Knowing how to make the perfect pot of Puerto Rican white rice with pegao is a right of passage for any self-respecting Puerto Rican cook. Making the pegao AKA the crispy rice that forms on the bottom of an aluminum pot known as a caldero is an artform. So crispy, so good!
I never realized how difficult it is to make a good pot of white rice until I started living away from home in college. If I wanted to enjoy my mom’s Puerto Rican cooking, I was going to have to figure out how to make a solid pot of rice in my college dorm room kitchen. Equipped with the miniature caldero that she gifted to me, I set about making lots of soggy pots of rice…until I got it right. First things first, if you want to make a perfect pot of white rice with pegao, you need a caldero.
What is a caldero?
A caldero is a traditional cooking pot that is used to make Latin-style rice dishes. It’s made of aluminum, and comes with a matching lid. Similar to a Dutch oven, you can use a caldero to make stews, soups, braised dishes, and of course, rice dishes. They come in lots of different sizes, so it helps to have a few types so you can scale recipes accordingly. You can order my favorite caldero from Amazon (affiliate link).
What is pegao?
The word itself is a colloquial form of the Spanish word “pegado,” which translates to “stuck.” Within the context of Puerto Rican food, pegao refers specifically to the crispy, thin layer of rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot when making traditional Rican rice dishes like arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). It’s not an easy technique to master, it took me years to learn how to do this correctly. Making good pegao requires some TLC and temperature control, and most importantly some oil! The oil is what makes the bottom of the rice “fry” up into a crispy delicious treat.
What’s the best rice for Puerto Rican white rice with pegao?
I prefer using medium grain rice (I love Arroz Rico), as this type of rice is typically served in many Puerto Rico restaurants on the island. My mother makes it with regular long grain rice, so that works as well. You can also use jasmine rice to make pegao, or even basmati style rice!
How much water do I need to make perfect rice on the stove?
Here are your water ratios to make perfect white rice, regardless of the type of rice you’re using.
For most long-grain and medium-grain rice, use 1 cup rice and 1⅓ cups water.
For short-grain rice, use 1 cup rice and 1 cup water.
For most brown rice, combine 1 cup rice and 1¾ cups water.
Should you rinse rice before cooking?
YES! In order to prevent your rice from sticking together while cooking and becoming a mushy, sticky mess, you absolutely should rinse it, until the water runs clear. I like pouring my rice into a large fine mesh strainer and swishing it around with my hands while running the faucet over it. Once the water runs clear, you’re good to go.
Can you freeze leftover rice?
Absolutely! To freeze leftover cooked rice, lay it out on a flat surface like a small baking sheet, and spread it into an even layer. Place in the fridge until its cooled, and then scoop the cooled rice into a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat the rice, microwave it directly in the freezer bag for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it’s heated through.
Want More Rice Recipes?
Check out these delicious rice dishes from Delish D’Lites!
- Asopao De Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken & Rice Stew)
- Arroz Con Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken & Rice)
- Arroz Amarillo (Spanish Yellow Rice)
- Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
- Colombian Arroz Con Coco (Coconut Rice)
- Toasted Almond-Scallion Rice
- Jamaican Rice and Peas
Puerto Rican White Rice with Pegao
- 1 cup medium grain rice rinsed
- 1⅓ cup water
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp olive oil
In a large pot or caldero, over medium-high heat, add oil, salt, and water. Bring to a boil.
Add rice to the pot with boiling water. Lower the heat to medium. Let it cook until the rice has soaked up all the water (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
Cover the pot and lower the heat to low-medium. Let it cook for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure the rice isn’t burning. If it seems or smells like the rice is burning, lower the heat a bit.
After 25 minutes, fluff the rice with a large spoon. Cover and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
When ready, remove the cooked rice from the pot and set it aside to eat later. With a large metal spoon, firmly scrape the bottom of the pot to remove the crispy rice.