Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas): A Puerto Rican Must-Eat

Arroz con Gandulez (Rice w/ Pigeon Peas)

When our readers actually read our posts, it feels really good. Because we often write a lot in our post, it is understandable why some may choose not to actually read our words. We understand how many blogs exist, and many only have time to do the “blog drive-by” (you know what I’m talking about – the “I’m going to just look at the pictures quickly then comment something like damn! that-looks-deeelissssh!” drive by? We’ve all done it). But the thing we love the most about writing a blog about food from all over the world, trying to infuse history, cultural anecdotes and as much authenticity as possible, is when we get schooled. It’s almost like a sick, food-centered type of masochism. It’s almost as if we are bent over some Argentinian, Spanish, French or Italians knee as they spank us very hard telling us how wrong we were about _______________ (insert ethnic dish of choice here). Knowing we have people actually reading what we write (and telling us how we can do things better) makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It shows us that people are actually reading our words and are interested in enlightening people about their culture. When we get something wrong on the blog, getting schooled helps us learn and grow and we love it.

One may think that one of the best perks of having a food blog is getting free truffle products (ok, that friggin rocked), free yogurt (didn’t rock as much as the truffle) or free seasoning packets (that basically sucked) but my favorite “freebie” actually came in the form of a scanned in family recipe. A bit ago, we received an email from a reader that asked us when we were going to take a stab at featuring “Arroz con Gandules” on the blog. He read the blog and understood the research we do in regards to authenticity and asked us to please try his “Puerto Rican Lady Friend’s” recipe. It happened to be a dish we had on that lovely “list of things to make for the blog” so, once we received this, we figured to look no further. We tried the recipe (even having to email the reader back to make sure I could understand his handwriting correctly) and didn’t even bother with any more research. It was that good and that easy to make and a perfect weeknight meal. If you want to mix it up a bit, do as our reader Christine does and serve it along with Puerto Rican slow roasted pork shoulder, Pernil, instead of the bits of pork.

Arroz con Gandulez (Rice w/ Pigeon Peas)

Arroz con Gandules is often thought of as Puerto Rico’s national dish. It is the dish that will most often be made for the Christmas dinner table and after one taste, you will see why. What could be better than a one-pot meal with layers and layers of flavor?  What could be better than looking around at your kitchen thinking you have opened up a Goya shop (that is if you don’t make your own sofrito, sazon or use canned peas)  What could be better than being able to create a delicious crust of crunchy rice and spices goodness that can form at the bottom of the rice called “pegao“?(**We aren’t talented enough yet to get the pegao right, but I’ll be working on it as soon as we pony up and buy a real caldero). So, here’s to Robert – the reader who so graciously supplied this recipe. We may never have met you, but we think of you every month we make Arroz con Gandules!

Arroz con Gandulez (Rice w/ Pigeon Peas)

ARROZ CON GANDULES (Rice with Pigeon Peas) – serves about 6 as a main to 8 as a side/starter

  • 8 (more or less) slices of bacon, chopped OR three chorizo links cut in chunks
  • 4 to 5 pork chops, cut in chunks (by butcher or with a heavy cleaver) – about 1 to 1/2 lbs of pork
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 to 6 cloves of garlic (we love garlic, so put in as little or as much as you’d like)
  • 6 ounces of Goya Sofrito (or your own homemade sofrito - this is our go-to sofrito recipe)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 can gandules (pigeon peas)
  • 1 packet of sazón
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of oregano (about 1/2 tablespoon)
  • pinch of cumin (about 1/2 tablespoon)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of alcapparado (or just pitted green olives)
  • 2 1/2 cups white rice
  • olive oil
  • a lime
  • scallions
  • chopped cilantro

What to do:

  1. Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (that also includes a nice, tightly fitting lid) on medium.  Add the bacon (or chorizo) and fry until well cooked but not super crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish.
  2. Season your pork pieces with some salt and pepper and fry in the remaining oil/rendered bacon fat until the get plenty of color.
  3. After pork pieces get brown, add the chopped onion and tomato and fry for a minute. After a minute, add the garlic and cook for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Add the sofrito and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all those delicious bits on the bottom of the pan created by the pork.  Allow sofrito to cook for about one minute.
  5. Add the water, gandules, alcapparado/olives, spices and herbs, sazon packet and salt and pepper, stir and bring to boil.
  6. When water comes to a boil, add the rice, stir once, cover and turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. As Robert’s “Puerto Rican Lady Friends” say, “DO NOT REMOVE THE COVER DURING THE COOKING INTERVALS!”.
  8. Leave covered on low, simmering, for 30 to 40 minutes or until done.  Robert says you can check the rice every 10 minutes (but never removing the cover in between these intervals) but, I find that checking every 10 minutes is kind of unnecessary.  I usually check every 15 or so.  Either way, this part may take a tiny bit of practice until you really know your stove and how high/low the flame needs to be to perfect your rice.
  9. After the 30 to 40 minutes, turn off heat and allow to steam for a few more minutes.  Remove cover, then fluff rice.   Serve in bowls and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and maybe a squeeze of lime.  Enjoy with a cold Presidente.
  10. Arroz con Gandules (Rice w/ Pigeon Peas)

45 thoughts on “Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas): A Puerto Rican Must-Eat

  1. Looks delicious. Great post! I shouldn’t read your blog before I’ve eaten. (ha ha ha ha, just kidding)

    Seriously, very nice post. I’ve been corrected many times in my posts and like you, consider it a learning opportunity. This rice and peas does look spectacular and I love the olives. I need to try this with the Puerto Rican Pork Chops from Raichlen’s new book.

  2. Your blog is extremely well written and I enjoy stopping in and reading every word…cleaning my sentence plate. SOmetimes I wish I could write more as there should be a reward for being able to read lovely stories… some days my words don’t come… but the thought is there and the gratitude for the time and care you put into a post. Aside from the writing.. the recipe looks wonderful and hearty and asks to be made!

    1. Chris, TS and Deana – thanks for reading (we mean, really reading) the blog. And thanks for acknowledging where we’re coming from!

      JC: you’re the exact type of reader we’re talking about in our posts. I can not wait to not only try your Guandu, but to also learn more about it. I’m school counselor and have many fiercely proud Panamanian students that would be blown away by my knowledge of a dish of theirs. I can’t wait to talk with them on Monday about their families version of Guandu! Thanks so much for sharing. – amy

  3. I learned how to make arroz con gandules and arroz con pollo from a Puerto Rican friend between college and law school when I was living in Fl. I really like your addition of pork chops right to it. Definitely makes it more of a one pot meal. My favorite way though is to cook the arroz with only the bacon fat and then to slow roast a pork shoulder for pernil. Serve together, and oh goodness. DEEELicious. Seriously. Yum.

    1. oh yum! thank you so much for reminding me – this gives me an opportunity to link to our pernil post (which is a SUPER old one!). nothing (i mean nothing) beats pernil! thanks, christine!

      noelle: i’m jealous! i’d love to learn some of your fiance’s mom’s puerto rican recipes! look out b/c we’ll be putting another one up here soon (prob need to wait a bit in b/w posts but i’d love your in law’s input to see if we’re legit or not!).

  4. My fiance’s mom is from Puerto Rico and I’m hoping that eventually she’ll teach me some of these dishes. (Among other things, she made a KILLER roasted salsa at Christmas that I’m still dreaming about…) But until then, I get to eat this dish at least 4-5 times a year, as there is always a huge pot of it at every holiday or family gathering.

  5. I agree with you about people not reading! That’s why I try to write the essential, no more; however it is always flattering if you’ve had a long post to see the people that do actually read it!
    This Puerto-Rican dish is one I have always wanted to try; I noticed some of the Goya ingredients as I have seen them before at the supermarket. Great, now I have a good recipe to follow, thank you.

  6. i know what you mean about people not reading your post- but i write so much in mine that i dont get offended if people dont read it- it’s more of a memoir/journal for myself and my family- so i feel flattered if people have the time to read it- and am more than happy if they click on my site even if they dont leave a comment. (yes, the hits are impt!) sometimes i actually do read a post and dont have anything intelligent to add- and all i wanna say is- “i love the photos” or “i love this post”- it may sound trite, but it is true- i *do* love your posts, we are never full, and that’s all i really want to say 🙂 this is another lovely one- the crust is like the crust we have in Persian cuisine- the tah-dig. x shayma

  7. I ALWAYS read the entire post ~ we all love your stories and your research and the info that goes with each recipe. I sometimes try making one of your recipes….. altho I admit I am more of a dreamer than a real cook! And I always feel like I learned something. So keep them coming, I’ll be reading!

    1. you are the cutest, karen! it’s always nice to have family as fans 🙂 see you at the shore soon? can not wait!!

      shyama: i def don not get offended if people don’t read but it would be nice if people skimmed some times! we write alot and i can totally get why reading a whole post can be cumbersome, but when someone poses a question in a comment when the answer is in the post, it does kind of bother me (just a bit). you are a sweetheart, shayma and we absolutely love your blog. you enlighten me!

  8. Through FOODalogue I saw this site. Arroz con gandules is one of Puerto Rico’s “encanto”.

    Thank you for making this dish look so beautiful

  9. Wait, what? I wasn’t paying attention. If it doesn’t have a picture of a cupcake or a runny egg on top of it, I lose interest.

    What surprised me about Puerto Rico more than anything was the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in most of the dishes; there were mangoes and avocados all over the sides of the road, and yet the food was mostly rice and pork and beans (and very good- don’t get me wrong). I just couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more plants in the food, given how many plants grow like crazy in that climate.

  10. The blog drive-by I think you should patent that expression.
    You were two of the first to really visit my blog and leave the kind of thoughtful comments that can only come from reading. I suppose I learned about this from you in some ways.
    It is always a pleasure to be here, you know I love the way you weave the recipes, gastronomy, stories, anthropology with a big glug of wit and the occasional fart joke.
    It is nice to see you revisit recipes and document your cooking curve. I may not cook many of your more adventourous dishes but this blog a constant source of inspiration. Like today, Now I am now thinking about a good soffrito, pigeon peas !!, or some bacon, a glass of presidente.
    The big question, Do you comment drive- by?

    1. rachel – a girl after my own heart (which is why we have to meet each other some day). thank you for the kind words – i feel the same about your blog (and i speak for jonny too). and what the heck you talking about w/ not making ADVENTUROUS dishes!? to most people, spaghetti ala chitarra IS adventurous! lemon pasta IS adventurous! to your husband may not be as adventurous but he’s an italian. to us, it is.

      As for the blog drive by – hell yeah i’ve done it! haven’t we all? especially in those early blogging days when you just want someone, ANYONE to stop by your blog. i didn’t make up the phrase for nothing! there is a time and a place!

      peter –
      interesting thoughts on the veg situation. i’m going to investigate that a bit more. if the puerto ricans do use veggies, they are often fried!

  11. Mea culpa to the blog drive by. However I love reading the write ups too so what I do is even if I do a drive by, I don’t ‘mark as read’ in my reader until I have more time to come back and read the article in depth:-)

    How lovely to see a recipe form the Caribbean featured on your blog. Pernil is a favourite of mine and a version of this rice and peas dish called Pelau is made on my island also.

  12. I know what you mean about actually sitting down to read posts–I often hope the same thing! Never fear, though, I look forward to your posts and often find myself set straight by them!

  13. I love your blog. It’s always informative. Even if I only have time for a drive-by in my busy day, I definitely slow the car waaaaayy down at your blog.

    I’ve never had pigeon peas before. I’m very curious now.

  14. I love that you take the time to understand what you’re cooking, to say nothing of the consistently drool worthy photos I can’t wait to try this. My mother had a Puerto Rican friend who gave us her own recipes for black beans and sofrito, but she never made us this dish. Sounds wonderful.

  15. Pingback: Spanish Lesson
    1. I’d say it’s a cross b/w a green pea and a chickpea/lentil or kidney bean. Has a bit more chewiness/give than a regular pea. It’s delicious – give em a whirl!

  16. NICE! I wondered if ya’ll would get around to making this. Looks like you made a few tweaks to make it your own which is what I did. (I increased the pork chops and bacon amounts to make it kind of a one pot meal.) Pretty sure there’s as many variations as there are Moms in the world. I made your Pernil recipe with the arroz con gandules at Christmas time. It’s pretty cool if you have the Hornatzo bread with Mexian Chorizo breakfast sausage in it hanging around at the same time. I thank you for those recipes/directions, I have them printed out and tucked into my personal recipe book. =)

  17. Wow! As a puertorrican I can say that I really looks yummy and very well made!!! Congratulations! This is the first time in this blog and it will not be the last. Greetings from Puerto Rico!

  18. @V@le – muchas gracias por su commento! As we say in the post, we love being schooled or congratulated by people who are from the countries and cultures whose food we try to make. It’s really important to us that we get it as close to traditional and authentic as possible. Thanks for visiting WANF – please come back soon as we’re about to post about another PR classic – Mofongo!

  19. Great blog! Am getting ready to make this tonight. Was wondering if you reincorporate the bacon or just use the rendered fat. I think I will reincorporate it but was just wondering. Thanks.

  20. I am making this AGAIN tonite. Came out great the first time. I gave a portion to my Puerto Rican doorman and he said it was “just like my mothers” which, to me, is the greatest compliment. I found some dried Pigeon Peas and am using them this time instead of canned. The only thing I did different was not to add tomato but use achiote oil to begin with . Thanks

  21. WOW! just stumbled on this recipe today, checking on info for pigeon peas, which I had never heard of. I had a recipe for Arroz con Gandules from another website and was intrigued. My family LOVES rice dishes and I have been trying various Puerto Rican recipes out on them the past few weeks. Looking forward to this one! Enjoyed your post, looking forward to the opportunity to read more of your blog. Thanx!

    1. Awesome, Sheryl! Thanks so much for writing. I highly recommend you give this recipe a try – it has become one of our weeknight meals that is a staple. It’s super cheap to make, easy and absolutely delicious. The leftovers are even better! Please let me know how you like it after you’ve made it!

  22. I have to make a hispanic dish for my Spanish project, and I was looking for a recipe for the arroz con gandules. I’m going to use this one and it looks perfect. I really like the special tips you put. Thanks so much! 🙂

  23. Love, love, love this! Instead of bacon, I used a little bacon grease to brown the pork chop. We really didn’t care for the pork chop pieces in the rice, but it’s easy enough to solve that problem. I am going to see if I can cut the recipe in at least half, only problem would be the Sazon packet. It’s only two of us and we can’t eat all the rice this produces. Glad I found your blog – lookin’ forward to trying more recipes. Thanks.

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