Jamaican Rice and Peas

When doing research for our recent Jamaican goat curry recipe, what came up most often as an accompaniment was something those from Jamaica call “rice and peas”. (Several commenters suggested this dish too.) Traditionally the “peas” are pigeon peas, often substituted with kidney beans (which is what we are using). The rice is cooked in coconut milk.

Oh my gosh. This is one of those I-can’t-wait-to-make-it-again dishes. Think of it as a Caribbean version of a Cajun red beans and rice. Our version is a little different from the traditional rice and peas in that we sauté onion and garlic to start the recipe, then add a little fresh grated ginger for added zing. Serve it with curry, roasted meats, jerk chicken or all by itself. The rice is especially good with a little lime juice sprinkled on to serve.

Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

The chile is cooked whole with the rice and is there just for a bit of flavor. It doesn't make the rice hot at all, as it stays whole and you discard it at the end.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 whole Scotch bonnet chile (can substitute a whole habanero)
  • Lime (optional)

Method

1 Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until they begin to brown on the edges.

2 Add the garlic and rice, stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

3 Add the grated ginger, salt, water, stock and coconut milk and stir well. Add the kidney beans and sprinkle the thyme over everything. Add the whole Scotch bonnet chile (or habanero); it will season the rice much like a bay leaf would. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cover.

4 The rice should be done in about 15-20 minutes, depending on the type of rice you are using (some long grained rice takes longer to cook). Check after 15 minutes. Once done, remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes. To serve, fluff with a fork. Sprinkle with a little lime juice if you want. Discard the habanero (or eat it, if you dare!)

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33 Comments

  1. Alicia*

    Another lifetime ago, I had Jamaican rice’n peas made by a Jamaican expat. He insisted on using pigeon peas instead of kidney beans. At the time I could have cared less – it was very good! His brown stew chicken was to die for and his curry goat was tasty, though he would not say where he got the goat. (!?) Pigeon peas can be found dried or canned in the ethnic section of some supermarkets. Thanks Elise – I’m now inspired to make this with brown rice AND pigeon peas.

  2. Dan

    I have a recipe for rice and beans from the Dominican Republic, but this is compeltely different. I thought they’d be far more similar both being caribbean dishes using basic ingredients. Shame on me for assuming.

    I must try this one out. The coconut milk and lime are tempting me already!

  3. Dean

    This would be great with Black-Eyed Peas!

  4. Taqah

    Hi Elise,

    Thanks for the recipe. I live in a west indian neighborhood in NY and love, love, love rice and peas BUT I’m moving this week. now i’ll still be able to eat it once I’m thousands of miles away!

    You can use pigeon peas but Ive seen it cooked with both kidney or pigeon peas both in my neighborhood and in Jamaica.

    One quibble though. I think the pepper, if you can find it, should be a scotch bonnet. (in ny they are easy to find) that is pretty much the only pepper I ever see in Jamaican food. It has a slightly different flavor. That said the difference between the two should be minimal.

    You’re absolutely right. I’ll adjust the recipe. We don’t get scotch bonnets out here in California, only habaneros. There is a slightly different flavor. ~Elise

  5. Kim

    We always make this with pigeon peas. I think the flavor of them over the kidney beans melds a little better wit the coconut rice. The skin is also a little softer, giving the whole thing a meltier texture. Yum!

  6. SML

    Thanks Elise! I was lucky enough to grow up eating Jamacian/Carribean food and LOVE “rice and peas”, curry goat, patties, plantains and oxtail. Yum. I agree with Alicia’s comment on the pigeon peas, this dish is really not the same without them. That being said, if you don’t have them, kidney beans or small black beans will do just fine. My family makes this in the rice cooker, just basically throw in all the ingredients and push “cook”! We use two scallion stalks instead of the yellow onion and usually throw a piece of ham or dried cod fish if you have it. Of course, this would no longer be vegetarian if you added either of these, but if you do, it adds a nice flavour.

  7. Tres Amie

    I have made a similar recipe from an authentic Jamaican cookbook that uses pigeon peas and scotch bonnet pepper. They recommend that you poke holes in the pepper before you add it to the rest of the ingredients and also that you remove the pepper before serving. It’s a marvelous dish for any Jamaican meat recipe.

  8. Marah Yang

    As a Jamaican, I find this version of Jamaican Rice and Peas recipe interesting. It’s not an authentic Jamaican Rice and Peas recipe as we never put oil in our rice or use the stock in the aforementioned recipe. The stock you should use is the remains from the cooked peas or kidney beans and then we put in the seasonings such as onion,coconut milk, thyme etc. Lime juice sprinkled over done rice is only when we do black beans and rice. Hope you will find the time to try the authentic version, it is super delicious! Happy cooking.

  9. Amy

    Made this as a quick post-Friday-night-commute dinner tonight. Couldn’t find a Scotch Bonnet, so I used a habanero and a can of pigeon peas. Speaking as someone who loves to read recipes but is a lazy cook…this was super easy and so, so good. Thanks, Elise! BTW–do you think light coconut milk would work as well?

    Yes, I think light coconut milk would work fine. ~Elise

  10. Maya

    One could never have too much of rice and beans/peas. I once had a room mate from St.Lucia and she would make stewed chicken and rice with pigeon peas on a monthly basis.

  11. Richard Bishop

    A wonderfully simple dish. This dis is delicious. When I made it for my family last night, I changed up a few things like I added a spicy pulled pork to it to make it an all in one meal. That’s the great thing about many of the recipes here is that they are so easy to tailor to your tastes and needs.
    Keep them coming, I look forward to each one.

  12. Russ

    This recipe sounds much better than what I actually ate in Jamaica. I had rice and peas in a restaurant called “The Brewery” in Montego Bay. They were nothing like this recipe. I doubt they were cooked in coconut milk. I remember they were unbelievably dry, leaving my mouth feeling more like I was eating pretzels. The beans were red, and gave some of their color to the rice. The look kind of reminded me of Japanese “sekihan”, but made with long-grain rice instead of mochi rice. I also don’t remember any flavors of onion or ginger. Definitely no scotch bonnet was used.

  13. Victorbee

    The proper name for the Goat meat dish is “Curry Goat”, not Goat Curry…!

    From a Born Jamaican.

    Good to know, thanks Victorbee! ~Elise

  14. Reesey

    A former boyfriend convinced me to make this for him years ago along with Vegetable Rundown and some other Jamaican recipes. I love how the aromas from this dish scent the kitchen…hmmmmmm. I will be making this again soon. Thanks for the memories!

  15. Nancy

    I was thinking about making this dish with long grain brown rice. Do you think it will make a huge difference in the flavour profile?

    Yes, I think it will make a difference, as brown rice is much nuttier tasting than regular rice. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  16. Karen Jenkins

    I love to try Jamaican recipes as that is where my husband and I were married. I think as other comments mentioned, this would be great with some jerk chicken or pork included and it would make a meal.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  17. Heather

    I made this dish last night and we liked it.

    I did debate between using “peas” and black beans. I used black beans because of the color (I wanted contrast) Next time I will use pigeon peas.

    I served it with jerk shrimp. Next time I will do chicken or beef. The shrimp + rice combo was a bit weak. For us, the rice needed a bolder, stronger meat.

    The leftovers made a nice breakfast.

  18. No No Nanette

    I loved this! My kids enjoyed it too. We had it for lunch today. It was the best rice and beans I have ever had! Thanks!

  19. dorene

    Elise,
    Yum, yum. You can really taste the coconut in this recipe. Its such a flavorful dish. I love it. Thanks.

  20. Jamaican Mom

    After years of cooking everything but…I decided to try to make Mexican food for my Mexican hubby. It was a daunting task though, since his family are wonderful cooks! Then I found your recipes and haven’t looked back since!

    I was pleasantly surprised to see this recipe for Rice and Peas, as this is from my homeland ;-). The recipe looks great, although I’ve never tried it with ginger. I’ve have soo many great variations cooked by family and friends! My Dad’s side also adds oregano and tomatoes.

    Anyway, just wanted to thank you for all the inspiration…This Jamaican-Mexican family is eatin’ it up!

  21. Tea

    I made this dish tonight as I was feeling a little sick and remembered how good the rice and beans we had at your house. I used some dried beans from Rancho Gordo and cooked them 3/4 of the way in another pot and added them to this recipe. It was just as good as I remembered. Thanks!

  22. Harriette

    So, so good! The thyme and coconut milk make all the difference. I found pigeon peas so I made it authentic style!

  23. Kesha

    That is not how we make our rice and peas. It might be rice and peas… but it’s not Jamaican rice and peas!

  24. stacy

    i am jamaican and i’ve never heard rice and peace cooked that way…the proper way is to wash the peas and put it in a pot with garlic in a little water..when it begins to boil…add more water(sinking the peas)let it cook in a good amount of water…when peas are cooked add the coconut milk,skellion and thyme then a quarter stick of butter add salt to taste and also add the pepper..let it boil for another ten minutes… wash your rice and add it to the pot..when the liquid has dried out …turn down the stove and let it simmer…i didnt put any measurements we eyeball everything…once you are jamaican…it’s natural to cook rice and peas…ask any jamaican…this is the proper way…we eat it every sunday

  25. Stacy

    Yummy! I made this today, and it was wonderful. I served it with jerk chicken, and salmon……

  26. Rachel J

    This came out great! Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe. I think next time I might use a touch more beans (my husband wants to try using both kidney and black beans). I put a simple salad with it and we ate it as our main meal. We had it again the next day and I think it tasted even better.

  27. ben tinsley

    It’s like a Jamaican rice pudding.

  28. Pam

    I just tried this recipe and it is delicious, my children also loved it. I didn’t used stock but sub for another cup of water and added a teaspoon of veggie bouillon and I only had garbanzo beans so I used that instead of kidney beans.

  29. TanyLaBelle

    This recipe is WOW! My hubbie loves it! The habanero flavors the rice beautifully!! I twiked the recipe a bit, I boiled my own beans and use a bit of the bean water in the rice and added a little shredded coconut – It was hmm hmm good! We absolutely loved it! Many thanks for all you do! Simplyrecipes.com is now my go-to recipe site!

  30. Jamaica Land We Love

    Rice and Peas is one of the most cooked dish for many Jamaicans on a Sunday to be eaten with Fried or Baked Chicken. This recipe will be of help to a lot of Jamaicans as well as the Jamaican enthusiasts alike.

    Thanks for sharing a bit if Jamaica with the WORLD!!!

  31. afaf

    use whatever beans or peas you like this is a winner

  32. David

    Grew up eating Jamaican rice and peas in Toronto. I believe they usually added the rice,etc, to the pot after the beans were cooked but may be wrong on that. I am waiting on a recipe from someone born there but if not will try this one to see how it goes.

  33. Jessica

    I have used this recipe for two weeks straight!!! My fiancé and I just love it! The first time around I used half of the recommended thyme and found it a bit too much for my tastes. Today when I made it, I used just a pinch and it turned out great. I used bay leaf instead of the pepper because my grocery store did not have it.

    Thanks for sharing this simple and delicious recipe!

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