Sofrito is a fragrant blend of herbs and vegetables that is used as the foundation for many recipes throughout the Caribbean, especially in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The etymology of the word “sofrito” comes from Spanish, meaning to fry something by sautéing or stir-frying. This cooking method was used in Spain and brought to the Caribbean and Latin America by the Spanish colonists in the late 1400s.
There are many variations of Sofrito based on social and cultural factors. Flavor and ingredient preferences differ based on the country where it is prepared. For example in the Dominican Republic it is called “sazon” and there they use vinegar for a tart taste and annatto for color. In Puerto Rico it is called “recaito” and uses culantro for that characteristic pungent flavor, sweet chili peppers (aji dulces) and some people add pickled olives and ham. Maria’s Puertorrican sofrito adds the olives as well as capers for an added tart flavor.
When I was introduced to Puerto Rican cuisine I started using the store bought sofrito, specifically the Goya frozen Sofrito. After I learned from my husband’s aunt how easy it was to prepare her version of Sofrito, it then became my go-to sofrito when preparing arroz con salchicha, vegetarian Puerto Rican pink beans plus other Puerto Rican recipes.
This recipe makes a big batch of sofrito which can be divided into several glass containers and frozen for up to one year. Another way is to freeze the sofrito (maybe half the batch) into several large silicon ice cube trays. Once they are frozen remove them from the tray and store in the freezer in large freezer bags. I usually freeze the sofrito but when writing this post found out that it can be stored in the refrigerator up to three months when kept in a closed tight container.
- 2 lbs. Spanish onions
- 2 medium red bell peppers
- 2 medium green bell peppers
- 2 heads of garlic
- 8-10 aji dulces
- a bunch of recao
- a large bunch of cilantro
- 1 3.75 fl. oz. caper container (liquid drained)
- ½ 9½ fl. oz. Manzanilla Spanish olives (liquid drained)
- ¼ - ½ cup olive oil (you only need very little)
- Wash well all the herbs and vegetables. Peeled the garlic cloves.
- Cut the bell peppers in quarters and remove the seeds and stem.
- Cut the aji dulces in half and remove the seeds.
- Peel onion and cut in quarters.
- Remove the thicker stem from the cilantro and recao.
- Place each one of the ingredients in different bowls: bell peppers together, capers and olives together) so that you can prepare the sofrito in batches because this recipe wont fit in a food processor.
- Add all the ingredients and ⅛ cup of olive oil or more if necessary (up to ¼ cup depending on the batch size) in the food processor.
- Pour the sofrito in large silicon ice cube trays and freeze.
- Repeat until all the ingredients have been used.
Aji dulce - Small Caribbean pepper about the size of a habanero. They are not spicy at all, but slightly sweet. If you cannot find it add extra red bell pepper.
This recipe can be halved if you don't need that much.