There’s nothing more quintessentially Puerto Rican than arroz con gandules. It’s part of our national dish (along with Pernil). For holidays, birthdays, baby showers, and more, if there’s a party, this dish will be there. Everyone has a little twist on how they prepare this dish, but here’s my version. This recipe was taught to mw by my mother, and she now says that my recipe is even better than hers!
What are Gandules?
Gandules (aka pigeon peas) are an exotic ingredient to most folks outside of the Caribbean. Pigeon peas, popular throughout the Caribbean West Indies, are small, oval beans with a nutty flavor. They can be found fresh, frozen, canned or dried. They are a bright green color when fresh. If you can get them fresh or frozen (I’ve found them in Latin food markets), go for it, they’re even more flavorful and nutty.
I’ve actually started growing them in my backyard in Florida, and it’s so easy to do so! Gandules grow quickly and produce large quantities of gandules per plant, so if you plant several, you’ll have enough gandules for the whole neighborhood!
What ingredients are in Arroz Con Gandules?
The main components of arroz con gandules is rice and pigeon peas. The key to the delicious flavor of this and many Puerto Rican recipes is aromatic sofrito, which is a blend of green peppers, onion, garlic, sweet Caribbean peppers known as ajis dulces, and recao (or culantro). Sofrito is the most essential ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking. Sazon seasoning & tomato paste gives the rice its distinctly marigold color, and herbs like oregano and bay leaves give an herbaceous essence that’s the finishing touch.
What pot to use for Puerto Rican Arroz Con Gandules?
To make arroz con gandules properly, I believe you can only use one kind of pot, a caldero. Caldero literally translates into cauldron. It’s similar to a Dutch oven, but instead of being made from cast iron, it’s usually fabricated from aluminum. Every self-respecting Puerto Rican household has one. They’re passed on, generation to generation, much like cast iron pans are. The tapered edges and rounded bottom allows for steam to circulate through the rice, and produced a fluffy texture that is more difficult to achieve in a regular stock pot. These pots are also great for braising meats, stews and soups, and are oven safe (with a metal knob).
Below is the caldero I have, it’s a 4.8 Quart size, it’s a good size for 6-8 people.
Can I substitute the gandules with another bean?
If you can’t find gandules, you can substitute with canned pinto, pink or red beans and it’ll still be delish! However, keep in mind that it’s no longer arroz con gandules, rather arroz con habichuelas.
What kind of rice do you use for arroz con gandules?
Parboiled rice is my favorite for this recipe because it’s almost impossible to end up with mushy rice. You want the grains of rice to be loose and not sticky. Parboiled rice has been partially cooked, so some of the starch has been removed. This makes the rice less sticky, which is this case, is exactly what we want.
Can I freeze leftovers?
YES! Arroz con gandules freezes very well, so make a big batch and portion it into storage bags for a quick weeknight side dish. To reheat, transfer into a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is hot & fluffy.
Want more classic Puerto Rican recipes?
Check out these tried and true Puerto Rican classics from Delish D’lites!
- Carne Guisada (Puerto Rican Beef Stew)
- Pollo Guisado (Puerto Rican Chicken Stew)
- Habichuelas Guisadas (Puerto Rican Stewed Beans)
- Puerto Rican Pasteles De Yuca
- Slow Cooker Pernil (Puerto Rican Roasted Pork Shoulder)
- Chicharrones De Pollo (Puerto Rican Fried Chicken)
- Pollo Asado (Latin Marinated Grilled Chicken)
- Sancocho De Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken Stew)
Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup country ham or bacon, diced (optional)
- 1/3 cup sofrito
- 3 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ tsp sazón con achiote y culantro
- 1 cube chicken bouillon or more if needed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste or 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or oregano either one works
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped optional
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons pimento stuffed olives optional
- 15 ounce can Pigeon Peas (Gandules), drained and rinsed or 2 cups of fresh or frozen
- 2 cups parboiled rice
Heat your caldero or Dutch oven to medium heat, and add your olive oil, bacon/ham (if using) and sofrito. Stir constantly until fragrant and tender, but not browned, about 4 minutes.
Next add in the Sazon, tomato sauce or paste and chicken bouillon. Stir to combine.
Add in the drained pigeon peas, Italian seasoning or oregano, bay leaves, and water/broth. Add the cilantro and/or olives, if using. Allow the liquid to come up to a boil, and taste it for salt. If it needs more saltiness, add in another chicken bouillon cube. You want this liquid to be highly seasoned, as it will determine the final seasoning of the rice.
Once the mixture is boiling, add the rice. Stir the rice to get it submerged and distribute the pigeon peas throughout.
Cover and allow the rice to absorb all the visible liquid. Once most of the visible surface liquid is absorbed, stir the rice, and cover again. Lower the flame to low, and allow it to steam for 20-25 minutes. It's done with all the liquid is absorbed and the grains are fluffy and fully cooked.
This recipe freezes very well, so make a big batch and portion it into storage bags for a quick weeknight side dish. To reheat, transfer into a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is hot & fluffy.