RECIPE: Gandule Rice

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Gradule Rice. Photo credit: Kristin Frost Albrecht.

Gradule Rice. Photo credit: Kristin Frost Albrecht.

Fresh gandule beans, also known as “pigeon peas,” are a fresh item you can find at the farmers markets in January. They are an ingredient with deep roots in various cuisines, ranging in regions from India to Puerto Rico.

One of the most popular dishes in Hawai`i using pigeon peas is Gandule Rice, brought here by Puerto Rican settlers and most often served with pastelles, a banana and meat tamale wrapped in banana leaves.

One of the key ingredients besides gandule beans is achiote oil, flavored with the rich yellow amber seeds from the annatto tree that imparts a peppery, slightly nutty and sweet flavor to the rice.  This recipe is wonderfully adaptable to whatever protein you have in your refrigerator. Easily leave the meat out and it becomes a delicious vegan dish!

Gradule beans. Photo credit: Kristin Frost Albrecht.

Gradule beans. Photo credit: Kristin Frost Albrecht.


1/4 cup achiote oil*


1/2 lb. ground pork

1/2 lb. bacon, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded, diced


2 bunches of green onions, thinly sliced

2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped (save 1/4 cup aside for garnish)

1 Tablespoon dried oregano, crushed

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

6 – 8 chicken or vegetable broth

3 3/4 cups rice, rinsed and drained

3 cups fresh gandule beans (pidgeon peas) (or 2 -15.5 oz cans of pigeon peas, drained)

2 (6 oz.) cans of olives, sliced


  1. 1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté rice in achiote oil till golden and slightly puffed.

2. In another frying pan, cook bacon until crisp – then add ground pork and cook till done about 4 – 5 minutes.

3. Add cooked meat, onions, garlic, bell pepper and cilantro to rice mixture.  Stir in seasonings, tomato sauce and broth; bring to a boil.

4. Add beans and olives. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer 30-40 minutes, checking every now and again to see if the rice needs more liquid – if so, add additional broth.

5. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Serves 8 – 10

This post has been a contribution by Kristin Frost Albrecht on behalf of The Food Basket, Hawai’i Island’s Food Bank.

*Available in local stores – or use achiote powder and follow directions for making achiote oil

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