Sofrito is a fantastic Puerto Rican aromatic flavor base of pureed onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs to bring all of your Hispanic dishes to life! You can buy it jarred, but homemade is so easy to make in minutes and of course the taste is a million times better.
Put this condiment to great use mixed into rice, beans, soups, and our Sofrito Chicken.
Easy Sofrito Recipe
It seems like no matter what time or day I walk into my friend Roxana’s house, it smells amazing. She and her abuela are constantly cooking something. I watch, ask a ton of questions, and always end up begging for the recipe. I’m sharing her sofrito recipe today, handed down from generation to generation. Made up of onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs, which are blended together to create a paste-like puree. It takes only minutes to make and then it’s ready to be used in so many dishes, adding big, bold flavor.
What is Sofrito?
Sofrito is a traditional flavor base puree used in tons of Puerto Rican and Caribbean dishes. As with most classic recipes, every family has their own version, but it typically includes onions, a variety of peppers, garlic, cilantro and culantro/recao. While you might think that sounds like salsa, it’s actually quite different in taste and especially texture, more like an Italian pesto. It immediately comes to life when a dollop hits hot oil in the pan. I love keeping some on hand to make chicken dishes, or to mix into soups, rice, or beans.
A bit of tomato sauce is added to Puerto Rican sofrito (which is usually green) when used in cooking. Red sofrito that’s sold in stores usually includes tomato sauce or paste mixed in. The color can also vary based on the type of peppers that are available to make it.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this sofrito recipe:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Bell Peppers – Common bell peppers found at any and all grocery stores. Use a combination of green and red.
- Cubanelle peppers – These also go by “Cuban pepper” and “Italian frying pepper.” They’re considered a mild, sweet pepper.
- Ají dulce peppers – Also known as ajíes dulces peppers. People refer to these as habanero doppelgängers, since they look identical when orange (they also grow green and red, like bell peppers.) BUT they are very different! While habanero peppers are extremely spicy, Ajies dulces peppers aren’t hot at all – they’re smoky and sweet.
- Culantro herb (also known as recao) – This is not the same thing as cilantro – culantro is not a typo! The two have very different flavors, culantro being stronger. If you do a Google search, the image will pop up and you can see how different they look. It can be found in most Hispanic grocery stores and many Asian stores (possibly called sawtooth coriander.) Note: We remove the leaves from the stems of the Culantro and cilantro, since the stems can make the sofrito taste bitter.
- Cilantro – This herb is a staple in Mexican cuisine and a really important ingredient in sofrito.
- Onion and Garlic – White onions and a lot of freshly chopped garlic provide aromatics and amazing flavor.
- Cubanelle peppers – If you can’t find cubanelle peppers, your closest substitution would be the Anaheim pepper which is mild, but also has more heat than the cubanelle. You can also use banana peppers which have a little tanginess to them.
- Ají dulce peppers – Sadly, these peppers can be very difficult to find in the US. Check your local Asian and Latin markets, or farmers markets. Or maybe one of your awesome latino neighbors grows them! If you come up empty, try using another mild, sweet chili pepper in its place. You can often find mini peppers labeled simply as “sweet peppers” in grocery stores, that look like tiny little bell peppers. It won’t be authentic or have the same unique awesome smoky flavor, but whatcha gonna do? The sofrito will still be delicious.
- Culantro – If you can’t find culantro, you can use extra cilantro instead. Not ideal and it won’t be authentic, but close enough in a pinch.
How to Make Sofrito
It’s so easy to make this. Rinse and dry all the peppers. Remove the ribs and seeds, then roughly chop. Place all the peppers, chopped onion and garlic, cilantro, and culantro in the bowl of a food processor. Process until blended, but still has texture and not watery. This might need to be done in small batches.
It should have a similar consistency of pesto, like a thick paste. If it needs a little liquid, you can add a bit of water or olive oil while blending. But use as little as possible, so the mixture doesn’t end up loose and runny. Tip! Put the onions on the bottom before blending, since they give off a lot of liquid. Once blended, your sofrito is ready for immediate use.
How to Use Sofrito
Just like you would use a French mirepoix of mixed vegetables as a flavor base, sofrito is applied the same way. It gives your Hispanic recipes an amazing flavor boost. You simply add 1 or 2 tablespoons to hot oil and sauté until fragrant. It basically takes the place of onions and garlic in your dish since they’re already incorporated in the puree. I love keeping some on hand to make Sofrito Chicken or to mix into soups, rice, or beans.
This recipe makes about 4 cups. Since you’ll typically only use about 2 tablespoons in a recipe, I freeze the rest so I always have it on hand for later. But you can certainly store sofrito in an airtight jar in the fridge, too.
- How long does sofrito last in the fridge? Place the mixture in an airtight jar (or container) in the fridge. It will last up to 2 weeks.
- To freeze. My friend Roxana freezes little portions of sofrito in ice cube trays, which I think is brilliant. Fill each slot with the mixture, cover, and freeze until solid. Then pop them out and transfer to a freezer-safe ziploc bag, which will help prevent freezer-burn. Each slot of an ice cube tray is equivalent to about 1 tablespoon. No need to thaw before using – just toss them into the hot pan when your recipe calls for some. They will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months. (If you don’t have ice cube trays, you can transfer all of the mixture to a freezer-safe bag and lay flat to freeze. Break off small portions as needed.)
More Mexican Recipes:
- 2 medium white onions (peeled, roots trimmed, roughly chopped)
- 2 green bell peppers (seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped)
- 2 cubanelle peppers (seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped)
- 10 ajies dulces peppers (stems and seeds removed, chopped)
- 12 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 1 bunch culantro/recao leaves (stems removed – about 25 leaves) roughly chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro leaves (stems removed – about 25 leaves) roughly chopped
- Make sure all your peppers are rinsed and dried before seeding and chopping them.
- Place onion, green and red bell peppers, cubanelle pepper, ajies dulces peppers, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until blended, but still has texture and not watery. Work in batches, if necessary.NOTE: Sofrito should have a similar consistency of pesto, like a thick paste. If it needs a little liquid, you can add a bit of water or olive oil, while blending. But use as little as possible, so the mixture doesn’t end up loose and runny.
- Once blended, your sofrito is ready for immediate use. Typically 1 to 2 tablespoons is used per recipe. We love it in our sofrito chicken or mixed into rice, beans, or soup.For information about all the ingredients, where to find them, and possible substitutions, please refer to the article.