Moro de Guandules con Coco (Rice, Pigeon Peas & Coconut) is an amazing dish that comes from Samana and was happily adopted by all Dominicans.
The first time I ate Moro de Guandules con Coco (Rice, Pigeon Peas and Coconut) I was 12, and I fell in love. It was all new to me, and I was smitten. That was my first trip to Samaná.
This rice and pigeon pea recipe is an obligatory addition to any special Dominican-style meal and is also part of our traditional Dominican Christmas dinner.
But let's take a moment to talk about guandules (pigeon peas) because that is one of the most beloved ingredients in Dominican cuisine.
What are guandules?
Guandules (Cajanus cajan), and known in English as pigeon peas, are a type of legume native to the Indian subcontinent, and very popular in the Spanish Caribbean --and apparently also in South India (thank you Rajesh for the tip!).
The taste of guandules has been variously described to me as "nutty" or "ashy". I would describe the taste more as "smoky". The closest to another legume I can think of in terms of taste is mung beans.
Is it guandules or gandules?
Would you be shocked if I tell you it's... neither?
In one of those "How did that start?" cases, the neighboring countries of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic spell this differently. So what does the RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) say?
Gandul is used to describe "a lazy person", "an ancient Moroccan soldier", or "an individual from certain primitive tribes".
So, it is "guandul"!
Well, not so fast. That word is not listed in the RAE dictionary. A bit of research elucidates it: The proper word for one pea is guandú, not guandul, the plural then is actually guandúes --or guandús!
So, we're all wrong.
But you go ahead and keep calling it whatever you did before, we'll understand.
Guandules in the Dominican Rep, and Puerto Rico
As I mentioned above, Puerto Ricans love their guandules too. Here and there they are found, fresh, dried, and canned in every supermarket, market and corner store. Puerto Ricans also have their own Moro de "Gandules" recipe, but it does not include coconut, and they call it "Arroz con Gandules".
There is not a corner of our Republic where guandules are not known. But in Samaná somebody had a stroke of genius: to combine pigeon peas with coconut. This is possibly a natural progression from the fact that Samaná is covered from corner to corner with coconut groves.
Another very popular pigeon pea recipe with coconut milk is Guandules con Coco.
About our recipe
This Moro de Guandules con Coco recipe (Rice, Pigeon Peas and Coconut) is full of flavor and the buttery goodness of coconut. As I am not from Samaná, this is one of those dishes that were not part of my family heritage. However, this has since become so popular, that I don't think you can go anywhere in our country where this isn't a dish served at home.
For this Moro de Guandules recipe, I went with the version of this dish I like most, but you're likely to find many more ways to make it even in Samaná. If you have another way how to make Moro de Guandules, let us know in the comments.
Moro de Guandules con Coco Recipe (Rice, Pigeon Peas and Coconut)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, , divided
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup of chopped celery
- ⅛ cup of capers, (optional)
- ½ teaspoon mashed garlic
- 12 pitted olives cut into halves, (optional)
- ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves
- ¼ cup of chopped cubanelle or Anaheim peppers, (1 pepper, aprox)
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoon of salt
- 3 cups pigeon peas, (boiled or canned [amazon affiliate link])
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup of tomato sauce
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- 4 cups rice, (medium grain, carolina, canilla [amazon affiliate link])
Cook vegetables: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 1 ½ gl [6 lt] iron pot and add the cilantro, celery, capers, garlic, olives, thyme, peppers, oregano and salt and cook and stir for a minute. Add the peas, also while stirring.
Cook rice: Once the vegetables are well heated, add water, tomato sauce, and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Stir in rice and simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly, and removing as much as you can of the rice that sticks to the bottom. When all the water has evaporated cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat. Wait 15 minutes, uncover, stir in the remaining oil. Move the rice from the bottom to the top so it cooks uniformly. Cover again and simmer another 5 minutes.
Try rice: Uncover and taste. The rice should be firm but tender inside. If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes on very low heat.
Serve: This dish should be served warm and goes better with meat or fish (one of our guisados)