Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
This Puerto Rican arroz con gandules recipe is a popular side dish for holidays and special occasions, primarily rice and pigeon peas with huge flavor.
We’re cooking up a huge pot of rice and beans in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends! Beans and rice dishes are a popular combination is many parts of the world. They’re both highly nutritious, easy to flavor, and can be prepared in so many different ways.
This time we’re visiting the Caribbean, Puerto Rico to be exact, with all their wonderful flavors and ingredients. We’re talking Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules, and I think you’re going to love this dish as much as I do.
What is Arroz con Gandules?
Arroz con Gandulez translates to “Rice with Pigeon Peas” in English. It is a traditional Puerto Rican recipe served on special occasions and often around the holidays or family gatherings. The recipe is made by simmering rice with pigeon peas in a delicious broth flavored with salt pork and lots of different vegetables to achieve a side dish that is loved by many.
Recipes for this dish vary quite a bit from cook to cook, with different types of pork, different methods for softening the beans, different preferred seasonings, opinions on the choice of rice, and so much more. This is what makes it wonderful, with so many options for preparation.
If you’re a spicy food lover like I am, you’ll enjoy this version of the recipe not so much for the heat (there really is none), but for it’s outstanding flavor. Make it for your next gathering.
Let’s talk about how we make Arroz con Gandules, shall we?
Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules Ingredients
- Pigeon Peas. This recipe calls for 1 pound pigeon peas, “gandules” in Spanish, rinsed and soaked overnight, then cooked until tender (about 30-40 minutes, simmered)
- Oil for Cooking. I use 1 tablespoon olive oil, though achiote oil is great here.
- Pork. I use 1/4 pound salt pork (such as bacon) and 1/4 pound lean ham. You can add more if you’d like. I like the balance of fatty and lean.
- Vegetables. Use 1 medium onion and 1 green bell pepper. You can use hotter peppers for a spicier version for this recipe, but it is not traditional in Puerto Rico.
- Sofrito. This recipe calls for 1/4 cup, though you can use more if you’d like. Sofrito is a flavorful puree of peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs popular in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine, particularly many Puerto Rican dishes. Check out my homemade sofrito recipe to make your own.
- Olives and Capers. I use 1 cup chopped green olives and 3 tablespoons capers.
- Rice. Use 2 cups medium or long grain rice, rinsed at least 3 times to remove the surface starch.
- Tomato Paste. Use 2 ounces tomato paste, or you can use 8 ounces tomato sauce.
- Chicken Stock or Soaking Liquid. Use 2 cups chicken broth for the rice. Alternatively, you can use the reserved liquid from soaking the beans overnight.
- Salt and Pepper. To your personal tastes.
How to Make Arroz con Gandules – the Recipe Method
Brown the Pork. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven or caldera. Most large pots will do. Add the pork and brown the pieces, about 5 minutes.
Cook the Vegetables. Add the onion, peppers and sofrito. Stir and cook another 5 minutes to soften.
Stir in the Rest. Add the olives and capers and stir. Add the cooked pigeon peas, rice, tomato paste and chicken broth (or reserved soaking liquid). Season with salt and pepper and stir.
Simmer the Pot. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes until most of the water is absorbed, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes to 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice done to your liking. Remove from heat.
Rest and Serve. Rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
Pegao, or Crispy Rice
Cooking the rice in a hot, heavy-bottomed pot often results in a crunchy, crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pot. This may seem like a mistake, but in reality, it is cherished by many. So much so, in fact, that it has its own name, called “Pegao”. I would compare it to “sacarat”, the crunchy layer of rice formed at the bottom of a Spanish paella pan.
To achieve the crispy layer of rice, or pegao, leave the pot on the heat for a bit longer and do not stir the rice. You can also add in a bit more oil to the bottom of the pot with high heat to encourage crisping. Just be careful to not burn the rice.
Boom! Done! Easy enough, isn’t it? Such a great recipe. It’s HUGE on flavor and super satisfying. I know you’re going to love this one.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Pork. I typically use bacon and a simple lean ham from the store for this recipe, though it’s great with many different cuts of pork. A save ham hock is great for this recipe. Talk about flavor. I’ve also made this with leftover pork shoulder. Not traditional, but very tasty.
- The Rice. Some cooks swear by medium grain rice for their arroz con gandules and others argue long grain is ideal. I’ve made this with both and enjoyed each one. Consider it cook’s choice.
- Pigeon Peas. Pigeon peas are actually a bean used widely in Caribbean cooking. If you have a hard time finding them, you can substitute black eyed peas. Lentils will work, though not idea. Or, Buy Pigeon Peas online (affiliate link, my friends!)
- Rinsing the Rice. Rinsing the rice removes much of the surface starch from the grains, which can cause the rice to become gummy and overly sticky, way too soft. The finished rice should be softened yet still somewhat firm. Don’t overcook the rice or a Puerto Rican grandmother will find and scold you.
- Sofrito. You can sometimes find sofrito at the grocery store, but I prefer to make my own at home and freeze it in small batches for when I need it. It freezes very nicely.
- Seasonings. This recipe only uses salt and pepper, as the other ingredients already build a wonderful flavor combination. You are of course free to add in other seasonings to your preference. Some popular additions include paprika or smoked paprika, dried or fresh oregano, cumin and Sazon seasoning.
That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules. Great stuff. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. See you next time!
I’ve been learning a lot about Puerto Rican cooking from several different cookbooks. Here are links to 2 Puerto Rican cookbooks I highly recommend. They are great. These are affiliate links, my friends!
- Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes, by Oswald Rivera
- Puerto Rican True Flavors, by Wilo Benet
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo
- Cajun Dirty Rice
- Mexican Rice
- Easy Arroz con Pollo
- Mexican Rice with Chorizo and Black Beans
- Chili Basil Rice
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Arroz con Gandules Recipe (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
- 1 pound pigeon peas gandules, rinsed and soaked overnight, then cooked until tender
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or use achiote oil
- 1/4 pound salt pork chopped (or use bacon)
- 1/4 pound lean ham chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup sofrito
- 1 cup chopped green olives
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 2 cups medium or long grain rice rinsed at least 3 times
- 2 ounces tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth or use the reserved liquid from soaking the beans
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven or caldera. Add the pork and brown the pieces, about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion, peppers and sofrito. Stir and cook another 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the pigeon peas, olives, capers, rice, tomato paste and chicken broth (or reserved soaking liquid). Season with salt and pepper and stir.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes until most of the water is absorbed, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice done to your liking. Remove from heat.
- Rest for 5 minutes, then serve.