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My Noni's Puerto Rican Rice

Updated: May 10, 2020

I asked a friend of mine to share one of her super easy delicious dessert recipes with me yesterday because I have been craving chocolate since my doctor advised me to give it up recently (Who am I kidding, I always crave chocolate! I shouldn't make this dessert, but I'm going to anyway, kind of like I shouldn't open another Maurice's promotional email and add to my growing online cart).

Everything in moderation! #TreatYoSelf.

In return, she asked me how to make Puerto Rican rice. Since we are all confined to our homes as we make it through this trying time, and I prefer photo instructions over words, I decided to make my grandmother's Puerto Rican rice not only to help teach my friend how to make it but to also enjoy it with my grilled tilapia tonight.

I was spoiled to grow up with this side dish staple. My grandmother (otherwise known to me as ‘Noni’) paired her rice with her infamous (muy sabroso!) Puerto Rican dishes. I was blessed to be in the presence of my Noni while she would cook. For years she provided by feeding the family with her natural cooking abilities.

I would watch her twist and pound away at her wooden mortar as she made her homemade sofrito, the auroma of fresh peppers, garlic, spices and cilantro consumed the air. The loud, abrasive pounding of her caldero to free the rice that stuck to her spatula tinged throughout her kitchen walls.

The smells and the noises from Noni’s kitchen are as present today as they were twenty-something years ago when I watched her salsa dance in her kitchen as she joyfully cooked when I was a kid.

To her, everything was by taste, not so much by measuring everything out exactly. My recipe below is a guide. Be great and make it your own by adding a bit more of this or a bit more of that to your liking. It's about flavor that you love.

This recipe may not be exactly how she made her rice because unfortunately I never got the exact recipe. Also, I didn't make my own homemade sofrito this go around and like I mentioned, Noni didn't believe in measuring spices, but this is as close as it's going to get by knowing her flavor.

I know my Noni is proud.

. : I n g r e d i e n t s : .


  • 3 cups medium, long or extra long grain white rice, rinsed

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 heaping tablespoons sofrito (homemade is the best but it's not always easy to find all the necessary ingredients. I substituted for Goya's Recaito Culantro cooking base, it's just as good!)

  • 4 ounces tomato sauce

  • 1 can (15 ounces) gandules (pigeon peas), partially drained

  • 2 heaping tablespoons alcaparrado (I usually use Goya pitted alcaparrado olives)

  • 1 packet Sazón with Achiote (I use Goya brand)

  • 1/2 packet ham flavoring (I use Goya brand Jamón)

  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning

  • 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

  • 1 medium caldero (or 6 qt pot with lid). I highly recommend investing in a caldero if you don't have one because I swear it's magic!


. : I n s t r u c t i o n s : .


- 1 . Rinse the rice well in cold water, drain and set aside.

- 2 . Mix all the spices into one bowl and set aside.

- 3 . 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 3 minutes.

- 4 . Stir in gandules, alcaparrado, bowl of the spices and 4 cups of water. Taste test and adjust seasonings according to your liking, adding additional salt 1 teaspoon at a time. Your broth should be heavily seasoned and on the salty side. It should be flavorful!

- 5 . Bring to a rapid boil, then add rice and stir. Carefully mound rice towards the center of pot, top with foil and cover with lid. Set timer for 20 minutes.

- 6 . Here’s where it can get a little tricky. You may need to add more water to ensure rice is covered by 1 inch of water. I suggest only adding ½ to 1 cup of water to avoid mushy/runny rice. Avoid scrapping rice at the bottom of the caldero so you can get that delicious, infamous pegao (crunchy rice).

- 7 . Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stir by folding rice from the bottom up. Cook for another 20-30 minutes, testing after first 20 minutes to see if rice is tender and cooked through.

You may also add cooked meat like chicken, pork or beef and top rice with fresh pieces of cilantro when serving.

I hope you all enjoy, and if you have any questions give me a shout!

Stay safe out there!

Just love.

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