Updated: Aug 5, 2022
How to Make Puerto Rican Rice With Pigeon Peas
Arroz con gandules is a classic Puerto Rican rice dish made with gandules (pigeon peas), green olives, and homemade sofrito. Sofrito is a basic blend of peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro blended together to create a puree and is used in Latin stews, rice dishes, bean dishes and a lot more! This is one of our recipes that we teach in our Spanish Cuisine Class and one of my favorite dishes.
This rice dish recipe is typically cooked in a medium sized caldero (cast aluminum pot), which is similar to a dutch oven. It is used throughout the Caribbean Islands for cooking rice, beans, stews, and soups. It is very versatile and durable for kitchenware and helps create pegao, which is crispy rice that comes from the bottom of the pan! You can purchase a caldero online at Amazon if you cannot find one at a nearby store. Here is what you will need to make this savory, delicious recipe.
4 slices bacon or ham, optional
2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable oil)
1 cup fresh or frozen gandules (pigeon peas), drained from the water
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup sofrito, thawed if using store bought frozen sofrito
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
½ packet sazon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin powder
3 ½ cups water
3 cups medium white rice, rinsed
cilantro, optional garnish
1 head garlic, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
2 green bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 large tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves
Instructions for Sofrito:
Gather the ingredients.
Chop the ingredients small enough sizes to fit into a food processor or blender. You don't have to dice them finely, as you will be processing them. Focus on removing the seeds and any tougher stems that might leave grit in the finished sofrito.
Place the chopped ingredients into a food processor or blender. You can process in batches if your food processor isn't big enough to accommodate everything at once.
Blend all ingredients well so the finished sofrito is finely processed. If you're not familiar with sofrito, it should be the consistency of pesto, a thick paste.
Once blended, your sofrito is ready for immediate use. Store the sofrito in a glass container. Plastic containers are not ideal because plastic will absorb the odor of garlic and onions.
Let's Get Started
Start by adding the olive or vegetable oil to the caldero and set the stove heat to medium. Toss in your chopped cured salted pork (optional) into the pot and cook until it is fried. Remove the cured salted pork and set aside but keep the grease in the caldero. If you are not using any meat to season this dish, be sure to add olive or vegetable oil before proceeding to next step.
Once the mixture becomes fragrant, then add the rinsed rice, fried cured meat (optional) and tomato sauce. Mix gently.
Next, pour in the water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir until rice is submerged and pigeon peas are distributed evenly. Bring it to a boil on high until water begins to evaporate, cover and simmer on low for 35 minutes.
After simmering for 35 minutes, remove the arroz con gandules from the heat and let it sit for an additional 30 minutes before serving. The rice is done once all the liquid is absorbed.
After letting the rice rest for about a half hour, remove the lid. Fluff with a fork and stir the rice.