Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)

Prep 10 mins
Cook 30 mins
Add'l 30 mins
Total 1 hr 10 mins

Arroz con Gandules — also known as Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas — is Puerto Rico’s national dish for a reason! It’s a flavorful Puerto Rican rice dish made with gandules (pigeon peas), green olives and sofrito. Treat your friends and family to this famous rice tonight!

A close up shot of arroz con gandules shoes cilantro, olives, peas and rice.

Arroz con Gandules

A heaping serving of arroz con gandules underneath mouthwatering pernil is the ultimate Puerto Rican holiday dish! Making this meal is the most delicious way to elevate your Christmas dinner.

I first fell in love with this recipe when I visited Jorge’s family in Puerto Rico. After my first bite, I just had to know how to make it! I’ve tried a thousand different methods of getting my arroz con gandules, but none of them can compare to this one.

What makes arroz con gandules so good? All the flavorful ingredients and perfectly cooked rice, of course!

Rice is being stirred in a large skillet.

Ingredients for Arroz con Gandules

You’ll need the following ingredients to make this classic Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas:

  • Olive or Vegetable Oil
  • Gandules: frozen or canned pigeon peas
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Green Olives
  • Sofrito: I use store bought, but you can also use homemade Sofrito!
  • Salt
  • Adobo
  • Sazon
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Ground Cumin Powder
  • Water
  • Medium Grain White Rice: rinsed to remove any extra starch!
  • Ham or Bacon: optional!
The ingredients for this rice dish are separated in bowls on a white surface.

What are Gandules?

Gandules, known as Pigeon Peas in English, are an essential ingredient when making Arroz con Gandules. They are small sized green peas with an oval shape that have a slightly nutty flavor.

You can purchase pigeon peas in Latin or Caribbean sections of the grocery store. They commonly come in a few different options: fresh, frozen or canned. For arroz con gandules, I usually purchase the frozen or canned version depending on what I can find here in Florida.

Long, Medium and Short Grain Rice

Short grain rice will create a sticky rice. Long grain rice will be a drier rice. Medium grain rice is just right, you know, like goldilocks.

Medium grain rice is the traditional rice used in Puerto Rico to make Arroz Con Gandules. If for some reason you can not find medium grained rice, the next best substitute is to use long grain rice. Short grain rice is the worst choice because the final dish will just be too sticky.

Multiple ingredients are placed together in a large white dish.
Water is added to the mixture of ingredients, creating a large pot of red liquid.

How to Make Arroz con Gandules

Meat. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot, or a caldero if you have one, over medium heat. If using ham or bacon, slowly cook the meat until crispy, remove meat from pot and set aside leaving the drippings. (If not using meat, add olive oil before continuing with the next step.)

Add. Then, add the gandules, tomato sauce, green olives, sofrito, salt, adobo seasoning, sazon, ground black pepper and ground cumin. Stir to fully combine.

Pour in water. Once the mixture of ingredients becomes fragrant, pour in the water and bring it to a boil over high heat.

Rice is added to the pot of boiling water.

Add the rice. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the rice and stir until rice is submerged and pigeon peas are distributed evenly.

Cook. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Traditionally the rice would be covered with a banana or plantain leaf. However, a tight fitting pot lid will work just fine!

Freshly cooked arroz con gandules is in a large white pot.

Stir. About half way through cooking, remove the lid and stir, making sure to scrape up any rice stuck at the bottom of the pan. This is a very touchy subject – some Puerto Ricans insist that you don’t stir the rice while cooking. That the crispy bottom bites are the best part! While others would prefer more evenly cooked rice. Whatever you do, if you do stir the rice, make sure you only do it once or the rice can become sticky.

Steam. After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the arroz con gandules from the heat and let it sit for an additional 30 minutes before serving. This is called letting the rice “steam”.  The rice is done once all the liquid is absorbed.

Fluff and serve. My favorite step in any rice recipe! After letting the dish sit for about a half hour, remove the lid. Fluff and stir the rice, then serve warm with fresh cilantro, if desired.

A helping of arroz con gandules is served on a white plate.

Tips for the best Arroz Con Gandules:

RINSE YOUR RICE: It is super important that you rinse your rice. Use a fine mesh sieve and rinse your rice with water in the sink. This quick step will save you a lot of heartache later by giving you perfectly cooked rice.

DON’T STIR TOO MUCH: You can not stir this Puerto Rican rice over and over again, otherwise you will wind up with mushy rice. At maximum, I recommend only stirring it once when you add the rice and then once while cooking.

TIGHT FITTING LID: Make sure your pot or caldero has a tight fitting lid. If you don’t have one, make one with foil. It’s important for the rice to cook with a tight fitting lid and is also very important for the steaming step afterwards.

This image shows a spoonful of rice.

How should I serve this dish?

Traditionally, this rice is made to be served with pernil. The way this flavorful rice mixes with the tender pork is irresistibly good! However, if you are Puerto Rican, you know that rice goes with everything!

This Puerto Rican rice also pairs perfectly with many other classic dishes:

  • Pernil
  • Adobo Chicken
  • Stewed Chicken
  • Pasteles

However, I sometimes make this rice to eat all on its own, add in some Spanish sausage or even on the side of a rotisserie chicken. This definitely isn’t traditional, but it’s delicious and we love it for an easy dinner.

However, I sometimes make this rice to eat all on its own, add in some Spanish sausage or even on the side of a rotisserie chicken. This definitely isn’t traditional, but it’s delicious and we love it for an easy dinner.

A pot is in the background while two white bowls contain servings of rice.

How long will it stay fresh?

I recommend serving this rice immediately when it’s ready for optimal flavor. However, it also keeps wonderfully in the fridge for up to 5 days! Just make sure it’s in an airtight container and you will be having Arroz Con Gandules all week!

To reheat, just add the rice to a microwave safe bowl and pour in 2 teaspoons of water and stir. This will keep it from drying out. Set the microwave to 1 minute, stir as needed, and enjoy!

Freshly cut cilantro garnishes a serving of arroz con gandules.

This recipe for Arroz Con Gandules has been a long time coming! I have been working on my rice game for years…picking all of Jorge’s family members and our friends brains trying to get their families tricks and tips.

If you try out this family recipe for Puerto Rican rice, please let me know how it turns out in the comments below. You can even leave a photo now to share how it turns out!

Looking for more Puerto Rican recipes? Check out this reader favorite Coquito recipe, perfectly roasted Pernil, Fall favorite Pumpkin Flan and Sweet Plantains!

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice and Pigeon Peas)

A close up shot of arroz con gandules shoes cilantro, olives, peas and rice.

Arroz con Gandules -- also known as Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas -- is Puerto Rico's national dish for a reason! It's a flavorful Puerto Rican rice dish made with gandules (pigeon peas), green olives and sofrito. Treat your friends and family to this famous rice tonight!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon or ham, optional
  • 2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen gandules (pigeon peas), drained from the water
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup green olives
  • 1/4 cup sofrito, thawed if using store bought frozen sofrito
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • ½ packet sazon
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups medium white rice, rinsed
  • cilantro, optional garnish

Instructions

1. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot, or a caldero if you have one, over medium heat. If using ham or bacon, slowly cook the meat until crispy, remove meat from pot and set aside leaving the drippings. If not using meat, add olive oil before continuing with the next step.

2. Then, add the gandules, tomato sauce, green olives, sofrito, salt, adobo seasoning, sazon, ground black pepper and ground cumin. Stir to fully combine.

Top view of ingredients for Arroz Con Gandules in a stock pot

3. Once the mixture becomes fragrant, pour in the water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then add the rice. Stir until rice is submerged and pigeon peas are distributed evenly.

Rice added to tomato mixture for Arroz Con Gandules in a stock pot

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Traditionally the rice would be covered with a banana or plantain leaf. However, a tight fitting pot lid will work just fine!

5. About half way through cooking, remove the lid and stir, making sure to scrape up any rice stuck at the bottom of the pan. This is a very touchy subject - some Puerto Ricans insist that you don't stir the rice while cooking. That the crispy bottom bites are the best part! While others would prefer more evenly cooked rice. Whatever you do, if you do stir the rice, make sure you only do it once or the rice can become sticky.

6. After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the arroz con gandules from the heat and let it sit for an additional 30 minutes before serving. This is called letting the rice "steam".  The rice is done once all the liquid is absorbed.

7. After letting the rice rest for about a half hour, remove the lid. Fluff and stir the rice, then serve warm with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Close-up of a serving of Arroz con Gandules topped with fresh cilantro

Notes

Wait! You didn't add capers! I know some families add capers, but when arroz con gandules has been served to me, it is without capers. If you want to use capers, add a couple of tablespoons of capers - without juice - when you add the olives!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8 servings

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 257Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 1265mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 12g

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Comments

9 Responses
  1. Wendi

    I followed your recipe as written using olive oil instead of meat, with the only exception being that I added a whole packet of Sazon. It was amazing! I also used a homemade sofrito that I made and the flavors all just melted together the way I expected. I don’t know about all these other opinions and recommendations, but as far as my family is concerned, we absolutely LOVED IT and will be making it more regularly. I think I like it even better than my Mexican mother-in-law’s version of spanish rice. Don’t tell her…

  2. Esther

    So many “chefs” in this thread. I made this last night. I always use plantain leaves and I added a little extra sazón because that is how we like it. THIS WAS SO GOOD. Probably better than my abuela’s recipe for arroz con gandules. Don’t tell her. 😉

  3. Chef Ricardo Ortiz-Perez

    Good day
    I am a chef from PR. Couple of things I noticed
    You should always add ur Gandules when the rice dries the Gandules are cooked when im cans also they tend to mash up so when the rice dries than add. Also saute all the ingredients 1st add ur oil canola preferred. Olive oil I wouldnt recommend. Than add ur tocino which is salt pork than sofrito ur sazon and ur tomatoe sause. Add ur gandules when the rice dries. One thing I do not do and I make some of the best rice ever is I never wash my rice. When I was a kid my mom always said u wash the rice because its dirty. Later on I found out its because u control the amount if starch in it. Also the trick to good fluffy rice is making sure u stir occasionaly. If u dont the rice will stick and get mashy. I have been cooking arroz con gandules for over 30yrs. And yes let it sit fir about 15-20 mins after its cooked all the way. I look at the rice in the pictures and I see the rice is not cooked all the way the first thi g I notice. If you can find plantain leafs anywhere put those on the top of the rice it helps to cook keeps the steam inside allowing the rice to cook another trick cover the pot with aluminum foil then put the lid on it. The steam stays inside allows the rice to cook completely. Any othe question you email me and I have tons of other recipes. And can answer any question about Puerto Rican dishes. Buen Provecho. Chow..✌

  4. Orlando

    You forgot the culantro and fresh garlic and use pork instead of ham or beacon and yes use the banana leaf or plantain leaf it gives it a distinct flavor and try to use the liquid from the gandules the ratio I use 2/1 water to rice remember the more you stir the rice the stickier the final result I only stir 3 times at the beginning, when the liquid reduces even w I the rice and 10 minutes before the end total cook time should be about 35-40 minutes enjoy

  5. Julie

    Just in case anyone is wondering, half a packet of sazón is about 3/4 tsp. My store only sells it by the jar, so I had to google it. 🙂

      1. Maria Caleb

        Typically you do not mix all ingredients at one time. You sauteed the ham, then add sofrito, then you add dry ingredients, then tomato sauce, let it cook and last is the gandules.

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Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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