The Jamaican rice and peas recipe is a very common dish in the Caribbean region. It originated in Jamaica but is now common throughout the Caribbean. Though it is called “rice and peas”, it is actually rice and beans but it is called rice and peas because the Jamaicans call beans ‘peas’. This delicious recipe is commonly made with coconut milk because coconut is very common in the Caribbean. You can make this Jamaican rice and beans without coconut milk if you don’t have one or if you simply don’t like the smell of coconut in your rice.
Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe
- 2 cups Basmati rice You can use any type of rice you have. The recipe does not call for a specific type of rice to be used.
- 2 cups Red kidney beans or pigeon peas Any type of beans can be used, for this recipe, I used red kidney beans
- 1 and a ¼ cup Coconut milk or 1/2 of the canned coconut milk. Like I said earlier, it is a requirement for this Jamaican dish but you can make it without adding coconut milk. Not adding coconut milk will not give the real taste of the Jamaican rice and peas but at least you have the taste of the cooked rice and beans in it.
- 10 sprigs Fresh thyme
- 4 cloves Garlic
- 2 or 3 tbsp Green seasoning Green seasoning is a common marinade or sauce used in Jamaica and the whole of the Caribbean. It consists of a blend of spices such as spring onions, coriander, red and green chilies, thyme, and parsley. All the ingredients used in making the green seasoning should be fresh.
- ½ tsp Ground Pimento The Jamaican pepper or Allspice. Fresh pimento is preferred.
- ½ tsp Salt
- 2 sticks Green onions or spring onions
- ½ tbsp All-purpose seasoning
- 2 whole Scotch bonnets Habanero pepper can be substituted for scotch bonnets.
How to Make Jamaican Rice and Peas
Soaking the beans in water
Before you cook the beans or the peas as is called in Jamaica, simply soak the beans overnight. Red kidney beans have a thick and smooth shell that can take hours before getting soft when cooking. If you don’t want to waste gas or units cooking the red kidney beans, simply soak the beans overnight and then cook the next morning or soak for some hours (up to 8 hours) with warm or cold water. Warm water makes it soft faster compared to using cold water, but it all depends on when you intend to make the Jamaican rice and peas.
- Wash the beans thoroughly and severally to remove dirt and chemicals that might be used for storage.
- Next, soak the beans and ensure the water completely covers them.
- Add some sprigs of fresh thyme to the soaked beans together with about 3 cloves of garlic; then place on the kitchen top and leave them to rest overnight. Make sure the water used for soaking the beans is clean as you need to use it for cooking the next day.
Using Canned Beans
If you are making your easy Jamaican rice and peas with canned beans, no need to soak the beans. You can skip the soaking process as the canned beans are already cooked. All you need to do is to drain the water from the canned beans and rinse again with clean cold water and add to your pot.
The cooking time will be reduced when using the canned beans. whether to use the liquid that comes with the canned beans is entirely your choice but I prefer draining and rinsing again. You can check the cooking time of the beans from the instructions on the can.
Adding thyme and garlic to the beans helps infuse the flavor of these spices into the beans as well as the water; so you don’t need to throw the water.
Cooking the peas
- In the morning, place a clean pot on the heat and then add the soaked beans into the cooking pot. If the water used for soaking the beans is not enough, you can add 1/2 cup of water or just a glass of water. Instead of water, chicken broth can be added. The chicken broth makes it tastier (chicken broth is commonly used in making rice pilaf).
- Now, season your beans with additional sprigs of thyme, 2 sticks of spring onions, 1/2 tsp of allspice, 1/2 tbsp of all-purpose seasoning, and 1/2 tsp of salt; stir everything.
- Also, add the coconut milk, the green seasoning, and additional garlic if you like. To the same pot, bring in 2 scotch bonnets and then stir and cover the pot. If you want more heat from your spices, you can increase the number of scotch bonnets or simply make a homemade green seasoning that has lots of spicy ingredients in it.
- Now, cook the beans for 1 hour on medium heat until they are fully soft; you can test this by using your fingers to mash the beans. Cooking the beans for an hour helps to ensure the flavor of the ingredients is infused into the beans; it helps the beans to fully cook also.
- As the peas are cooking, wash your basmati rice and drain it in a sieve.
- An hour after cooking the beans, bring in the drained basmati rice; stir everything together and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook the beans and rice for about 15 minutes. Basmati rice doesn’t take long to cook.
- After 15 minutes the water should have dried up and the peas and rice should have been cooked. Turn off the heat, remove the sticks of the thyme, and serve your delicious Jamaican peas and rice recipe.
Served Jamaican rice and peas. It can be eaten with Jerk chicken.
Notes on cooking the Jamaican peas and rice recipe
There is no specific type of beans to be used. In Jamaica, pigeon peas (also named as red gram, arhar, gungo peas, or tur are also used for making this peas and rice recipe. I used red kidney beans for my own version of the Jamaican beans and rice.
Any variety of rice can also be used. I used basmati rice because it is fast in cooking.
There is no ratio of rice to beans to be used. Though it is common to cook more of rice being a common staple food and being carbohydrate-rich, you can adjust the quantities to suit your needs.
This recipe is similar to the Trinidad Pelau Chicken recipe which has chicken added to it.
What can be eaten with Jamaican Rice and Beans?
Traditionally, Jamaican peas and rice can be eaten with Jerk chicken, Jerk Salmon, or Jerk Pork. The Jerk proteins are usually marinated using a spicy Caribbean seasoning known as the Jamaican Jerk seasoning or Jerk Spice; they are then grilled and usually eaten alongside Jamaican rice and peas or with Jamaican pilaf.
This dish is usually eaten on Sundays and it dates back to the days of slavery when the slaves were allowed Sundays only to rest; this gives them time to eat the best meal they love which was rice and peas.
Can it be baked in the oven?
You can bake Jamaican rice and peas in the oven because it will not need much attention as cooking it on the stovetop even though in baking it, you have to first cook the beans until they are soft then baking it together with the rice and spices in the oven.
Other types of cookers such as the pressure cooker, slow cooker, or dutch oven can still be used.
Why do Jamaicans call it rice and peas?
Jamaicans call this recipe rice and peas because beans are referred to as ‘peas‘ in Jamaica. Some common varieties of beans you can find in Jamaica include pigeon peas.
What is the Jamaican Rice and Peas Made of?
The Jamaican rice and peas are made of coconut milk, spices such as pimento (also called Jamaican pepper or allspice), garlic, and herbs such as fresh thyme. The spices and herbs give the beans and rice a unique flavor that fills your kitchen while cooking.