Jamaican rice and peas recipe – Sunday dinner wouldn’t be the same without some Jamaican rice an peas (kidney beans) made with coconut milk and seasoning.
Jamaican rice and peas are an absolute staple within most households. Infact not just Jamaicans but the entire English Caribbean region indulges in this staple dish. Rice and peas aka peas and rice or moros y cristianos are essentially beans, though in the Caribbean especially among the English speaking islands, you’ll find different variants of beans referred to as ‘peas’.
Don’t ask me why Island people refer to beans as peas it’s simply a cultural custom norm which people abide by without questioning. Interestingly enough, the dish itself derives from a Ghanaian cuisine called Waakye, where beans and rice are boiled together, omitting the condiments.
Each Caribbean island has their own prized adaptation of rice and peas, don’t be alarmed if the recipe varies according to each island or even household. I’ve travelled to various Caribbean islands and to be honest with you, the recipe tastes identical to how my grandmother and mother made/taught me how to do it.
I think Cuban Instant pot Moros y Cristianos is probably a stark contrast since they seasoned their rice with cumin, bell peppers, oregano and simmered the rice in water rather than water and coconut milk. Aside from that, it tasted flavoursome, though I did have to ask the lady who was serving me to leave out the pork, another addition to the dish.
The Island tradition of rice and peas
Traditionally you’ll find most people from Caribbean backgrounds eating rice and peas on a Sunday, for dinner usually when church was officially over. There’s no limitations to eating this on a Sunday only, you can eat this any day of the week, however Sunday is the cultural norm.
Living in the diaspora has seen a change in eating habits with people from Caribbean lineage (mainly 2nd -3rd generations) eating more western foods and shunning their traditional food.
Growing up for us, there was no arguing or debate for that matter, you’d eat what was prepared and be grateful. We ALWAYS used dried kidney beans instead of canned beans because it was cost effective and we weren’t in a rush to cook. In all, it took almost 2 days to cook the dish since we’d soak the peas overnight – stage 1 and follow up with boiling and simmering the pot the next day.
How to cook Jamaican rice and peas
This recipe uses the old method of cooking rice and peas – using dried beans. I rarely use canned beans unless I’m extremely busy, I’d much rather follow in my grandmother and mothers foot steps by using their method of slow cooking, it’s more intimate albeit longer. I think because the women were seen as the nurturers they had more time to dedicate to cooking which explains why dried beans were probably a preference.
Can I use canned beans instead of dried kidney beans?
Yes, you can of course used canned beans, with that being said, the water levels will change, as I used quite a bit of water to compensate the absorption levels of the peas and brown rice. The beans will need to soak overnight to soften and exude a dark hue – rinse the peas several times prior to soaking.
Overall, this may seem challenging for a novice BUT it’s really not that difficult once you master the ratio of water or dried goods. It took me awhile to do so myself namely because the women in my family used white rice which you know is processed and has no place on my blog.
The brown rice and peas method
The brown rice gives a mild nutty taste, nothing that overpowers/ dulls the taste it’s very complimentary and of course brown rice is full of fibre.
It’s ability to expand and act as a internal sweeper, cleaning up the waste and expelling it from the body is remarkable, for some the slow breaking down mechanism can cause digestive problems/sensitivities….therefore sprouted grains are also a good digestive friendly choice to substitute with.
Is it possible to make Jamaican rice and peas without coconut milk?
Yes, you can omit the use of coconut milk if you want BUT….this wouldn’t be in line with the traditional way of making it. Coconut milk is an essential ingredient for authenticity. Some people use a block of coconut cream instead but if coconut in general is a problem then you may make it with water alone. There’s is no substitute for coconut milk that will yield the same results.
Why did my rice and peas look so pale?
I see so many recipes that misrepresent Caribbean/Jamaica rice and peas with a pale or washed out look. The reason for this is because SO many people throw away the water that is used to soak the “peas”. When leaving your kidney beans to soak overnight DO NOT THROW THAT WATER AWAY.
That water is like liquid gold to your recipe, you need it for colour. Once tossed out this step is irreversible until you decide to soak more peas.
Why did my rice and peas turn out soft and/or mushy?
Two reasons why this might have occured ;
- You over stirred the rice during cooking
- You used too much water or added too much water to the pot.
You can remedy soft rice by leaving the pot to cook away on the stove uncovered so the excess moisture evaporates or transfer the rice into a ovenproof dish and baking off the additional water. If you do find yourself having to add more water ALWAYS add a little at a time.
What can I serve rice and peas with?
Jamaican Rice and peas
- 3/4 cup of red kidney beans peas(soaked in 7 cups of water)
- 1 1/2 cups of brown rice
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1 tbsp of thyme or 4 sprigs
- 1-2 tsp of himalayan pink salt
- 2 scallions sliced
- 1 small onion sliced
- 3 garlic cloves sliced
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
- 2 pimento berries optional
- 1 whole scotch bonnet optional
- Bring the peas in water with the garlic, onion and scallion to the boil and reduce to medium.
- Cover the saucepan with the lid and simmer for 1hr - 1hr 15 minutes - check the water levels throughout this time as it will have reduced by half, anything lower than that add a cup of hot water.
- Check the readiness of the peas by using a slotted spoon to remove a few and mashing them. If they mash with ease, they are ready for the next step.
- Add the coconut milk and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes before adding the rice, thyme, scotch bonnet, pink salt, ginger and pimento and stir.
- Allow to slowly simmer for 40-45 minutes, low-medium heat check frequently to ensure the rice doesn't burn and absorption levels.
- After 45 minutes the rice should be soft, fluffy (not sticky).