Let me introduce you to my go-to protein: chuletas fritas (CHOO-leh-tahs free-tahs). I marinate center cut, bone-in pork chops in a flavorful spice blend popular in Puerto Rican cuisine. After a nice rest in the marinade, I pan-fry the chops in a small amount of oil or lard until juicy and crisp. If you are ever in need of a quick, easy-to-make entree for dinner, read on.
What are Chuletas Fritas?
Chuletas fritas simply means fried pork chops. But they’re so much more than that. A well-seasoned pork chop can become something exquisite in the right hands. Guess who’s about to have the right hands? Yep. You. This recipe’s marinade makes the meat taste amazing, and I don’t believe in skimping on it, but we’ll get to the marinade in a minute.
If you take nothing else from this post, I want you to leave with this: chuletas are economical, so buying them in bulk is wise; also the importance of marinating meat ahead of time. Whenever I find pork chops on sale at the grocery store, I stock up. As soon as I get home, I prep and marinate the meat before storing them in the freezer. The amount of times I’ve breathed a sigh of relief after seeing a bag of marinated chuletas in the freezer is innumerable. That I recommend marinating and freezing meat as soon as you get home is an understatement, but I want to pass that along to you just in case.
Where do Chuletas Fritas come from?
Because many cultures consume pork, I won’t say fried pork chops belong to anyone. However, I will say that this preparation is popular among Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. The marinade of sofrito, garlic, adobo, and sazón are telltale indicators that this is a Caribbean Hispanic recipe.
Dominican cafeterias- like those in New York City- are known for their juicy, heavily-seasoned chuletas fritas. A plate of chops, rice and beans, a simple salad, and a beverage is a typical working (wo)man’s lunch, after all. A massive, monstrous pork chop, known as chuleta can can- named because its fat is cut so that it resembles a can can girl’s skirt- is a Puerto Rican staple. Pork chops are definitely a part of the Puerto Rican food culture, though they’re not exclusive to it.
What’s the best cut of pork to use when I make Chuletas Fritas?
I prefer to use a center cut, bone-in pork chop to make chuletas fritas. Known as “America’s cut,” this particular cut of meat has a good amount of tender meat and a little bit of fat. There’s something about a crisp bit of fat on the edge of a chuleta that makes me giddy. But, if you’re not a fan of fat, there are center cut options that have the fat trimmed away.
Stick with the sirloin, ribeye, or New York (center cut) pork chops as they are the most tender with the latter being the most economical. When in doubt, talk to your butcher man. Butchers LOVE to chat about meat and will guide you to the best they have in the meat case.
For this recipe, avoid double-cut pork chops. They’re too bulky, take longer to fry, and are really extra (money and effort) for a recipe as simple as this. One-inch thickness is perfect for this recipe.
What else do I need to make these chops?
Besides the pork itself, you will need sofrito, mashed garlic (or garlic paste), sazón, black pepper, dried oregano leaves, onion powder, adobo, kosher salt, and white wine vinegar to make the marinade. If you don’t have white wine vinegar, regular white distilled vinegar is a good substitute. Avoid using balsamic vinegar, though. Its flavor is too overwhelming in this recipe.
For the actual frying step of the recipe, you need a neutral-tasting fat- vegetable oil, peanut oil, or my favorite: lard. I fry the pork chops in a skillet. A stainless steel skillet or cast iron is what I recommend.
What type of marinade do I use for Chuletas Fritas?
The marinade for chuletas fritas is vinegar-based. As a result, I don’t recommend marinating them in the fridge for more than 24 hours. While the quantity of vinegar used isn’t enormous, it, coupled with the thickness of the chuletas, might be overkill if you marinate them too long. Now, that changes if you are marinating the meat and immediately freezing it. The “cooking” or firming of the protein by the acidic vinegar is halted as the meat freezes. So, if you choose to marinate, then freeze your chuletas, I wholeheartedly approve; just don’t let them marinate in the fridge for more than 24 hours.
To the vinaigrette in the bowl, add the sofrito, garlic paste, and all of the spices. Whisk until smooth. This marinade is now ready to be poured onto most, if not all, proteins. It’s good in the fridge for up to a week, as well, so if you need to make it ahead of time, feel free to do so.
How long do I marinate the pork chops?
After you mix the marinade add the pork chops to the bowl. Rub the marinade into each chuleta to coat it completely.
Transfer the chops to a food storage bag or in a covered, non-metallic bowl after seasoning them. Don’t marinate the meat in a metallic bowl because the acid in the vinegar may react with the metal and impart a tinny flavor to your meat. Ceramic or glass bowls are the best for marinating anything with acid.
Put the bowl with the seasoned pork into the fridge and marinate anywhere from 3 to 24 hours. I love a flavorful chuleta, so I try to marinate my chops for at least 12 hours (or overnight).
Now, if you find yourself in a hurry to get something on the table and you don’t have time to marinate the meat overnight, that’s okay. You can quickly season the meat with the spices and it’ll still taste delicious.
What’s the best way to cook chuletas?
Because this is a chuletas fritas recipe (and fritas means “fried”), you need a frying pan. Pan-fried pork chops are lightly fried in a small amount of oil. Fill your pan with a 1/2″ of oil- that’s usually a cup of oil in my pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add two or three pork chops to the pan.
Because I want you to enjoy this recipe, and because I know not everyone can eat fried foods, I’ll let you in on a secret: these chops are also taste amazing baked. Instead of frying the meat, preheat your oven to 400°F, then line a sheet pan or baking dish with aluminum foil. When the oven reaches the right temperature, put the sheet pan of chops in and bake for 8 minutes. Flip after 8 minutes and finish cooking on the other side for 5-6 minutes.
How long do I cook pork?
The recommended internal temperature for pork is 145°F. That means the center should have a blush of pink. I know your Abuela (or Grandma) told you to cook all the evil out of pork, but it’s no longer necessary. Pork is safe to consume when cooked to 145°F. When frying, that usually takes 4-5 minutes per side. After you slide the chuletas into the pan, fry them for 5 minutes on the first side. Carefully flip the chops over to the other side to finish off frying.
Transfer the pork chops from the pan to a sheet pan or platter lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Keep the fried chuletas in a warm oven while you fry the remaining meat. The marinade does double duty: in addition to seasoning the meat, it adds moisture to the meat so ending up with dry meat is less likely to happen. Don’t skip out on marinating if you can help it.
Once all of the chuletas fritas have been “frita’d” you’re ready to enjoy!!
What do I serve with Chuletas Fritas?
Seems like I always serve my chuletas with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or arroz con habichuelas(steamed rice with stewed beans). A side salad is something else I always serve these chops with. My mother, on the other hand, used to serve her chuletas fritas with applesauce. That’s totally a German thing, I think, which is crazy because my mom was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Bushwick in Brooklyn, NY.
French fries go great with these chops, as do yuca frita (or fried yuca). My friend, Eden, over at Sweet Tea Thyme has a great Cilantro-Lime Rice that will go great with these chuletas as well.
Wanna hear a secret? Cold chuletas, straight from the fridge, are amazing for breakfast. Or, you can serve them with a fried egg and home fries.
How do I store leftover pork chops?
You can transfer leftover chuletas to a food storage container and keep them in the fridge for 3 days. To reheat them, just microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through. You can also reheat them in a 200°F oven on a sheet pan until warm.
Can I freeze chuletas?
As I mentioned before, you can freeze the chuletas prior to cooking (after marinating), but you can also freeze them after cooking. I recommend freezing before cooking, though. Cooked chuletas tend to dry out easier upon reheating after they have been frozen.
To freeze marinated (or raw) pork chops: place them in a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze for 6 months or less. Freeze cooked pork chops for 2 months, max.
Thaw the chuletas (raw or cooked) under refrigeration and cook per the instructions above, or reheat in the microwave or oven (see above) until warmed through.
Can I make Chuletas Fritas ahead?
You can certainly make chuletas ahead of time, but they may dry out. Because of that I suggest marinating them ahead of time, but cooking them “to order” so to speak. Juicy chuletas are a must and worth the effort. Plus, the frying time isn’t that long when you really think about it.
Let me know what you think of this recipe in the comments below. Pin the recipe for later and don’t forget to share these Chuletas Fritas with your world!
Chuletas Fritas (Pan-Fried Pork Chops)
- 12" skillet
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup sofrito
- 5 cloves garlic mashed
- 2 teaspoons adobo
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) sazón con achiote
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt optional
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 (about 2 1/2 pounds) center-cut pork chops
- frying oil vegetable, peanut, or lard (about 1 cup)
Prepare the Marinade (up to 24 hours ahead)
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar and olive oil until combined. To the vinaigrette in the bowl, add the sofrito, mashed garlic, adobo, sazón, granulated onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Whisk the marinade until smooth.
Season the Pork Chops
- After mixing the marinade add the pork chops to the bowl. Rub the marinade onto the chuletas coating each completely. Transfer the chops to a food storage bag or place them in a covered, non-metallic bowl after seasoning them*.
- Put the bowl with the seasoned pork into the fridge and marinate anywhere from 3-24 hours. At least 12 hours (or overnight) is my preferred length of marinating time.
Fry the Chuletas
- Fill a 12" frying pan with a 1/2" of oil (about 1 cup of oil). Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add two or three pork chops to the pan.
- After adding the chuletas into the pan, fry them for 5 minutes on the first side. Carefully flip the chops over to the other side and fry for another 4-5 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 145°F.
- Transfer the pork chops from the pan to a sheet pan or platter lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Keep the fried chuletas in a warm oven while you fry the remaining meat.
Chuletas al horno (Baked Pork Chops)
- Instead of frying the meat, preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Line a sheet pan or baking dish with aluminum foil.
- When the oven reaches temperature, put the sheet pan of chops in and bake for 8 minutes. Flip after 8 minutes and finish cooking on the other side for 5-6 minutes, or until the chops are golden brown and their internal temperature reads 145°F.
Storage and Reheating Tips:
Transfer leftover chuletas to a food storage container and keep them in the fridge for 3 days.
To reheat them, just microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through. You can also reheat them in a 200°F oven on a sheet pan until warm.
Freeze the chuletas prior to cooking (after marinating): place them in a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze for 6 months or less.
Thaw the chuletas under refrigeration and cook per the instructions above.
I don't recommend freezing the pork chops after cooking, because they tend to dry out more during reheating. If you choose to do so freeze them no longer than 2 months.
Thaw the chuletas under refrigeration and reheat in the microwave or oven (see above) until warmed through.