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Jamaican Rice and Peas

In many Jamaican households, Sundays and special events simply don’t exist without rice and peas. It’s very likely to be the most eaten Jamaican food ever. Yes - even more so than jerked and curried dishes. Rice and peas is quite simply the old faithful that appears to be able to accompany and complement a variety of dishes.


Other Islands in the Caribbean have their own version of the dish. But, it’s not a topic for debate that Jamaican rice and peas have a distinctive stamp, with flavors of coconut milk, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and a number of other ingredients.

Close-up view of flavorful Jamaican rice and peas dish served in a bowl.

What “peas” should I use?

When it comes to Jamaican cooking, you might see that reference has been made to peas - however that’s not exactly what is meant. When the word peas are used, this can refer both to beans, as well as peas. For example, in Jamaica, the beans used to make rice and peas, might often be called red peas, whereas, in many other places, they would be popularly known as kidney beans.

When you’re making your rice and peas, you’ll need to soak kidney beans, or you could use canned beans. Canned beans will obviously save you time soaking and cooking the beans before using them.

Wash and soak your beans and leave them to soak the night before you need to use them. At a minimum, you want to make sure that your beans have been soaked for around 5-8 hours before you use them.

You can also make Jamaican rice and peas with another type of “peas”. In Jamaica, the peas I am referring to are called “gungo” peas, however, you can also find them named as pigeon peas or grandules.


How to cook rice and peas?

To make your rice and peas, you’re going to need the following ingredients:

Long grain rice
Kidney beans
Coconut milk/creamed coconut
Spring onions
Scotch bonnet
Black pepper

After you have soaked your beans cook your beans in a large deep saucepan until they are tender. If you’re using canned beans, there is no need to cook them beforehand.

Add water and coconut milk/creamed coconut into a saucepan. Followed by onions, garlic, spring onion, thyme, pimento, scotch bonnet, salt, and black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat, allowing to simmer for around 10 minutes.

Add rice to your mix and increase the heat until liquid boils, reduce heat and allow to simmer until the rice grains are tender.

Want to make a quick version? Check out the video below:


Wash your rice for better rice and peas

It’s important to make sure that you give your rice several good rinses before using it in your rice and peas. You want to do this in order to remove the starchy coating that the rice has, not washing your rice could lead to rice that spoils much faster.

When washing your rice, you’ll see that the water becomes fairly cloudy. You want to drain this water from the rice and continue to rinse a number of times until your water remains clear.

Simply put, if you don’t wash your rice, you could end up with some mediocre rice and peas on your hand. You don’t want that.

Authentic Jamaican Rice and Peas

Following this recipe will give you the keys to making authentic Jamaican rice and peas. You might have tried rice and peas before, at a special occasion, a carnival or maybe you’ve tried to make it before but it didn’t quite turn out how you wanted it to.

The signature color, taste, and aroma will come through as soon as you begin making this dish. Typically served with meat dishes, consider serving your rice and peas with our tasty vegan curry goat or aromatic and delicious chickpea curry, some fried oyster mushroom 'chickn' maybe? Oh yeah - don’t forget some perfectly ripe fried plantains which is a great compliment for almost anything.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it rice and peas or peas and rice?

Rice and peas is a traditional dish eaten in the Caribbean, often enjoyed on Sundays, special events, or occasions. Each island has their own version of the dish, but Jamaican rice and peas is well-known. Typically called rice and peas in Jamaica, this is a cultural dish that is now enjoyed across the world. In the Bahamas, their version of the dish is known as peas and rice.

What is Jamaican rice and peas made of?

Typically, rice and peas are just made with rice and beans. However, Jamaican rice and peas include elements such as coconut milk, onions, spring onions, scotch bonnet, thyme, and other spices. A popular dish that could easily be considered as the most eaten Jamaican food.

Where did rice and peas originate?

Rice and peas originated in Ghana and along the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Adopted from the Akan tribe, the dish was known as Waakye which is the traditional form of rice and peas. Waakye is still popular in Ghana today, although you might find that the cooking method and ingredients differ.


Kelly M

Thanks for the recipe, I made this for the in-laws and they loved it! Brownie points for me ☺️