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Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)

Alejandra Ramos

Chef notes

Whether on the island or in the U.S., Puerto Rican holiday tables will usually feature this popular rice dish: arroz con gandules.

This easy and savory rice dish is made with a base of smoked ham (or bacon), homemade sofrito and a generous sprinkling of Latin spices.

Pigeon peas are also easily found with other Latin or Caribbean canned beans (Goya is a popular brand).

I like serving this with a sprinkle of spicy, vinegary hot sauce on top (something like Tabasco works really well!).


  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 Cubanelle pepper (also known as Italian frying pepper; substitute any color bell pepper), seeds and stem removed and coarsely chopped
  • 8 large cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems
Arroz con gandules
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced and cooked smoked ham, smoked Spanish-style cured chorizo or chopped raw bacon (note that the chorizo should be Spanish cured chorizo, not fresh Mexican chorizo)
  • 3 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup sofrito (recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup pimento-stuffed olives, drained and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can gandules (pigeon peas), drained
  • cups water


For the sofrito:

In a food processor, combine the onion, Cubanelle pepper, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin and cilantro, and process until smooth.

For the arroz con gandules:


Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in the base of a large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven and add the ham, chorizo or bacon. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes, or until fat has rendered and meat is slightly crispy.


Add the rice, stir into the fat and meat mixture, and saute 3 minutes to toast.


Add the 1/2 cup of sofrito, paprika, cumin and salt, and sauté 3 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, olives, capers, drained gandules and water. Stir to incorporate then raise heat and bring to a boil. Allow to boil, uncovered, for 3 minutes, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until liquid is fully absorbed and rice is tender.


Remove from heat, stir once to incorporate ingredients and fluff rice. Taste and adjust with additional salt, as needed.