Maroons' medicine chest

Puerto Rican Yellow Rice with Pigeon Peas

A True Caribbean Classic!

This one pot rice also called 'Arroz con Gandules' is a traditional dish typically served on special occasions. For this, we will utilize the seasoning blend called Sofrito. Gandules (pigeon peas) are essential to recipe and are packed with nutrients. We use a medium sized caldero (cast iron cooking pot). Often called a dutch oven or dutchie, this heavy pot is used throughout the Caribbean, South & Central America to make rice, stews, beans, and soups.

Wait! Hold up! We can't go any further without talking about Pegao!

Pegao is the crispy, crunchy rice at the bottom of the pot. In the Caribbean & Africa, it is considered a delicacy. I have seen entire fights break out between uncles over the bottom of the rice. It takes practice to get it to the right crispiness. A tip to making Pegao is using coating the inside of the caldero with olive oil and making sure you do not cook the rice with high heat. It is a little difficult your first attempt but in due time you will be a Pegao pro!

Perfecting water and rice ratio is key to any recipe. Since the ingredients like the sofrito, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil add liquid to the dish, a good rule of thumb is to use your thumb! Having about 1 inch (or thumb width - not length) of water above the rice prior to cooking.

Also, make sure you DO NOT open the top of the pot during the cooking time... this also means no stirring the rice. Let the caldero do its magic!


  • 3 cups medium or long grain basmati rice, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (great for heart health)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sofrito (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce or 8 ounces tomato sauce (lycopene for antioxidants)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) gandules aka pigeon peas, drained (high protein)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons pitted green olives (vitamin E and studies show they are heart healthy and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer).
  • 3 tablespoons CALABASH Annatto Powder
  • 2 tsp Calabash Moroccan Smoked Paprika
  • 3 teaspoon CAL-ADOBO seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (anti-fungal/anti-bacterial)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (aids digestion and blood sugar levels)
  • 1/8 teaspoon oregano leaves (great antibacterial phytonutrients (thymol and carvacrol), which fight infections such as staph. Source of fiber, vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin E, tryptophan and calcium)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (start with 2 teaspoons of salt)
  • 4 cups hot water
Heat oil in your caldero (or a medium, heavy saucepan) over medium heat. Stir in peppers and onions till translucent. Add annatto, adobo, garlic, sofrito and oregano. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
Add rice and coat in the spice/oil mix for about 2 minutes. Stir in pigeon peas, tomato sauce, olives and 4 cups water. Stir once and bring rice mixture to a boil uncovered until water is almost all evaporated. Gently stir rice from bottom up --only once!
Cover and lower to medium-low for about 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Gently fluff rice with fork. Cover pan and let stand 5 minutes.
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