Few things represent Puerto Rican culture as distinctly as a plate of Arroz con Gandules. This is a national dish that is always served during the holidays with a good portion of pernil.
Arroz con Gandules is a Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas. One of the most popular side dishes served during “las Navidades” from Thanksgiving Day to Three Kings Day.
But this is not only a Christmas dish, it is served in almost every festivity you can think of from birthdays to weddings.
I will show you how to make fluffy and delicious rice in a Puerto Rican style. This recipe will take you back home to the days when our grandmas cooked this in a fogon.
And if you never tried this, be prepared to fill your kitchen with the fragrance of herbs and spices that make this rice with pigeon peas so delicious.
- Oil- I use vegetable oil but if you want to add more flavor you can use bacon fat or lard.
- Sofrito- The sofrito is the base of this rice and it will give the gandules and rice a great flavor because it has vegetables like onion, peppers, garlic, and recao.
- Tomato sauce- ½ cup of tomato sauce is all you need for this recipe but you can substitute it with ¼ cup of tomato paste.
- Ham flavoring or cubito de jamon– I use ham flavoring because it adds a good flavor to the rice.
- Sazon- The sazon has 2 purposes in this recipe. First, it adds color to the rice. Secondly, it adds a delicious distinct flavor. See below for substitutions.
- Adobo- I use 5 teaspoons of adobo.
- Gandules- I used canned gandules but if you happened to have fresh gandules, even better. To me, fresh gandules are softer and creamier than the canned version. You can also use dry gandules but you’ll have to cook them for about 1 hour or until soft before using them.
- Manzanilla olives- I always say that even if you don’t like olives, please add them. The flavor of the manzanilla olives goes well with this rice.
- Rice- I used medium-grain rice. This is the grain that is most used in Puerto Rico. It is widely available in all large supermarkets.
- Water- For this recipe, I use water, no need for stock.
*See the recipe card for a complete list of ingredients, quantities, and steps.
- Achiote oil- You can substitute vegetable oil for achiote oil. It will not only add color but also a smokey flavor. It can be a good option if you want to avoid using sazon.
- Sofrito- I see many people get confused over what sofrito to use. Fresh sofrito is always better but don’t sweat it because any will do. You can use green sofrito or recaito. Trust me any sofrito is better than nothing.
- Ham Flavoring- If you don’t want to use ham flavoring you can also use vegetable bouillon and make this a vegetarian rice.
How To Make Arroz Con Gandules
Step 1: In a large pot add the oil, tomato sauce, sofrito, olives, pigeon peas, and seasonings. You are going to sofreir which means to sauté for 2 minutes.
Step 2: Add the water and wait for it to come to a boil. This part should take 3-5 minutes depending on how hot the water you just added was.
⭐️ Tip: I always stir and taste the water. I do this to know exactly how my rice will taste and to know if it needs more seasoning.
Step 3: Once the water boils, add the rice and stir. You are going to cover the rice and let the water evaporate about 8-10 minutes. Some people like to do this step without covering the pot but I always do.
Step 4: Once there is no water left or very little, fluff the rice. I like to move all my rice to the middle and make a dome shape. Finish cooking for 20 minutes, no peeking, and enjoy.
⭐️ Tip: If you find banana leaves in your local supermarket, you can use them to give your rice an amazing flavor. Clean the leaf and place it on top of the rice in step 4 once you stir the rice. Cover and finish cooking.
- I sometimes like to make rice with pork ribs and pigeon peas. Let me tell you that it’s just delicious. Try it and let me know if you love it like I do.
- This variation is a little controversial and a big no-no for some but it is amazingly good. You just have to substitute the 13 ounces of water for one 13-ounce can of coconut milk. This is a twist on the classic recipe but it is perfect.
- This recipe is made to be fluffy and have loose grains. It has a water ratio of 1 ¼ cups per cup of rice. But if you want rice that is “mamposteado” which is a more moist rice you add 1 ½ cups of water per cup of rice.
How to Store
- Storing- To store rice in the fridge, use an airtight container or freezer bag for no more than 5 days.
- Freezing-You can freeze your rice for 3 months. I won’t leave it longer because it can get freezer burn. Make sure that your rice has cooled down before storing it.
Frequently asked questions
Gandules are the Spanish term for pigeon peas. They are native to India and then spread across the globe. They grow in small green pods and come in shades from bright light green to dark green when fresh.
When cooked, gandules tend to have a beige-brown color.
I, like most Puerto Ricans, use a caldero to make rice. A caldero is a cast aluminum pot that is a multipurpose pot. The best to make rice, soups, stews and even to bake. But you can use any pot as long as you have a lid to cover. My preferred choice is a caldero and the second best will be a Dutch oven.
More Puerto Rican Rice Recipes
💬 Do you have any questions or comments on this Arroz con Gandules Recipe? Leave your questions or comments below and I’ll reply as soon as I can!
Arroz con Gandules
- ¼ cup oil
- ½ cup sofrito
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup manzanilla olives
- 1 teaspoon ham flavoring concentrate
- 1 ½ teaspoon sazon
- 5 teaspoons adobo
- 15 ounces pigeon peas (15 oz can)
- 4 ½ cups water
- 4 cups medium grain rice
- In a large pot over high heat add the oil, sofrito, tomato sauce, sazon, adobo, ham flavoring, manzanilla olives, and pigeon peas. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the water, stir and wait for it to boil. Rinse the rice and once the water starts boiling, add it in. Stir and cover. Let it cook for 10 minutes or until all the water on the surface has evaporated.
- Lower your heat to medium. Stir your rice and cover. Finish cooking for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
- Oil- You can substitute regular oil for bacon fat, lard, or achiote oil.
- Ham Flavoring (cubito)- You can use chicken or vegetable bouillon.
- Sofrito- This is an essential component of a dish but you can use any kind of sofrito you can find. From recaito to red sofrito.
- Optional (Banana leaves)- If you have banana leaves cover your rice with it in the last 20 minutes. This gives the rice a very unique flavor.
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