Most Hispanic cuisines start their cooking process with a sofrito [pronounced soh-free-toh] which is a vegetable base of Cuban dishes that consists of aromatic ingredients that are diced and sautéed in oil.
It is a blend of ingredients, specifically sauteed chopped vegetables, used to flavor Cuban black beans, Spanish yellow rice with tomato-based sofrito, Cuban stews, Cuban rice dishes, and other recipes, including Cuban ropa vieja and Cuban picadillo.
No sofrito recipe is one and the same.
Most Caribbean, Latin American, and European countries have their own version of sofrito. Its color will vary depending on the recipe or cuisine. Some are orange, red, and green, and their flavor ranges from pungent to fragrant.
Want to learn more about Cuban cuisine? Read more about What is Cuban Food.
Recipe For How To Make Cuban Sofrito
In Cuban cuisine, our recipes start with a sofrito that consists of:
- Green bell peppers.
You will always find these 3 ingredients in any Cuban kitchen. My mom buys these 3 items every time she goes to the grocery store. They are the prime staple in every Cuban kitchen!
The trifecta (onions, green bell peppers, and garlic) will then usually be added to these secondary ingredients:
- Tomatoes. Sometimes tomato sauce, tomato paste, or diced tomatoes.
- Red pimientos. These are roasted red peppers that come conveniently in a jar.
- Dry cooking wine. Also known as vino seco.
- Spanish chorizo, ham, or pork. For some added smokiness.
- Bay leaf and spices like ground cumin, dried oregano, and dried parsley.
As I mentioned, every recipe calls for a different blend of ingredients. There’s no one-size-fits-all for Cuban sofrito!
Difference Between Mirepoix and Sofrito
Similar to sofrito, a mirepoix is a blend of ingredients used as a base in French cuisine. Typically, a mirepoix consists of carrots, onions, and celery.
The real difference between mirepoix and sofrito is that mirepoix doesn’t use garlic, peppers, tomatoes, or spices/herbs. They also slow cook the aromatics in butter while we sauté ours with oil in a skillet.
We also do not strain, dispose of, or remove the sofrito from the recipe after cooking. We happily enjoy it in all its glory in the dish!
When you’re done making this recipe, make one of my Cuban dinner recipes!
How To Use Cuban Sofrito
As stated above, the sofrito is the start of every recipe. It is our very own mirepoix, if you will, for most Cuban recipes.
So, your first task is to chop the veggies depending on the recipe you’re making. Whether that’s chopping the onions and green bell peppers and, then mincing the garlic. That’s your first step.
You then will heat up the oil in a hot skillet and sauté the sofrito in the oil FIRST to release the aromatics before moving on with the rest of the recipe.
How long does it take to prepare Cuban Sofrito?
Depending on the recipe you’re making and the quantity, the preparation time for making Cuban sofrito may vary.
From prep to cooking time, you’re looking at approximately 15-20 minutes which includes chopping the vegetables, heating & sauteeing the aromatics, and cooking with the remaining sofrito ingredients.
Again, depending on the recipe you are making and your personal preferences and variations, this time estimate will look different for everyone.
Prepping & Storing Tips
Personally, I don’t like to make Cuban sofrito ahead of time because different recipes call for different types of sofrito as I explained above.
I do, however, like to prep the sofrito by chopping the trifecta (onions, peppers, and garlic) and transferring it into an airtight container.
This way you have, at least, some of the veggies prepped before moving forward with the rest of the recipe.
These glass storage containers are my favorite for storing all my leftovers! They come with plastic lids and the glass ensures you won’t have stained containers!
Recipes that use Cuban Sofrito
Each recipe will have the exact amount of each ingredient needed for the sofrito. And even then, every cook has their own version of sofrito.
Which recipe are you cooking with sofrito first?!
Authentic Cuban Sofrito Recipe & How to Cook with It
Base Recipe for Cuban Sofrito
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced onion diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves minced
Optional (depending on the recipe)
- tomato sauce or tomato paste / diced tomatoes
- red pimientos from a jar
- dry cooking wine (vino seco)
- Spanish chorizo or ham / pork
- Bay leaves
- Ground cumin
- Dried oregano
- Dried parsley
- In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
- Add diced green peppers and diced onions. Sauté for 5 minutes then add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Stir to combine remaining ingredients and spices based on the recipe you're making and sauté them for 1-2 minutes before continuing with the rest of the recipe. See notes for recipe suggestions.
- Easy & Authentic Cuban Picadillo
- Easy Arroz Amarillo (Spanish Yellow Rice)
- Arroz Con Salchichas (Cuban Yellow Rice with Sausage)
- Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)
- Arroz Con Pollo (Cuban Chicken & Rice Recipe)
- Moros y Cristianos/Arroz Congri (Cuban Black Beans & Rice)
- Turkey Picadillo (Cuban Picadillo de Pavo)
- Arroz Con Camarones (Yellow Rice with Shrimp)
- Authentic Cuban Ropa Vieja (Shredded Beef Recipe)
- Carne con Papas (Cuban Beef Stew)
- Tender Fricase de Pollo (Cuban Chicken Fricassee)
- Tender & Juicy Rabo Encendido (Cuban Oxtail Stew)