Vegetarian Arroz con Gandules: A Modern Take on Puerto Rican Rice and Beans

I love trying new recipes and sharing them with fellow food-lovers. Some of my favorite recipes are the ones with five or fewer ingredients!

Arroz con gandules, ready to eat!

Arroz con gandules, ready to eat!

Although more complicated than an ordinary white rice side dish, Puerto Rican arroz con gandules can be a meal in itself. It's an inexpensive, perfect mix of protein and carbohydrates with some veggies thrown in. Learning how to make this dish is rewarding because cooking rice and beans is a gentle art.

Once you've mastered this recipe, it will become a go-to, fast, and filling meal. One thing is for sure—your family and friends will be stuck on this recipe like white on rice!

If you are feeding a crowd, go ahead and double the recipe, but add about 1/4 cup extra rice. You want to be able to tell anyone who wants seconds (or thirds!), "Sure, there's more in the pot!" Be sure to make enough because everybody likes it!

In fact, my boyfriend used this recipe to win a company-wide cook-off during the summer of 2019, prevailing over dishes that included meat.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

25 min

50 min

1 hour 15 min

3-4 hungry people as a main, 6 or more as a side


  • 1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped or diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped or diced
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 small (7.5-8 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (13.5 oz.) can gandules (pigeon peas)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salad olives, or more if you prefer (sliced green olives, with pimientos), and one tablespoon of the brine
  • Spice mix (see below)
  • Optional: Imitation bacon bits, one capful or to taste

Spice Mix

A rice dish like arroz con gandules would be nothing special if it weren't for the spices that are used! Here's what you need:

  • 2 tbsp. granulated or three cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry achiote seeds (annatto) or one tablespoon of ground achiote
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. adobo
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 packet Sazón Goya con Culantro y Achiote (probably located in the ethnic food aisle of your supermarket). No, this is not cheating; we are adding extra spices and this is simply a nice base. If you leave out the other spices your rice will be okay, but not nearly as good.
Add the achiote to oil in a large pot.

Add the achiote to oil in a large pot.


1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot or caldera. Add the achiote seeds and heat for about three minutes over medium heat. The achiote will flavor and color the oil and this is what you will use to cook the sofrito (seasoned vegetable base).

Heat the achiote in oil.

Heat the achiote in oil.

2. As the oil warms the achiote seeds they will give off a slightly smoky smell and tiny bubbles will rise around them. Do not overheat as the seeds will turn black and the oil will taste bitter.

Alternately, you may use ground achiote instead of the seeds, leaving it in the dish as one does with ground spices. It will make cleanup easier since there is no straining involved.

The achiote should make the oil golden or reddish.

The achiote should make the oil golden or reddish.

Saute the onion and pepper.

Saute the onion and pepper.

3. Heat the oil until it turns a warm orangey-red. Strain the oil with a tea strainer (dedicate for future achiote use only, or your future tea will taste like this dish) or scoop out the achiote seeds with a spoon and discard.

Rest the spoon on a glass plate; do not rest the spoon on the stove or counter as the achiote oil will stain.

4. Add the onion and green pepper. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Diced veggies will cook slightly faster and you will end up with fewer bits of vegetables showing in the final dish.

Add the seasonings.

Add the seasonings.

5. Add the adobo, black pepper, garlic, oregano, Sazón, and vegetarian bacon bits. Stir to coat with the oil, and cook over low to medium heat for another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. The veggies will turn a deeper orange and smell ever so slightly smoky.

Coat the rice with the oil.

Coat the rice with the oil.

6. Add the rice and fry, stirring occasionally, until the rice is slightly opaque. This will take about 4 minutes.

Add the liquid ingredients, gandules, and olives.

Add the liquid ingredients, gandules, and olives.

7. Add the water. It will sizzle! Add the canned goods: the tomato sauce, gandules, olives and pimientos, and brine. Stir several times, making sure nothing is stuck on the bottom, but also being careful not to press the ingredients into mush, either.

This is not hot enough.

This is not hot enough.

8. Let it come to a boil. This is a simmer.

This is hot enough!

This is hot enough!

This is the right type of boil. Not a rolling boil for cooking pasta, but not a simmer either. See the size of the bubbles? They are about 1/2-3/4 inch in diameter.

Stir once more, very gently so as not to disrupt the boil.

No peeking!

No peeking!

9. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 25 to 50 minutes or until the rice is dry. Do not lift the lid, or your rice will turn out gummier than it should, and you will be disappointed.

This part really depends on the flame level, amount of rice you are cooking (is it a double or triple batch? If so, you're likely looking at the high range of time), and type and size of pot you are using, so use a glass lid if you are concerned.

Serving Arroz con Gandules

When ready, the rice will be fragrant and the bean and olives will have risen to the top. Serve with a green salad and sliced avocado.

Please note: this picture at the top is of another batch of rice made in a different pot, with different lighting, on a different stove. (My family ate the original batch before I had remembered to take a photo!)

The crispy, delicious pegado!

The crispy, delicious pegado!

A Word About Pegado

And that word is YUM!

Pegado (pronounced "pegao" or "pega'o") is the prized, crispy rice bits that stick to the pot, and it is fought over at the table. But making pegado takes practice, and is not scientific. After the first half hour or so, raise the heat ever so slightly and cook a little longer than necessary (try about 8 to 10 minutes). But keep your eye on it and don't walk away! You don't want the pegado to burn, because in addition to not tasting as good as it should, it will make cleanup really difficult.

Proper pegado requires scraping to get all those delicious bits. Don't use a fork (unless you want to scrape your pot); employ a plastic dough scraper instead.

The first time I managed to make pegado was a happy accident. I immediately took notes. (And I keep them in a safe place!) But if the charred bits of grilled foods and the end of the roast isn't really your thing, pegado probably isn't for you. So don't sweat it. The rice will be perfectly yummy without it.

© 2012 Rachel Vega


Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on December 31, 2019:

I did not -- it is in already the Sazón packet (con Culantro y Achiote), listed in the ingredients. But thank you for making me check! :)

Bobbie on December 30, 2019:

You forgot the cilantro or culantro. That is the main ingredient in the sofrito and gives it true latin flavor.

Speedy Gonzalez on July 07, 2017:

Liz... Visit the international or Spanish isle in your grocery store. You will see pigeon peas (they are a specific type of bean) and adobo is a seasoning. Saxon gives the dish that special flavor. Follow the recipe word from word and you will be fine.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 14, 2017:

This looks really yummy! I'm always on the lookout for new vegetarian dishes to try!

What, please, are 'gandules' or 'pigeon peas'? I am familiar with several names for a canned, large round, whitish bean; garbanzo beans; chick peas; cecis... are these the same thing?

Also: what is 'adobo,' and is it also available in the store, or is it home made? Is the black pepper offered as a substitute for the adobo, or is it in addition to it?

Thanks very much; I look forward to trying this dish!

Tom on March 14, 2017:


Can the Sazón Goya con Culantro y Achiote be homemade? I don't like buying prepared spice packets.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on June 11, 2012:

Hi, Danette! Happy birthday to your husband and I hope he likes it! Please let me know how it turned out. :^)

Danette Watt from Illinois on June 11, 2012:

I'll have to give this a try. It's my husband's b'day today and he wanted red beans & rice (he's from the south) so I'm sure he'd like this. I think the Commissary where I shop will have the gandules, they have quite a selection of items from PR/Cuba, Germany, Japan and so on - places where Air Force is stationed.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2012:

Thank you, Natasha! In all the old cookbooks that always bothered me, too. I appreciate the comment. :^)

Natasha from Hawaii on May 27, 2012:

What great step by step pictures. Thank you! I love knowing how a recipe is supposed to look along the way.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on May 23, 2012:

Thanks so much, Jason! If you think you like the way it looks, you will love the way it tastes. ;-) I appreciate the kind comment and your stopping by.

Jason F Marovich from Detroit on May 23, 2012:

I really enjoy the look of this article, and I found that you've complemented the step by step instructions and pictures nicely with additional useful information about preparing Arroz con Gandules. I agree, this looks like a meal all its own.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Hi, KrisL! I make this every couple weeks, but I could eat it every day. :^) I hope you like it!

KrisL from S. Florida on May 05, 2012:

This looks so tasty - I'll definitely have to try it!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on March 07, 2012:

Doc Sonic, I hope you like it. It's delicious (if I do say so myself)! ;^) I don't eat pork so I revamped my grandmother's recipe and my dad loves it! It does taste different than the original, but not in a bad way. Please let me know if you meet with success.

Glen Nunes from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on March 07, 2012:

This sounds reminiscent of a recipe my grandmother used to make, which I haven't had in many years. I'm going to try it. Thanks for the recipe.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 27, 2012:

Hi, Happyboomernurse and thanks so much! I'm loving HubPages and I have a great time figuring out my Hubs To Be. I'm so glad Bunny got me into it.

Let me know how the rice turns out. I hope you enjoy!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on February 27, 2012:

Came here after reading your sister, Brainybunnie's hub about the Hub Retreat you did together.

Welcome to Hub Pages and congratulations on earning the Hub of the Day Accolade so quickly. You're off to a great start.

This looks like a delicious dish that should be easy to make following your illustrated directions. Am bookmarking for future reference.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 24, 2012:

A, hahaha! I agree. :^)

A on February 24, 2012:

They should have a button up there called "tasty"!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 12, 2012:

Thanks, Suzie! Enjoy, and please let me know if you like the flavor.

Suzie ONeill from Lost in La La Land on February 12, 2012:

Sounds good! I bookmarked your hub to try out the recipe in the near future! Thanks for sharing! :)

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 12, 2012:

Hey, tirelesstraveler and thanks! I pretty much DO live on rice and beans, all different types. I hope you try this recipe.

Judy Specht from California on February 11, 2012:

Yummy! I could live on beans and rice. Thanks for the new idea. Welcome to HubPages and congratulations on your nomination.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 11, 2012:

Thanks, Bail Up for the welcome and the compliment. Yes, I love adding Sazón since it gives that pretty pop. Try the rice with achiote... it's different and the veggies really look beautiful in there.

Thanks, urmilashukla23! Indian food is actually my favorite when I eat out and I have been trying to collect the spices but I must admit I often just buy the ready-to-eat packets and boil them! I can make basmati rice really well, though... I really do like rices, I guess. :^)

Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on February 11, 2012:

Looks delicious and healthy. Similar to our Indian rice and beans. Loved this recipe. Voted up!

Bail Up! on February 09, 2012:

What an excellent hub! Your writing and pictures to demonstrate the cooking process of arroz con gandules is right on. I have to say it I have never made it with achiote but do use the goya seasoning ready made packets that include the achiote. This dish really is as delicious as it sounds here. Congrats on the Hub of the Day and welcome, looking forward to enjoying more of your writing.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 06, 2012:

Peggy W, yup! These ethnic flavors brighten up ordinary rice in a way I love. I hope you try it. And thanks for the compliments!

techygran, thanks for the compliment and the up-vote. Photos can really make a hub.

ripplemaker, thanks!

Marturion, mmm! If you do try the recipe, please let me know how it works out.

Marturion on February 05, 2012:

This made me hungry for home!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on February 05, 2012:

Yummmy, I will have to bookmark this and try it out one of these days. :)

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To all who would like to read and vote, join the Hubnuggets team and their adventures right here: https://hubpages.com/community/HubNugget-Mystery-T...

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on February 04, 2012:

Hello Clevercat.. this looks so delicious... it's late at night and I salivate as I look at your very nice photos. Congrats on the Hub of the Day award! voted up!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 04, 2012:

I love rice and beans and these extra ingredients (some of which I have never used) undoubtedly lend some extra flavor. Sounds good! Will have to go hunting in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store. Congrats on the Hubnugget nomination and also being selected as Hub of the Day. Well deserved!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 04, 2012:

CloudExplorer, thanks for the advice (and the compliment!) I am also concerned about the health risks involved with types of metal in calderas -- I actually don't use one myself. My family is convinced that my grandmother's Alzheimer's was caused by high levels of iron in the cheap pots available in PR back in the day. I actually use a double-bottomed 18/10 Lusterware pot and it cooks the rice like a dream.

BlissfulWriter, ananceleste, RTalloni, randomcreative, MeanGreen, John Sarkis, Vega y Vargas, iiimusicfreak27, Faceless39, and jakefranco, thank you! :^)

Jennifer Essary, what are some successful mixes? I'd love to know.

rob_allen, athena2011, Peter Allison, gmwilliams, creativelycc, and Cyndi10, I would love to know how it works out for you!

DougBerry, thanks for the shout out for the HubNugget nom. I had wondered how the HOTD and the HN noms happen, and now... well, I still don't know, since it all took place with no once telling me! Lol. So much for standing in awe... ;^)

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on February 04, 2012:

This recipe looks great. I could smell it cooking as you took us through the steps. I love rice and pigeon peas and I can't wait to try this since some of the spices I'm unfamiliar with. Congrats on Hub of the Day and welcome.

Carrie L Cronkite from Maine on February 04, 2012:

Great hub,I love this rice dish, I make it quite often. I like the idea of adding bacon bits, I bet it makes the rice more delicious. I'll have add it to my rice the next time I make it. Thank you and welcome to hubpages!

jakefranco on February 03, 2012:

Delicioso and looks kinda healthy too.

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on February 03, 2012:

To clevercat: Now, THAT is what I call MUY DELICIOSO. On the days when I feel like cooking, I shall try this delectable recipe. Thank you very much!

Peter Allison from Alameda, CA on February 03, 2012:

Great Hub! I love the pix and the recipe looks delicious - I'm going to try it out this weekend!

DougBerry from Abilene, TX on February 03, 2012:

Hey, congratulations on your HubNugget nomination. You can vote and view the other nominees in the Food and Cooking Topic here:


Another Hub of the Day and HubNugget nomination. You guys must have some super "cooking" secret initiation that gives you the keys to HubPages or something. I stand in awe. Or maybe not.

Kate P from The North Woods, USA on February 03, 2012:

Rated up, useful, and awesome! So nice to see a vegetarian dish, and I've gotta say, this is a thoroughly wonderful hub.. and Great pictures! Congrats.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 03, 2012:

DzyMsLizzy, pigeon peas and gandules are the same thing -- little brown or green round beans that look like larger, plump lentils. You can find them in the ethnic aisle or with canned beans (I like Goya, but my grandma swore by El Jibarito.)

Modgirlok, mary615, dipless, pstraubie48, amilypitt -- I would love to know how it works out for you!

Stephanie Rivera-Rios on February 03, 2012:

I'm Puerto Rican and still don't know how to make this, haha, but it sure tastes good!

Great hub:)

athena2011 from Beachfront - In My Dreams:) on February 03, 2012:

Well I don't feel so badly now that others mentioned not having heard of the achiote stuff before. I do know about Pigeon Peas (delicious).

I'm not much of a cook but your pictures and explanations make me feel that I could make this dish. It sounds delicious so thanks for sharing the recipe.

Vega y Vargas on February 03, 2012:

Oh this is great! Reminds me of the stuff Abuelita and Mom used to make. I didn't like pega'o when I was young, but I've come to look for it. Super job!

rob_allen from MNL, PH on February 03, 2012:

Wow, looks really delicious. Thanks goodness, one recipe hub that is laden with pictures in every step! I will try this at home. I would love to savor the taste of Puerto Rico at the comfort of my home here in the Philippines :) Voted Up! :)

John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on February 03, 2012:

Great article clevercat. I'm all for it. Being Cuban myself, I love to replace traditional foods using "veggie alternatives," since most ethnic foods are oftentimes not good for you, in terms of health.

Voted up and Congrats!!!


MeanGreen on February 03, 2012:

Very nice recipe. I will have to try this out!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 03, 2012:

Great recipe! Congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

RTalloni on February 03, 2012:

This hub is an example of why it is IMPORTANT to check and see what the Hub of the Day award is. Congrats, and thanks for sharing the details of how you make this rice and beans recipe.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 03, 2012:

Hey, everyone! Thanks so much for the comments, up-votes, compliments, other good stuff, and the Hub of the Day!

Wow, what a wonderful surprise. A great present to start the day with. :-) More hubs are coming. Also, I will respond to everyone in kind, but can't until later today. So please be patient. Thanks again!

Anan Celeste from California on February 03, 2012:

Hi clevercat! Wow! I love it! As a puertorrican that loves to cook, I am so proud of how others entoy our food.Superb!!! Voted up.

Jennifer Essary from Idaho on February 03, 2012:

Whenever I make beans and rice I haphazardly throw things into a pot. Sometimes I am successful and other times not so much. I've never used achiote or bacon bits in mine but it sounds delicious. Voted up, useful, awesome, shared, and pinned.

BlissfulWriter on February 03, 2012:

Great step-by-step photos.

Mike Pugh from New York City on February 03, 2012:

Oh almost forgot, I think your an awesome writer & welcome to hubpages.

Mike Pugh from New York City on February 03, 2012:

Exceptional hub here I love the visual displays, my mom use to make this all the time, it taste awesome to. She always made arroz con pollo, and rice & beans all the time.

One thing though, she actually contracted breast cancer & we lost her unfortunately back in 2006, and I'm truly wondering now if it had something to do with the foods she ate all the time, and so I've investigated into it all a great deal, and found that white rice & many of the supermarket products, oils and processed foods are very harmful for our digestive system, and ultimately our blood circulation.

I've recently gotten into eating more healthier, organic food products from organic food stores, to limit the amount of contaminants, toxins, and acidic foods. Even the cooking, or should I say frying of foods, destroys the vital nutrients our blood cells need for a better health condition to follow suit.

Congrad's on the hub of the day, I just like to add these health tips I found, and hope you all can think about it, we need to improve our health awareness everywhere, and share with everyone we can. The true issue is blood PH, and alkalinity vs acid levels.

Awesome job here, just do some research to find out what's been going into our foods, and read all food labels, its super important today to do so. Good Luck!

I even wrote a hub on how to make white rice, but I'm going to add the health risk & warnings to it about the usage of such, now that I'm becoming more aware of things on a daily basis, in actuality. I got some learning to do as well.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 03, 2012:

This looks really yummy. I have a friend from Puerto Rico who introduced me to her favorite dishes. I will share this one with her. I look forward to giving this a try. Congratulations on Hub of the Day!!!

dipless from Manchester on February 03, 2012:

This looks awesome,so glad it was HOTD otherwise I would have missed it, going to make this for my girlfriend when she is hear next week, thank you for sharing what looks to be a very tasty recipe :)

Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 03, 2012:

Congrats on Hub of the Day! I am in Puerto Rico now, and am enjoying their food. I intend to try this recipe. I've book marked it so I can go back. Looks a little complicated, but I'll try!

modgirlok from Oklahoma on February 03, 2012:

Thanks for sharing this great recipe! I plan to head to the grocery store and try it soon.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on February 03, 2012:

Oh, this sounds yummy. I think I've seen that Soya stuff on a supermarket shelf--but I don't know what "pigeon peas" are. That will take some research.

Excellent photos, well laid-out recipe, and well-deserved Hub of the Day! Congratulations! Voted up, awesome, beautiful, interesting, useful, shared and bookmarked!

(P.S.--LOVE your kitty cat picture for your profile!)

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 02, 2012:

Hey, Simone! You are quite welcome. I love sharing recipes, especially the ones that are tried and true. I'd love to hear how it came out for you and I hope you add it to your rice and beans arsenal.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on February 02, 2012:

Oh wow... this looks fantastic. I'm HUGE on rice and beans, and am always looking for ways to be a bit less boring with my plain defaults (as delicious as they may be). Thanks for sharing your modern take on the dish!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on January 30, 2012:

Hi, Gina! I thought it was spelled that way, but obviously my Spanish spelling leaves much to be desired. I'll update the article. Thank you!

Gina on January 30, 2012:

Pegao? Did you mean "pegado" or "pega'o?" Great pronunciation, Miriam-esque spelling!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on January 25, 2012:

Thanks, Michele! I'm happy to give more pointers on making this dish. It's always a crowd pleaser! :^)

Michele on January 25, 2012:

I can't wait to try this, I've never cooked with achiote seeds so will be an adventure :)

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