Well here we are. The holy grail of Puerto Rican cuisine: Puerto Rican Rice. Every cook has their own special recipe for PR Rice that seems to define them as a chef. This is my mom’s recipe and we devour it as a meal unto itself. If you’ve never had PR Rice before, you are missing out! Big time.
I don’t even know how to describe the flavors except to say this is not your average rice. It’s very flavorful. There is sofrito (click for info on where to find or make sofrito), tomato sauce and a medley of spices, but it doesn’t taste like any one ingredient.
Not to mention being dotted with gandules (pigeon peas) and alcaparrado (a salty brined mix of olive and capers). It’s cooked in a cast aluminum pan called a caldero. If you don’t have one a large pot will do, however, a caldero will help achieve a crispy crust of rice at the bottom of the pot.
This is called pegao and it’s not scorched rice meant to be thrown away–it’s gold at the end of a rainbow! Yum yum. This is a recipe that takes some practice to attain the perfect taste and texture so let’s get down to it.
First, start by rinsing your rice in cold water. This will remove some of the starch. Then you cook all the ingredients except the rice.
This is your flavor base and it’s important to taste and readjust the seasonings, as necessary. The seasonings should be strong and salty since this will flavor the entire dish. Next, add the rice. You may have to add more water depending on your pot.
A good rule of thumb is that the water should cover the rice by 1 inch. Then, you’ll gently boil out most of the liquid, top the rice with a foil cap and cover with the lid. You’ll need to stir the rice a couple times as it cooks, but be careful not to scrape the bottom and disturb the pegao that’s forming!
Puerto Rican Rice (Arroz con Gandules)
- 4 cups medium or long grain white rice, rinsed
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 heaping tablespoons sofrito
- 4 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 can (15 ounces) gandules (pigeon peas), partially drained
- 2 heaping tablespoons alcaparrado
- 1 packet Sazón with Achiote (I use Goya brand)
- 1/2 packet ham flavoring (I use Goya brand Jamón)
- 1 teaspoon adobo
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste (start off with 2 teaspoons of salt)
- 4-6 cups hot water
- Rinse rice well in water and set aside.
- In a medium caldero or large pot (about 6 quarts or so), heat oil and sauté sofrito until softened. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in gandules, alcaparrado, all of the spices and 4 cups of water. Taste and readjust seasonings, adding additional salt 1 teaspoon at a time. Broth should be heavily seasoned and on the salty side. Bring to a rapid boil, then add rice and stir. You may need to add more water to ensure rice is cover by 1 inch of water. Reduce heat to a soft boil and let most of the liquid absorb and evaporate, stirring occasionally, very gently, so rice does not turn gummy.
- Carefully mound rice towards center of pot, top with foil and cover with lid. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stir by folding rice from the bottom up, but do not disturb bottom of pan. Cook for another 20-30 minutes, testing after 20 to see if rice is tender and cooked through.
Try serving with these stewed pork chops for a tasty meal!
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