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Playing How To Make Puerto Rican Rice With Pigeon Peas + Chicken (Arroz Con Gandules)

This delicious one-pot recipe comes from chef Millie Peartree, founder of "Full Heart Full Bellies," an initiative the former soul food restaurant owner started amid Covid to give back to her community.

"Full Heart Full Bellies" provides meals for kids in the South Bronx, which is one of the poorest communities in NYC. "It was very important to me to make sure that children had food because a lot of programs are canceled and/or limited due to Covid," she explains. 

Millie creates restaurant-inspired meals for this program so she can bring the restaurant experience to people who can't afford to go to restaurants—especially Latin comfort food dishes like this one because the South Bronx is predominantly Hispanic. 

Shortcut: Packets of Sazon seasoning are available in the Latin foods aisle of most grocery stores and one 1.4-ounce packet can be used in this recipe along with 1 teaspoon turmeric instead of making your own.  

Pro Tip: Freeze or refrigerate the leftover Sofrito in an airtight container for another use.


For the Sofrito:
  • 2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cubanelle peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 18 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 8 aji dulce (mild Caribbean peppers) or any sweet and mild chili pepper such as a red or orange bell pepper
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 large red bell pepper  , cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • Kosher salt
For the Sazon: (or use one store-bought packet) 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper 
For the Chicken and Rice:
  • 1½ pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup Sofrito
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cubanelle peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • One 15-ounce can pigeon peas, rinsed and drained
  • Pinch saffron, optional
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish 
  • Lime wedges, for garnish


Serves: 4


For the Sofrito, blend all ingredients in a food processor. 

For the Sazon, combine ingredients in a bowl.  

For the chicken, in a large bowl, toss to combine the chicken, Sofrito, onion powder and garlic powder. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Just before cooking, remove chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. 

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add  chicken and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate; the chicken will finish cooking with the rice. 

For the rice, using the same Dutch oven with drippings reserved, add the onion and cubanelle peppers and continue to cook over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon Sazon and the rice, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the peas and saffron (if using), stirring to evenly distribute. Arrange the chicken on top. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes on the stove or in a preheated oven at 375˚F.  

Fluff the rice with a fork, then serve immediately garnished with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.