Colors of the Caribbean and a recipe for Arroz con Gandules

Wanting to bring a bit of the Caribbean home with me, I decided to prepare Arroz con Gandules.  This recipe from Daisy Martinez is excellent and we really enjoyed the combination of flavors in this dish.  Sofrito, the aromatic base for many Puerto Rican dishes, is easy to make and was the first step in creating this dish.  The recipe made quite a bit of sofrito, but you can freeze it for later use and in other recipes and I will definitely make this dish again.

Making Sofrito and Achiote Oil

There are several components to the dish including making the sofrito and Achiote oil (made from olive oil and annatto seeds), but it is well worth the steps to create this meal at home.  Daisy’s recipe calls for smoked turkey wings or ham, which you can purchase.  We decided to smoke our own turkey wings and legs since we prefer to smoke our own meats.  Next time, we would smoke halved turkey breasts because we would like to have more turkey meat with the rice and peas to make it a main dish rather than a side dish.

We smoked our own turkey legs and wings

Steps in creating Arroz con Gandules

A bowl of Arroz con Gandules and maybe a Mojito or a Caribbean beer or two…and you may just feel like you are in the Caribbean, too!

Serve with a Mojito or a Caribbean beer for a real taste of the islands!

Disclosure – We received a media package from Celebrity Cruises to experience the Savor the Destination culinary cruise.   I am not compensated in any way for any articles written about the trip and the opinions expressed are my own.

Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)

This dish is served as an accompaniment to a larger meal. We liked it as a main dish and would add smoked turkey breast next time to slice and serve along with the rice and pigeon peas.


½ cup Achiote oil (recipe below)
1 cup sofrito (recipe below)
3 tablespoons alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
3 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ pounds smoked pork neck bones or smoked turkey wings or one smoked ham hock (We smoked our own turkey pieces)
One 13-ounce bag frozen pigeon peas or one 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained
6 cups long grain rice
Beef Broth, homemade or store-bought and/or water as needed (about 8 cups)
1 banana leaf, optional

For Achiote Oil:
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds

For Sofrito:
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
* If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches


For the main dish:
1. Heat the Achiote Oil in a heavy 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over high heat until rippling. Stir in the Sofrito, alcaparrada or olives, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook until the Sofrito stops boiling and starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the pork bones or smoked turkey pieces and stir until they’re coated with oil, then stir in the rice until everything is mixed together and the rice is coated with oil. Stir in the pigeon peas, then pour in enough broth and/or water to cover the rice by the width of two fingers.

3. Top with the banana leaf, folding it up as necessary to fit over the rice. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring until the level of liquid meets the rice. Take the banana leaf off, give the rice a big, healthy stir and put the leaf back on top. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove the banana leaf, give the rice a big stir and fluff it with a fork. Serve hot.

For Achiote Oil:
1. Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain as much of the oil as you are going to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

For Sofrito:
1. Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.

Recipes from Daisy Martinez

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