Make Jamaican rice and peas for dinner tonight! This recipe features pigeon peas or kidney beans and rice cooked in rich, creamy coconut milk with Caribbean spices and a kick of heat from Scotch Bonnet peppers.
This flavorful dish is a staple of Jamaican cuisine, where they often serve it as a meatless main meal as well as a side dish. Beans and rice is a hearty dish, and because the beans provide essential nutrients and are full of dietary fiber, it’s a healthy dish too.
Thanks to the fiber, the dish is definitely filling enough to serve on its own. But as a side dish, it’s fantastic with Caribbean dinner recipes like Jamaican jerk ribs or jerk chicken, grilled pineapple salmon, and mango bbq chicken.
There’s a wonderful essence to the coconut rice and slightly spicy heat in the background from the scotch bonnet peppers. All in all, it’s a delicious, easy to make meal!
Ingredient notes for Jamaican rice and peas
- Pigeon peas or kidney beans– In Jamaica, dried beans are known as peas, which is why some people call this dish rice and peas and others know it as beans and rice. Most people make the dish with either pigeon peas (known as gungo peas in Jamaica) or dried kidney beans. Although, you could probably use any type of legume you’d like to.
Using dry legumes is the standard, but canned kidney beans or pigeon peas could be used for convenience. The recipe card at the bottom of this post gives instructions for using dried or canned.
Dried pigeon peas are usually kept in the ethnic food aisle of most grocery stores. One popular brand is Goya but there are others as well.
- Scotch Bonnet peppers– For such small chili peppers, Scotch Bonnets pack a lot of spicy heat, along with a slightly fruity flavor. For this recipe, the chile is simmered in coconut milk, but the seeds aren’t exposed, so the spicy flavor is less intense.
- Full fat coconut milk– This ingredient gives the nutty, tropical flavor to Jamaican rice and peas. If you need a substitute, you can use coconut cream, any other nut milk, or even heavy dairy cream. Avoid using lite coconut milk; it doesn’t provide enough flavor.
- Rice– Most people use long grain white rice for this recipe but you could certainly use brown rice instead. Just keep in mind that cooking brown rice requires almost twice as much liquid as white rice does. Also, using water for cooking the rice is fine, but substituting it with vegetable broth will heighten the flavor of the dish.
Preparing the beans
It’s important to allow the peas or beans to soften before adding the rice to the pot. It takes an average of 60 to 90 minutes of cook time for the legumes to get the desired soft, creamy texture.
It isn’t necessary to soak the peas overnight; 8 hours is plenty. However, soaking them longer than that may shorten the cooking time a bit.
Also, cooking the beans over low heat prevents the cooking liquid from evaporating too quickly. The lower heat also helps the peas to cook evenly.
Making beans and rice with canned beans
If you make this recipe with canned kidney beans, the entire dish cooks up in less than 30 minutes. The downside is that it lacks the flavor that comes from using soaked dried beans.
To make this recipe with canned beans, you will need two 15½-ounce cans, drained. If using dried beans, you’ll need to soak them for at least 8 hours, then drain.
FAQ: Jamaican Rice and Peas
For spicier heat, expose the seeds and membrane of the Scotch Bonnet peppers. Using the tip of a small knife, cut a slit down one side of the pepper. Be careful; you don’t want to cut the pepper completely in half.
One cup of dried beans expands to 3 cups when cooked, and one pound of dried beans equals 5 to 6 cups of cooked beans. So, if you’re using canned beans, to make this Jamaican rice recipe, you will need two 15½-ounce cans.
Jamaican Rice and Peas (Beans and Rice)
- 1 cup dried kidney beans or green Pigeon peas (See Note 1)
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- 14 oz unsweetened coconut milk
- 4 green onions (scallions) each cut in half
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 5 allspice berries (or 1/4 tsp ground allspice)
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (See Note 2)
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 2 limes sliced
Using Soaked Dried Beans
- In a large saucepan, add the soaked beans and cover with 3 cups of water or vegetable broth and coconut milk. Add green and yellow onion, garlic, thyme, allspice, Scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low for 1 hour. Stir in the rice, cover again and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard the green onions, thyme stems, allspice berries and the Scotch bonnet pepper. Fluff the rice and beans with a fork, season to taste with salt. Serve with lime slices.
Using Precooked or Canned Beans
- To a large pot, add drained cooked kidney beans, rice, water or vegetable broth, coconut milk, onions, garlic, thyme, allspice, scotch bonnet pepper, ginger paste, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
- Remove pot from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard the green onions, thyme stems, allspice berries and the Scotch bonnet pepper. Fluff peas and rice with a fork, and season to taste with additional salt if needed. Serve with lime slices.
- If using dried beans, soak overnight, then drain. To make this recipe with canned beans, you will need two 15½-ounce cans, drained.
- For spicier heat, use a small knife and cut a slit down one side of the scotch bonnet pepper.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.