Jamaica Rice and Peas Dish

Jamaica Rice and peas is made up of rice cooked in pre-cooked red kidney beans and seasoned in a unique Jamaican way. However, other peas and beans such as gungo peas (pidgeon peas), black eye peas, red beans are also used to make rice and peas.

There is usually a lot of green gungo peas available in December, so Christmas rice and peas in Jamaica is usually made with green gungo peas.

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Jamaica Green Gungo Rice and Peas

Rice and peas is a major part of Jamaicans’ staple diet. It is served to compliment almost every Jamaican dish – chicken, curries, stew, jerk, fish, ackee and salt fish – you name it and it is especially served as part of the Sunday dinner.  

Jamaica Rice and Peas recipe

How to cook Jamaica Rice and Peas I hear you thinking!  Ok, here is how I cook rice and peas using the dried kidney beans or peas.

Jamaica dried red peas

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My rice and peas recipe. 

  • 1 cup kidney (140g) dried kidney beans or peas of your choice – enough water to cook.
  • 2 cups ((230g) rice 
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of scallion 

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  • Sprig or two of thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 sachet or 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 2 oz (60g) butter
  • 1 Jamaican country pepper (scotch bonnet) (use whole for flavour)

Jamaica Rice and Peas

Red peas rice and peas


  • Wash one cup of dried kidney beans/peas and place in a medium size pan with about 4 cups of water;  leave to sit overnight or for a few hours – soaking softens the beans and reduces cooking time.
  • Place the pan with beans on medium heat; add salt to taste and bring to the boil, reduce heat and cover and leave to cook until tender.  Cooking time for dried beans varies between 60 to 80 mins. 
  •  Check to ensure water has not boiled away, add more water when necessary. 
  •  Keep checking and until beans are cooked. ** 

  • When beans are ready, add seasoning, coconut milk, whole pepper and butter to pan and simmer for about 3 mins. 
  • Ensure that there are about 4 cups of liquid in the pan before adding rice which includes the coconut milk.  (measure if necessary). 
  • Wash and add two cups of your preferred rice (white or brown) and fold in with peas. 
  •  Reduce the heat to very low and leave to simmer while the rice cooks. 
  •  After simmering for 10/12 mins check if rice is cooked. 
  •  If not, leave for another few mins and check again.    

Jamaica Rice and Peas

** Ensure beans are cooked to taste before adding rice.

NB: Feel free to add more or substitute the seasonings.  Remove remnants of crushed garlic and whole pepper before serving.  The coconut milk gives it that authentic Jamaican taste but if you don’t like coconut milk, you can leave that out too.

When done the rice and kidney beans/peas will combine and should be loose and easy to serve.  Serve with your favourite meat or vegetarian dish.

If using fresh green gungo or other green beans, you will  need to cook the green beans for 30/40 mins before adding seasonings and rice.

Jamaican Green Gungo Peas

Traditional Jamaican cooks (mostly seniors) may insist on home made coconut milk by grating the dried coconut and extracting the milk but adding water and straining. 

The nearest to this type of preparation(for the modern cook) is to cut the dried coconut in small pieces and blend with water and strain.

If you want to jazz up your rice and peas to the max, try preparing the coconut milk the from - it really does make a difference but for me, I will take the much easier route of the tinned  or already prepared coconut milk available in most supermarkets.  Sachets with dried coconut milk are also available.

If there is no time to soak dried beans the next best way to cook them quickly is in a pressure cooker.  

If you use a rice cooker, combine the rice with the cooked beans/peas, coconut milk and seasoning and place everything in your rice cooker and set your timer.

If you have no time to cook dried beans/peas - You can use tinned kidney bean/peas which are already cooked.

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