This easy, 30-minute arroz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice) recipe has flavors of pork and sofrito and gets its deep yellow color from a mixture of sazón, adobo and tomato. Serve it with your favorite meat dish and a side of fried sweet plantains!
Above all things, I’m a lover of rice. If you grew up in a Latin, Caribbean or African household, you’ve most likely had this dish in some form. It’s one of those island staple dishes that each culture has its own version of!
❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe
- This recipe has many elements of Puerto Rican-style arroz con gandules, which is made with medium-grain rice and flavored with sofrito, pork and a combination of sazón and adobo.
- Cooks in just 30 minutes! Canned pigeon peas and other store-bought ingredients make this dish super-approachable, even on weeknights. This rice has minimal prep and needs 10 additional minutes to rest before serving.
- It can be made ahead and served with a variety of dishes during the week. Hello meal-prep! This recipe yields about 6 servings.
📋 Key Ingredients
- This recipe starts off with pork fat (either bacon grease or lard) which is used to sauté the sofrito (described below).
- Sofrito is a pureé of onions, peppers, cilantro, garlic and seasonings. It’s the base of a most Latin American and Caribbean dishes. Puerto rican versions of sofrito don’t usually contain tomato, which is why tomato paste is also used in this recipe.
- Medium-grain rice is recommended because the short, fluffy grains absorb the tomato and seasonings.
- Canned pigeon peas – ‘green pigeon peas’ are often written on the label even though they actually appear brown. Make sure not to drain the liquid.
- Sazón and adobo are both seasoning blends that are commonly used in Latin-American and island dishes. Each is made from a unique combination of herbs and spices.
- Use long grain rice if you have trouble finding medium-grain rice.
- Recaito is a cooking base that can be used in place of sofrito. The main ingredient is culantro (also called recao) which has a stronger flavor than cilantro.
- For vegetarian/vegan-friendly rice with pigeon peas, replace the pork fat/grease with olive oil.
- Homemade sazón, sofrito and adobo are healthier than store-bought versions.
- Alcaparrado is is a mixture of green olives, capers and pimiento peppers that you can use in place of the olives.
🔪 Step by step instructions
Step 1: Heat the lard/bacon grease in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sofrito and let it cook for just a few seconds. Then add the tomato paste, oregano, cumin, adobo, sazón and bouillon to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the bouillon cube.
Step 2: Add 2 cups of water to the pan and stir until the tomato paste is fully dissolved and you’re left with a red broth.
Step 3: Add the pigeon peas (with liquid from the can) and olives to the pot. Taste the liquid and add salt and pepper as needed. Bring the pot to a simmer.
Step 4: Once the water starts simmering, rinse the rice and add it to the pot. Stir and bring the pot to a simmer again. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the burner down low and cook the rice for 25-30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid or mix the rice while it’s cooking.
Note: Maintain a very low flame while the rice cooks. Don’t lift the lid or mix the rice while it’s cooking!
Step 5: Lift the lid and taste the rice. All the water should be absorbed and the rice should be tender. Turn the burner off and re-cover the pot with a lid. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes.
Step 6: Fluff the rice with a fork (without scraping the bottom of the pan) and serve.
💭 Tips and tricks
- You’ll need a heavy-bottom pot – at least 3.5 quarts in size. I use an enamel dutch oven, but a caldero (aluminum pan used in island/Latin American cooking) is even better.
- Wash and rinse the rice before adding it to the pan. This removes extra starch and chemical residue.
- Placing a sheet of foil over the rice before putting the lid on can help trap steam in and aid with cooking the rice. Another trick you can try is laying a damp paper towel over the rice (still cover it with a lid) while it cooks.
- Don’t mix the rice while it’s cooking! You only need to stir it once before you put the lid on the pan, but other than that – hands off!
- It’s normal for the rice to stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep a low flame at all times so it doesn’t burn.
🥘 Serving suggestions
- This recipe yields about 6 servings. Double (or triple) for holidays and large gatherings. I use a rice to water ratio of 1:1 whenever I double or scale a recipe.
- Serve arroz con gandules with your favorite braised meat dish and a side of potato salad.
- Sweet plantains or tostones also taste great with this rice dish.
- The rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan can be reserved to make pegao. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan then add a splash of water and let simmer for a few seconds. Add the rice and fry until crispy.
They’re called pigeon peas because they’re also used as pigeon feed in some countries. Some other names for pigeon peas are congo beans and gandules.
They have an earthy, somewhat smoky taste. They’re slightly sweeter in taste than black eyed peas and have a creamy center.
Yes, canned pigeon peas are pre-cooked. Using canned pigeon peas eliminates the need to pre-soak and cook them for hours.
The rice can get mushy if you mix while it’s cooking or if you add too much water. It’s also important to let the rice sit for 10-15 minutes before fluffing it.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
I like to reheat my rice in a steamer but you can also use a microwave.
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Pigeon Peas and Rice (Arroz con Gandules Recipe)
- caldero 3.5-quart or larger
- 3 tablespoons lard or bacon grease
- 2 tablespoons sofrito or recaito
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons adobo
- 1 packet sazon should contain saffron, look for the yellow package
- 1 large bouillon cube
- 15 ounces canned pigeon peas do not drain
- ⅓ cup green olives
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 cups medium grain rice
- Heat the lard/bacon grease in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sofrito and let it cook for just a few seconds. Then add the tomato paste, oregano, cumin, adobo, sazon and bouillon to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the bouillon cube.
- Add 2 cups of water to the pan and stir until the tomato paste is fully dissolved and you're left with a red broth.
- Add the pigeon peas (with liquid from the can) and olives to the pot. Taste the liquid and add salt and pepper as needed. Bring the pot to a simmer.
- Once the water starts simmering, rinse the rice and add it to the pot. Stir and bring the pot to a simmer again. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the burner down low and cook the rice for 25-30 minutes. Don't lift the lid or mix the rice while it's cooking.
- Lift the lid and taste the rice. All the water should be absorbed and the rice should be tender. Turn the burner off and re-cover the pot with a lid. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork (without scraping the bottom of the pan) and serve.