"What are the most important Dominican foods?" We get this question a lot. I hope that this introduction to Dominican cuisine will satisfy your curiosity and stir your appetite.
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I should start by saying that "important" might not be the right word. Perhaps "popular", or "common" might be better. After all, these 10 dishes are not all we eat - our culinary heritage is very rich. But to pick the 10 authentic Dominican foods and recipes that you MUST try, I simplified the task by just picking the 10 top most-searched Dominican recipes in our blog.
Must-try Dominican dishes
Sancocho (7-Meat Stew)
Dare I call Sancocho the official Dominican dish? The King of Dominican Foods? The word "sancocho" (never "salcocho", please!) used to refer to a meaty stew is not only found in the Dominican Republic. Several Latin American countries have sancochos, but they are not all the same. Each of these countries has its own version.
Dominican sancocho comes in a deluxe version: Sancocho de Siete Carnes, in which seven different types of meat from four types of animals are mixed with root vegetables and plantain to produce a very rich, thick, meaty stew, unlike anything you've tried before. The simplified version might contain just beef and perhaps chicken.
Mangú (Plantain Mash)
Unlike many of our top dishes, Mangú is a uniquely Dominican food; it is a very popular dish consisting of mashed plantains, usually served with eggs, fried Dominican "salami" and Queso Frito (Fried Cheese). Served together they are known as Los Tres Golpes (The Three Strikes). It is mainly served as a breakfast dish, and sometimes it appears on the dinner table.
Don't be fooled by cute explanations about the origin of the word. All evidence points to an African origin.
Arroz Blanco (White Rice)
Rice is the main staple of Dominican cuisine. There is a great number of Dominican rice dishes, but none more common, or more important than Arroz Blanco. It is also the base of La Bandera Dominicana (the Dominican flag), the so-called traditional Dominican lunch meal consisting of white rice, Habichuelas Guisadas (stewed beans), Pollo Guisado or Res Guisada (braised chicken or beef) and salad. A good Arroz Blanco is the final test of the competent Dominican cook. The rice must be cooked-through but firm, with grains completely separated from each other; and it should produce a layer of crispy, golden Concón.
Habichuelas Guisadas (Stewed Bean)
A cheap, abundant source of protein, beans, and pulses are very common in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, and the Dominican Republic is no exception. They are a staple of Dominican cuisine. Habichuelas Guisadas is served with rice dishes, most commonly with Arroz Blanco, and it forms one of the four corners of the Dominican Flag (the traditional Dominican lunch meal). Each Dominican home may have its own version, with small changes in ingredients and seasonings, each proclaiming theirs "the best".
Pollo Guisado (Braised Chicken)
Chicken is abundant, easy and quick to cook, and inexpensive. No wonder it is one of the most popular meats in the Dominican Republic. And if you haven't tried Pollo Guisado you have missed a lot by not tasting this fall-off-the-bone chicken, with strong flavors and an amazing sauce. Chicken is usually one of the parts of the traditional Dominican lunch menu.
Ensalada Verde (Green Salad)
Even in the most humble countryside fonda (mom 'n' pop restaurant), you will be served a salad with your meal. There are a lot of variations of Ensalada Verde, some using lettuce as the base, some using shredded cabbage. Tomatoes are always a must and other elements like onions, cucumber, boiled beets, bell pepper, and radish may be added.
Tostones (Twice-Fried Plantains)
Tostones is another Dominican food we share with several other Latin American countries, but it holds a special place on the Dominican table. Tostones are made from unripe plantains and served as a side dish to meat and fish dishes, or as part of a larger meal. I have yet to encounter one Dominican who doesn't love tostones, and if you try them you'll see why.
Habichuelas con Dulce (Sweet Cream of Beans)
This uniquely Dominican dish is an important tradition in the Dominican Republic, and it's one of the most popular Dominican foods. It is served each year during the Lenten period, made in large quantities and shared with family and friends.
Habichuelas con Dulce is one of those dishes with a different recipe for each family, each swearing theirs is the best. Our recipe gives you several options to adapt it to your own taste. And if you've never tried it, and think a bean-based dessert is strange, open your mind - you're likely to love it.
Bizcocho Dominicano (Dominican Cake)
Bizcocho Dominicano, or Dominican Cake is possibly one of our most popular dishes. It is the center of many a Dominican celebration, from weddings to birthdays. This is just not any cake, its buttery, airy texture, combined with the traditional pineapple filling will test your baking skills. But if you get it right, you'll ask yourself how you lived without it this far.
Morir Soñando (Milk and Orange Drink)
Milk and orange are not ingredients that are usually combined in drinks, but this delicious and nutritious beverage with a poetic name (Morir Soñando can be translated as "to die dreaming") is uniquely Dominican and by far our most popular drink. It is served as refreshment, or to accompany sandwiches for a light meal.
All our traditional Dominican recipes:
Check our extensive collection of traditional Dominican foods.
You'll find that we've introduced almost every recipe with additional information about its history and the cultural context around it. Usually, we include citations and references when necessary.
It was very hard to pick just 10 dishes; after all, there are many more dishes that are almost or nearly as popular. If you have a different list of ten, I'd love to hear it. Please share it in the comments.
º About Dominican cuisine - History and origins
º Middle Eastern influences in our cuisine (with Kibbeh recipe)
º Cocolo culture and foods (with Guavaberry recipe)
º Chinese influence in our cuisine (with Chofan recipe)
º La Bandera Dominicana (our traditional Lunch meal)
º Regional cooking in the Dominican Republic
º Articles about our culinary culture