About Dominican Cooking

Dominican Republic dishes

Aunt Clara’s Dominican Cooking, besides being a collection of recipes of the Dominican Republic, source of information about our cuisine, dishes, ingredients, and history is also thought as a help for those who want to learn about the Dominican culinary culture. Dominican cuisine is easy and spontaneous.

As in any other part of the world, recipes are passed down from generation to generation in the kitchen of our Grandmas, Aunties and Moms. Because the recipes are not always written down, we learn how to cook our vernacular dishes, yet we could hardly tell how much of “this” or what proportion of “that” is needed.

Dominican Republic recipes

Origin and History of Dominican cooking

Dominican cuisine is the result of crossroads of many continents and many countries. Before the Spaniards arrived on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, the Taino Indians (native Hispaniolans) maintained a diet that reflected the resources found in their natural habitat, as well as their technological limitations. Fortunately, many of these dishes and ingredients have survived and today are an important part of the rich Dominican culinary culture.

With the arrival of the Spaniards, many new species of animals, vegetables, fruits and grains found their way to Hispaniola. The Spaniards also introduced many foods typical of the Mediterranean cuisine and others that had been passed down to the Spaniards by the Arabs during their 700-year domination of the Iberian peninsula.

Dominican Republic drinks

The introduction of African slaves in 1503 presented yet another new (and important) gastronomical imprint on Hispaniola. It is worth noting that the African influence is almost as strong as the Spanish influence in the Dominican culture – and the cuisine is no exception.

Dominican fare is very similar to that found in other Latin American countries, especially Cuba and Puerto Rico – the only two other Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean. Some of the dishes are almost identical and only the names change.

Other countries and influences have found their way into our kitchens also. Pasta is a fundamental part of Dominican cooking; spaghetti was once called “the meat of the poor”. Exotic ingredients, like salted codfish and salted smoked herrings are commonly found in our kitchens.

Dominican Republic foods

How to cook Dominican dishes

Dominican cuisine is simple and its preparation doesn’t require, in most cases, that you do anything in advance. Some of the vernacular techniques are very common for Dominicans, but for the inexperienced cook and the ones being introduced to Dominican cuisine we are giving you a few tips.

We have tried here to keep it as simple as Auntie, Grandma or Mom would. Our recipes give you general instructions, but you must rely on your taste, intuition and common sense to make it a successful experience.

After all if we say “let simmer for 5 minutes” and at minute 4 it looks like it will start to burn, you should know what to do, right?

Dominican Republic sofritos sazones

The base of Dominican cuisine is the sofrito, which is a mixture of spices and herbs, sautéed until the flavors are set free. Typically a sofrito incorporates thyme, salt, mashed garlic, parsley, onion (finely diced), green pepper, coriander/cilantro, tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar. Many Dominican dishes are prepared using this mixture. Sometimes, to shorten the preparation time, people blend these ingredients and keep them in the fridge for a “ready-to-use” seasoning.

In some Dominican households it is very common to cook using too much oil, however this is not how most Dominicans cook. Our recipes here contain the minimum of fat necessary for each specific dish. We have tried to maximize the great nutritional advantages of Dominican cuisine and in most recipes we did not include a fixed amount of salt. That is because we want you to adjust salt to your own liking. As with most ingredients you should feel free to adjust them to your taste.

SancochoBreakfast for Dominicans is usually a light meal; the same dishes prepared for dinner are also prepared for breakfast, especially when one needs a hearty start to the day. A typical Dominican breakfast could consist of mangú accompanied by scrambled eggs and topped with sauteed onions. A few pieces of boiled cassava or another root is a good substitute for the mangú. This can also be accompanied by a few slices of fried Dominican cheese (its consistency and taste similar to that of Haloumi cheese, but is made of cow’s milk) and maybe some scrambled eggs a la dominicana. You can also accompany it with a couple of slices of deep-fried salami. A cup of cocoa, or latte is a suitable ending to this breakfast.

 

La comida (lunch) is the most important meal in the Dominican Republic. The family will gather around the table to share La Bandera Dominicana (the Dominican flag), our typical lunch. This consists of a combination of white rice, red beans, meat (chicken or beef) and salad or a side dish, and when prepared correctly, it becomes a meal that includes all food groups.

The fresh ingredients provide for a meal that is not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious. Accompany your lunch with a glass of ice water and end it with dessert, followed by a cup of coffee (un cafecito).

Dominican flag

About our recipes

Most of our recipes are traditional Dominican Recipes, from the Dominican repertoire, compiled and written by us. The Dominican diet is rich in fresh ingredients and simple food. Some of these dishes, however, are very sophisticated and require planning and preparation. We have tried to make the recipes as easy to understand as possible, and suggest substitutions whenever we know an ingredient might be particularly difficult to acquire outside the Dominican Republic. You will find here authentic Dominican dishes and meals, just like Mami makes them, however, and as we constantly remind our visitors, they may differ from the ones that you have tried in your own home. Remember that each family has their own cooking style and secrets.

Alongside the traditional Dominican fare we have also included  recipes of our creation, that may be inspired by the flavors and ingredients of our cuisine. You can see our traditional Dominican recipes here, which you can recognize because we have added the original name in Spanish, followed by the translation into English, or read about our top 10 must-try Dominican foods.

Buen provecho!

Aunt Clara
Get new recipes and updates in your inbox.

CommentLuv badge

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Herminia Rendón April 17, 2014, 9:48 AM

    Some people think they invented it all…Dominicans can cook. I take after my mom and we eat good everyday. I also take after my dad my Cuban mya he R.I.P. great cook as well…and my Puerto Rican side can cook also…I have the best all world….and I can take that to the bank lol

  • Eric May 22, 2013, 9:56 PM

    What is the name of the simple biscuit (starts with b ) made in Dominicia?

  • Rita July 26, 2012, 4:49 AM

    It seems to me that lately the recipes on this site are becoming less Dominican.

    • Aunt Clara July 26, 2012, 9:00 AM

      Rita, first I’d like to thank you for sticking around long enough that you’ve noticed the changes. How long have you been visiting us? Maybe you don’t remember, but we always had a huge collection of dishes that were not exactly what I’d call “Dominican”. We used to have dishes like pizza, ceviche, paella and a lot of other dishes that although not “Dominican” are still quite popular in our country. In fact we culled out most of these recipes, although I am planning on revisiting later.

      The difference now is that we are more upfront about it, instead of putting them on the side we now feature non-traditional dishes. And something else: I always did, but now I am adding more recipes of my own making, all inspired by Dominican cuisine and all with ingredients familiar to us. I guess a more accurate description would be: “sabores dominicanos” (Dominican flavors). After all most of our readership (urbanites) hardly eats traditional Dominican food every day. You can see which dishes we have decided are “traditional” because we also provide the Spanish name. And because we almost always mention the provenance of a dish somewhere in the post.

      An example would be Dragon Fruit in Ginger Syrup. Dragon fruit grows wild in our country, and only recently started appearing in supermarkets. Fruits in syrup (en almibar) are common here, I just decided to make it with a fruit that is not as well known. Ours is, after all, a personal blog, we never intended to become the “authority” on Dominican cuisine. We just happen to have been here longer and have a larger collection of traditional recipes. Or check this one for a longer explanation on how we decide to call some dishes “Dominican”: http://www.dominicancooking.com/5310-carrot-and-cabbage-salad.html

      Aunt Clara’s Kitchen has always been the title of our site. I hope people would forgive me for treating them to the dishes that I cook in my kitchen. :)

      Thanks again for visiting us. And thanks for asking the question that made me decide to put all this in writing. Let me know if you have any other ideas. I’d love to hear them.

  • Roberta Glynis Lopez February 16, 2012, 3:24 PM

    Very interesting reading enjoyed it all some much, the whole website is brilliant thank you.

    • Regalii.com May 7, 2012, 2:45 PM

      I love dominican food!! Does anyone know of any good Dominican restaurants in NYC?

      • Ron May 17, 2012, 12:50 PM

        NYC is the heart of the Dominican population in the US. There are a lot of good restaurants in upper Manhattan (Washington Heights). You can start at around 145th and Broadway and go all the way to 211st. I would think around 183rd street and St. Nicholas you would find many. I haven't been there in a while, but there was Rancho Jubilee in Washington Heights (190th St. & Broadway), not sure if it's open still. In Queens Gran Rancho Jubilee close to LaGuardia Airport, same family, beautifull rest. A lot of small restaurants along Broadway and St. Nicholas Ave. with great authentic Dominican food.

      • Aunt Clara May 17, 2012, 12:51 PM

        Thanks, Ron!

      • Yaritsa Rodriguez June 11, 2012, 7:40 AM

        La Casa Del Mofongo in Washington Heights. there are more Restaurants in Washington Heights. that the Dominican hood.

  • RVicioso May 16, 2011, 7:58 PM

    Great article! very interesting to learn more about the Dominican Food.