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The Food of Christmas in Puerto Rico

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As with any major holiday, Puerto Ricans have a particular menu for Christmas. Fruitcake, egg nog (as you know it) and ham take a back seat to island specialties.

Not surprisingly, a certain roast suckling pig everyone knows and loves makes an appearance, but so do pasteles and tembleque and the 'Rican version of egg nog.

Here's the full Christmas menu.

1. Lechón Asado

Photo © Zain Deane

Lechón, or roast suckling pig, is a sacred food all over the island, a weekend tradition and the perfect thing for group gatherings. But in Christmas it takes on additional importance; for most Puerto Ricans, no holiday is complete without it. There's a reverence around the lechón at Christmastime, and most 'Ricans will have a home-cooked version waiting for them ... or else.

If you want to recreate a 'Rican Christmas classic, start with this recipe.

2. Pasteles

Photo © Zain Deane

Pasteles, or meat pastries, are a very traditional Christmas food. Usually made with pork, they're wrapped in plantain leaves and paper for a festive, Christmas-gifty look. But as with any gift, it's what inside the packaging that counts!

The ones shown here are much fancier, and not typical of a Christmas pastel, but they're still pretty delicious. For the Christmas version, our own Latin food guide, Hector, has a great recipe.

3. Tembleque

A coconut-based pudding will go down smooth and easy after a rich holiday meal. Actually, I've had tembleque in this form, as brought to you by Hector, and as a hard jello-like cake.  

4. Coquito

Puerto Rico's take on egg nog combines rum, cinnamon, cloves, coconut and egg. It's a rich, creamy drink, and every 'Rican house will have a glass ready on Christmas Day. Here's the recipe.

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