Sofrito is a classic, saucy base used all around the world. This simple sofrito from scratch is the base of many Hispanic-Caribbean dishes. It's super simple to make and freezes well, ensuring you always have some sofrito to bring Latin flavor to all your dishes!
If you've been following Sweet Tea and Thyme for long, you'll notice two things:
One, I'm a southern belle and hold that title with pride.
Two, I'm multiracial and am well-versed in many cultures.
I grew up with hot summers in my grandma's Georgia neighborhood, eating peaches off her trees and helping her in her garden, but I also grew up in Miami, Florida throughout my teenage years: the Land of Hispanic Food and Beans and Rice.
Beans and rice go with every lunch and dinner...heck, beans and rice goes with every meal period (even dessert) but the thing is, underneath the beans and rice is the base --the soul-- of savory Hispanic cooking.
That 'wow, that smells good!' smell that you get hit in the face with when you visit your friend's abuela's house is usually thanks to some version of sofrito hitting the pan. And sure, you can buy it at the store, but why bother when you can make it fresh and from scratch at home?
What is Sofrito?
Sofrito translates to "gently fry", and it's like the mirepoix of Hispanic cooking. Well, more like the creole Holy Trinity, it's full of peppers and onions and green stuff. Except this green stuff is herbs instead of celery.
Sofrito is the base of many dishes around the world, and many countries make them differently. There's sofrito from Spain, Italy, Greece, Mexico, and even the individual Caribbean islands that make this tasty staple differently.
The main ingredients are the same: peppers of some kind, usually aji dulces and cubanelle, onions, garlic, and herbs of some sort. Most sofrito are vegan (including this recipe), but there are differences in the three main Caribbean sofrito styles I know:
Sofrito Dominicano, which they call sazón, uses vinegar, tomatoes, and achiote (annatto).
Cuban sofrito uses tomatoes, cumin, ham, and is cooked before use.
Puerto Rican sofrito, often called recaito, is the most well known in the US. It uses culantro (yes, that's different from cilantro) and aji dulces, but because those ingredients are not common across the US and the globe, bell pepper and added cilantro can be substituted with ease.
Good thing, too. Because bell pepper and cilantro are easy to find to the majority of my readers, and that's what I'm showing you how to make today.
Of course, if you can find cubanelle peppers, aji dulce peppers, culantro, etc. at your grocery store then I suggest you snatch them up and make a couple of huge batches and freeze a ton of sofrito. Unfortunately, they are hard to find even here in South Florida. There are a million Publixes, not one of them have aji dulces!
Which is a big reason why my sofrito has ingredients you can find at your local grocery store.
How to make Puerto Rican Sofrito
This is a very basic sofrito, and like I said, not all sofritos are made the same. This is my version with easily accessible ingredients, that is still abuelita-approved and packed full of flavor.
- Bell Peppers. You can use any color, I like green to keep the color pretty consistent but you can also use mini sweet peppers. The bell peppers can be used in addition to the traditional aji dulces and the cubanelle peppers. If you can find these peppers, use them!
- Red and Yellow Onions. I like both: yellow for the sweetness, red for that bite and sharpness it has.
- A bunch of garlic. And I do mean a bunch, like two heads, maybe three. We're making a lot of sofrito, okay?
- Cilantro. If you are one of those unlucky souls who can't stand cilantro, substitute it with more parsley. If you are able to find culantro (and are not an unlucky soapy-cilantro-gene soul) use that!
- Parsley. Easy to find and has a nice, peppery flavor that boosts the cilantro, in my opinion.
- Homemade sazon. This is totally optional, but I actually learned this little trick from my gorgeous friend Reina at The Sofrito Project, and I love it. The sazon seasoning is easy to make and it amplifies the flavor of your sofrito. I have the recipe for it in the sofrito recipe notes.
Simply give the onions and peppers a rough chop (make sure that you stem and deseed the peppers!) and tear the cilantro off the stems. The stems can become bitter after a while so we don't want them in there.
After that, keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or, better yet, freeze it in serving-sized ice cubes and keep it in your freezer for like ever.
Or at least six months to a year. If it isn't used by then, but it's gone within a couple of months at my house.
What can I use Sofrito in?
Sofrito can be used in any Latin dishes to boost flavor. It's a must-have in many dishes, but I especially love it in:
- Arroz con Gandules
- Frijoles Negros
- Pollo Guisado
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Chicken Sofrito
- Dominican Black Bean Stew
- Ropa Vieja
- Arroz con Pollo
- Carne Asada
- As a salsa or sauce in any savory dish
- On chicken, beef, fish, or pork as extra flavor!
Freeze up all this sofrito and keep it ready for all your Latin recipes and Cinco de Mayo dishes this year!
Other fantastic Latin recipes:
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- 2 medium green bell peppers, cut into chunks
- 2 large red onions, large diced
- 2 large yellow onions, large diced
- 3 heads of garlic, all cloves peeled
- 2 bunches parsley, curly or flat-leaf
- 2 bunches cilantro
- 2 tbsp homemade sazon (recipe in notes)*
- 2 tsp (16 g) kosher salt
- 2 tsp (16 g) freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) regular olive oil, as needed
- In a strong blender or food processor, combine all ingredients with a small amount of oil, pulse to start then blend until a smooth, salsa-like consistency.
- Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for one week. To freeze, divide into an ice cube tray or into freezer-safe sandwich-sized zip-top bags and freeze.
- Use as a base or sauce in Latin dishes or anything you would like to give serious flavor to!
Classic Sofrito Ingredients
If you find aji dulces or cubanelle peppers at your local store, you can use about 5 aji dulces (they are small and sweet, not spicy) and two cubanelle peppers along with the bell peppers.
Freeze divided, as sofrito doesn't refreeze multiple times well. When you freeze in the ice cube tray, keep it covered. The oil will separate and come to the top, that's normal.
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp annatto or turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp MSG (totally optional but it does enhance flavor!)
Mix all ingredients together and keep in a jar for up to 1 year.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 96 Serving Size: 2 tbsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 7Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 33mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.