Categorized |Chicken, Gluten Free

Pelau, the first guest invited to every beach lime.

how to make chicken pealu

I can still recall sitting in our “gallery” (porch) shelling peas as the first crop of pigeon peas was reaped (btw, shelling is the term used to describe removing the peas from the pod). My parents always planted corn and peas every rainy season so we enjoyed fresh peas cooked in many different forms. Stewed, curried, in pelau and as a thickener for some of the amazing soups my mom would make. But my absolute favourite dish with pigeon peas (even to this day) is that wonderful meal-in-a-pot, called pelau.

It was the norm that every trip we made to the beach or any family outing, my mom would cook up a pot of pelau (BTW, “cook up” is also another word for pelau) to take for lunch. Nothing beats taking a swim in the ocean and making your “hungry” way back to the trunk of the car where your mom is getting ready to serve you a plate of still-hot, chicken pelau with a fresh green salad on the side. And how could I forget the hot sauce we would drizzle all over the mound of pelau?

Can you imagine writing a post and your mouth waters from nothing but a memory? Let’s hope I don’t drool all over this keyboard.

I still can’t believe that it took me this long to share this dynamite pelau recipe with you. A special thanks to Caron for reminding me to do so.

You’ll need…

4-5lbs chicken, cut into pieces and washed with lime/lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 cloves of garlic – thinly sliced or crushed
1 teaspoon fresh/bottled ginger – crushed. (use 1/2 if it’s ginger powder)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (one that can withstand high heat)
1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium tomato – chopped
2-3 tablespoon cilantro (or 2 tbs Trinidad green meat seasoning)
2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 hot pepper (only if you like your food spicy)
1 green onion or chive – chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
1 large carrot sliced into “coins”
1 can coconut milk (about a cup)
1 can pigeon peas (also known as congo peas)
3 cups of long grain brown rice (washed)
1 teaspoon golden ray salt butter (optional)

Couple things before we proceed.

* If you can get fresh “shelled” pigeon peas, jump at the chance to use that instead of the canned stuff. nothing beats ‘fresh’.

* The pigeon peas comes as 2 types in the can. You have the green pigeons peas and the congo peas. The congo is the just the same green ones that were left to dry in its pod (while still on the tree), then canned. In the pictures below, you’ll notice that I used the congo variety of peas as it what I had on hand.

Cut and wash the chicken pieces, then season with all the ingredients mentioned above except, the oil, sugar, coconut milk, carrot, rice, water, golden ray and the can of pigeon peas.

seasoning chicken for pelau

Allow the seasoned chicken to marinate for at least 1 hr before you continue. You’re probably shocked by the amount of salt we used during the seasoning process, don’t fear. When we add the other ingredients, the saltiness will balance off nicely.

In a large pot on med to high heat, pour the oil and wait for it to become hot. Then add the brown sugar (same as the stewing process we discussed before), keeping an eye on things (see pictures below) until the sugar goes to a dark frothy brown. Have the bowl of seasoned chicken ready to go.

browning sugar for pelau

pelau recipe

cook pelau

When the sugar gets to this point, quickly start adding the pieces of chicken. Move each piece around so it gets coated in the caramel that you just made. After adding all the chicken, cover the pot and allow to cook on med heat for about 10 minutes. We’re trying to “brown” the meat and also create a nice brown colour so when we add the rice, everything will look and taste amazing. Remember, that a pelau is judged by not only it’s taste, but by it’s appearance as well. Don’t worry, this recipe is fool proof!

brown chicken for pelau

stew chicken for pelau

While everything cooks, open the can of peas and place it in a strainer to wash out the sort of sryup-like liquid  it’s packaged in the can with. You’ll also get rid of all that additional sodium that’s included in everything that’s canned. Wash and peel the carrot, then slice into coins. Put both the peas and carrot pieces into the same bowl you seasoned the chicken. Hopefully it will pick up any remaining seasonings that were left back. As the water starts to dry-up (see pic above) add, the peas and carrots to the pot. NOTE: You may have to turn up the heat and remove the lid for the natural juices that were released to cook down.

pigeon peas

ingredients pelau

caribbean pelau

Cover the lid and turn down the heat as you wash the rice. For those of you not familiar with cooking with brown rice as we do in the Caribbean, you may not realize that you must first wash the rice before cooking, to get rid of the gritty taste. Many of you are probably accustomed to using that fast cooking (can’t screw up) Uncle Ben’s version. Not today! It’s a very simple process. Pour the rice into a large bowl and pour water to cover it. Then as if you’re giving the rice a massage, work it with your hand and fingers. Pour out that water (you’ll see how cloudy the water will be) and repeat this process for another couple times.

brown rice

Time to kick back into action. Pour the rice into the pot, then the coconut milk and the three cups of water. Stir everything around and quickly bring back to a boil. Then cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 35 minutes or until all the liquid is gone and the grains of rice is tender and plump. There are 2 ways people like their finished product. Wet or dry and grainy. I love a nice grainy pelau, but I do know my sister makes hers gets my mom to make her’s a bit wet. Test both ways to see how best you like it.

pelau ingredients


island pelau recipe

trini pelau

Added Flavour!

To add an additional layer of flavor to the dish (not as if it need any more) add a teaspoon of Goldenray salted butter as you turn off the stove. Then mix around and cover the pot for about 5 minutes.

Special Note. My great aunt had this trick where she would get a branch of celery (fresh stuff from her garden – only the leafy part) and chop it really fines and top her pelau with it. STUNNING is the only word I can use to describe this added zing. Though I’ve tried over the years I’m still to recreate that unique taste … maybe it’s because I don’t have that unique celery from the Caribbean.

trinidad pelau

Do let me know your thoughts on this and the many other recipes posted on in the comment box below. If doing this according to a gluten free diet, do go through all the ingredients to verify they meet with your gluten free dietary needs.

Recipe Name
Recipe For Making Chicken Pelau.
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147 Responses to “Pelau, the first guest invited to every beach lime.”

  1. Ana says:

    I wish we were neighboors, to offer me a plate of food each day. LOL!! You are AWESOME!!

  2. Cicily says:

    Just tried the recipe. It was easy! Great taste.

  3. Essence says:

    My husband is Trini, I’m Canadian born – Jamaican background and this was my first time making a Trini dish. It was so easy and tasty! my husband liked it and I’m making it again tonight!

  4. L'shanda says:

    I just made Pelau for the first time and used this recipe.. It came out great and tastes delicious.. Thank you! :)

  5. Gary says:

    Great recipe that I have used time and time again. However I am Planning a big lime (party) and want to make pelau to feed 50 people. How do I scale up the ingredients. I know some aromatics are stronger in numbers. Not worried about the rice, carrots etc but would love your advice on the sugar etc and how to approach this task

  6. BRittany says:

    Wow this was absolutely amazing! My mother use to make pelau on special occasions and when we went to the beach. It’s has always held a fond place in my heart but now that I live in San Diego it’s impossible to find a good pelau but this recipe was exactly like my mom use to make it. I made this for my African boyfriend who loves flavorful stuff and it is officially his favorite food. He even got made at me for not making it sooner and more often!! He had 4 massive bowls in two days! Finished the whole pot in less than 24 hours just the two of us!

  7. Jessica says:

    The picture above that shows when you added the coconut, makes it look very thick, what in the states we call a coconut cream. How thick is the coconut milk you use? Would you guess it would be closer to what our coconut cream is? My can of coconut milk is as thick as a cows or goats milk. Thanks so much!!

  8. jg says:

    so just tried this for the second time but i left out the cilantro, tomato and peas as i dont wish those in it and i like mine a lil darker so i added some browning in the sugar browning process and it came out delish i used 2 cups of rice to 3 cups of homemade chicken stock water made it extra yum.
    thanks c,bean pot from Barbados

  9. Patrick says:

    Love that dish. Been cooking it regularly for about a year now. My wife’s family are from Guadeloupe and are usually very picky about food from other islands but they love it too. Great blog.

  10. Phylicia says:

    I’m definitely trying this recipe. Just wondering if it’s ok to use
    The brown gravy for stewing up the kitchen instead of making it? I’m not very good with browning

  11. TriniBoy says:

    Didn’t realize Barbados and Guyana have versions of Pelau. I’ve had cookup rice and hot pot and they are not really that similar to Pelau. Pretty awesome if they do I need to try them !!!

    Any way I’m about to try your water to rice proportions to cook my pelau. I have my own recipe that’s generally close to your’s but I always forget how much water to rice you need to not destroy the chicken when you cook it down. Hope its works !!! Thanks in advance

    Wanted to let you know the “Celery” you’re looking for is Bandanya also known as Shado Beni. In North America or non Tropical areas you can generally find Cilantro in groceries that is a good but not the greatest replacement. Bandanya is much more pungent a flavor. But yea you can probably look for Cilantro and try it !!! (the plants come from the same family of plants)

    Thanks again hope this helped.

  12. shelton says:

    Hey very nice recipe tried it and I love it….big up from Barbados

  13. Ranee says:

    Hey Chris,
    I was wondering if you ever tried the herb LOVAGE to get that missing flavour. It looks like celery, but has that something extra that to me is totally Caribbean. It’s great in stir-fry too.

  14. Letizia says:

    it looks delicious, I will definetely make it for dinner this week


  1. […] texture better in a pelau.  Devica always uses brown rice.  There a good discussion about pelau here at the Chris De La Rosa’s Caribbean […]

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