Puerto Rican Rice Stew with Shrimp and Pigeon Peas (Asopao de Camarones y Gandules)

Any kind of rice can be used for this dish—long grain, medium grain, or short grain. Use what you have on hand.

  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 (15-ounce) can pigeon peas (gandules), drained and liquid reserved
  • 6 1/2 cups water, for soaking the rice
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces ham, diced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 medium Roma tomato, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons recaito flavor base
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 stuffed Spanish olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers
  • 1 packet sazón seasoning, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed


1 Rinse and soak the rice: Rinse the rise in a strainer under running water to remove the excess starch from the outside. In a large bowl, mix the reserved liquid from the pigeon peas with the water for soaking. Add the rice to the bowl and soak for 45 minutes.

When the rice has finished soaking, drain the water into a large pot on the stovetop, and turn the heat to medium-low. Keep it at a low simmer; you'll add this liquid to the asopao later.

Asopao de Camarones y Gandules soak the rice

2 Cook the ham and the veggies: In a 3-quart Dutch oven or similar large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham and brown it, about 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, peppers, tomato, garlic, and recaito to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes; or until the vegetables have softened and begin to form a thick, chunky paste.

Stir the tomato sauce, olives, capers, sazón, oregano, salt, and pepper into the paste, and cook for 2 minutes.

Asopao de Camarones y Gandules add the veggies Rice Stew with Shrimp add the seasonings and spices Rice Stew with Pigeon Peas cook the ham and veggies and spices

3 Add the rice to the pot: Add the rice into the pot and stir to thoroughly coat the grains in the sauce. Add the pigeon peas and the warmed, reserved soaking water.

Rice Stew with Gandules add the rice to the pot Puerto Rican Stew with Gandules add the pigeon peas

4 Simmer the stew: Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, stir the shrimp into the asopao and continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.

Puerto Rican Rice Stew stir in the shrimp

5 Serve the stew: Serve promptly, as the stew will thicken the longer it’s left to sit. Thin the stew as needed with hot water or with chicken stock to maintain consistency and flavor, especially when reheating leftovers.

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  • Bre

    Are the seasonings added hot with spices?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Bre! I’m not 100% sure what you’re asking here — if you’re asking when to add the spices, they’re all added in Step 2, so just add them when directed. If you’re wondering if the spices in this recipe are hot and spicy, no they are not. Enjoy!

  • Brian

    We made it last night. Delicious, and very similar in flavor to jambalaya, minus the spicy aspects.


  • Carrie Havranek

    My kids loved this dish and kept picking out savory bits of ham, shrimp, and so forth. I was happy to have leftovers. The flavors are just great.


  • Ken

    Must be an acquired taste. It looked fantastic, but there was a flavor that overwhelmed everything else for me. Perhaps the Recaito or Sazon.

    • Brian

      Recaito is mostly cilantro and onions, both common ingredient in Western cooking. If you managed to get authentic recaito, it may taste different. Saizon is mostly salt and garlic, so that’s not likely to be off-putting. The capers and olives can be quite strong, if you happen to get a mouth full of them. And of course, it’s possible that you’re allergic to cilantro or coriander.

    • Marta Rivera

      Brian hit it on the head. Used as the recipe calls for them, neither the sazón (predominantly salt and garlic), nor the recaito (Mexican coriander and cilantro) are strong enough flavors to overwhelm the others. If you happened to bite down into a caper, it would taste briny, but I can’t imagine what could’ve been overwhelming.
      Do you have an aversion to cilantro? That may be what it is.