How to Make Sofrito: Cooking With Doña Felipa

Felipa cooks sofrito in this photo

For sofrito, don’t use tomatoes. That’s Dona Felipa’s first rule for making this Puerto Rican essential base, made with onions, garlic, green peppers, cilantro and ají dulce. The starter sauce is used to cook most Boricua dishes, and her version bucks convention with her no-tomato rule. Not if you want it to last longer than three to four days, she says.

My next-door neighbor in Chicago, Felipa Saez, 83, was born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico. She came to Chicago in the 1950s with her 8 brothers and sisters, had four kids, and paid for her house by herself—no thanks to her no-good ex-husband—by working for 25 years at the electronics factory across the street.

She’s also a spectacular cook.

When 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 her delicious . Lucky us.

Today, we’re in Doña Felipa’s kitchen and she’s showing me how she makes sofrito, an essential base she whips up in big, bright-green batches, ready to feed her family and neighbors. Lucky us.

How to Make Traditional Puerto Rican Sofrito

Doña Felipa’s Puerto Rican Sofrito

3 from 4 votes
Recipe by Felipa Saez




  • 1 bunch 1 cilantro, rinsed and chopped in thirds

  • 2 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped

  • 2 2 onions, peeled and chopped

  • 1 head 1 garlic, about 8 cloves—peeled

  • 6 to 8 6 to 8 ají dulce peppers, chopped

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup 1/3 to 1/2 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.

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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.