How to Make Sofrito: Cooking With Doña Felipa

Felipa cooks sofrito in this photo

For sofrito, don’t use tomatoes. All Puerto Ricans know that, Doña Felipa tells me in our impromptu first cooking lesson for making her family-famous recipe. Sofrito is a savory, aromatic cooking base that is an essential starter sauce for most Boricua dishes. I watch her chop and blend onions, garlic, green peppers, cilantro and ají dulce into a beautiful bright-green froth.

By a stroke of luck and/or divine intervention, I met Felipa Saez, 83, because she was my next-door neighbor in Chicago. She was born in a small town called San Sebastián in the center of Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago in the 1950s with her 8 brothers and sisters. Doña Felipa went on to had four kids, and paid for her house by herself — no thanks to her no-good ex-husband, she smiles as she tells me — by working for 25 years at the electronics factory across the street.

She’s also a spectacular cook.

After the day we discovered we both came from Puerto Rico, Doña Felipa started bringing over her famous arroz con gandules every few weeks, knocking on our door with a bit pot of the dish she is famous for making. Lucky us.

Today, we’re in Doña Felipa’s kitchen because I asked if I could see her in cocina action. She tells me the story of how she learned to make it when she was just a girl and happily takes me through it, step by step. The final step is dividing the sofrito into snack-sized plastic zip bags to freeze for later use. That’s how she is always ready to cook something delicioso to feed her family and neighbors.

As I said, lucky us.

How to Make Traditional Puerto Rican Sofrito

Doña Felipa’s Puerto Rican Sofrito

Recipe by Felipa Saez
3.7 from 6 votes




  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped in thirds

  • 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped

  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped

  • 1 head garlic, about 8 cloves—peeled

  • 6 to 8 ají dulce peppers, chopped

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water


  • Put all ingredients in the blender. Let run for about 3 minutes, until frothy.
  • You’re done! This yields about 10 cooking batches. Doña Felipe stores her sofrito in small plastic zip bags and freezes for future use. Each thawed bag holds about 1/2 cup and will last for about 5 days in her fridge, she says.


  • To fit this large of a sofrito batch into her mixer, Doña Felipe tends to first blend the greens (cilantro, ají dulce peppers, and green peppers) and then the whites (onion and garlic). She joins them in a large bowl before dividing into the smaller zip bags.
Don’t use those tomatoes in sofrito, advises my neighbor Doña Felipa. It lasts longer.

Enjoyed learning how to make authentic Puerto Rican sofrito? Next, try this practical version of the much loved sofrito recipe.

Like This

More Delicioso Family Recipes & Articles We Think You’ll Like!

You May Also Like

Got a question or suggestion?

Please rate this recipe and leave any tips, substitutions, or Qs you have!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggestions and questions from our readers

  1. I immediately whipped up a (huge) batch of this — and have been putting it on pretty much everything! !Gracias, Doña Felipa!

  2. What is aji Dulce pepper? And How is sofrito used? Like with what dishes? Is it a dip?

    1. Great q, Naomi, and we are glad you asked, because we love sofrito. Sofrito is the heart and soul of Puerto Rican cooking. It’s not a sauce and it’s not a dip. It’s something different: it’s a foundational starter for stews and dishes like: arroz con pollo, arroz con gandules, picadillo, beans. Just about anything savory. To make it, saute in olive oil a mix of chopped onion, garlic (of course), green and red peppers, culantro or cilantro, and, yes, ají dulce. Ají dulce literally means sweet pepper and is very popular in Caribbean cooking. This pepper is small, sweet and mild. Here is a link with the story of sofrito: and here are 2 sofrito recipes from 2 of our favorite Familia Kitchen cocineras——Doña Felipa: 1) and 2) Michelle: If you make these, let us know how it goes, Naomi! Buen provecho.