Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules

Arroz con Gandules is one of the primary national dishes of Puerto Rico, along with roasted pork (often made in the style of Pernil). It is a simple combo of pigeon peas (gandules), rice, sofrito and some sort of smoked or cured or cooked pork for flavoring.  

Arroz con Gandules

I have been a Pernil fan for some time (thanks again to the talented cook Guiillermo Cruz for sparking my pernil journey), but not dug into the traditional accompaniments: arroz con gandules and tostones. With the holidays coming up (this is a traditional Christmas combo), I wanted to remedy that. 

Arroz con Gandules

Sofrito in Arroz con Gandules 

The basis of arroz con gandules (and SO many other Latin and Puerto Rican dishes) is sofrito, which is a blended of garlic, onions, peppers, cilantro (or culantro), sometimes tomatoes, and other seasonings. So first I read up on that, and came up with my take (first big nod to Daisy Martinez, renowned Puerto Rican chef and cookbook author), then I set about constructing my arroz con gandules recipe (anther big nod to Daisy, and some other sources).

Rice with Pigeon Peas 

A Trinidadian friend of mine used to serve “rice and peas” often, and I was at first confused by per definition of peas, until I realized they were pigeon peas. You can buy them dried, and soak and cook them, find them in the frozen vegetables section, or do as I did, and pop open a can and rinse them. 

Arroz con Gandules

If you are a big pan of pigeon peas there is no reason you might not want to add two cans — traditionally there is a lot of rice, dotted with a small amount of pigeon peas, but if you like them lots and want to bump up the protein in this dish, feel free to double the amount. 

If you can’t find pigeon peas for some reason you could sub in pinto beans, pink beans or red beans. 

Arroz con Gandules

How to Make Arroz Con Gandules

While usually white rice is cooked in water, covered the whole way through, in most versions of arroz con gandules there is a bit of a change up. The annatto seeds and sofrito are sautéed in oil, then other ingredients are added (olives, bay leaf, etc.).Then the smoked pork and the rice are stirred in until well coated, then the broth and pigeon peas are added. 

The mixture is brought to a boil over high heat without stirring. The liquid then is allowed to boil until it evaporates to the level where you can see the rice peeking out above the liquid. Then the pot is covered, and the rice is cooked on low to for 20 minutes, uninterrupted. 

Arroz con Gandules

Arroz Con Gandules Add-Ins 

Annatto (also called achiote) is often used as a seasoning, but it’s not always so easy to find. You can make the recipe without it, and still have delicious if not as richly colored a dish. If you have access to a Latin market, that’s perfect, or order it online. It gives the dish a sunny yellowy-orange color. 

Capers, olives (sometimes pimento-stuffed), bay leaves, cumin, coriander, oregano, are all ingredients you might see in an arroz con gandules dish. I stuck with cumin, a bay leaf, and pimento stuffed olives.  

Arroz con Gandules

And unless you are looking for a vegetarian version of arroz con gandules, you will want to cook the rice with some sort of pork: bacon, ham hocks, a leftover bone from a pork roast, or a bone from baked ham with some meat still on it (that what I used, having frozen it a month ago for this exact reason).  A chunk of leftover ham would also be perfect.

Arroz con Gandules: One of the primary national dishes of Puerto Rico, a combo of pigeon peas (gandules), rice, and sofrito with pork.

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Arroz con Gandules

This simple combo of pigeon peas (gandules), rice, sofrito and ham is one of the classic dishes of Puerto Rico.
Yield: 10 People
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Diet: Gluten Free


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon annatto seeds (achiote; optional)
  • ½ cup sofrito
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ pound smoked pork neck bones or 1 smoked ham hock
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pigeon peas , drained and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • About 5 cups less-sodium chicken broth


  • Heat the oil in large pot with a lid over medium heat until shimmering. Add the annatto seeds, if using, and stir until the seeds begin to sizzle. Remove the skillet from the heat and let sit until the oil comes to room temperature. Strain the oil, discarding the seeds, pour the infused oil back into the pot.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat until hot (whether you sautéed the annatto seeds or not), then add the sofrito, olives, salt, pepper, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the smoked pork and the rice and stir to blend the rice with sofrito mixture. Add the pigeon peas, bay leaf, and enough broth, to cover rice by 1 inch.
  • Increase the heat to high and bring mixture to a boil over high heat without stirring. Let the liquid boil until it evaporates to the level where you can see the rice peeking out above the liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes without opening the lid.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 362mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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