heirloom tomatoes we have in California don’t even seem related to the other tomatoes. This is not a diss to Puerto Rico. It is simply a critique of how food (and what kinds of foods) are allowed to enter the archipelago. 

a stack of red ripe tomatoes

California produces about 30% of the world’s commercially grown tomatoes. It also processes 95% of the processing tomatoes used in the United States. California’s Central Valley grows 95% of the processed tomato products consumed in the country. These are used in ketchup, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and other canned tomato products. Needless to say, I add tomatoes to my sofrito. It gives more flavor than water and also adds sweetness and acidity to the finished dish. Sometimes the acidity is much needed to cut through the richness of a dish or just to wake things up!

yellow peppers in a basket at a farmers market


Aji dulces are little sweet peppers. They resemble habaneros in shape only – that every Puerto Rican on the island uses in their sofrito. I have had zero luck finding these anywhere on the West Coast. Which I consider the best coast. Bell peppers have taken the place of aji dulces, which offer a more bitter and peppery flavor. I like to add a variety of peppers to my sofrito: Cubanelle (sometimes listed as Gypsy), purple bell, green bell, Hungarian wax. I may even throw in an Anaheim because…why not? Sometimes I’ll throw in a few of these varieties. Sometimes I’ll throw in all the varieties! Creating a complex sofrito serving sweet, peppery, bitter, floral and acidic. And could only exist in California.

sofrito in a bowl next to a larger bowl of cooked shishito peppers

How to use Puerto Rican sofrito

Imagine an herb base, similar to pesto (but a lot more versatile), carrying all of this weight and it only took you a few minutes to make because you shoved everything in the blender. The amount of time it takes to make sofrito versus the amount of flavor it gives you is unfair. Use sofrito in braised beef stews, chile verde, ground pork stir fry and vinaigrettes. You want to amp up those bland ground turkey tacos? Add sofrito. It also makes an incredible sauce for shishito peppers.

blistered shishito peppers in a blue bowl

illyanna’s Blistered Shishitos with Sofrito Recipe

This delicious shishitos pepper recipe from illyanna Maisonet utilizes her flavorful Puerto Rican sofrito, tossing it over pan-fried shishito peppers. The resulting dish is not only quick to prepare, it makes a perfect side dish for your next summer cook out.

Get the shishito pepper recipe

Be sure to share your Puerto Rican sofrito with us by snapping a pic and tagging us on social using #CAGROWN. Craving more CA GROWN goodness? Follow us on Pinterest for fresh and fabulous recipe inspiration!

puerto rican sofrito in a white bowl

Puerto Rican Sofrito Recipe

illyanna Maisonet
This Puerto Rican sofrito with tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers and cilantro adds a punch to so many different kinds of dishes. It yields 2 cups.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dressing
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Servings 8 servings
Calories 23 kcal


  • Blender or Food Processor


  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 large heirloom tomato roughly diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 7-10 cloves fresh garlic husks removed
  • 1 medium green bell pepper roughly chopped
  • 1 medium purple bell pepper roughly chopped
  • 1 medium Anaheim pepper roughly chopped
  • 2 medium Cubanelle peppers roughly chopped
  • 1 Serrano pepper optional


  • Wash all of your vegetables. Remove all the seeds from your peppers and roughly chop. This helps the blender process the vegetables smoothly. Set aside.
  • In a blender or food processor, add in your cilantro and tomatoes. Blitz until pureed. Add in your onion, garlic and bell peppers. Blitz. Add in your Anaheim, Cubanelle and Serrano. Blitz.
  • Can be used immediately, held in the refrigerator for 3 days, or placed in an ice cube tray and frozen for 6 months.


If you consider yourself a person who doesn’t like the flavor of cilantro. I beg you, just try the recipe with cilantro first. I’m willing to put money on you not even tasting it once it’s combined with all of the other flavors. And remember, sofrito is cooked down with whatever dish you’re making. This is not the raw one-two punch of cilantro that most of you associate with the “soapy” flavor.
If you can’t find an heirloom tomato, just use really ripe Roma, Beefsteak or any other standard red tomato.


Serving: 4tablespoonsCalories: 23kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 1gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.03gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 30mgPotassium: 149mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 785IUVitamin C: 37mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 0.3mg
Keyword puerto rican sofrito, sofrito
Tried this recipe?Mention @cagrownofficial or tag #CAGROWN!

A few more of illyanna’s flavor-packed Puerto Rican recipes to try:

Casa Adela Roast Chicken from Illyanna Maisonet

Casa Adela-Inspired Roasted Chicken

This recipe is inspired by one of Casa Adela’s signature dishes. When someone is known for their roasted chicken, you know their recipe must be something magical.

Get the roasted chicken recipe

Illyanna Maisonet Spring Bean Salad

Spring Bean Salad

Celebrate seasonal produce with this Spring Bean Salad from our friend Illyanna Maisonet. The combination of pinto beans, asparagus and cucumber is unexpected but incredibly delicious!

Get the bean salad recipe

Illyanna Maisonet: @eatgordaeat - photos provided by influencer - author of Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook

Who is illyanna Maisonet?

illyanna Maisonet is a Puerto Rican food writer and chef known for her work in preserving and promoting Puerto Rican cuisine. She has gained recognition for her deep dives into the history, culture, and recipes of Puerto Rican food, often sharing personal stories and historical context. Maisonet is also known for her cookbook, “Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook,” which showcases traditional recipes and modern interpretations of Puerto Rican dishes. Her work often highlights the rich culinary heritage of Puerto Rico and aims to educate and inspire others to explore and appreciate this vibrant cuisine.

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