One of the things I love the most about my Puerto Rican heritage is all the delicious food! I have so many memories in the kitchen with my abuela, parents, sisters and brothers, and extended family over the years cooking up our family recipes, especially during the holidays. Puerto Ricans tend to enjoy our big Christmas feast on Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena. Like with many cultures, there are specific things served for the holiday. Today I’m sharing a menu for a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dinner (recetas para Nochebuena) along with recipe links. Keep reading if you’re looking for Puerto Rican Christmas food, Noche Buena food ideas (and a Noche Buena food list). If you’re looking for more inspiration, you can also get all my Puerto Rican recipes here, and you’ll want to bookmark my homemade sofrito recipe, as it’s the base for many of the recipes in this post. I hope this article on Nochebuena food helps you to create your own Puerto Rican feast and new family traditions for Christmas!
Traditional Puerto Rican Christmas food (Noche Buena food list)
I have more information about each along with photos and links to recipes below, but here’s a quick list of the items you’d find on a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dinner or Nochebuena menu:
- Arroz con Gandules
- Habicheulas Guisadas
- Arroz con Dulce
- Flan de Coco
Nochebuena menu / Puerto Rican holiday food – appetizers
Empanadillas (Puerto Rican-style empanadas). While they can also be a meal in itself, empanadillas are a great appetizer, too. You can even make smaller, bite-sized versions. Many Spanish cultures make versions of empanadas, but Puerto Rican-style empanadas (which are actually called empanadillas in Puerto Rico) have the distinct Puerto Rican seasoning flavors. Get my Shortcut Puerto Rican-Style Picadillo Empanadas (Empanadillas) recipe, or try this Easy Puerto Rican-Style Vegetarian Empanada recipe.
Tostones. Fried green plantains, or tostones are a staple in Puerto Rican cooking, not just for your Nochebuena menu, but with any Puerto Rican feast. You can fry them the traditional way, or try my Air Fryer Tostones (fried green plantain chips) recipe, which is a variation of my father’s traditional fried tostones.
Mofongo. Another quintessential Puerto Rican starter is mofongo, which is also made from fried green plantains that have been mashed and mixed with other ingredients. I haven’t published my family’s mofongo recipe yet, but this one is very highly rated, and would be a great choice if you’re looking for Puerto Rican recipes for Christmas.
Bacalaítos. Puerto Rican bacalaitos are fried salt cod fritters. These were a staple in my home growing up, and were always made before a big Puerto Rican feast. Get my recipe for basic Puerto Rican Bacalaitos here.
Alcapurrias. One of my favorite things my abuela used to make for Nochebuena food is alcapurria. Fritters of yucca and plantains are stuffed with a beef picadillo mixture and fried into incredibly savory and delicious bites. I haven’t published our family recipe yet, but this one on The Noshery looks good.
Puerto Rican Christmas dinner (NOCHEBUENA FOOD) – main meal
Pernil. Puerto Rican Pork Roast (called pernil) is the centerpiece of a Puerto Rican Christmas dinner. Slow roasted to yield a crispy skin and fall-apart tender meat, this method for pork roast is my favorite. Get my Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Roast) recipe.
Arroz con Gandules. Another essential addition to your Noche Buena food list is arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). This is Puerto Rican comfort food supreme, and is a side dish on most Puerto Rican meals any time of year. Get our family’s Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules recipe here.
Habicheulas Guisadas. These Puerto Rican-style stewed beans are my husband’s favorite thing that I make. I’ve adapted my father’s recipe and it is perfection. Made with pink beans, this bean dish is full of flavor and great alongside pernil and arroz con gandules on your Puerto Rican Christmas dinner menu. Get my Habichuelas Guisadas (Puerto Rican-Style Beans) recipe.
Pasteles. Your Puerto Rican Christmas food menu is not complete without pasteles. Pasteles are a type of tamal made with a masa of plantain and yuca (instead of corn like traditional tamales). Like tamales, making pasteles is a family affair. Making them involves multiple steps and requires a sort of assembly line to put them together. Though it’s not just the delicioso flavor of the pasteles that makes the effort worth it; the memories made together as a family are even more special. I have years and years of dear memories of Abuela leading my parents and a crew of us grandkids in her pastel preparation techniques, followed by my father (Papa Cruz) grabbing the reins to teach his kids and grandkids. Click here for an article I wrote about them along with the recipe for Pasteles a la Papa Cruz on Allrecipes.
Morcilla. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – this blood sausage is rich, smoky, and unforgettable. If you can get your hands on some, it needs to be on your Nochebuena menu.
Puerto Rican recipes for Christmas (Nochebuena recipes) – desserts
Arroz con Dulce. Arroz con dulce, which means “rice with candy,” is a sweet rice pudding that’s popular in Puerto Rico during the holidays and is considered a must for a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dinner. Here’s my recipe for Instant Pot Arroz con Dulce (Puerto Rican-Style Rice Pudding). It’s so easy to make in the pressure cooker! Each family has their own way of making arroz con dulce, so feel free to experiment with the spices and flavors to make the recipe your own.
Flan de Coco. Flan, a light custard dessert, is another key dessert if you’re searching for Noche Buena food ideas. My father’s Flan de Coco (Puerto Rican Coconut Flan Recipe) is a flan with a decidedly Caribbean twist. I also have a super easy version that’s an Instant Pot Coconut Flan Recipe (Flan de Coco).
Flan de Chocolate. If you want to try something a little different for your Puerto Rican Christmas dinner, check out my Flan de Chocolate (Chocolate Flan Recipe).
Tembleque. Tembleque (which means “wiggly” or “to shake”) is a Puerto Rican coconut dessert garnished with cinnamon that’s really popular during Christmas. My dad’s Tembleque (Puerto Rican coconut pudding) recipe is so good, yet surprisingly easy to make!
Puerto Rican Christmas recipes (recetas para Nochebuena) – drinks
Coquito. Last, but not least, is arguably the best Puerto Rican holiday food: coquito! As a Puerto Rican, it officially feels like the holiday season when you make your first batch of coquito. Coquito is Puerto Rico’s version of eggnog, using rum (Puerto Rican rum, naturally) and coconut milk. My father taught me how to make it, and my adaptation of my family’s traditional coquito recipe is one of the most popular recipes here on Fab Everyday every December. Even if you’re not a fan of traditional eggnog, you might find that coquito changes that for you. There’s a heated debate on if it should have eggs or not (my family uses eggs, but you don’t have to – just skip it in the recipe). Trust me, once you try it you’ll want to have a batch in your fridge for the rest of the season!