How to Make Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules in a Rice Cooker (Rice with Pigeon Peas) {Recipe}

by Melanie Edwards on April 11, 2016 · 133 comments

in Puerto Rico, Recipes

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I am very fond of rice. Fond doesn’t even cover it. I’m actually quite in love with rice. You ask me what the ultimate comfort food is and I’ll quickly tell you rice and beans. I grew up eating rice on a daily basis, practically. There were days my mami made vegetables (of the root kind) instead of rice. Or days she made spaghetti (though, even then she served it with white rice on the side, but that’s another story). But, overall, most days out of my childhood were spent eating rice for dinner. I’m sure if you ask most Puerto Ricans, they too will tell you that they have a special place in their hearts for arroz y habichuelas.

Arroz con Gandules Recipe

Rice can be served in so many different ways. You can have white rice alone, white rice with a variety of beans (served on top of the rice, not on the side), and yellow rice. Yellow rice is when you really get a variety since you can mix just about anything into yellow rice: beans, vegetables, meat, etc. But, perhaps the most well-known Puerto Rican rice is arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). Traditionally served for Noche Buena, arroz con gandules is also a big hit for a family get-together or just for your everyday weeknight dinner. (Side note: In Trinidad, where my husband is from, they call it Rice and Peas. I’m lucky he loves it as much as I do!)

Being a busy working mom with not as much time to dedicate to cooking, I’m known for cooking Puerto Rican food in non-traditional ways and using shortcuts. (See my post on planning a weekly dinner menu – using shortcuts.) My number one favorite appliance in my house is my rice cooker. I must kiss the person who invented a rice cooker. It cooks my Puerto Rican rice just the same as my mom’s iron pot – well almost the same – unfortunately, it doesn’t make much pegao. But, otherwise, it tastes the same and requires a lot less maintenance to cook. Read on to see my recipe for Puerto Rican arroz con gandules using a rice cooker!

How to Make Arroz con Gandules in a Rice Cooker (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas Recipe)


  • Uncooked white rice (about 1 handful per person)
  • Water
  • Vegetable cooking oil
  • Sazón, 1 packet
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp sofrito or recaito
  • Olives (use the Spanish salad olives with pimientos), about 5-6 olives
  • 1 can of Gandules (Pigeon Peas)*, drained and rinsed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Adobo, to taste

To see pictures and links for these ingredients, see 5 Must-Have Ingredients for Cooking Puerto Rican Food


  1. Put rice into your rice cooker’s pot and clean the rice. If you’re not familiar with how to clean rice, it just means that you run it under water a couple of times and pick out the dark grains, pebbles, etc. To do this:
    • Fill pot with water and press rice with your hands.
    • Pick out anything that’s not a rice grain.
    • Pour out water, being careful not to lose any of the rice.
    • Repeat a few times until water pours out clear.
  2. Add water to the pot until the water sits just above the rice. (I’ve heard that normally it is a 2-1 ratio: for every cup of rice, you add 2 cups of water. I’ve never cooked it this way, as I find it turns out to be too much water, making the rice too mushy.)
  3. Add a serving-spoon’s worth of cooking oil. Not a tablespoon, but the bigger spoon one uses to stir a pot. (Should turn out to be close to 3 Tbsp of oil.)
  4. Add remaining ingredients.
  5. Stir.
  6. Taste the water. If you feel it needs more seasoning, you can add a little of either salt or Adobo to your liking.
  7. Cover and set the rice cooker to cook.

There will be no need to stir the rice while it cooks, though you certainly can do so once about mid-way through. Your arroz should be done in about 30 minutes or so. You will know it’s done when you taste the rice and it’s neither mushy nor tough.

Arroz con Gandules Recipe

*The beauty of this recipe? You can swap out that can of gandules and make many other varieties of yellow rice.

  • Rice with corn (arroz con maíz): Use 1 can of drained corn instead.
  • Rice with beans (arroz con habichuelas): Use 1 can of washed and drained beans – any color.
  • Rice with vegetables (arroz con vegetales): Use 1 can of drained mixed vegetables.
  • Rice with chicken (arroz con pollo): Add cubed, cooked, grilled chicken. (Traditional arroz con pollo would use chicken on a bone and would cook the chicken first in the same pot before adding the rice and other ingredients. But, this will give you a decent version.)

I hope you enjoy this simple and easy Puerto Rican arroz con gandules recipe using a rice cooker. I have found it to be much easier than cooking it in a regular pot and it tastes just the same. It allows for me to do other things (i.e., play with my kids after work/school) without worrying about getting up every few minutes to stir and watch the rice.

Do you have a favorite shortcut for cooking rice? If you try this arroz con gandules recipe, please come back and let me know how you liked it!

All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Roxana A. Soto October 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Eres lo máximo, Melanie! Thanks so much for sharing!
Ahora solo tengo que ir a comprar un bendito rice cooker, which I swore I’d never own! And then, I gotta solve the only other problem I have, where do I get sofrito, because believe you me, I’m not about to make it from scratch even though mi suegra dice “Ay, pero si es tan fácil!”

As soon as I find the sofrito, I’ll be cooking this for my fam. Oh, my hubby also likes arroz con salchichas, so I guess I could just substitute the gandules for that, huh?

BTW, what happens if I don’t wash the rice?? Jajaja!!!


modernmami October 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Roxana, Amazon sells the sofrito. I never make fresh sofrito either and
truthfully, have only seen my mom do it once or twice!!! Check the link in
this post for the 5 must-have ingredients. I think I linked the sofrito to
amazon – or just search on amazon.

Si! Arroz con salchichas is one of my favs too. Yup! Just switch out the
gandules for a can of salchichas, but you’ll have to cut them up a bit
first. I was going to post that as one of the options, but then thought that
most people might think it gross. LOL

Y, I won’t judge if you don’t wash the rice. jajaja!


Lydia October 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

sofrito is easy to do get everything in the food proccesor and is done , later I put in a ice tray and freze it . that all you need


Marcela Beatty October 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Que rico! I need to find sofrito also! All this rice talk has got me really hungry ( :


modernmami October 21, 2010 at 1:23 am

I’ve found it on amazon. Locally the supermarkets sell it and Latin stores, but we have a big Puerto Rican population here. Not sure about LA area.


Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 12:44 am

I tried this once from a Puerto Rican friend and I loved it. I love latin american food! Que riiiico!!
Where do you find sofrito? In any latin market?
I almost never use a rice cooker, I’m going to have to learn cause having time to do other things meanwhile something is cooking is completely NECESSARY!


modernmami October 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

I’m not sure about your area, but here the local supermarkets sell it and Latin stores, but we have a big Puerto Rican population in Orlando. I’ve seen it on amazon, though. Definitely the rice cooker is a huge help!


MothersUtopia March 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Chama, you can get Sofrito at Target!!

I’m a rice lover too and definitely need to get a rice cooker, so I don’t burn my rice 🙂 Great recipe Melanie, thanks for sharing!


Romina Tibytt October 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Que buena receta, me encantó!


modernmami October 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Que bueno que te gusta!


Lisa Perez October 24, 2010 at 1:11 am

I own a rice cooker and I have never used it. This is something I would be skeptical of trying b/c my kids LOVE pegao. But thanks for sharing. This would def. be a time saver!!


modernmami October 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Yeah, unfortunately you won’t get the pegao, but it’s definitely a faster way of making it.


Julie Diaz-Asper October 24, 2010 at 2:06 am

Love the shortcuts to sabor! And what a good use of a rice cooker!


modernmami October 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Shortcuts are a modern mami’s best friend. 😉


Rachel White October 24, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Arroz con gandules is a staple in our home. Everyone loves this rice! Superb recipe!


modernmami October 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I love that it’s a staple!


Monica October 25, 2010 at 2:48 am

Ay, que rico! I’m with you. Rice and beans were a staple when I was growing up. My ‘buelita made the BEST arroz y frijoles. Then I’d mix the two together and pile them on a tostada (chip) and munch away. Yum!
In Spain, my dad’s family is big on paella. I wonder if I could possibly do that in a rice cooker? They would probably pass out if they ever found out I was even thinking about doing it that way…


modernmami October 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Now THERE’S an idea!!! Paella in a rice cooker. Hmmmm….I bet it wouldn’t come out the same since paella has that moistness to it, but you could do a nice mix of veggie/meat paella-ish yellow rice I’m sure. And you’re right, they probably just passed out. 😉


Ms. Latina October 25, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Can you believe I don’t have a rice cooker?! I have to admit I can’t imagine making mi arroz in anything but my olla! But I have to say this looks easy!


modernmami October 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I know I know…I had a hard time myself letting go of the olla. But, trust
me, it tastes the same – minus el pegao, but I’ve gotten over that.


Mariana October 26, 2010 at 1:27 am

I’ve had a rice cooker for almost a year now and have used it maybe a handful of times… I’m going to pull it out just for this! I’ve never had pigeon peas, and I don’t know what sofrito or recaito are, but I’ll figure it out. 😉


modernmami October 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I love my rice cooker. I haven’t looked back since. It’s so easy to just put
it on and come back 30 minutes later when the rice is done without any
stirring in between! Gandules (pigeon peas) are yummy, they really have a
different taste than beans. Check the link in the ingredients list…it’ll
take you to another post where I describe all the ingredients, including
pictures & links for buying them on amazon.


Angelica Perez October 26, 2010 at 1:46 am

I’m going to try this recipe Meline. Ilove arroz con guandules but I can never made it right. Even when I watch my mother make it, and try to do the same exact thing, it never works. But I think the rice cooker and this recipe might do the trick!


modernmami October 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Good luck Angelica! The rice cooker eliminates the need for stirring, so you
don’t end up over or under stirring it. Let me know how it goes!


Cynthia October 27, 2010 at 2:59 am

sounds like a good recipe — gotta try it. my 15-month old daughter looooooves her some rice and beans. any kind of beans, so we make frijoles refritos, black beans Cuban style, gallo pinto (Nica red beans and rice), lentejas, etc. i, too, could subsist on rice and beans.


modernmami October 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Thanks Cynthia. Let me know how it goes when you try it. Hope your daughter
likes it!


Mary@Everyday Baby Steps November 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Yum! I love gandules. First tried arroz y gandules when I lived in North Carolina. I taught Spanish and had a student from Puerto Rico. Haven’t had it in years.


modernmami November 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm

You need to make it!!! 😉


Lisa Renata November 10, 2010 at 3:12 am

This looks delicioso. Thanks for the recipe.


Alexa Rodriguez October 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm

So glad I came across this site. I have had a rice cooker for about a year that I got as a gift and have not used it cause I wasn’t sure how my rice would turn out. I’m going to try your recipe. It’s close to the one I use to make Arroz con Gandules in the heavy pot. I love pegao but don’t need to have it all the time. And so glad that my mom still makes fresh Sofrito for us since I see that a lot of people can’t find it. We also have a big Puerto Rican population so it’s easy to find but nothing beats home made.


Jacqueline February 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I can’t wait to taste.


Tamiko January 12, 2013 at 12:37 am

Hi. Which rice cooker do you use to make your rice? Bought one and its still giving me mushy rice! :(. Please help!


Melanie Edwards January 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

Oh no! Mushy rice is no good. My rice cooker isn’t a fancy one. I think it’s Hamilton Beach. Try using less water and make sure to add some oil, to avoid it sticking. Good luck! 🙂


Dee April 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Use the measuring cup that comes with the rice cooker. Add amount of water per cup of rice plus half of rice cup more example: 2 cups rice 2 cups water plus half cup more. After rice is cooked let cool a little then stir to fluff. This is for regular rice not the Gandule recipe. I am from Hawaii and we cook rice everyday. Its a staple in most households here.


Dee April 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Use the measuring cup that comes with the rice cooker. Add amount of water per cup of rice plus half of rice cup more of water example: 2 cups rice 2 cups water plus half rice cup more of water. After rice is cooked let cool a little then stir to fluff. This is for regular rice not the Gandule recipe. I am from Hawaii and we cook rice everyday. Its a staple in most households here.


Dinorah February 26, 2013 at 1:15 am

Made it! Delicious…..I surprised myself, first time ever making Puertorica rice….big hit withe kids too. Christmas meal in February. Thank you for introducing this recipe using the rice cooker……the BEST. 🙂


Melanie Edwards March 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm

So glad you liked it! It’s so great to be able to make this traditional dish, but with the shortcut of using the rice cooker. 😉


JENNIFER August 8, 2013 at 6:51 am

Great recipe! I have been trying and trying and trying to get this recipe right and have never been successful. Finally I made GOOD, no GREAT, rice and beans! Thank you!


Melanie Edwards August 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

That’s so great to hear! Congrats! And thanks – so glad you like the recipe!


S M Dampf December 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe! I just bought a rice cooker and cannot wait to make this! I am going to add some ham bullion to this because that’s how my abuela made it, and I already have sofrito since my local Walmart carries it!! Thank you again!!


Meghan January 26, 2014 at 1:48 pm

My husband is Puerto Rican, and I would love to make this for him, but I don’t have a rice cooker. Are there any changes you would make to the recipe to make it traditionally instead of in the rice cooker? Thanks!


Melanie Edwards January 29, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Hi Meghan! Yes, you would need to boil the water first with the gandules, sofrito, and other ingredients, then add the rice in. Here’s a recipe that might help you, though it’s not my own:


Tweet February 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I could only find green pigeon peas. Does that matter?


Melanie Edwards February 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm

That’s exactly what you need! 🙂


Elizabeth March 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I can not WAIT to try this recipe! I do have a question on the proportions for making this recipe. The measurements that are given for the oil, tomato sauce, sofrito many cups of rice are they for? I will be making this recipe for only I will probably only use 1 cup of uncooked rice. Should I halve the ingredients for only 1 cup of rice?

Your website is amazing..I cant wait to try some of these recipes at home.


Cassandra May 19, 2014 at 7:59 pm

I made this recipe in my rice cooker and it came out mushy..Did I do something wrong? Did I use too much oil or water?..I made sure I put one big serving spoon of oil and I use 2 cups of rice with 2 and half cups of water.


Melanie Edwards May 20, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Cassandra, if it came out mushy, then it would be too much water. Try using 2 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. Or you can use the eye test like I do and just be sure the water sits right on top of the rice inside your rice cooker. Hope it turns out better next time! 🙂


Dee April 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm

That is the right amount of water. Be sure to use the measuring cup that comes with the rice cooker. You do not need to add oil . When rice is done let cool down then stir to fluff. It should be perfect.


Dee April 1, 2016 at 1:37 pm

The reply was for regular rice not the gandule rice.


yesenia rosa June 1, 2014 at 12:02 am

The recipe its missing adobo or salt otherwise it would be (soso) in spanish words, and also some cocking ham ya should try it.


Melanie Edwards June 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hi Yesenia! You can see in step 11 of the directions, I actually mention just that – to add either salt or adobo to your taste! But, it looks like I forgot to add them to the ingredients list, so I’ll be sure to update it! 😉 And I haven’t made my rice with cooking ham in a LONG time, but definitely that is a good tip that I know adds an added layer of flavor! My mom also sometimes cuts up leftover cooked pork chops and adds it to the rice. Delicious!


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