If you’ve been following Ambitious Kitchen for a while you know that I love to share my family’s cozy and comforting Puerto Rican recipes. My mom and her parents are all from Puerto Rico, so I grew up on their wonderful recipes like homemade empanadas, rice and beans, pozole and tostones. These recipes are dear to my heart and truly make the best comfort foods.
I even had our caterers make a few twists on my mom’s traditional recipes are our wedding!
I come back to these recipes time and time again when I’m looking for something nourishing, cozy and nostalgic. Today I’m excited to share my mom’s recipe for arroz con gandules — one that I grew up eating for lunches and dinners served with some of our favorite sides.
Traditional arroz con gandules
As I mentioned, arroz con gandules is a traditional Puerto Rican dish and is made with rice, pigeon peas, sofrito, sazon and oftentimes pork. This rice dish is full of incredible, warming flavors and is relatively easy to make, especially in big batches, with the right ingredients. It’s usually served during holidays like Christmas, but is enjoyed all year round!
What are pigeon peas?
Green pigeon peas are a staple in traditional arroz con gandules. They’re actually little beans used in Caribbean dishes, have a slightly nutty flavor, and are sold dried, fresh or canned. Pigeon peas are a wonderful source of protein, fiber and minerals like magnesium, potassium and manganese.
You can typically find canned pigeon peas in the Hispanic section of your grocery store, which is what I use in this recipe.
Arroz con gandules: the key ingredients
My Puerto Rican grandparents passed down their arroz con gandules recipe to my mom, who then taught me all of the tips and tricks for making it from scratch. We keep our recipe plant based, but it’s easy to customize with ingredients you have on hand. Here’s are the components of the dish and what you’ll need to make it:
- Sofrito: in Spanish, sofrito means “sauce,” and this is what you’ll cook the rice in. My version of sofrito is a mixture of garlic, onion, green bell pepper, cilantro and tomato sauce. Some people traditionally make sofrito with fresh tomatoes and culantro, but this is how I’ve made it over the years.
- Sazon: the key flavors in arroz con gandules come from a seasoning called sazon. You can buy packets or premade sazon seasoning or easily make your own right at home with my recipe and tutorial!
- Green pigeon peas: using pigeon peas is traditional in arroz con gandules, and why it’s often called “rice with pigeon peas.”
- Rice: I like to use white basmati rice in this recipe because it’s super light and fluffy when cooked.
- Water: you’ll need three cups of water to cook the rice completely with the sofrito and pigeon peas.
- Optional: because my family doesn’t make our arroz con gandules with any pork products, we often add sliced pimento-stuffed olives to our arroz con gandules for that salty, savory flavor.
How to swap the pigeon peas
If you can’t find pigeon peas where you live, you can simply use regular, green peas instead. To do so:
- Use more water. Increase the water so that you have 3 1/2 cups total.
- Add with the rice. Add frozen green peas with the rice after you bring the water to a boil.
- Continue the recipe. That’s it! Then simply finish the recipe as written.
DIY sazon seasoning
As I mentioned, you can either use packets of sazon seasoning or you can easily make it from scratch with just 6 spices! Get all of my tips and tricks for making homemade sazon here.
Can I use a different rice?
I would not recommend using a different rice in this arroz con gandules because the cooking time can vary greatly. For example, brown rice can take up to 45 minutes to cook.
How to make arroz con gandules
This delicious dish is easy to make in just one pot and perfect for serving a crowd.
- Make your sofrito. In a large pot you’ll start by cooking down the onion, green pepper, cilantro and garlic, then adding the tomato sauce and sazon.
- Add your pigeon peas. Next, you’ll add the whole can of pigeon peas WITH the water that’s in the can. Do not drain the pigeon peas first!
- Add water & rice. Finally, pour in the water, bring it a boil, and stir in the rice. You’ll then want to cover your pot and simmer the rice until it’s nice and tender.
- Garnish and serve. I like to stir in sliced olives, then top my arroz con gandules with extra fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.
Serving & storing tips
What makes arroz con gandules so special is that not only can you add your favorite proteins to the dish, but you can also easily double it to serve a bigger crowd! My family has added cooked kielbasa sausage, but beans, chickpeas and chicken would all be delicious. I’ve linked more recipes below!
To store: simply store any leftover arroz con gandules in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
If you like this recipe, you’ll love
Get all of my globally inspired dishes here!
I hope you love my family’s arroz con gandules recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Arroz Con Gandules
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Flavorful homemade arroz con gandules, or Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas! Learn how to make my family’s take on traditional arroz con gandules with simple ingredients, homemade sofrito and sazon seasoning. The perfect easy pairing with your favorite proteins or homemade tostones!
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup very finely diced yellow onion
- 1/3 cup very finely diced green bell pepper
- ¼ cup finely diced cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup no salt added tomato sauce
- 3 teaspoons (2 packets) sazon seasoning (see note in recipe for how to make your own)
- 1 (15 oz) can green pigeon peas** (see note in recipe for a sub)
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups basmati white rice
- Optional: ¼ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
Add olive oil to a medium pot and place over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add in onion, green pepper, cilantro and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent and green peppers soften, about 2-4 minutes. Bring heat to medium-low and add tomato sauce, sazon and simmer for 2 minutes until sauce comes together.
Next add in the entire can of pigeon peas (with the liquid — DO NOT DRAIN), and add 3 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Once it boils, stir in 2 cups of rice, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Finally stir in sliced olives, if using.
Taste rice and adjust seasonings as necessary, including adding more salt.
Garnish with cilantro and a few avocado slices — serve with tostones if you’d like. Serves 6.
*IF YOU WANT TO MAKE HOMEMADE SAZON: this is an excellent, flavorful option to have at home. For this entire recipe you will need the following: 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander, 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin, 1/2 tablespoon ground annatto seeds (or sub turmeric), 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 tablespoon salt. For the rice you’ll need 1 tablespoon of this DIY sazon spice mixture.
If you do not have pigeon peas, which are traditional, you can use green peas instead. Simply increase the water in the recipe by ½ cup (so you’d have 3 ½ cups total). After you bring water to a boil (in step 2) you can add 1 cup of frozen peas and the rice.
Servings: 6 servings
Serving size: 1 serving (based on 6, without olives)
Saturated fat: 0.2g