Arroz con Habichuelas Rosadas (Puerto Rican Rice and Beans – authentic/how to fake them)

15 Nov

Oh the sweet taste of victory!

My victory? My victory garden!

My little baby peppers

I managed to coax a couple of ajies (Capsicum chinense or sweet cooking peppers) from seeds that I saved from a pepper from my mom’s cousin’s kitchen garden in Mayaguez, to go with the recao (Eryngium foetidum or sawtooth coriander) that I grew from a seed packet from Puerto Rico. Next year I will be much more aggressive about how early I plant all my peppers, but for this year, the teeny-tiny-ness of my harvest does not diminish the absolute joy of it.

Acorn squash makes a decent substitute for calabaza. Shown here with recao from my container garden!

I started them outside on the stoop and brought them in when it got cold and put them on my workspace by the southern window, and never lost patience, nursing the four tiny peppers that showed for me.

And what to do with my diminuitive gems but make mostly authentic arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans)?

It looks very pretty cooking; I am afraid this picture doesn’t do it justice!

It is one of the dishes that can be made well enough with a couple of scoops of Goya’s Sofrito (proportions given below), but that sparkles and shines and glows the old-fashioned way when you have the opportunity to use some of the authentic herbs fresh from the garden. Anyone who has tried to recreate a recipe from their last trip to Italy or Thailand, for example, knows what I am talking about.

Arroz con habichuelas

I made it with the help of Marianne Madrina, who chopped and diced, in exchange for learning the secrets to this dish. We’ll let you know how it goes when she tries it at home.

“Ave Maria!” said the Moms, who grew up on this stuff and so knows. ” Estan por la maceta…I would take some more if there’s enough…”

“Those beans were good,” said the Dad, in a tone that might be called begrudging or rather unflatteringly surprised, but since he was busy pretending he didn’t want them in the first place because they are not on his crazy-ass diet (which, by the way, has taken detours and liberties so that it is no longer identifiable as the kind of crazy it started out as), I will take that as a resounding endorsement. Especially since I have it on good authority that he licked the bowl.

Leandro gave it two thumbs and all ten toes up…basically, they rocked and I was happy and will be devoting a significant part of next year’s planting to more aji!

Tastes fantastic…like my titis used to make!

Arroz con habichuelas

3 Cups calabaza (Caribbean pumpkin) or acorn squash, seeds removed and chopped in 2” chunks


3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup onion, chopped

1 Cup ham steak, 1/4”dice

The following three ingredients can be substituted with 3 Tbs Goya Sofrito

½ Cup mixed green and red peppers (Cubanelle/Italian cooking peppers, preferred)

2 Tbs ají dulce (Puerto Rican sweet cooking pepper), seeded and minced fine (if available)

1 tsp cilantro, chopped (more if you don’t have ají dulce)

3 generous Tbs tomato paste


1 large can (1lb. 13. Oz) pink beans (habichuelas rosadas), rinsed and drained (low sodium preferred)

Salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (enough to cover the pumpkin). Add unpeeled pumpkin chunks and cook until fork tender, but still firm. Set aside (do not discard cooking liquid!) and peel them when cool enough to handle. Caribbean calabaza may not have to be peeled.

Heat the olive oil in a medium to large pot until fragrant and runny. Add onions, stir to coat and lower heat. Soften for at least five minutes. Add the ham steak, peppers, ají, and cilantro and sauté until all is very tender. Add tomato paste and cook an additional three minutes.

Add the beans and about a half Cup of the reserved pumpkin water. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer for 15 -20 minutes, adding cooking liquid as needed. Add the pumpkin about five minutes before you are finished cooking the beans. When thoroughly heated through, serve over white rice.

Perfect White Rice (you can halve this recipe if you are not big into carbs)

1 Tbs olive oil

2 Cups long-grain white rice (Sello Rojo, Goya or other Latin brand preferred)

4 Cups water

½ tsp salt

Place olive oil in a medium pot (with a tight lid). Begin heating to high while adding the rice. Stir to coat, Add water and salt. Stir once, then bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and allow water to evaporate until it goes below the surface of the rice and there are a couple of holes in the surface. Turn rice over once with a big spoon. Cover and cook on low another ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

You might also like:

 Arroz con Habichuelas with Calabaza Pumpkin (variation)

Classic Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

Five-Minute Black Beans


16 Responses to “Arroz con Habichuelas Rosadas (Puerto Rican Rice and Beans – authentic/how to fake them)”

  1. Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy June 11, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    Reblogged this on Hot, Cheap & Easy and commented:

    This has been trending lately….authentic rice and beans and how to fake them when you don’t have the right ingredients!

  2. Casilda (Kararo) November 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Hola Natalia me encanto la receta, es facil de hacer. Tambien me encantaron los ajies, se ven bonitos. Happy Thanksgiving a todos en la familia!!

  3. Bluejellybeans November 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on Blue jellybeans and commented:
    Una rica receta Puertorriqueña de mi amiga Natalia

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      Gracias amiga! Diría que antes de que comienze el verano sería buen momento para sembrar dentro de la casa y transferir cuabdi se caliente el ambiente….

      • Bluejellybeans November 16, 2012 at 3:26 am #

        O sea que espero a la primavera? Muchas gracias 🙂

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 16, 2012 at 5:51 am #

        Creo que sí. Pero debes poder determinarlo preguntando en una jardinería o extención agrícola (a traves de una unvirsidad que tenga depto de agricultura/botany)

  4. Bluejellybeans November 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    ¡Qué rico Natalia!
    Una pregunta, ¿cuándo es un buen momento para sembrar semillas de ají? Porque yo tambien me traje una semillas de Panamá, pero no me he atrevido a sembrarlas… ¿me ayudas? 🙂

  5. Conor Bofin November 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Crazy ass diets always go wandering into territory they should not. Put him on a beans, peppers and squash diet. He could do worse by the looks of things. Love the little peppers.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks Conor! The diet originally was carrots and beets and potatoes. And you couldn’t eat a vegetable that grows under the ground with one that grows above the ground in the same meal. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.

      • Conor Bofin November 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Nuts! Now there’s a diet suggestion right there. The Nuts Diet.

  6. Mad Dog November 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Sounds great to me 🙂
    I like the look of the acorn squash – I’ve never had that and I don’t think I’ve seen it in the UK.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      Oh that’s interesting! You could use butternut squash (don’t know if that’s what you call it…the lute-shaped one) or probably find calabaza in a West Indian market by you!

      • Mad Dog November 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

        There’s no shortage of pumpkin or butternut squash here, but you know me, always looking for new things 🙂

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

        Then definitely go to a West Indian market! And while you’re at it, get some green plantains and make some of my tostones….


  1. The Tropi-Cool Cuisine of Puerto Rico By Natalia de Cuba Romero | Travel Blogging with Vacations-Abroad - March 20, 2014

    […] I leave you with two recipes that will get you started on the road to great home-cooked Puerto Rican food. One is your basic rice and beans with ham and pumpkin… […]

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