In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

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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  1. Sherril Sandy
    October 17, 2021 / 6:34 am

    Thank you Chris for this delish combo! I ate this for the first time at a Jamaican restaurant and love it! Your cooking creativity is to be proud of!

  2. Joy Malcolm-Manbodh
    August 3, 2021 / 9:48 pm

    When I saw rice and peas with our peas i got excited since I can’t seem to enjoy rice with ,,.then I see red Beans… the one I just can’t ever enjoy… you must be thinking .. what kinda Trini is this that don’t like peas eh! thats me… the only legume I like is Lentils and split peas… I do make rice and peas/ beans because my husband and children loves it… go figure..

  3. November 6, 2016 / 5:59 pm

    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.

  4. Celine
    November 12, 2015 / 4:50 pm

    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.

    • Patricia Campbell
      September 28, 2022 / 12:57 pm

      Here in Trinidad, parboiled rice is commonly called brown rice. Truthfully it is a little more brown in color than white rice. However, it is not true brown rice that is not as refined as white rice. What Chris is really referring to, I think, is parboiled rice, not true brown rice

  5. July 27, 2015 / 9:00 am

    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.



  6. Olga
    November 13, 2014 / 3:26 pm

    Thank you for this recipe. I had a very delicious dinner today ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. September 9, 2014 / 3:02 pm

    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!

  8. August 24, 2014 / 2:20 pm

    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………

  9. August 24, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    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

  10. January 1, 2014 / 11:23 pm

    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.

  11. Mama G.
    December 2, 2013 / 3:52 am

    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.

  12. Steve
    August 31, 2013 / 5:08 pm

    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.

  13. Bajan Jay
    August 17, 2013 / 5:43 pm

    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
      November 24, 2013 / 1:15 am

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

      • Dawnybaby
        December 24, 2013 / 7:29 pm

        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!

  14. bissy
    July 20, 2013 / 7:11 pm

    what can I substitute for the coconut milk

    • Bajan Jay
      August 17, 2013 / 5:40 pm

      None, to substitute the coconut milk is to make a completely different rice dish. not optional

  15. Earla williams
    April 10, 2013 / 9:35 pm

    Chris I used pigeon peas instead.and stew chicken delicious.

  16. Darren
    March 27, 2013 / 3:58 am

    hi Chris ive tryed this twice now and both times ive made a mess and comes out like rice pudding. i have watched your video several times and cant get it right

    P.S keep up the good work ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Kecia
    February 5, 2013 / 5:41 pm

    Hi Chris,
    I love peas and rice, some Jamaican restaurants it is very good and others it is just so so. I am going to try this recipe but I wanted to know would it really make a big difference if you added coconut milk instead of unsweetened coconut milk? Will the rice come out sweet or have a totally different taste with the regular coconut milk?

  18. Ruth
    February 1, 2013 / 7:40 am

    looks like somebody got some new cookware ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Ruth
    August 21, 2012 / 2:31 pm

    This recipe is outstanding. I made it today. Yummmmm. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. August 20, 2012 / 8:38 pm

    I just made this recipe this evening! It was SOOOOOO GOOD! Even my picky 19 month old baby girl kept asking for more! I would like to point out that because it is brown rice, I had to cook for about 5 or so minutes longer so that it would be cooked through and then let it sit covered so that the rice becomes drier.

  21. Keith
    April 7, 2012 / 9:40 am

    I love this recipe and watched your recent video on how to make it but I cannot get the rice right – mine always turns out mushy and sticky. I've followed all of the advice that I've ever read and saw but something is still not right. I properly rinse the rice (I liked your rub through the fingers trick), I ensure that I'm using the correct amount of water for the rice (even going so far as to use a little less just to be sure), I use the right rice for the right application (long grain for peas and rice), I use correct temperature and time…what am I missing? I have the same problems with other dishes as well including Jambalaya and Paella. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Janis
    February 24, 2012 / 10:34 am

    Good idea to rinse canned beans in general, as you get rid of the excess salt…great recipe by the way….

  23. Gemma-Sue
    January 8, 2012 / 9:03 am

    Hi Chris, I normally cook Rice and Peas slightly different especially if I am cooking the kidney beans from dry. All the seasonings above (except the chopped onion) go into the pot whilst the beans are softening so that the water turns a reddish color and all the flavors infuse in that water. Then when almost soft I add the coconut milk and slowly bring to the boil before I add my washed rice. Got to admit it sometimes comes out mushy if I havent paid attention to the pot but most of the time its almost as good as mamas in Jamaica! I love this site though – there are a few dishes I needed to brush up on because I haven't cooked them in so long. Have you ever cooked up seasoned tripe or chicken foot soup?? As its Winter I have been buying cow foot, pigs trotters, oxtail, tripe, chicken foot etc all homely foods to get us through! Looking forward to getting a few different recipes on this site. Keep up the good work ๐Ÿ™‚

    • G-man
      March 4, 2012 / 2:07 am

      Agree with Gemma-Sue on exactly how she cook Di rice and peas…no onions….cook the dry peas first to "soften" (getting that nice red color in the process) then add same seasoning Chris use (no onion), cook likkle more then you coconut milk (the one u get from the gratah coconut ), cook likkle more THEN add yu wash rice. Covah pot mek him simmah! Now mi nah suggest that one way of cooking this dish is more authentic than the othah….just the only way mi evah see rice-an-peas cook. Big up Chris, love yu recepe dem bredrin!

  24. 7Marilyn
    December 23, 2011 / 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the recipe Chris. When my husband and I vacation is the Caribbean my husband always looks forward to this dish. He calls it that rice dish that has no peas. I will surprise him with this for supper one night.

  25. Alf Goddard
    December 22, 2011 / 5:40 am

    HI chris, looks delicious. Must try as I never cooked beans in rice, always used split peas or black eyes. I will have pigeon peas in rice for xmas as I have found an indian super market down under in NZ that sells freshly picked and frozen imported in sealed bags. Thanks for your recipes, will have to spend some time in the kitchen soon. Greetings to you and your family. Have a nice xmas and a wonderful new year.

  26. D. Singh
    August 23, 2011 / 11:00 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I forgot to mention that the next time I'm making this rice and peas dish I'll have it with some curry chicken as you did. Thanks my friend.

  27. D. Singh
    August 23, 2011 / 10:47 pm

    Hi Chris,
    I love rice and peas, the first time I ate it was in Barbados on one of my vacations in 1986, it was served together with fried flying-fish. After I returned home (Trinidad) I would always make that dish and have it together with fish or chicken etc. When my friends came to visit and I serve them that dish they all asked for the recipe. A few people in Trinidad are making it since 1986 as I know. I live in Toronto many years now and I make it regularly as I still love it. Every home I visited in Barbados never made plain white rice they always made rice and peas. In Barbados I stayed at Sam Lord's Castle and just beside it was a small restaurant named Sam's Lantern that made local food and they always had rice and peas. One more thing, I got flying fish from the grocery in Trinidad from 1986 up untill I left for Toronto. I don't know if the groceries still sell it BUT I won't be surprise if they still do.

  28. Roz
    August 17, 2011 / 5:02 pm

    I found a recipe on allrecipes for rice and beans that I have been using for a quick minute that is also very good with – cloves, bay leaf with all the usual seasoning.

  29. trini
    August 1, 2011 / 2:38 pm

    That is pretty much what I had for lunch with some charai baji.

  30. april
    July 27, 2011 / 2:20 pm

    thank you for the recipes. I have such a hard time making rice and beans together. it always comes out soggy. I don't know what to do!!!! UGHHHH!!! I will try your way and see what happens.

    • Ruth
      February 1, 2013 / 7:48 am

      April, I apparently couldn't make decent rice if my life depended on it and I am a fantastic cook. I found a rice cooker at the Salvation Army thrift store a couple of weeks ago,and for the first time EVER I made the best rice… added coconut milk, curry and vegs and then added shrimp when it was done.. Kudos to whoever created the rice cooker.

  31. A Pierre
    January 6, 2011 / 11:35 am

    Made this yesterday for my husband and friends. Loved it! having the left overs for lunch today!

  32. November 29, 2010 / 9:43 am

    Thanks for that , very interesting. I get so bored of plain rice but i’m not exactly very skilled at cooking.

  33. Trevor
    September 6, 2010 / 6:17 pm

    Oh and Chris peas and rice is normally a week day dish….. you dont normally get this in a " resturant" but its readily available in most food stalls all around town and in the malls

  34. Trevor
    September 6, 2010 / 6:14 pm

    whey! I cook this today with some fracasse chicken on d side and green fig pie … for d unique trini touch u missing d shadon bennin and piemento pepper though…

  35. Deb
    August 15, 2010 / 8:39 pm

    Oh yeah! I forgot to add…this weekend, I made the MOST simple rice n beans quick recipe…but it IS cheating to be honest…

    I used a rice cooker. 3 scoops of basmati rice, filled up to the "3" line with 1/2 coconut milk (the kind found in the organic section of the grocery – not the canned type) and 1/2 water and sprinkled some tumeric in…stirred well and pressed the button. When it was done, I stirred in a can of GOYA Pink Beans in sauce.

    SO easy, yet very tasty with baked chicken and a cuke/tomato salad on de side. Next time, I'm making johnny cake with this since I had so much time left over while the rice cooker did its thing.

  36. Deb
    August 15, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    At home on STX, the food stands would make their beans (red) in a separate pot in a gravy-like liquid that was incredible. It was always spooned over rice in those styrofoam containers so the rice was kind of floating in the sauce…my mouth is watering just recalling this. Does anyone have a red bean recipe that sounds like this?

  37. Sam
    August 6, 2010 / 12:07 pm

    Hi, Chris thanks for your posting. I really appreciate coming to the site and reading up on new Caribbean recipes I can try. I really love Rice and Peas, I'm from Columbus, OH and we have a couple of places that offer Caribbean food, but I love learning how to cook it myself. I am always trying to figure out what type or brand new of Rice you usually use to make this Recipe? I prefer White Rice. and I always use Asian market rice (Jasmine) which is kind of sticky and mushy at times. Again thank you for giving us your time and your great posting. I love this site

  38. Doonwati
    July 28, 2010 / 2:41 am

    Hi Chris,
    I had this peas and rice dish when I was vacationing in Barbados this was in 1986 and I liked it. I'd eaten it together with Fried Flying fish it was soooooooooo good. I'm going to try and make it tomorrow please God for lunch. Thanks so much Chris. Don't forget to give us the recipe for the Christmas Black Cake thank you.

  39. Michael
    July 9, 2010 / 3:10 am

    Love your web-site I haven't coked one thing
    I mean one "ting" boi that was not absolutely
    out of this world!! Thanks for taking the time
    to get all these up here, I know that's a lot of work
    much appreciated!


    • July 14, 2010 / 7:58 pm

      nice.. thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. much appreciated

      happy cooking


  40. Evi
    May 30, 2010 / 3:23 am

    I like that you make this dish and most of your dishes with your own unique touch instead of the tradtional way. I think I will give it a try! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • June 17, 2010 / 2:46 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. happy cooking

  41. March 3, 2010 / 3:46 am

    I love rice & beans very much.I always trying to make rice by different ways but this is the best way..Thanks for sharing this recipe with us and also thanks for the step by step procedure for making.

    • admin
      February 21, 2010 / 3:25 pm

      Erica.. in the Caribbean we’d be lost with rice and some sort of bean or the other. BTW I love what you’re doing on your blog as well. Friends.. be sure to check out Erica’s blog (click on here name here).

      happy cooking


  42. February 7, 2010 / 7:21 pm

    I’ve made cook-up rice with split peas and garbanzo beans. I also add a bay leave.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 10:53 pm

      Tuty..bay leaf? Now that’s new to me. Does it add a different flavour that’s noticeable? Any chance I cna get you to share that recipe with me/us?

      Thanks for sharing.

      happy cooking


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