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Jenna’s Cocina: Taste of Caribbean cuisine


In this recipe corner, take a trip to the Caribbean islands as you make and eat staple foods from the Dominican Republic such as tostones and arroz con gandules, having origins in Puerto Rico. Paired together, these two recipes make an incredible main meal.

Whether you’re in Boone or elsewhere, as you make these, gather some friends or family and experience the joys and values familiar to Hispanic/Latino communities of making a good meal and enjoying it together.



Approximate cooking time: 10-15 minutes including prep work.


  • Green plantains (each can make about 4 tostones)
  • Vegetable oil (½ cup per serving) 
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper or other spices if desired, to taste


As you prepare your plantains, pour ½ cup of vegetable oil into a pan and set on medium heat to allow the oil to get hot.

Peel your green plantains and then slice them into about 1 inch thick pieces. Once you have your slices, put them in the pan and allow them to sizzle for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden. 

Once golden, take them out of the pan, but keep the heat on. Place them on a clean surface such as a cutting board. Make sure oil is dried using paper towels.

Next, flatten the plantains so they look circular and thin using either a board, the bottom of a clean mug or a tostonera, a presser made specifically for flattening plantains.

Once flattened, put the plantains back into the pan with the hot oil. Allow them to sizzle for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the crispiness is to your liking.

Finally, take the tostones out, place them on paper towels to soak up oil and then plate them. Add as much salt as you would like, or feel free to experiment by adding other seasonings, sauces, meats or seafood on top.


Arroz con gandules

Approximate cooking time: 45 minutes including prep work.

Serving size: Using a large pot, feeds about 6-8 people.


  • 1 can of Goya Green Pigeon Peas, also known as gandules
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil 
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 ½ packs of Goya Saźon seasoning (per large pot)
  • Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sofrito, a blend made up of cilantro, onions, red and green peppers and garlic. Can be either store-bought or homemade. 
  • 2  cups of white rice
  • 2 ½  cups of water, or enough to cover the rice.
  • Ham (optional)
  • Green olives (optional)


Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large pot and turn the heat on to medium. For the best results of this recipe, use a caldero or a cast aluminum pot, a type of pot popularly used for Caribbean dishes similar to this one. 

Next, pour in your seasonings, drained gandules, ham or olives if you want them, tomato sauce and sofrito. The sofrito and gandules are crucial for this recipe, so be sure to include them. Stir your mix in your pot for about 4 minutes. Be sure to taste your mix and adjust the amount of spices you add to your liking.

Next, add in your rice. Before adding in your rice, be sure to rinse it. Once the rice is added, pour 2 ½ cups of water into the pot. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to add more water. For reference, the amount of water in your pot should be about 1 inch higher than the rice. 

Once the rice is in, be sure to stir it well. Make sure the rice is being mixed enough to where the gandules are spread throughout. Then close the lid on the pot and let it cook for 10 minutes between low and medium heat without stirring.

After 10 minutes, stir the rice. And note: avoid stirring the bottom of the pot– that will be used for later. After a few stirs allow the rice to cook for about 15-20 minutes or without stirring or until it is completely cooked. If it is still hard or there is still water, stir and let it cook for a little longer. After it is done, plate it.

Remember the bottom of the pot of rice? Although it looks burned, do not throw it out. This is called pegao in Puerto Rican culture or con-con in Dominican culture. Regardless of what it’s called, it is very flavorful, so be sure to give it a try. 

Now that you have your plated rice, feel free to add on any topping, such as chopped up cilantro.

If your recipe did not come out perfect, no worries. This recipe takes time to perfect, and is prone to adjustments based on your liking. 


Now that you have tostones as your appetizer or side dish and arroz con gandules as your main dish, you are ready to feed all of your friends and family for any event, or just have leftovers for the whole week. Either way, you just had a taste of Caribbean cuisine.

Para leer en español hace clic aquí

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About the Contributor
Jenna Guzman, Editor-in-Chief
Jenna Guzman (she/her) is a junior journalism and public relations double major with a media studies minor. This is her third year working for The Appalachian.
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