Categorized |Vegetarian

Rice and peas without peas?

caribbean recipe peas and riceThough you may know it as rice and peas or peas and rice, peas is not actually used in this dish. Instead red kidney beans is the actual “peas” of choice used. And though we may associate this dish as being uniquely Jamaican, it’s also enjoyed throughout the Caribbean. However there are limited restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago that serves it and I’m still to find a home where it’s part of their weekly menu. Our choice for a rice dish with peas is Pelau.

This recipe is a modified version of a recipe that was passed on to me from a good friend from St Vincent. According to him, he makes the best rice and peas in the Caribbean… we’ll leave it as that for now!

You’ll Need…

2 cups brown rice (not instant)
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 cloves of garlic
1 scallion (sliced)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 can red beans (kidney) 19oz
1 teaspoon salt
Dash black pepper
1 whole hot pepper (scotch bonnet, habanero or whatever you like) * This is optional.
1 medium onion diced

Start by dicing the onion and scallion and smash the garlic so it’s crushed but not in many pieces. This way you can remove it from the finished dish easily. Also remember to remove the thyme off the sprig or you can leave it on the sprig and take the spring out when the dish is done cooking.

ingredients for peas and rice

jamaican recipe

Then we’ll put a deep pot on medium heat and pour in the oil to heat up. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, thyme and scallion. Allow this to cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.

how to cook peas and rice

rice and peas recipe

While this cooks, let’s get the rice ready. I usually wash my rice before cooking to get rid of any grit and dirt. I do so by putting the rice into a bowl and let warm water cover it. Then using my hand and fingers I massage the rice. You’ll notice the water will go a bit gritty/white (see pic below). Drain that water out and rise a couple times again. Be sure to drain out the water well the final time. Now the onion should be soft and the oil infused with the other ingredients we added to the pot. Empty the wash rice and give the pot a good stir.

brown rice for making peas and rice

recipe jamacian rice and peas

jamaican rice and peas

I’ve seem people empty the can of red beans directly into the pot, but I hate the liquid it’s packaged in. So I drain and give a quick rinse before emptying into the pot. After that I add the water, coconut milk, dash of black pepper, salt and the whole pepper. By putting the pepper whole, I can remove it at the end… plus it will get some of the flavour of the pepper without the actual heat. I then bring it up to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. This will then cook for about 25 minutes.

cooking peas and rice

jamaican peans and rice

trinidad peas and rice

Stir every 5 minutes or so, and play close attention to the level of liquid. If you find that the liquid is drying up too fast, turn down the heat a bit. The final 10 minutes is crucial, since you want the rice to to cook, but not overcook and go mushy. If after 20 minutes you find that the rice is plump, turn up the heat (remove the lid) and cook off any remaining liquid. TIP: Here’s a simple way to test the rice to see if it’s done. Take a couple gains out of the pot and place on the counter top or on a side dish. Now gently press your fingers down and across the grain of rice. If there’s no solid texture (grainy feel), it means the rice is fully cooked.

As mentioned the last 10 minutes is crucial, since this is where you can control the desired texture of the rice. With the use of coconut milk and the fact that the rice contains starch it’s very easy to go creamy and sticky. I like my rice grainy so I burn off the liquid very fast once I determine that it fully cooked. Most times I under cook it (means the rice could use about 5 minutes more cooking) then I remove it off the heat with the lid covered. The residual heat in the pot continues to cook it while not on the heat of the stove.

* If you find that your rice is not fully cooked and your liquid is gone, simply add some boiling water to the pot and continue cooking.

caribbean peas and rice

The finished dish with some curry chicken wings.

peas and rice recipe

I’d love to hear from you, especially if you have a different way of preparing rices and peas. Please leave me your comments in the area provided below.

Happy cooking


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52 Responses to “Rice and peas without peas?”


  2. Gabriella says:

    I would like to add some info about the brown rice vs white rice.
    Brown rice is healthier, it’s parboiled because they partially cook it. This way, it takes just as long to cook as white rice.Probably Chris uses it in his recipe because it’s much healthier. I’m not from the Caribbeans, but I love making this rice and I will try other recipes from Chris soon.

  3. Celine says:

    I used long grain brown rice as directed but have begun to wonder if white rice is supposed to be used because of the indicated cooking time of 25mins. There is no brown rice that cooks that quickly….maybe parboiled? Mine took more like 35 mins and it was slightly undercooked so I let it sit covered off the heat for 5-10mins and that seemed to do the trick. It still stuck to the bottom despite my constant stirring. I wonder if continusely opening the lid and stirring let heat out and made it cook longer? Anyways it’s a bit sticky creamy but I’ll learn! Cayman Island native happy to see recipes I grew up with.

  4. Jean Gordon says:

    Why is it that people like YVE, STEVE, and BAJAN JAY like to say things that they do not know and confuse others?
    Just like white rice, there is brown rice long grain, parboiled, short grain, etc. All you have to do is to look for and find the one that you need!

    I have used long grain brown rice for ages, and my rice comes out perfectly! You have to know how much liquid to use so as for it not to come out mushy or rubbery! I do not use white rice ever! Just look for it in the supermarket or store.



  5. Olga says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I had a very delicious dinner today :)

  6. Dee says:

    Hi Chris,

    Another great recipe…my husband is from Kenya and he just love all the great dishes you create.

    Thanks for helping me to be a great cook! Thanks Chris!

  7. Hello….Why do people make such a fuss over the cooking of peas & rice,,,there is nothing to …when I lived T’dad in the 50’s we had a lovely cook from Domanica and she was a wiz at cooking Trinidad food….peas and rice was on the table before one can say monkey’s uncle,,,,I do peas & rice quite a lot and I acquired her method,,,which is fool proof……Thanks Querino ARE YOU MAD I HAVE NEVER SUBMITTED ANYTHING BEFORE………

  8. Hello….Why do people make such a fuss over the cooking of peas & rice,,,there is nothing to …when I lived T’dad in the 50’s we had a lovely cook from Domanica and she was a wiz at cooking Trinidad food….peas and rice was on the table before one can say monkey’s uncle,,,,I do peas & rice quite a lot and I acquired her method,,,which is fool proof……Thanks Querino

  9. Ethel says:

    I made this recipe today and am so happy with it. I was really craving rice and peas but did not feel up to travelling all the way to Los Angeles to get it. At least not today seeing as it is New year’s. Remembering the recipe you posted for me after I couldn’t get the pigeon peas to tenderize, decided to make the dish myself. Thank you so much.

    The only difference I used Fresh and Easy Instant Brown Rice. Having used it in a soup that cooked for 6 hours in a slow cooker the rice turned out perfect, I took a chance with your recipe and it was perfect and still firm.

    Now it can always be on hand by cooking ahead and freezing.

  10. Mama G. says:

    My son’s Trini in-laws will be with us this Christmas and I want to honor them by serving the amazing Trini dishes they have cooked for us in the past. My question is, can stewed chicken, curried chicken, rice and peas be frozen and successfully re-heated; I need to practice and if I get it right I want the good stuff ready and prepared ahead of time! Thanks for your help.

  11. Steve says:

    I agree with Bajan Jay. I see in many of the recipes the words brown rice. To me brown rice doesn’t have the husk polished off and takes much longer to cook. I also is nuttier and chewier. I think there is a translation problem with what Americans know as brown rice and what Chris calls brown rice. I’ve always known rice and peas to have regular long grain rice.

  12. Bajan Jay says:

    This recipe says to use brown rice, although the images clearly show long grain rice, which is the correct rice to use for this dish, brown rice would make this rather grainy and gross. Being West Indian myself, and having eaten this dish hundreds of times, i can safely say that I’ve never seen it used in this dish ever.

    • Yve says:

      True West Indians know brown rice is parboiled rice and long grain rice is white rice.

      • Dawnybaby says:

        Thank you for that clarification….my dad and granddad were Jamaican and neither are alive to ask…so thanks! I’m making the rice for Xmas, hopefully it will come out great! Thanks Chris!


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