Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)

Arroz con Gandules {Gluten-Free, Vegetarian} | Wheat-Free Meat-Free

A former coworker of mine was Puerto Rican. Occasionally she’d bring in leftovers her mother had made. More than once we were treated to arroz con gandules (“rice with pigeon peas”). Of course I quizzed her about what was in in it and how it was made.

Rice and pigeon peas were involved, obviously, but it also included sofrito, chorizo, and olives. Many times there were capers and ham in there too. However, one time she had her mom make a vegetarian version that used bell peppers instead of meat so I could take some home to Mike. :)

I promised myself I would make it for the blog someday. I finally got around to it. Only a few years later! I won’t say it’s as good as the original, but it’s close.


  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 head of garlic
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro (2 ounces)
  • large pinch of sea salt
  1. Slice the peppers and onions into eighths. Trim the ends of the cilantro stems. Place everything in a food processor or blender and pulse until fairly smooth.

Makes ~2 cups

Arroz con Gandules

  • 1/2 cup sofrito
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped manzanilla olives stuffed with pimento
  • 1 15-ounce can gandules (pigeon peas), rinsed
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • olive oil
  1. Set a medium-large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Film the bottom of the pot with oil. Add the sofrito (it will sputter). Fry 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Set the heat to high and bring to a boil. Allow to boil until the liquid is level with the rice, about 20 minutes. Stir well.
  3. Turn heat to low and cover. Cook another 20-30 minutes, until liquid is completely absorbed. Serve.

Serves 6-8

Sofrito is kind of like the Latin American version of mirepoix — it’s the starting point for numerous dishes. Different countries have slightly different versions. I tried to replicate a Puerto Rican version.

Unfortunately, the internet consensus of the ingredients you really need for Puerto Rican sofrito are culantro and aji dulces. Culantro is in fact a different herb from cilantro. Supposedly they have a similar taste but culantro has a stronger flavor. If you happen to find some, grab it. Since it’s more flavorful, you’ll need less than the amount of cilantro I used.

Aji dulces are small sweet peppers. I used red bell pepper in their place. If you find them, sub a few of them in for the red pepper. You’ll notice that the recipe makes 2 cups of sofrito but you only need 1/2 cup. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. Or freeze it, and you won’t have to bother the next time. (I froze mine in an ice cube tray for easy portioning.)

Rice with Pigeon Peas

I do remember this coworker stressing the importance of rinsing the rice. You don’t want to see any starch. That ensures that the rice is not sticky and you have individual strands. I did not do the best job this time. (I also used brown jasmine, which is known for being sticky. Perhaps not the wisest choice.)

This is my entry in My Legume Love Affair, being hosted at Mharo Rajasthan’s Recipes this month. It’s also being shared in Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, the Hearth and Soul HopWhole Food Wednesday, Allergy Free WednesdaysFull Plate ThursdayWellness Weekends, and Allergy Friendly Friday.

Looking for More Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes?

Take a look at my book, The Wheat-Free Meat-Free Cookbook: 100 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes.

A sampling of the recipes included:
  • Breakfasts: Cinnamon Quinoa Muffins, Yeasted Waffles, Gooey Butter Cake,
  • Sides: Patatas Bravas, Pea and New Potato Salad, Braised Celery,
  • Mains: Corn Waffle Sandwiches, Enchiladas with Green Sauce, Pesto Asparagus Galette, and
  • Desserts: Blueberry Mango Crisp, Baklava Rolls, Amaretto Cake.

You can see the full recipe list on the Amazon page.


  1. Oh I love pigeon peas. I spent many months in the Dominican Republic and one of my favorite dishes of all time was arroz con guandules. Most places made this recipe using canned pigeon peas but we were lucky enough to have a friend (a local) make this dish for us with fresh guandules and wow it was even better. Thanks for sharing this recipe … I’ll have to track down some canned pigeon peas here and take a trip down memory lane. :)

    • Oh wow, what a fun experience. I wish it was easier to track down fresh beans. I’ve always enjoyed fresh cranberry beans when I’m able to find them.

  2. What a great recipe–and I appreciate the subs for more common ingredients. Love pigeon peas, too, but never had them this way. I am sure I’d love this dish! Thanks for linking it to Wellness Weekend this week (and I’m sure this is waaay late–but love the new blog look!). :)

    • I’d be interested to know what dishes you’ve had involving pigeon peas. This is the only one I’ve ever heard of.

      As far as the site redesign, thank you. And no you’re not late, in fact you caught us in the middle of playing with it, we still might tweak it some.

      • The West Indian Pelau I made uses pigeon peas (though on my blog, I used black-eyed peas because I couldn’t find the pigeon peas that week!). ;)

  3. I had not heard of culantro before, and probably would have thought it was the same thing as cilantro – that is so interesting! Your Arroz con Gandules sounds so delicious with just the right amount of spice. What a great vegetarian dish!

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pigeon peas… This recipe looks amazing!

  5. Hello, thank you for the recipe. I have a question for you. Do you know where to find gluten-free gandules (pigeon peas)? The Goya factory here processes with wheat in their equipment so there is gluten cross-contamination there (even though they don’t explicitly disclose it except on the packages of dry beans and legumes), the same story goes for all the other local brands such as Casera, Econo, etc.

    I have not been able to find gluten free gandules, and without arroz con gandules this upcoming holiday season will feel incomplete.

    Thank You


    • Hi Jay,

      Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since I made this recipe and I don’t remember what brand I used. Maybe see if you can buy them dry and cook them yourself?

  6. My mom grows pigeon peas in her garden! I love them! They are common in Indian cooking. You can find dried split version in Indian grocery stores labeled as “Toor.”

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