How to make Puerto Rican rice and beans

March 14, 2019
Urban Adventures

Many New Yorkers identify by their ethnicity first, as a New Yorker second, the borough they come from (Brooklyn, Queens, etc.), and then, maybe, American after that.  So I can’t say I cook anything particularly “American.”  I cook Italian, Mediterranean, a little Egyptian lately, and most often, Puerto Rican.

My father’s family is from Puerto Rico, and my husband grew up on the island, so rice and beans is a standard in our house. The comforting dish is super-easy to make, super filling, and super delicious.

I’m pretty health conscious, so mine involves a lot less meat, pork fat, and salt, but it’s still tasty.  Is it as good as my mother-in-law’s?  Not in a million years, but we’ll just forget about that for a second.

Often, rice and beans will be a side-dish to the main meal, which is some type of meat in Puerto Rico, either pork, roasted chicken, or steak, but I make mine as the main meal, sometimes with meat added in, sometimes vegetarian.

While I cook from scratch every day, I’m a still a very lazy cook.  So the best part about this dish is that it can all be done in one-pot.


  • 1 can (15.5oz) Goya beans
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • A few bay leaves
  • 2 cups water or clear chicken/vegetable stock
  • A generous tablespoon of recaito (a thick paste made from blending cilantro, green pepper, onion, and garlic sautéed in olive oil). You can usually buy it in most grocery stores, but if not you can make your own.
  • Adobo to taste (use more than you think you need- this is where the dish gets a lot of flavour. Again, you should be able to find Goya’s Adobo anywhere but if not, it’s basically a mix of salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, and turmeric).
  • Optional: meat of choice, cut into bite-sized pieces like pork, chicken, or bacon.
  • Optional: veggies like potatoes, onions, mushrooms, or red peppers. (It’s not typical in my family to add in veggies, but I’ll do it if I have things in my fridge that I need to use up).


  • Heat olive oil in a pan (typically, you use a cast iron pot which gets you the perfect, crispy “burned layer” along the inside of the pot called pegao. I just cook mine in a stainless steal pot which comes out fine, but no pegao).
  • Sauté your meat or veggies.
  • When meat or veggies are mostly cooked (don’t worry if the meat is still too rare, it’ll continue to cook), add in 2 cups of water or a clear stock and stir.
  • Add in the adobo, recaito, a few bay leaves, vinegar, and the can of beans (drained).
  • Stir, then add in 1 cup of rice.
  • Wait for the pot to boil.
  • Once it boils, give it a good stir, then wait for most of the liquid to be soaked up by the rice (this means you have to keep checking on it).
  • Once there’s not that much liquid left, put the burner on low, place a paper towel over the top of the pot and cover.
  • Let it simmer but keep checking on it every five minutes or so to stir and make sure the mixture doesn’t burn.
  • Once the liquid is all soaked up, or if it starts to burn, it’s ready.

Serves two.