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Zain Deane

Fresh From the Oven: Puerto Rico's Panaderķas

By December 26, 2007

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To call Puerto Rico's panaderķas bakeries is literally correct but a bit off the mark. Panaderķas are more than your local pastry and baked goods shop; they also serve as a mini-mart and gathering place. Some are known as haunts for academics and politicians; others are famed for the one pastry, sandwich, or snack that they make better than anyone else; but all have this much in common: they are an integral part of Puerto Rican life.

So, what can you find at your nearest panaderķa? Start with pan criollo, or Puerto Rican bread, best described as the bigger, softer cousin of the French baguette. Most panaderķas have their own recipes, and Puerto Ricans will happily hunt for their favorite. There are two types of pan criollo: pan de agua (your basic baguette) and pan de manteca, (softer, sweeter, and more buttery).

Of course, you'll also find a variety of sweet and savory pastries here, including:

  • Croquetas - croquettes filled with ham, chicken, tuna, or vegetables
  • Pastelillos - a fried turnover commonly filled with meat or guava (with or without cheese)
  • Quesitos - A cannoli-shaped filo-dough pastry filled with sweet cream cheese; a wildly popular local snack

Panaderķas are also known for their cheeses, cold cuts and sandwiches, which include concoctions like media noche (the local version of the Cuban sandwich, made with ham, pork loin, Swiss cheese, and pickles) and la tripleta (ham, turkey and pork, and sometimes bacon).

No matter where you are, you won't have to travel far to find a panaderķa in Puerto Rico. Whether you want breakfast, lunch, or a picnic on the beach (or in the rainforest), try to stop by at one of them for a slice of the local life.

November 18, 2008 at 4:19 pm
(1) expat says:

I found the panaderķas in Puerto Rico dismal at best, and there are not that many. In many Latin American cities, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Caracas, the panaderķas are incredible. Here the pastries look good but taste awful, as I have corroborated in both Kasalta and La Ceiba, with the notable exception of the quesitos which are indeed excellent. The pan criollo is bland and terrible.

November 20, 2008 at 4:37 am
(2) gopuertorico says:

Quesitos are among my favorite panaderia foods, but I like mallorcas too. I can’t say I’ve had a dismal experience at any one of them, but I agree that some pastries look better than they taste.
But the other thing panaderias are known for are their sandwiches, which are usually fresh-made, massive, and tasty.

August 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm
(3) Shocked says:

espat is an expert. But he or she does not know taha La Ceiba and Kasalta are sapnish bakeries. Thera more bakeries through the Island. That comment is ignorant. Do you belive we have only 2 bakeries? Please! I love criollo bread, is soft, fresh and tasty. I live near Kasalta. I ate a bit of they bread once and i hated it, because is hard, tastes old and burned.

I came once to La Ceiba, when i was a teen, and do not like the thing I ate neither. I’m not from San Juan and until now, I remebering the delicious mouthwathering bread I ate near my grandmother’s house and lot other places there in my hometown.

August 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm
(4) gopuertorico says:

Hi there – it sounds like you know some excellent Puerto Rican panaderias! Which ones would you would recommend?

September 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm
(5) RAFAEL says:


December 14, 2009 at 12:26 am
(6) pan criollo says:

Ladies and gentlemen…there are as many panaderias (bakeries) in Puerto Rico as there are churches in the South…LOTS!!! There is pan de agua (water bread) and pan de manteca. I have traveled many states and several countries and have yet found a bread that may be compared of the one in PR. Now if you are in a small town you may find one or two. However the most you’ll see are in the metropolitan area, where most of the population is found. There are small and huge bakeries that make amazing desserts. Puerto Rico is known for it’s beauty and FOOD!!! Because of the rich ancestry, we share many dishes from all over the world, that is one of the unique characteristics of PR. Before writing, please be aware of the facts. Everyone is entitle to opinions, however to say that there are not many bakeries in PR is absolutely senseless. Good luck!!!

December 14, 2009 at 9:59 pm
(7) gopuertorico says:

Well put! There certainly are plenty of panaderias around Puerto Rico, and I’ve been to many of them!

December 15, 2009 at 8:53 am
(8) Emma says:

To Shocked: mano tu eres un canto e jibaro. Kasalta rules. tu no vas alli a comer pan

March 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm
(9) borigata says:

Si buscas un verdadero Pan de Agua, entonces tienes que visitar a Ponce…..Panaderia La Imperiar….el mejor de los panes en la Isla….ahhh, y de paso el Pan Dulce de la Panaderia de Belgica, tambien localizado en Ponce….el mejor…..soy panadera de verdad.

January 6, 2011 at 9:41 am
(10) Becky says:

Hey, I think you wanted to say Media Noche, which is my favorite sandwich….Good try though, since La Luna sale de Noche, lol! Also, puertorican “Pan de Agua” is definitively not your typical baguette, it is definitively not “de agua” if that means if does not have oil, and I guess no puertorican care about that, because we love our “pan”. You can try it, if you don’t like it, it is ok, but we can’t definitively will not remove the oil, neither change the recipe, because we love it the way it is.

January 8, 2011 at 4:07 am
(11) gopuertorico says:

Hey Becky, great catch!! You’re right, of course, it’s the Media Noche I was thinking of. I’ve made the change in the article. Thanks again!

February 5, 2011 at 12:01 am
(12) carlos vasquez says:

are there any bakeries in new york the make the pan de aqua

August 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm
(13) sara says:

No se olviden del pan “sobao”. Este es el pan dulce y suave no el pan de manteca como dijo el autor.

April 29, 2013 at 8:10 am
(14) HECTOR says:

Puerto Rican Panaderias. As with any of the ethnic mixed groups or just like some Caucasian of various types of backgrounds or Blacks in Puerto Rico you find nice classy and trash people. Trash people because thru the years the island towns were rich but once people began to populate and settle thru the island mountain towns and after the forced fall of Spain because of Spain trying to force Roman Catholism thru the throats of people around the world including the Spanish and Portuguese =Jew.

April 29, 2013 at 8:13 am
(15) Hector says:

The island of Puerto Rico began to descent on stature until then the hand over to the mainland USA families of Spanish and Portuguese Jewery besides the families of the descendants of Sancha da Ayala heir to the throne of Toledo Spain whom moved to England with her nobility due to King Pedro her father whom was murdered by his half brother claiming his ruling was of cruelty. The enchange took place in 1898 already by 1898 the island was a small mixed population of people from all over Europe whom came to the Island. This phenomena did not took place in the same way thru the rest of the Americas as in Cuba and Puerto Rico and the Filipina Islands. That also brought the exchange of the so called fake Spanish American war. The Americans were also besides English also Spanish but decided to adopt English because they wanted away from the mother land as much as the rest wanted away from England. This is history you will not learn on the regular mainland school books or in Puerto Rico or Cuba. You have to go to Jewish libraries or Columbia University in New York City.

April 29, 2013 at 8:15 am
(16) Hector says:

Once the influence of Cubans whom were pretty much the same as non or mixed Puerto Ricans began to take place then things also changed. Following 1989 the island of Puerto Rico pretty much sat idle until 1917 and because of the on purpose great depression of 1929 which lasted until 1950 since it hit the island in stages and because of the pro independencia movement making a ridicule of Puerto Ricans in New York when in fact most Jewish people in New York City are Sephardim or were then as today Sephardim. Sephardim= Spanish and Portuguese Jews were the pillars of the Americas following 1492. Cristobal Colon never wrote in Italian but because of the tale Italy has tried to claim him as Italian and the school books but he was also a Spanish Jew and his men were mainly Spanish Jews. The inventor of the compass was also a Spanish Jew. The enterprise was paid by Spanish Jew Maravedis but the King a Half Jew betrayed the non converts to Catholism and at the same time protected the Jew from abuses.

April 29, 2013 at 8:15 am
(17) Hector says:

There had been prior to 1492 and going back for almost 300 years killing of Spanish Jews whom had been in Spain for long time and their envoys in communications with jews in other lands even to the time of Christ. That is the reason the apostle Shaul =Paul spoke about traveling to Spain=Hispania=Hebreria=Sephardim=Obadiah-1-20 . Anyway the city of New York had influence on the Spanish bagette, Italian bagette and French bagette which is what Puerto Rican style bread partly developed besides direct influence from Spain, Italy and France and other parts of Europe. The panaderias of Puerto Rico just like restaurants were affected by the changes of the economy. When the building crazy of Levitt homes from New York began to build homes in Puerto Rico in the 1960′s. The homes of the metro area were built in small streets settings just like old San Juan and towns. Levitt began to build homes in the same way because the size of the island was not appropriate for big homes like those of the mainland USA. Then bakeries began to sprawl to the 70′s and 80′s but just like convenience stores many of the people whom set up these places were Puerto Ricans and Cubans whom had lived in New York city. Many of them only new the barrios and had not traveled thru the mainland USA. All the new was the things they copied and learned of New York city and with the same styles began to fix and damage the neighborhoods of the island which were built in the 60′s.

April 29, 2013 at 8:16 am
(18) Hector says:

Today when you travel thru the Metro you find the same crazy things you see in Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Mainland USA mixed communities, Africa and pretty much South America. Lovely sinners whom some have not learn to improve not so much because of poverty but just because that is what they did learn and got to think that it was fine. You see the same in China, parts of Russia and the countries of the Pacific including India, Pakistan etc. It is one of the reasons some of the developed nations which at once were not developed call them third world countries. Puerto Rico is almost developed now but still has areas that are just like some areas of our mainland USA which were hit with unemployment like Detroit, North of Miami areas where mainly the people from Haiti reside in massive poverty, New York City a total different thing than Upstate New York, Los barrios of Los Angeles California which now have improved , Areas of Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia horror neighborhoods, Phoenix, parts of Chicago, parts of Omaha poor Caucasian areas etc. Regardless other than some French Bread right out of the oven because after is over one day is hard like wood , Italian breads and Spanish breads. Cuban and Puerto Rican breads are unique in taste and texture. There are also similar breads in the rest of latino America and also in Vietnam because of the French influence before the Vietnam war. There are also tender style breads in China.

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