This Sofrito recipe is made of a mixture of fresh aromatic ingredients mainly used in Spanish and Latin American cooking giving your dishes great flavor.
Home cooking can be very time-consuming. Especially, when you have a million other things to do with a busy schedule. The days are not long enough. I've had to come up with a system for practically everything in my life to ensure that I can get the most done in a shorter amount of time.
This homemade Latin Sofrito seasoning is one of those systems and a pretty handy kitchen hack.
Like in most Latinx households, I have to feed my family at least one home-cooked meal at least 5-6 days a week. And it is not easy to accomplish — to say the least. Even though I love to cook, I like to take my days off from the kitchen once in a while. So on most days, I have to divide my time between many different tasks, and making a full meal for dinner on the table is almost always one of them.
For me, it is crucial that my food has a great taste even on the days when I can't be in the kitchen for too long. That is why I started making my own fresh homemade sofrito.
What is Sofrito?
Sofrito is a mixture of aromatic ingredients mainly used in Spanish and Latin American cooking. It includes peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, green onions, and culantro. You can also add ajíes dulces (sweet peppers) or cubanelle peppers if you can't find those.
I use sofrito for almost everything: to season all kinds of meat and cook rice dishes such as rice with beans or rice with guandules, Locrios (rice with meat), and even Paella. I also use sofrito to make Sancocho, which is a delicious stew dish from the Dominican Republic, and many other dishes. It is so versatile that you can literally use it to season all of your meals.
This simple seasoning is also very convenient to have in your fridge since it automatically saves the time it would take to cut and chop all the vegetables. I know it makes my cooking time a lot shorter and meal preparation way simpler.
To make this sofrito all you need is the ingredients and a good food processor. Add it to mason jars, seal, and reserve in the fridge. This sofrito recipe can last up to two weeks if kept refrigerated.
- Cilantro - this is one of the main ingredients in sofrito. If you’re one of those people that do not like the taste of cilantro, you can opt to leave it out, but I recommend not to.
- Culantro - is a common ingredient in Puerto Rican and Dominican cooking. In the Dominican Republic it is known as “cilantro ancho.”
- Green Onions - this ingredient is not typically added to sofrito. It’s something I like to add to it because I really like the taste of the green onions in my sofrito.
- Onions - some like to use white or Spanish onions. I prefer red onions.
- Garlic (peeled) - use lots of it!
- Green or Red Bell Peppers - you can use green bell peppers only or a combination of both green and red bell peppers.
- Aji Dulce Peppers (optional) - Aji dulce is an ingredient that is very common in the Dominican Republic, where it’s known as “aji gustoso” and used to season many of our foods. In the US it is not widely available and can’t be found everywhere. If I can’t find aji dulce, I use cubanelle peppers instead or just leave it out.
How to Make Sofrito
- Roughly chop cilantro, culantro and green onions and place in a food processor or blender.
- Cut onions and bell peppers into medium pieces and add to the food processor.
- Add the garlic cloves and aji dulce, or cubanelle peppers. Pulse the ingredients as you add them to the food processor to start breaking them down so that it all fits.
- Blend all until mixed. I particularly aim for a uniform texture in my sofrito.
- If desired, feel free to add oregano and/or salt for more seasoning.
Dominican Sofrito and Puerto Rican Sofrito
Sofrito is very common among Latin and Caribbean cuisine, especially in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Because of its popularity, there’s no one way to make or consume sofrito. In fact, sofrito ranges in various colors from green to orange to bright red. It even ranges in taste from mild to spicy.
The way that sofrito is referred to is quite different between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Dominicans will often refer to sofrito as sazón, using ingredients such as bell peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, tomato sauce or paste, vinegar, and annatto (achiote). However, Puerto Ricans often refer to their sofrito as recaito, commonly using ingredients such as culantro, garlic, green peppers, and ajíes dulces.
I like to make my sofrito in its simplest form adding only ingredients I know I use for sure in most of my recipes so that I am able to use it as much as I do. I do not add tomato paste or oregano to my sofrito for a few reasons:
- Not all recipes I cook with sofrito call for tomato sauce or tomato paste. Keeping the tomato paste out of my sofrito and adding it at the time of cooking when needed allows me the flexibility to have more uses for my sofrito.
- I add oregano to my recipes at the time of cooking. This allows me to accurately measure this ingredient per recipe as it may vary.
What’s the difference between culantro and cilantro?
While cilantro and culantro can easily be mistaken for one another there are ways to easily distinguish the two. For one, the appearance. Cilantro leaves are small and bunched, similar to parsley leaves. However, culantro leaves are long and thin with serrated edges. This is why you’ll often hear people refer to culantro as spiny cilantro, long-leafed coriander, or saw-toothed mint. In the Dominican Republic, culantro is commonly known as “cilantro ancho” while cilantro is referred to as “cilantrico.”
Culantro also tastes stronger than cilantro, which may not be great news for those who don’t like cilantro to begin with. In that case, if you’re aiming to substitute cilantro with culantro, make sure to use it in moderation. While cilantro is often consumed raw, culantro is best when cooked as it releases more flavor. While both herbs are appreciated among different cultures, cilantro is native to North America, Asia, and Europe, while culantro is native to Central America, Europe, and parts of Asia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sofrito can be used in many types of dishes for various reasons. Although it is most commonly used as a seasoning or base to prepare foods such as meats, it can also be used as a dipping sauce or filling. Instead of hot sauce, try dipping your burritos in sofrito, or use it to top your pasteles or tamales. Everything delicious is worth trying! Be sure to add salt and pepper if using it as a dipping sauce or topping, and maybe add a bit of acidity such as lime juice.
I usually put my sofrito in a covered plastic container and leave it in the refrigerator. You can also leave it in the freezer but make sure to freeze in portions. One way of doing this is by putting it in an ice cube tray that’s each worth two tablespoons of sofrito. This is convenient if you like to drop a cube in your stews and soups, like sancocho for more flavoring.
While I often leave my sofrito recipe in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, it can also last you up to 2 months in the freezer.
Recipe Notes and Variations
- Use fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to make the sofrito recipe.
- You may add dried oregano, salt and/or adobo to add more seasonings to your sofrito.
- If you can’t find ají dulce, use cubanelle peppers instead.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze in portions using ice cube trays.
Dishes That Can Be Cooked with Sofrito
- Arroz con Gandules
- Locrio de Salami
- Locrio de Longaniza
- Pasteles en Hoja
- Pollo Guisado
- Dominican Black Bean Stew
- Slow Cooker Pernil
Easy 15-Minute Sofrito Recipe
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1 bunch of culantro
- 1 bunch of green onions
- 2 big green bell peppers
- 3 medium red onions
- 3-4 heads of garlic (peeled)
- 10 small aji dulce Dominicano (optional)
- Roughly chop cilantro, culantro and green onions and place in a food processor.
- Cut onions and bell peppers into medium pieces and add to the food processor.
- Add the garlic and aji dulce. Pulse the ingredients as you add them to the food processor to start breaking them down so that it all fits.
- Blend all until mixed and you get a uniform texture.
- Transfer the mixture into a plastic container, cover it and put in the refrigerator. This will keep the Sofrito fresh for up to two weeks.
*This post was first published in August 2012. It was updated in February 2022 with new details, tips, images and video.