Healthy Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas Recipe

The smell of arroz con gandules cooking in a Puerto Rican kitchen is heavenly. This rice dish is one of the staples of Puerto Rico’s cuisine and can be found on dinner tables all over the island. Every Puerto Rican, no matter where they are in the world, has their own version of this dish. Today, I will share my recipe for Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules).

This flavorful recipe uses long grain brown rice as a healthy base, combined with plump pigeon peas, tomato sauce, sazon goya with coriander and annatto, garlic cloves, onion, and smoked bacon. The savory mixture is then cooked in olive oil until the rice grains are tender and take on a reddish-brown color from the sofrito.

Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas recipe is perfect for anyone that wants to jazz up their dinner routine and have a taste of Puerto Rican culture! The recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients that can be purchased in any major grocery store. It comes together quickly on your stovetop or rice cooker, so it’s perfect for busy weeknights.

So let’s get started by gathering our ingredients and create an easy version of this traditional dish without having to leave your home or travel too far – Come on, let’s cook this delicious meal together!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules)
Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules)

Do you like hearty and flavorful dishes that are easy to prepare? Look no further than this delicious Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas recipe, also known as Arroz Con Gandules. Trust me, one taste of this Puerto Rican staple, and you’ll be hooked!

What’s great about this recipe is its versatility – it can serve as a main dish or side dish, and can even be a vegetarian option if you omit the smoked bacon. This dish features long grain brown rice which is not only healthier but also adds a nuttier flavor that pairs perfectly with the earthy pigeon peas.

The combination of tomato sauce, sazon goya with coriander and annatto, garlic cloves, onion, smoked bacon, and olive oil gives the dish a robust flavor profile. Plus, it cooks all in one pot resulting in easy clean-up.

This dish is also a great introduction to Puerto Rican cuisine if you’ve never tried it before. You’ll get to discover the unique flavors of sofrito (a mixture of herbs that add depth to many Puerto Rican dishes) and pigeon peas which are a staple in Caribbean cooking.

Additionally, this Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas recipe is perfect for meal prepping or feeding a crowd – just double or triple the recipe to ensure everyone gets a taste!

So why not give it a try? This simple yet satisfying rice dish uses brown rice instead of white rice, letting you enjoy a delicious meal without the guilt. Trust me, you won’t regret making Arroz Con Gandules!

Ingredient List

 A colorful and delicious bowl of Arroz Con Gandules.
A colorful and delicious bowl of Arroz Con Gandules.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this delicious Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules) recipe:

Main Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of long grain brown rice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 can (8 oz) of tomato sauce
  • 1 packet (1.41 oz) of sazon goya with coriander and annatto
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 strips of smoked bacon, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) of pigeon peas (also known as “con gandules”)

Optional Ingredients:

  • Instead of long grain brown rice, you can use other types like basmati rice or white rice.
  • If you don’t have pigeon peas, substitute with black beans or red kidney beans.
  • For a Puerto Rican-style yellow rice version, use saffron instead of sazon goya.

Make sure to have all ingredients ready before starting to prepare this tasty rice dish.

The Recipe How-To

 Taste the fusion of two cultures with every bite.
Taste the fusion of two cultures with every bite.

We all need comfort food sometimes, like a warm hug from someone who cares. And that is exactly what this Puerto Rican dish provides. Arroz Con Gandules, or Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas can make your taste buds dance and your heart sing with joy. This recipe is perfect for any occasion, from a quick weeknight dinner to a family gathering on the weekend.

Ingredient List
The Essential Ingredients

  • 2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 packet of sazon goya with coriander and annatto
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 diced onion
  • 4 slices of smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 15 oz. can of con gandules (pigeon peas), drained

Optional Ingredients

  • If you want to make this dish even more flavorful, try adding some chopped red and green peppers or carrots.

The Recipe How-To

  1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until crispy.
  2. Add the onions to the pot and cook until they are translucent.
  3. Add the garlic to the pot and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  4. Add the long grain brown rice to the pot and stir it around so that it gets coated in the bacon fat and onion mixture.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, seasoning packet (sazon goya), con gandules (pigeon peas), and water to the pot.
  6. Mix everything together well with a spoon or spatula.
  7. Bring everything to a boil over high heat.
  8. Once it starts boiling, stir everything again, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a tight lid, and let it simmer undisturbed for 45 minutes.
  9. After 45 minutes, turn off the heat, but do not take off the lid!
  10. Let everything sit for another 15-20 minutes so that the steam can finish cooking the rice.
  11. Finally, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve hot!

Substitutions and Variations

  • If you cannot find long grain brown rice, you could use basmati rice or even white rice in a pinch.
  • If you want to make this dish really pop with color, try using yellow rice instead of brown rice.
  • You could also make this recipe in a rice cooker or Instant Pot for even faster prep time.

Serving and Pairing

  • Arroz Con Gandules is a classic Puerto Rican dish that pairs well with almost any protein, like chicken, beef, or pork.
  • It is also delicious on its own or as a vegetarian main dish.
  • Be sure

Substitutions and Variations

 The aroma of pigeon peas and spices creates an irresistible smell.
The aroma of pigeon peas and spices creates an irresistible smell.

When it comes to a recipe like brown rice and pigeon peas, there are plenty of ways to add your own spin to it. Here are a few substitutions and variations you can use:

– Rice: This recipe uses long grain brown rice, but you can easily substitute it with basmati rice or white rice.

– Pigeon Peas: If you can’t find pigeon peas, you can substitute them with black beans or kidney beans.

– Meat: This recipe uses smoked bacon for flavor, but you can substitute it with pork fat or omit the meat altogether for a vegetarian version.

– Tomato Sauce: If you don’t have tomato sauce, you can use diced tomatoes instead. You can also add some sofrito or spices like cumin and oregano for extra flavor.

– Spices: This recipe uses Sazon Goya with coriander and annatto for seasoning, but you can use any brand of sazon or make your own blend of spices.

– Heat Level: For a spicier version, you can add some chopped jalapeño or serrano peppers while cooking the onions and garlic.

– Additional Vegetables: You can add vegetables like diced carrots, bell peppers, or frozen corn to the rice while it’s cooking for added nutrition and texture.

– Puerto Rican Style: If you want to make this dish authentic Puerto Rican style, serve it with some fried plantains (tostones) and a side of moro de guandules (rice and pigeon peas cooked with coconut milk).

No matter how you choose to customize this recipe, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Serving and Pairing

 Perfectly cooked brown rice with tender pigeon peas.
Perfectly cooked brown rice with tender pigeon peas.

This arroz con gandules recipe is a delicious and nutritious one-pot meal that can be served as a side dish or as the main course. The rich flavors of long-grain brown rice, savory pigeon peas, and tomato sauce make this dish suitable for any occasion.

To make this dish even more Puerto Rican, I like to pair it with some fried ripe plantains (tostones) or sweet plantains (maduros). These two sides will add a touch of sweetness and texture to the dish, balancing out its savory flavors.

If you’re looking for a lighter option, I recommend pairing this delicious arroz con gandules with a simple green salad dressed in vinaigrette. This salad will help cut through the richness of the dish while providing a fresh contrast.

This dish also goes great with pork chops or roasted pork shoulder, which are popular meat options in Puerto Rico. These meats will provide a perfect balance of flavors that complement the rice, beans, and spices.

For a vegetarian option, serve this rice dish with some fried plantains (tostones) and avocado slices on top. This pairing will bring out the creamy texture of the avocado while adding extra nutrition to your meal.

Overall, arroz con gandules is versatile enough to pair well with many sides and proteins. With its rich flavor and nutrient content, it is sure to become a favorite on your dinner table.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 This dish packs a punch of flavor in every spoonful.
This dish packs a punch of flavor in every spoonful.

You can easily make this brown rice and pigeon peas recipe ahead of time, and store it properly for later use. To make-ahead, simply refrigerate the cooked rice dish in an airtight container for up to 3 days before serving.

When reheating the dish, you can add a little bit of water to the pot or use a microwave-safe container with a lid, and heat it up until hot. Just be mindful not to overheat the rice or it may become dry.

If you have leftover brown rice and pigeon peas, you can store them in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. When reheating from frozen, let the dish thaw completely before reheating.

To avoid waste and preserve the texture and flavor of the dish, I recommend storing the brown rice and pigeon peas separately from any other toppings or sauces. You can then easily reheat both parts individually as needed.

Overall, this dish is perfect for meal-prep and leftovers. Its long shelf-life makes it ideal for bringing to work or school for lunch as well.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Brown rice and pigeon peas make a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Brown rice and pigeon peas make a nutritious and satisfying meal.

If you are anything like me when it comes to cooking, you always strive for perfection. In order to achieve that, sometimes all we need is a few helpful tips that can make a significant difference in the final result of our dish. As such, here are some tips to ensure the perfect arroz con gandules every time.

First of all, the type of rice you use plays an important role in how your dish turns out. For this recipe, it is recommended that you use long grain brown rice. The bran adds flavor and texture to your dish compared to using white rice alone. However, if you cannot find brown rice or prefer white rice, you may use either one, but adjust the amount of water used accordingly.

One of the essential ingredients for this recipe is Sazon Goya with coriander and annatto. This mixture adds amazing flavor and color to your dish. However, be mindful of the amount used as it can make your dish too salty.

Since this recipe uses smoked bacon as one of its ingredients, I suggest using pork fat instead of olive oil for frying the sofrito. The fat from the pork will add a delicious smokiness to the entire dish.

When cooking the rice, ensure that you do not lift off the pot lid unless necessary. Lifting off the pot lid releases steam and causes loss of steam, which can lead to slightly undercooked or unevenly cooked rice.

Lastly, let your arroz con gandules rest before serving. This allows it to fully absorb any remaining liquid and for the flavors to meld together perfectly. And there you have it- perfectly cooked arroz con gandules!


Before wrapping up this recipe, I wanted to answer some frequently asked questions that you may have about Arroz Con Gandules, such as what variations can be made or how to store the leftover rice pigeon peas. So, let’s dive into these FAQs and get all the information you need to make a truly delicious dish!

Why does my arroz and gandules keep coming out soggy?

When cooking rice, it is important not to overcook it. Overcooked rice absorbs too much water, resulting in a gummy and starchy texture, which is not ideal for any dish. This happens when the rice grains split open, causing them to become mushy or soggy.

Are pigeon peas the same as gandules?

For those not familiar with Caribbean cuisine, the ingredient called “gandules” may seem unusual. Gandules, also known as pigeon peas, are commonly used in dishes throughout the Caribbean West Indies. These small, rounded legumes have a unique nutty taste and can be purchased in various forms including fresh, frozen, canned or dried.

What type of rice do they use in Puerto Rico?

For making yellow rice or any kind of pilaf, it is recommended to use long grain rice or basmati rice. Canilla brand is a popular choice among Puerto Ricans, while some prefer Goya’s Medium Grain Rice for Puerto Rican Rice.

Is arroz con gandules good for you?

One of the popular dishes in the Caribbean is Arroz Con Gandules, a Puerto Rican cuisine that is known for its delicious mix of rice and pigeon peas. This dish is not only appetizing but also loaded with fiber, making it a healthy and wholesome option when cooked properly.

Bottom Line

Puerto Rican cuisine is full of rich and complex flavors that are hard to find in other parts of the world. And with this Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas recipe, you can now enjoy a taste of Puerto Rico right in your home kitchen.

This recipe uses long grain brown rice, which not only adds whole grain goodness to your diet but also gives the dish a nutty flavor that complements the pigeon peas and smoky bacon. And with the help of our step-by-step instructions, you can easily make this dish perfectly every time.

The beauty of this recipe lies in its versatility. You can use it as a side dish or make it a complete meal by adding chicken or pork to it. You can also customize it according to your taste by using different spices or substituting ingredients. It’s a dish that’s both easy to make and endlessly adaptable.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your ingredients ready, heat up your stove, and start cooking this delicious Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas recipe. Your taste buds will thank you, and you’ll have a new favorite recipe for years to come.

Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules)

Brown Rice and Pigeon Peas (Arroz Con Gandules) Recipe

This is one of my favorite recipes of any kind. It's tasty, healthy, easy, quick, and I'm happy eating it for days on end. It's based on a Goya recipe that I adapted to use brown rice for better nutritional value. If you want to eat more whole grains but just can't find appetizing ways to prepare them, give this a try. It can also be made with long-grain white rice if you prefer (not jasmine rice or anything like that, just the ordinary kind). The canned pigeon peas and sazon can both be found in the latino/hispanic/international section of most US supermarkets.
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Prep Time 12 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Calories 519.2 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 slices smoked bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pigeon peas (gandules)
  • 1 packet goya sazon goya with coriander and annatto
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice


  • Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the bacon and onion and cook three minutes. Add the garlic and cook two minutes longer.
  • Stir in all remaining ingredients except rice. Bring to a boil.
  • Stir in rice, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until rice is tender (about 40-45 minutes if you're using brown rice, 25-30 minutes if you use white rice.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 218gCalories: 519.2kcalCarbohydrates: 95.3gProtein: 21.7gFat: 6.3gSaturated Fat: 1.3gCholesterol: 2.9mgSodium: 187.9mgFiber: 13.3gSugar: 2g
Keyword < 60 Mins, Beans, Beginner Cook, Brown Rice, Caribbean, Easy, Inexpensive, Puerto Rican, Rice, Stove Top
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Dora is a chef well-versed in Brazilian and American cuisine. After a hard day's work in the kitchen of her restaurant, she finds the time to jot down recipes for her food blog. Her recipes are sure to delight foodies everywhere, as she strives to make each one unique and enjoyable to read.