Mom’s Arroz con Gandules

Arroz con gandules is a traditional savory Puerto Rican dish made of rice, gandules (pigeon peas) and if you’re in the mood for additional flavor, add in meat.  A dish that if I could, I would eat a few times a week, if not more.

Arroz Con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas) | URBAN BAKES

I’m obsessed and if this plate is around, you will no doubt hear me rave about how great it is!  I’d also most likely try to force a fork in your mouth as if you could experience the same euphoria I get every time I stuff my face with another bite.

Half of my family is Puerto Rican so it’s only natural on the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and other large family gatherings), arroz con gandules is THE traditional dish made.  A holiday or special occasion would not be the same without someone coming through the door with a pot-full in hand.

Arroz Con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas) | URBAN BAKES

This year, I chose to have Christmas in Arizona while half of my family was in New York and others were on a cruise vacationing.  Therefore, I missed the nostalgia of the family coming together around the table while hearing in the background the clanging of pots and pans from the kitchen.  That wonderful aromatic waft of deliciousness through the home of everything that comes with our typical holiday feast such as pernil (shredded pork), pasteles, this rice dish and much more.  I couldn’t let another day pass by without the help of my mother in sharing her recipe and so, I made it!

Arroz Con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas) | URBAN BAKES

Arroz con gandules can be made with a variety of ingredients but a few you CANNOT go without which gives its unique flavor and color is, Sazón and sofrito.  Sazón con culantro y achiote (with coriander and annatto) is a small seasoning packet with a punch-full of flavor. You can find this in the Goya section of the Latin isle of the grocery store.  It provides not only its immense flavor but also adds its beautiful color.  

Sofrito on the other hand, is best made from scratch however, if you are in a pinch for time, the jarred version is suitable.  It provides a soft aromatic base to the recipe which consists of tomato, garlic, onion, cilantro and more. You may notice, my mother adds not just heaping amounts of sofrito but also throws in diced fresh vegetables as well.  It’s all about the flavor.  

Pork is commonly added however, you can opt for beef, shredded chicken, sausage or simply go without.  For as long as I can remember, my mother has made hers with ground beef but I also enjoy arroz con gandules without any meat as well.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did.  I can’t wait to make this again! 

Ingredients for Arroz Con Gandules without the fresh vegetables | URBAN BAKES

Just a few of the ingredients used, minus the fresh vegetables.

Beef for Arroz Con Gandules | URBAN BAKES
Sauteed Gandules (Pigeon Peas) with onions, peppers, carrots and olives | URBAN BAKES
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Arroz Con Gandules and beef | URBAN BAKES

Mom’s Arroz con Gandules

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5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: URBAN BAKES
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Low Lactose




  • 2 cups medium or long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 packet Sazón con culantro y achiote
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 heaping tablespoons recaito
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sofrito
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 4 heaping tablespoons ketchup

GANDULES (Pigeon Peas)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can gandules
  • 15 olives with or without pimiento


  1. RICE: In a medium pot over HIGH heat, stir in rice with 4 cups of water, oil, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.  Cover pot to allow water to boil until small bubbles begin to form just above the surface of the rice, about 7 minutes. By this point, most of the water will have been absorbed.  
  2. Decrease heat to a simmer and allow rice to swell until all water is absorbed.  Once rice is softened, remove from heat and run a long-tined fork through to fluff the rice, this will help prevent sticking.
  3. GROUND BEEF: In a large 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, spread 1 teaspoon of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If using a higher fat content of ground beef, you may skip the oil.  Add beef to the heated pan.  Use a wooden spoon or stiff spatula to chop the beef into small pea-sized pieces. Before beef is fully cooked (browned), season with cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, Sazón and salt and thoroughly mix with several stirs. 
  4. If needed, continue to chop the beef into small pieces until completely browned, about 7-10 minutes.  Stir in recaito, sofrito, tomato sauce and ketchup. Mix well, remove from heat, cover and set aside.  Note: at this stage, the meat should resemble a wet sloppy joe.  
  5. GANDULES: In an 8 or 10-inch skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Toss in onion, green and red peppers and carrots.  Saute until onions become translucent.  Stir in gandules and olives and continue to cook over medium heat until carrots have softened.
  6. Stir in gandules-mixture in with the ground beef. Thoroughly mix in rice. Serve warm and ENJOY!
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Rice
  • Cuisine: Puerto Rican

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10 thoughts on “Mom’s Arroz con Gandules”

  1. I have only made this once and can already see why you would want to eat it more often. It is delicious and filling. I also add meat to mine and loved rolling it into a burrito with leftovers.

  2. I love family tradition recipes like this! This one is so full of flavor, I’m sure it’s going to become a tradition at our house too!

  3. What a wonderful dinner! It turned out so flavorful, and it couldn’t be easier to make. I’m definitely making this one again.

  4. Analida Braeger

    Thanks for sharing a great recipe and your family story of this dish! I can’t wait to try this version with ground beef.

  5. I love easy dishes like this that have such a rich history. And I love trying new spices so this one is going down in the books as mouthful of pure deliciousness. I made mine with a pulled pork and it was a favorite right away.

  6. Sometimes, you just don’t realize how much a dish is part of your life celebrations until it isn’t. I totally understand and empathize with you and I’m glad your mom shared her special recipe with you.

    1. Aww thank you, Bernice! Yes, not being with family during the holidays truly set me back reminiscing on the days I had. This is for sure comfort food for those moments when I want to relish my mother for her cooking and the rest of the family.

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