Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
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Arroz con gandules is Puerto Rico’s national dish for a reason! Served for the holidays, this flavorful and authentic Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas is made with gandules (pigeon peas), salty green olives and flavorful sofrito.

Why You Will Love This Arroz Con Gandules Recipe

Each bite is more addictive than the last with a combination of textures and lots of Puerto Rican flavor. Here’s why I know you will love it:

  • Authentic: Every family makes theirs a little differently, but this is how I grew up making arroz con gandules in my abuela’s kitchen in San Juan. The pegao, crispy rice bottom, is the best part!
  • Flavorful: This dish is packed with flavor from the traditional sofrito, tomato sauce, gandules, salty olives and mix of Puerto Rican spices.
  • Holiday Favorite: A heaping serving of arroz con gandules underneath mouthwatering pernil, with a glass of coquito, is the ultimate Puerto Rican holiday dish! Making this meal is the most delicious way to elevate your Christmas dinner.
Arroz con gandules recipe ingredients arranged in bowls on a countertop.

Ingredients Needed For Puerto Rican Rice

You’ll need the following ingredients to make this classic Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact amounts.

  • Oil: I grew up using vegetable oil, however olive oil or avocado oil will both work just fine. Some families use achiote oil for an added layer of flavor and color.
  • Gandules: Frozen or canned pigeon peas (small sized green peas with an oval shape that have a slightly nutty flavor).
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Green Olives: Optional. You can leave these whole or slice them.
  • Sofrito: Sofrito, a Puerto Rican cuisine staple, is a blend of tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and garlic. You can use homemade or store bought sofrito.
  • Sazon: I used my homemade sazon seasoning, but you can also use store bought Sazon con culantro y achiote. This adds the classic flavor and color to the rice, you can not skip it.
  • Seasonings: Besides sazon, you will need adobo, salt, black pepper and cumin powder.
  • Water
  • Rice: I use arroz Rico, but you can use any brand of medium grain white rice that is rinsed to remove any extra starch.
  • Ham or Bacon: Optional, but adds a lot of flavor.
A pot of arroz con gandules with a serving spoon stuck inside it.

How to Make Arroz con Gandules

While there are a few steps, this Puerto Rican rice recipe is easier than it looks. For full detailed directions, head to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Meat: Heat a large dutch oven, or a traditional caldero, and cook the meat until crispy. Remove meat, but leaving the drippings. (If not using meat, add oil.)
  • Flavor: Add the gandules, tomato sauce, green olives, sofrito and seasonings. Stir to fully combine. Once the mixture of ingredients becomes fragrant, pour in the water and bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • Add Rice: Once boiling, add the rice and stir until rice is submerged and pigeon peas are distributed evenly. Reduce the heat, 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!
  • Stir: About half way through cooking, remove the lid and stir by folding rice from the bottom up, but do not disturb the rice at the bottom of pan. (Some Puerto Ricans insist that you don’t stir the rice while cooking to get the best pegao, crispy rice bottom. However, I find stirring it once cooks everything more evenly. Whatever you do, make sure you only stir it once or the rice can become sticky/mushy.)
  • Steam: Remove the arroz con gandules from the heat and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes before serving. This is called letting the rice “steam”. The rice is done once all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff and stir the rice, then serve!
Two bowls of rice with pigeon peas and a large pot with a serving spoon scooping out a serving of rice.

Tips For Success

Here are some tips to help guarantee your Puerto Rican rice dish turns out perfect:

  • Rinse The 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.
  • Types Of Rice: 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.
  • Don’t Over Stir: You can not stir this Puerto Rican rice over and over again, otherwise you will wind up with mushy rice and without a crispy pegao on the bottom. I recommend only stirring it when you add the rice and then once again midway through cooking.
  • Tight Fitting Lid: Make sure your pot or caldero has a tight fitting lid to ensure your rice gets the proper texture. If you don’t have one, make one with foil.

How To Serve Arroz con Gandules

Traditionally, this rice is made to be served with pernil. However, if you are Puerto Rican, you know that just like rice and beans, we serve arroz con gandules with everything!

Two bowls of Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas and a fork inserted in one bowl ready to take a bite.

Storage

Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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, stirring as needed.

To freeze, transfer cooled arroz con gandules to an airtight freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. For best results, transfer to the fridge to thaw before reheating.

Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas and olives in a bowl with fresh herbs on top.
4.6 from 133 votes
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Yield: 8 servings

Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice and Pigeon Peas)

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 rice dish made with gandules (pigeon peas), green olives and sofrito.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Additional Time10 minutes
Total Time50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon or ham, optional
  • 2 tablespoons oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, or achiote oil
  • 1 cup canned gandules, or frozen, drained from the water
  • ¾ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup green olives
  • ¼ cup sofrito, thawed if using store bought frozen sofrito
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • ½ packet Sazon con culantro y achiote, or homemade sazon seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups arroz Rico, medium grain white rice, rinsed

Instructions 

  • Heat a large heavy bottomed pot like a dutch oven, 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 oil before continuing with the next step.
  • Add the gandules, tomato sauce, green olives, sofrito, salt, adobo seasoning, sazon, ground black pepper and ground cumin. Stir to fully combine.
  • 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.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. You can add your ham or bacon back in now if you want, or wait to add it in again before serving. Traditionally the rice would be covered with a banana or plantain leaf. However, a tight fitting pot lid will work just fine!
  • About half way through cooking, remove the lid and stir by folding rice from the bottom up, but do not disturb the rice at the bottom of pan. (This is a very touchy subject – some Puerto Ricans insist that you don't stir the rice while cooking to get the best pegao, crispy rice bottom. However, I find stirring it once cooks everything more evenly. Whatever you do, make sure you only stir it once or the rice will become sticky/mushy.)
  • After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the arroz con gandules from the heat and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes before serving. This is called letting the rice "steam".  The rice is done once all the liquid is absorbed.
  • After letting the rice rest for about a half hour, remove the lid. Fluff and stir the rice, then serve warm!

Video

Notes

Storage: Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 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, stirring as needed.
Freeze: Transfer cooled arroz con gandules to an airtight freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. For best results, transfer to the fridge to thaw before reheating.
Rinse The 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.
Different Types Of Rice: 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.
Don’t Over Stir: You can not stir this Puerto Rican rice over and over again, otherwise you will wind up with mushy rice and without a crispy pegao on the bottom. I recommend only stirring it when you add the rice and then once again midway through cooking.
Tight Fitting Lid: Make sure your pot or caldero has a tight fitting lid to ensure your rice gets the proper texture. If you don’t have one, make one with foil.
Capers: If you want to use capers (with or in place of the olives), add a couple of tablespoons of capers – without juice – when the recipe calls for olives!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 441kcal, Carbohydrates: 77g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 786mg, Potassium: 263mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 148IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 27mg, Iron: 4mg

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5 stars
This recipe was so easy to make and delicious. It was my first time making it and it won’t be my last

5 stars
This was delicious! Thank you!

5 stars
SO delicious and easy! I’ve tried to make arroz con gandules many times and this is the best recipe. Thanks!

5 stars
Hi,
If I want to do 4 cups of rice how much water should I use?

Jessica

Hi Madeline! If you click the PRINT button in the recipe card, it will take you to the print version of the recipe which allows you to adjust the number of servings which will adjust the ingredient amounts. For this recipe, if you change it to make 11 servings, it will adjust all of the ingredients to use a little over 4 cups of rice. Hope this helps!

5 stars
Thank you for this!! I cannot cook worth the dollar in my pocket, but these directions were on point! My children live for this and even share with their friends. I don’t eat meat and still this recipe boasts of real Puerto Rican flavor! Again, I CANNOT COOK, but this recipe gives some hope to my name lol.

Jessica

This cracked me up, so glad you all enjoyed it!

5 stars
Delicious!
I’ve tried a few different recipes, this one has come out perfect every time. I highly recommend making your own sofrito, put in ice cube trays with a lid and freeze for later use.

Wow! I made this today and it really came out amazing! Will definitely make this again…..❤️❤️

I dont eat pork, is there another type of meat that would work well with this recipe??

Jessica

Hi Darlene! The pork (ham/bacon) is optional, so I’d recommend just skipping it. It will still be delicious!

You can use other meat. Pork is the tradition. Instead of cumin we use oregano

Hi there, i just tried making this, but I’m sure i did something wrong. I added all the water you stated and the correct amount of rice. But after the 12 minutes (halfway point), i stirred it, but the water was almost all gone by then. I left it for the remainder of time, but it was completely dry and raw. What did i do wrong? I also had it on medium low. Thank you for any help.

Jessica

Hi Jean! Hmm, did you also include the tomato sauce and sofrito? That adds extra liquid as well, but it definitely shouldn’t be dry like you are describing.

Typically when I use tomato sauce it makes the rice really soggy. Any idea why? Or any tips?

Jessica

Hi Mari! When you add sauce, are you subtracting some of the water? If you add sauce and keep the same amount of water, it’s usually too much liquid for the rice and you will end up with soggy rice.

Can tomato paste be used instead to cut back the water instead of sauce

Jessica

If you use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce, you will need more water, not less. Tomato paste is highly concentrated, so you will need extra water to make up for taking out the tomato sauce. Hope this helps!

Hi, what size caldero do u use to could this serving size?

Jessica

Hi Christine! 4.8 quarts or larger!

Thanks you for the recipes.What brand of the pot do you use?

Jessica

Hi Marthin! This was a Le Creuset cast iron enameled dutch oven. You can use any large heavy bottomed pot and it should work just fine!

Very good! I can see this becoming a staple. Definitely can’t wait to add my own flair to this too.

Can you freeze this? If so, please let me know what’s the best method. There’s a lot of leftovers and I hate for it to go bad

Jessica

Hi Jessie! Yes, you can freeze it! I place it in a freezer safe container (personally I like to use ziplock freezer bag) and freeze it for up to 3 months. Then I reheat in a pan with a little water and oil.

Can I use Goya Pinto Beans (15.5 oz. cans) & how many cans for this recipe?

Jessica

Hi Judy! I would not recommend pinto beans, they are very different and would not taste correct and be off texture wise as well. If you can not find gandules, you can make the rice without them.

Hi! I’m very excited to try this rice as it look absolutely delicious!!! But, I can only find uncooked guandules instead of canned. Does someone know it the recipe would work if I cook the guandules beforehand and
add them when you add the canned ones? thanks!

Jessica

Hi Isabella! Yes, you can cook them separately and then add them! I cook mine for about 1.5 hours, until tender.

i love rice

Are you supposed to add the meat, if so when?

Jessica

You can add it in step number 4 or you can wait and add it back in at the end!

I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood and always Loved the rice and beans. This came out Amazing! I didn’t stir and didn’t wash the rice, which made the rice come out with a great starchy texture!!! Love! Thank You.

I’m Puertorican for three cups of rice I would use two cans of gandules and please don’t drain the liquid that’s flavor. Count it in the amount of water. And also the tomato sauce is unnecessary, it makes the rice mushy, If the water is tasty there’s no need for it.

I use Chicken Stalk instead when I have Chicken in it.

How much does this recipe serve?

Jessica

This dish serves between 6 to 8! (For next time, you can find the yield for each recipe in the recipe card right above the recipe name!)

Ok I made this rice on Jan. 28th for my baby’s 25th birthday and her friend came in from Chicago our hometown and we have PR relatives and we love PR food back home in CHI Town and this rice is the real deal. I wash my rice and I use cubed ham. I actually used a whole pack of Saxon and this was my 2nd time making the rice and the first recipe used about a week ago I used heavy duty foil on the pot with a lid and I only stir the rice once before doing the foil and cooked the rice on low so between the 2-3 on my dial. This rice is loved by my daughter and her friends. They ate it with fried wings I did fried pork chops before. Salt Pork has to be boiled and deep fried and it pops a lot more than the tiny bits of ham but I’m sure it’s good. I didn’t have an issue with rice not cooking evenly . I say keep the lid on for the suggested time no peeking or additional stirring is necessary. I wanted to try capers but decided not to on a special occasion so maybe this weekend I’ll use them.

Jessica

Sounds delicious with the cubed ham Kimmee!!

Thank You For Being Here!

Jessica
For the past 15 years, Jorge & Jessica have loved getting to share their families' favorite recipes with all of you. They live in Florida with their 3 kids.