While growing up, every once in a while I would stumble into the kitchen and find the counter filled with a bunch of different colored peppers, herbs and onions. One of two things was happening, either the farmers market moved into our kitchen or my mother was preparing to make a batch of recaito. Recaito or recao is a cooking base used to build the flavor in Puerto Rican recipes such as rice and beans, stews and soups. It’s made up of different green herbs and vegetables found locally and in Latin countries.
My mother would go to our local supermarket and the Spanish supermarket to buy all of the ingredients since certain ingredients are not sold in the regular supermarket. I remember going with her to the Spanish supermarket to buy culantro, not to be mistaken for cilantro like autocorrect is doing as I write this, and the ají dulces. Culantro is an herb that has long leaves with spiky edges and has a stronger cilantro-like scent compared to actual cilantro. Ají dulces or sweet chili peppers are small round shaped peppers that are green, red or yellow in color and are sweet in flavor. They look just like habanero peppers which are hot so be careful not to buy the wrong ones when you are shopping.
When it was time to make the recaito, my mother would pull out the blender from the cabinet and filled it with the ingredients until blended. Once she turned off the blender and removed the lid, the kitchen would immediately fill with the scent of cilantro, peppers and onions. She would pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze so that it would last longer. Recaito can last for up to one week in the refrigerator and several months in the freezer.
Once you have the recaito ready it’s time to use it in other recipes. To use it heat a pan with oil and depending on how much food you are making put 1-2 tablespoons or one frozen cube or more of recaito in the pan. Cook it for about 2-3 minutes then add whatever you are going to make such as rice, beans, tofu, seitan, tempeh or anything else. This will make if more flavorful once it’s finished cooking.
Watch how easy it is to make recaito in this video and get the recipe for it below.
- 3 green peppers
- 3 onions
- 2 bunches of cilantro
- 2 bunches of culantro
- 2 handfuls of ají dulces (sweet chili peppers) seeded
- 1 head of garlic peeled
- ¼ cup oil
- Roughly chop the green peppers, onions, cilantro, culantro and ají dulces into medium sized pieces so that they fit inside the food processor.
- Remove seeds from the green peppers and ají dulce.
- Place all ingredients into a food processor/blender and blend it to desired consistency, either smooth or chunky.
- Store recaíto in a glass jar and refrigerate immediately or pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.
- The ice cube tray makes it easier to portion out the mixture for cooking.
To use the recaíto in other recipes, heat a pan with oil. Depending on the amount of food you are going to cook will determine how much recaíto you will need to add. 1-2 tablespoons or one frozen cube is enough for two servings of food. Cook recaíto until fragrant which is about 2-3 minutes. Put remaining recipe ingredients in the pan and follow the recipe instructions for cooking.