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What Is a Jibarito?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Jibarito is a specific kind of sandwich based on Latin American cuisine. One of its main features is the use of fried plantains instead of slices of bread. There’s also garlic mayonnaise in the dish, something that is popularly attributed to various Spanish-speaking cultures.

The origin of the Jibarito, according to popular news sources, was in Chicago, where a native Puerto Rican adapted his restaurant menu to reflect his culinary roots. The word jibarito in Spanish means “little country boy” or “little yokel,” and its colloquial use points to the specific cultural background of the sandwich. Although some would argue that this kind of sandwich has much in common with the better known Cuban sandwich, and other Latin American sandwich designs, there are also some elements that are strikingly unique.

Along with the plantains and garlic mayonnaise, the Jibarito has a variety of elements that imitate traditional American sandwiches. Some of the common fixings include tomato, lettuce, and onions. The meats that are used for the sandwich range from steak pieces to other common American meats like chicken and pulled or barbecued pork.

Chicago residents attribute the creation of the Jibarito sandwich to a Juan C. Figueroa, owner of a restaurant called the Borinquen Restaurant, which indicates its Puerto Rican heritage. Figueroa started selling the sandwich locally, and it grew to become part of the greater culinary tradition of Chicago, a city not lacking in food history, or devoid of its own traditional unique dishes that enjoy popularity elsewhere in the country, as well as internationally.

There are many different takes on the Jibarito sandwich. Proceeding from its original form, other restaurant owners have begun to copy the style of the original, while replacing some elements with their own creative ideas. For example, the plantains in question do not have to be deep fried, and different presentations can affect final nutritional value. It’s also possible to add other distinctive vegetables like hot or sweet peppers.

Overall, food critics have rejoiced at the combination of tastes that the Jibarito provides. The contrast of the texture of the plantains and the softer textures of the interior ingredients results in a unique experience, as does the contrast between the strong taste of the garlic mayonnaise and other milder items. This rich sandwich is poised to become a regularly featured item in ethnic restaurants in the future, as more people find out about its common availability.

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