A spicy 30-minute meal full of Caribbean flavor, this easy Jamaican rice and pigeon peas recipe will transport you to the islands. An exciting addition to your "rice and beans" repertoire.
Most of the ingredients for this recipe are familiar. Rice, onion, garlic, thyme.
Let me focus in on a few potentially unfamiliar ingredients.
Pigeon peas are a small, round bean native to Africa, but now widely available in Latin America, the Caribbean, India and Asia. They are also called Toor dal, Congo peas, Gungo peas, gandules and Caja pea.
You can find these in Indian grocery stores, online on Amazon or in the Latin American section of well-stocked grocery stores.
Substitutions: If you can't find pigeon peas, you can substitute the same amount of cooked red kidney beans for this recipe.
We're using culinary coconut milk here. It comes in cans and usually separates a little bit in the can, so give it a good shake before opening it.
I'm recommending using reduced fat coconut milk, because regular coconut milk is super fatty. But, if that's all you can find and are okay with the increase in fat, you can use it.
Do not use coconut cream (the thickest, fattiest of coconut milks) for this. That is used for much richer recipes, like desserts.
Scotch bonnet pepper
Typically, a whole scotch bonnet pepper is used in this recipe. If you can find them, use it! Do not cut it. Just gently add it to the pan to cook, whole, along with the rice and peas. Then, discard it before serving.
Scotch bonnets are very hot, so be careful not to break it while stirring. If the seeds escape into your dish, it will be incredibly spicy.
Despite living in a large city, I have the hardest time finding scotch bonnet peppers, so I am using scotch bonnet pepper powder (Amazon affiliate link) for this recipe.
Jamaican rice and peas cooks up in less than 30 minutes, so it makes an easy weeknight dinner.
To get started, heat a medium pan that has a tight-fitting lid over high heat on the stove.
Add 4 cups of liquid TOTAL to the pan, including the coconut milk, broth/liquid from peas and water.
Next, add the peas, onion, garlic and all the spices, salt and pepper.
Finally, add your rinsed rice. Stir one last time, reduce heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and let cook for 15 minutes.
Do not uncover until 15 minutes has passed! This will allow the steam that is cooking the rice to escape.
When your timer has gone off, check your rice for doneness, especially around the edges of the pan. If the rice is not done, cover and cook another 5 minutes.
Storage in Refrigerator
Prepared rice and pigeon peas will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Storage in Freezer
I have not tested freezing this dish after it's been prepared. I don't think it would do well frozen.
Any leftover pigeon peas alone can be frozen! You can freeze the cooked peas dry in a plastic zip-top bag.
To use them, just add to a dish frozen. No need to thaw. They will thaw quickly, like frozen green peas.
Or, you can freeze the cooked pigeon peas with their broth/liquid in an airtight glass or plastic container. Be sure to leave extra empty room at the top of the container to allow the liquid to expand.
To use them, allow to thaw in a refrigerator overnight.
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
Here are some ideas for what to serve alongside your Jamaican rice and pigeon peas:
- Vegan sour cream (to counteract the spiciness!)
- Baked plantains
- Jerk tofu steaks
- Jerk jackfruit
- Mango chutney or mango salsa
- Tropical fruit punch
- Grilled pineapple
Are pigeon peas beans?
Pigeon peas are actually beans, but are called peas because of their small size. They are about ¼ of an inch wide and are typically light gray when dried. They turn a medium brown after cooking and have a nutty, minty flavor.
🗺 Around the world
Rice and beans seem to truly be a global food, although they look and taste different around the world. A few examples:
- Cuba: White rice and black beans, spiced with cumin
- Mexico: Spicy charro beans with tomato infused rice
- Spain: Paella valenciana, a saffron rice dish often served with chickpeas
- India: Cumin seed rice (jeera rice) with dal (lentils)
This Jamaican rice and pigeon peas recipe is eaten throughout the island of Jamaica, as well as anywhere Jamaicans have migrated over the years.
There are versions of this in many other Caribbean islands, as well. Arroz con gandules in Puerto Rico is one example.
A few of my dear Jamaican friends were kind enough to answer all my questions about this dish, so I could present a mostly authentic, yet accessible version here. I hope you enjoy it!
More recipes you'll love
- Instant Pot Pigeon Peas (vegan)
- Vegan Spicy Charro Beans in the Crockpot
- Instant Pot Cajun Kidney Beans (no soak, vegan, oil free)
Love this recipe? Please rate it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ down below. ⬇️ And, if you make it, please tag me @veryveganish on Instagram in your posted photos! I would love to see your creations. 😄
- 1 cup (½ can) reduced fat coconut milk
- 2 cups liquid/broth from pigeon peas
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups cooked pigeon peas* with liquid reserved (about 2 cans)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 heaping tsp dried thyme leaves
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp creole salt (we use Tony Chachere's)
- ¼ black pepper
- ¼ tsp scotch bonnet pepper powder**
- 2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
- Heat a medium-sized pan that has a tight-fitting lid over high heat.
- Add coconut milk, broth/liquid from peas and water to the pan. You need 4 cups of total combined liquid (broth/liquid from peas, coconut milk and water) for this recipe. If you don't have a full 2 cups of broth, add extra water to make the total liquid equal 4 cups in the pan. If you have extra broth, use it and reduce/omit the water. Just make sure you add only 4 cups of liquid total to the pan.
- Add peas, onion, garlic, all spices, salt and pepper to pan. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Add rice to pan, stir and bring back to a boil.
- Stir one last time, reduce heat to low, cover with tight fitting lid and set a timer for 15 minutes.
- Do not open until 15 minutes has passed (this will cause the steam to escape).
- After 15 minutes has passed, check on rice and ensure it's done, especially around the edges of the pan. If it's not done, allow it to cook another 3-5 minutes, covered.
- Once done, turn heat off, fluff rice gently and serve.
* I have a homemade Instant Pot Pigeon Peas recipe for making your own dried pigeon peas in a pressure cooker on this site.
*You can also substitute cooked red kidney beans for the pigeon peas. Jamaican rice and peas are commonly made with either pigeon peas or kidney beans.
** You can substitute cayenne pepper for the scotch bonnet pepper powder. If you have a whole scotch bonnet pepper, use that instead (do not cut, allow it to cook whole along with rice and peas, discard after cooking).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 315Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 515mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 8gSugar: 2gProtein: 12g
Nutritional calculations are done using online tools, such as recipe widget Create. Even though we have tried to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates.