I have been meaning to share my dad’s recipe for Arroz con Gandules for quite some time, but between it always getting eaten right away when someone makes it, or not having decent lighting to properly photograph the steps if I make it late in the day, I just hadn’t gotten around to it… until now!
Arroz con Gandules (translation: Rice with Pigeon Peas) is a popular and traditional Puerto Rican rice dish. It can be made as a main dish or as a side dish. You can also add chicken to it to make it an arroz con pollo. This recipe is my father’s recipe, so if you make it and like it (trust me, you’ll more than like it) all the credit goes to him! In a few weeks I’ll share his delicious Puerto Rican-style beans recipe that goes really well with this arroz, so stay tuned for that.
The base to this dish, as with many savory Puerto Rican recipes, is sofrito, which is essentially the Spanish version of mirepoix. While you can find jarred, pre-made versions (affiliate link), there’s nothing quite like homemade sofrito for your Puerto Rican cooking. This is why I always have a few portions of homemade sofrito in my freezer, ready to use when I need it. Get my family’s Puerto Rican Sofrito recipe here.
The complete Arroz con Gandules recipe is at the bottom of this post (Jump to Recipe), but first, here are some step-by-step pictures and tips to help you with the method.
I always recommend Goya products, so you’ll notice several of the ingredients shown here are from Goya. You should be able to find them in the Latin/Hispanic or International section of your grocery store, but if you can’t, you can check Amazon (affiliate link).
Gandules (affiliate link) are green pigeon peas, and are a key ingredient in this recipe. Their flavor is much milder than an English pea. Be sure not to drain the liquid from the cans, as you will need it in the recipe!
Part of the way this meal gets its lovely color is from the achiote in these Goya Sazón (affiliate link) seasoning packets. Goya makes a few varieties of Sazón, but make sure the one you use includes achiote.
You can use bacon, cubes of ham, or salt pork in this recipe (or a combination of all three). I personally prefer to use salt pork.
The recipe calls for green olives stuffed with pimentos and capers. The mixture of these two ingredients is called alcaparrado.
When you start sauteeing the first ingredients (the sofrito, pork, and achiote) it will produce an aroma like nothing else! Once it hits the pan your senses will be delighted!
Here’s what it looks like when those three combine:
After letting those cook for a few minutes, you add the alcaparrado and tomato sauce to complete the base of the rice dish.
When you stir in the rice, you will want to mix it thoroughly and let it cook for a minute or two so that the rice has a chance to thoroughly absorb the flavors.
Once the rice has been well combined with the seasoning, you add the gandules with their liquid, and enough water to cover the rice by 1″.
Season with some salt and pepper, then cover and let boil until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
The rice won’t be completely tender at this point, but you will want to gently turn the rice from bottom to top, turn the heat to low, then cover and cook for about another 30 minutes until the rice is done. During this time, you’ll turn the rice gently again from bottom to top just once more about mid-way through.
You’ll notice towards the end that the rice on the bottom of the pan will stick and brown. Don’t worry about this – that crisp layer of rice is called pegao and adds a delicious taste and texture.
The finished product!
Here’s the recipe! Don’t forget to share and pin, and stay tuned for more of my family’s Puerto Rican recipes.