How To Make Sofrito

$2.53 recipe / $0.36 serving
by Monti - Budget Bytes
4.50 from 10 votes
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Sofrito is the heart and soul of Caribbean cuisine and the knock-out flavor base of many of its dishes. It’s budget-friendly, easy to make, and pure magic in almost any savory recipe. If you want to kick up your cooking prowess a hundred notches with just one technique, THIS IS IT.

Overhead shot of green sofrito in a white bowl with a wooden spoon in it.

A Note On Authenticity

This is not a historically authentic recipe. We strive to create recipes that are accessible to everyone, which means ingredients need to be available at a mainstream budget grocery store. We test recipes using the least amount of steps, tools, and ingredients while still honoring the spirit of the recipe. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and look forward to a time when our ingredients are available in mainstream markets. Until then, buen provecho!

What is sofrito?

Sofrito originated in Spain, and the word refers to a technique where you fry aromatics to release flavor compounds. The sauce took on different forms as the Spanish colonized the Caribbean, and islanders recreated sofrito with available ingredients. In Puerto Rico, where I was born and raised, sofrito is called recaito, after recao, an herb that grows wild throughout the island and gives the puree its distinctive bright green color.

How do you make sofrito?

In its most basic form, sofrito is a mix of aromatics like peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs. Think of it like the Latin version of a mirepoix or the holy trinity. Except making it is as simple as busting out your blender or food processor. Of course, if you don’t have these kitchen tools, you’ll have to rely on old-fashioned elbow grease and mince the ingredients. Either way, the results will always be fantastic.

What’s in Sofrito?

The ingredient list for sofrito changes depending on the region. In Spain, the sauce includes tomatoes; in the Dominican Republic, it contains vinegar; in Puerto Rico, neither of those ingredients made the cut. Traditionally, Boricuas (i.e., Puerto Ricans) make sofrito with cubanelle peppers, a sweet pepper known as ají dulce, garlic, onion, and, as I mentioned earlier, recao. This pungent herb is a distant relative of cilantro and is also known as Chinese parsley or sawtooth coriander. You can usually find cubanelle peppers, ají dulce, and recao at an Asian or Latino supermarket. When I can’t find these traditional ingredients, I sub them with green bell pepper and cilantro.

There are many versions of sofrito and recipes vary from family to family. Some use annatto oil, salt pork, tomato sauce, and additional herbs and spices. No matter what the ingredients, sofrito is usually the first thing to hit the pan, where it is lightly fried until your kitchen smells like heaven. (Am I the only one that thinks heaven will smell like something amazing’s cooking?) No matter your religious musings, I’ve seen many islanders get choked up at the first whiff of sofrito. TRUST ME. This sauce is powerful stuff.

How do you store sofrito?

A little sofrito goes a long way, so you’ll always have leftovers when you make a batch. Store it in an airtight container in your fridge for up to a month. Or do like every abuela (Spanish for grandma) does on the island: freeze any leftovers in an ice cube tray. Then transfer the cubes to a freezer-safe container, where they will stay fresh for up to three months.

How is Sofrito Used?

Honestly, many savory recipes would benefit from a few tablespoons of sofrito. Of course, it’s imperative that you use it in Caribbean dishes, like my recipe for Arroz con Pollo (Puerto Rican chicken and rice). But you should also try it in your favorite stews, soups, beans, and sauces. For example, a few tablespoons would be spectacular in this easy chili, this hearty vegetable barley soup, or this dreamy Spanish chickpeas and rice.

Side view of sofrito in a white bowl with a wood spoon in it and a black and white linen napkin next to it.
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Puerto Rican Sofrito

4.50 from 10 votes
Sofrito is the aromatic flavor base of many Caribbean dishes. It's budget-friendly, easy to make, and pure magic in almost any savory recipe.
Close up of sofrito on a wooden spoon with the bowl in the background.
Servings 7 ¼ cup each
Prep 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion ($0.37)
  • 1 green bell pepper ($0.79)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro ($0.89)
  • 6 cloves garlic ($0.48)

Instructions 

  • Peel the onion and deseed bell pepper, then quarter them. Rinse the cilantro and chop the bunch roughly.
  • Add the onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a smooth, thick puree forms.
  • Use the sofrito in a recipe immediately, store in an air-tight container for up to a month in the fridge, or portion into ice cube trays and store in the freezer for up to three months.

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Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cupCalories: 14kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 0.1gSodium: 2mgFiber: 1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Close up of sofrito on a wooden spoon with the bowl in the background.

How to Make Puerto Rican Sofrito- Step by Step Photos

Overhead shot of cilantro, green bell pepper, yellow onion, and garlic in a food processor.

Prep and quarter the onion and bell pepper. Rinse and chop the cilantro. Add the onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor or blender.

Overhead shot of blended sofrito in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse until the ingredients transform into a smooth, thick puree. If the blades get stuck cutting through the ingredients, add a little olive oil to move things along.

Sofrito being portioned into an ice cube tray.

You can use the sofrito immediately, store in an air-tight container in the fridge for about 2 weeks or portion into an ice cube tray and freeze. Place the cubes into a freezer-safe container and store for up to three months.

Overhead view of a bowl of sofrito with a wooden spoon.

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  1. Where is half the ingredients? This doesn’t even have culabntro? Or the ajices dulce?

  2. Thank you for providing a way to make a good sofrito given the typical grocery store ingredients. I’ve just moved to a city with a large Puerto Rican population and now I can continue to explore this cuisine.

  3. The last recipe is the one I grew up learning and still make it , tried store bought yuck!

  4. I cook mostly Mexican food. This sofrito recipe is one of my essential ingredients. Cilantro, green bell pepper and garlic mixed together are a great base. Adding some fresh tomato to this mix enhances it. Note: the garlic in this recipe doesn’t burn when heated along with the other ingredients. I highly recommend it

  5. Thanks for All receipts.
    Today especially for varieties of Sofrito.
    (In today’s shopping, 1 Green Pepper costs $1. – $3. Ea, depending on the store. I won’t buy.)

  6. Recao is an herb used in sofrito a long with cilantrillo. In PR sofrito is called sofrito not recaito.

    1. Hi Roson! Are you Boricua too? Love it! So sofrito starts with recaito and when you add tomatoes, annatto oil, and salt pork, etc, and fry it, that’s when it becomes sofrito. Sofrito originated in Spain and means “to fry” or. “a fried sauce”. I was taught that lesson by Chef Giovanna Huyke, Puerto Rico’s Julia Child. She is an encyclopedia when it comes to our cuisine. Thanks for being here!

  7. Recipe sounds good I always wanted make different recipes. Can’t wait to try this one. Do you have more please send.

  8. Thank you for this! We currently live in an area with lots of Latin grocery stores but will be moving to a different part of the country with little to none. I’m excited to try this and would love more Puerto Rican and Cuban recipes!

  9. An international grocery store opened near me, and they have culantro! And cubanelles! Here’s hoping the anti-cilantro gene doesn’t apply to culantro!

  10. I can’t food process/blend. Will chopping be good enough and store as well? Thanks.

    1. Hi, there! While a food processor or blender is the easiest way to achieve the correct texture of sofrito, you can also achieve it manually with more time and elbow grease. Either by finely mincing with a chef’s knife or using a mortar/pestle. A masher/ricer/garlic press might also help. I think it should keep as long if stored in a totally air-tight container and freeze just as well. ~ Marion :)

  11. Why do you use cilantro instead of culantro? This recipes is super simple compared to what I usually do. Think I will use it and add tomatoes for when I made habicuelas guisadas.

    1. Hi, there! Monti explains her reasoning for that change in the section “A NOTE ON AUTHENTICITY.” If you have culantro and prefer to use it, you totally should! For many readers, it is a bit of an unfamiliar product and difficult to source. ~Marion :)

  12. I am short on garlic, can I still make this and add more garlic to my actual recipe? Or do you have another work around?

    1. Make it work for you. If you want to, use garlic powder. If you don’t have it, using a flavor base will still be a step up, no matter what. XOXO -Monti