Healthy Puerto Rican Foods, Recipes

How to Cook Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules and Bistec Encebollado

Arroz con gandules (rice and peas) and bistec encebollado (beefsteak and onions) is a very typical dinner in Puerto Rico. Arroz con gandules is also a staple during the Holidays, or in any main event in Puerto Rico.

Bistec encebollado is usually cooked and paired up with white rice, bean stew, and some maduros (ripe fried plantains) on the side. All of these can be paired with a slice of ripe avocado, which will have everyone mouth watering over these delicious dinner plates. Puerto Rican foods made with the right ingredients, can be both delicious and part of a well balanced healthy dinner.

How to choose healthy ingredients for arroz con gandules and bistec encebollado

– Meat:  Certified organic, or humanely raised from a local farm is best. Second best choice are meats that are labeled grass-fed, and free of antibiotics. 

– Fats and oils:  Coconut oil is best for cooking as it is highly resistant to oxidation at high heat. Olive oil and avocado oil are also good choices especially when choosing plant based oils. Animal fats in moderation include butter, ghee, lard, tallow, and duck fat; these are safer to consume with vegetables rather than grains. 

– Rice: Choose rice in its natural state meaning it is not “enriched” and has not been depleted of its quality and color. Brown rice is best, however some white rice like Jasmine and Basmati are also good choices. 

– Legumes:  Soaking and cooking uncooked beans and legumes is the best option. When buying pre-made and canned beans, organic is best. 

– Vegetables:  To avoid vegetables that have been sprayed with glyphosate and pesticides, choose organic or from a local farmers market. If that is not available to you, make sure to wash your vegetables very well. You can make a solution by mixing 1/2 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 1 tbsp of lemon juice in a spray bottle. Then spray and rinse your vegetables in a colander in the sink. 

– Salt and Seasonings: Try to reduce your sodium by purchasing seasonings low in sodium or salt-free and add your own salt in moderation. When choosing salt, avoid table salt as it is the highest in sodium. Choose salt in its natural form and color. Salts like sea salt, pink himalayan or celtic salt are best. I’m a fan of pink himalayan salt, as it has a third (1/3) less in sodium than regular table salt. As for seasonings, I created my own blend of Adobo and Sazón. When I couldn’t find any healthy option in stores, I decided to make my own. I have some recipes on my blog ( or check it out at my shop on this page at

Keep in mind that eating healthy is not an all or nothing thing, just do the best you can with what you have. Make sure you are consuming vegetables with every meal, drinking lots of water, and reducing sugar and sodium intake. 

Below you’ll find the recipes of how I make arroz con gandules (rice and peas) and bistec encebollado (beefsteak and onions) the Nutrition Dork way. 

How to make Arroz con Gandules (Rice and peas):


  • 2 tbsp healthy oil (I use refined coconut oil)
  • 2 tsp fresh sofrito
  • 2 tsp sazón
  • 1 cup diced ham or meat of choice
  • 1 tbsp of tomato sauce
  • 1 bouillon cube (or chicken broth – which I prefer and make my own)
  • 3 cups of rice
  • 2 cups of gandules (pigeon peas)
  • 3 cups of water (if using bouillon cube) or 3 cups of broth
  • Salt to taste (I use pink himalayan salt)
  • Optional: Black pepper and oregano to taste. I usually just sprinkle a bit on top, about a pinch or two. 
  • For this recipe I also added a hoja de platano (plantain leaf) on top of the rice before cooking. This adds a great flavor to the rice. It reminds me of eating a pastel during the holidays. This is optional as it is not needed. If you’d like to try it, I found the plantain leaves in the frozen section where the Goya products are.


– In a large pot, preferably a dutch oven (typically known as a caldero), add the oil and stir fry the sofrito on high heat for a few seconds. 

– Add the sazón, diced ham, tomato sauce, and bouillon cube and a bit of water or a bit of broth. Continue to stir fry until it releases a delicious aroma.

– Add the rice and gandules and stir. Then add the water or broth until the rice is completely covered (about 1/2 inch above the rice). 

– Add salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp). Also add black pepper and oregano if desired. 

– Taste the liquid to make sure the flavor is to your liking. 

– Allow to boil on high heat until almost all the liquid has disappeared. Mix well from the bottom up. 

– Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked. 

Tip: To add more flavor, you can place a plantain or banana leaf on top of the rice, then cover and cook. 

How to make Bistec Encebollado (Beefsteak and onions):


  • 1 medium yellow onion (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 pounds flank steak (sliced into strips)
  • 2 teaspoons adobo
  • 2 teaspoons sazón 
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp sofrito
  • 10 spanish or pimento stuffed olives


– Marinate the onions in the vinegar.

– Add the adobo, sazón and pepper to the meat.

– Add the meat, onions with vinegar, sofrito, olives, and bay leaves to a medium pot.

– Cook in a crockpot on high for 2 hours. Or cook in a regular pot on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until meat is cooked and tender.

Remember to add your own twist and “sabor” (flavor) if desired. Also add vegetables, or a salad on the side. A slice of avocado is also a great addition to this plate. 


Made with Love,


Thanks for reading our blog. Please let us know what you think of our articles and recipes in the comments below. If you’d like to stay up to date, join our Nutrition Dork’s mailing list here: 

Want to find out more about our Healthy Rican Spice Brand? Visit our online store here. There you will find our Healthy Blends of Latin Adobo & Sazón made with all-natural ingredients. Our NO-JUNK seasonings are made with pure flavor “Puro Sabor” and are FREE of MSG, GMO’s, artificial ingredients and artificial colors. Check it out now at


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *