This Arroz con Gandules recipe may be my new favorite rice dish! Tender rice with pigeon peas, generously flavored with salted pork, sofrito, tomato sauce and some great Latin seasonings.
Along with pernil (roasted pork), this is the national dish of Puerto Rico. It’s such a great side dish to have in your repertoire, as it goes well with so many things.
If you’re a big fan of big flavor, this Puerto Rican rice is a must!
This arroz con gandules is the newest to find its way into our regular rotation.
What is Arroz con Gandules?
Meaning “rice with pigeon peas”, this is a Puerto Rican rice preparation typically served around Christmas and other special occasions. But it’s so good and so easy, it’s great any time!
It’s one of those traditional dishes that has many little variations, as the recipes vary from family to family, passing down the generations.
Some typical ingredients include salted pork, tomato, sazon, cumin, oregano, bay leaves and olives.
The real star though is sofrito, a combination of peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and culantro. You can find it in the Latin section of your grocery store, but if you love fresh, check out my Puerto Rican Sofrito Recipe. It only takes a few minutes.
Why this Recipe Works
- Flavor Layering: You’re building flavors at each step. Starting with the bacon base adds a smoky, rich undertone that elevates the entire dish.
- Sofrito and Sazón: These are the two S’s that serve as your flavor heroes. Sofrito gives you an aromatic base, while sazón takes care of color and added taste.
- Balanced Ingredients: The green olives and dried herbs offers a nice balance to the richness of the bacon and sazón. The olives add a tangy burst, and the herbs bring aromatic warmth.
- Chicken Stock: Using chicken stock instead of water makes a world of difference. It integrates with the sofrito and spices, acting as a flavor sponge for the rice.
- Versatility: Though the recipe is traditional, it offers room for tweaks and personal touches. Have a vegetarian at the table? Skip the bacon. Want it spicier? Go ahead and add some heat!
What Kind of Rice to Use
Although not traditional, we use basmati. We always have it around and love how it cooks perfect every time.
If you use the more traditional medium or long grained rice, it is very important to rinse it well before adding it into the pot. This removes some of the starch and prevents everything from getting too mushy.
Parboiled rice is another good option, as some of the starch has already been removed. In this case, as it has already been partially cooked, you would want to reduce the cooking time by ten minutes.
You can find exact measurements in the recipe card. Here is what we use:
- Bacon – This is where the flavor starts. You can also use salt pork or pork belly. It can be omitted for a vegetarian version.
- Sofrito – Homemade sofrito offers fresher, more vibrant flavors. Important note: If using store-bought, you are probably going to find Goya brand (they make both frozen and jarred). Buy the green recaito, not the red sofrito. The former is what is used in Puerto Rican cooking, while the latter is Spanish.
- Sazón con Culantro y Achiote – You will find this in the international section of your supermarket, or by the spices.
- Crushed Tomatoes – If you want chunkier texture, you can use diced tomatoes instead.
- Chicken Stock – Low-sodium stock is recommended, as you’ll be getting salt from other ingredients like bacon and olives.
- Pigeon Peas – If you can’t find canned pigeon peas, frozen or dried varieties can also work. If using dried, be sure to follow the instructions on the package to soak and cook them in advance.
- Green Olives – Go for pitted olives for convenience.
- Dried Oregano and Cumin – These are pantry staples that add depth to the dish. Fresh oregano can also be used, but remember to use 1 tablespoon of fresh in place of 1 teaspoon of dried.
- Bay Leaves – These are optional but recommended. They infuse the dish with a subtle, earthy aroma.
- White Rice – Basmati was used in the recipe, but if using regular long grain, make sure to rinse the rice well to remove excess starch.
How to Make Arroz con Gandules
This amazing dish comes together pretty easy.
1. Fry the bacon: First, cut your bacon into one inch pieces and fry it in the pot you will be cooking the arroz in. We use a 5 quart dutch oven. Remove the bacon and save for later.
2. Build the flavors: Add in sofrito, tomato and sazon. Give it a stir and cook for a few minutes. Add stock, pigeon peas, olives and seasonings. Bring it to a boil.
3. Cook the rice: Stir in the rice and cooked bacon. Mix everything well, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes.
When the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, stir everything gently, trying not to disturb the bottom. The rice that sticks to the bottom (called pegao) becomes crispy and is the most prized part of the dish!
What to Serve with Arroz con Gandules
It is most commonly associated with pernil, which is marinated and roasted pork shoulder. The two combine to make the stars of a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas spread. The combo goes great with maduros or Tostones.
This is also a great side dish for any kind of grilled or roasted meat. Think chicken, pork chops or even fish.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Arroz con gandules refrigerates well for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Reheat on stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave, adding a sprinkle of water.
It also freezes well. I keep it in freezer rated zip top bags and squeeze out as much air as I can before freezing.
A Few Tips
- The Right Cookware: Using a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot distributes heat more evenly, which is essential for getting that perfect, fluffy rice.
- Sauté Like a Pro: When adding your sofrito, make sure to sauté until the water content evaporates. This intensifies the flavors and sets a delicious base for the dish.
- Test the Liquid: Before sealing your pot for the final cooking stage, taste the liquid. If it’s seasoned well, your rice will be too!
- Stir Sparingly: Resisting the urge to stir while the rice is cooking to make sure that delicious pegao forms on the bottom.
- Let it Rest: After cooking, remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.
So there you go, yet another Latin flavor bomb. Arroz con gandules has quickly become one of our staple side dishes. Give it a try, we’re sure you’ll love it!
Please leave a comment and review when you cook this, I love hearing from you! And be sure to subscribe to the GypsyPlate mailing list, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you!
Arroz con Gandules (along with Pernil), on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 4 strips of bacon, cut into one inch pieces
- ½ cup sofrito (see note 1)
- ⅓ cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 packet sazón con culantro y achiote (I use Goya brand)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 15oz can pigeon peas, drained
- ½ cup green olives, halved
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp cumin powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups white rice (see note 2)
- In a large pot such as a dutch oven or caldero over medium high heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan for later use.
- Add sofrito, crushed tomato and sazon to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, pigeon peas, olives, oregano, cumin and bay leaves to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Stir in rice and crumbled bacon. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 25-30 minutes, until rice is tender and all water is absorbed.
- You can use store bought or follow my recipe for homemade sofrito.
- We used basmati. For conventional long or medium grain rice, be sure to first rinse the rice well to remove starch.
- Using a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot distributes heat more evenly, which is essential for getting that perfect, fluffy rice.
- When adding your sofrito, make sure to sauté until the water content evaporates.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 219Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 7mgSodium 572mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 5gSugar 2gProtein 10g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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