Mofongo is of Puerto Rico’s signature dishes. It can be found in every corner of the island, from the humblest cafeteria to white tablecloth establishments. This mash is traditionally prepared with green plantains, garlic, pork cracklings, and olive oil. Although versions that feature ripe plantain, yuca, breadfruit or some combination of these are becoming more popular, the classic version will always be green plantain. Plantains were brought over from Africa during the 16th century and were a staple of the slaves’ diet. The mofongo we know today evolved from fufú, a root vegetable mash also from African origin.
Mofongo can be served as a side dish (like the dome in the picture) or stuffed with different stewed meats, chicken or seafood as a main meal.
How I Make Mofongo
Although there are many guides and recipes for making mofongo, it is one of those dishes where you have to know what you like. Drier or ‘creamier’? A little chicharrón or a lot? Depending on what you are eating, you’ll want to have a drier mofongo to sop up sauces and stews. If you are eating mofongo with fried pork chunks or roast chicken, you might want to mix in more oil, stock or drippings from whatever you are cooking.
Here are some of my guidelines for making mofongo at home
- Check your hardware first. Ideally, mofongo is made using a large wood mortar and pestle – a pilón. Traditional Puerto Rican pilones are made with guayacán, a native hardwood. If you don’t have a pilón or mortar and pestle you can improvise with a metal bowl and a one-piece rolling pin, a meat tenderizer or even a bottle of wine. Potato mashers do not work for breaking through the fried plantain chunks.
- If I am serving mofongo as a side dish, I plan on using one full plantain per person. If the mofongo will be part of the main course (mofongo relleno), it takes plantain and a half or two.
- I use about half a clove of garlic per side dish mofongo and a full clove for a meal sized one. To ensure the garlic is evenly distributed and no one bites into a huge piece, I use a garlic press to mince it. I don’t mind raw garlic, but for the people that do, it is best to infuse the oil or fat for mashing with it.
- Unlike tostones, which require two fast frying periods over high temperature oil, plantain chunks for mofongo need to fry for ten to fifteen minutes over moderate heat. I always test one of the larger plantain chunks for doneness around the 12 minute mark by cutting the plantain in half and then crosswise. I hate biting into a mofongo and finding raw plantain chunks!
- I can’t say precisely how much oil goes into mofongo for mashing. A rule of thumb is to keep a quarter cup of olive oil at hand for each individual sized one. I pour in a tablespoon oil for the first mash and keep adding a little until the chunks can be plied into the dome shape. Don’t want to use that much oil? Swap a couple of tablespoons for chicken stock. Don’t add too much stock, or you will end up with something closer to Dominican mangú.
- Regular pork rinds are perfectly appropriate for making mofongo at home but some people substitute crisp, crumbled bacon. I like the crunch and salty kick of the chicharrón better.
Got more questions on how to make mofongo? Leave a comment or head out to our Facebook and Twitter. Or better yet, go out and try some mofongo! Figuring out what you like is the most important step for making delicious mofongo at home.