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Jamaican Rice and Peas

Jamaican rice and peas are a must-have for any get together, gathering, and weeknight meal. Pair the flavorful rice dish with roasted meat, curry, or stew for a classic Sunday dinner. 

Jamaican rice and peas in a serving bowl.

History of Jamaican Rice and Peas

Originating from West Africa, Jamaican rice and peas are a staple dish in Jamaican cuisine with a history that dates back to the 17th century. Make the dish with long-grain rice cooked in coconut milk and season it with spices and herbs, most commonly thyme, scallions, and allspice, and usually served with beans or peas (red kidney beans being the most popular). The dish is considered a symbol of Jamaican culture and cuisine.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Coconut Milk: Full-fat coconut milk provides a nice, creamy flavor to balance the heat of the other ingredients.
  • Spices: Season the rice and peas with kosher salt and a Maggie Bouillon cube. Bouillon cubes aren’t commonly added to rice and peas, but I love the savoriness it adds. Feel free to leave it out and stick with coconut milk seasoned with salt for authenticity.
  • Rice: Use long-grained white rice.
  • Scallions: Sautéed scallions lend a nice peppery finish.
  • Garlic: I suggest using four cloves, but don’t let my recipe tell you how much garlic to use- measure with your heart.
  • Aromatics: The whole allspice berries or pimento seeds and fresh thyme infuse the rice with earthy flavor.
  • Scotch Bonnet: Scotch bonnets bring traditional heat and flavor, but if you don’t have access to the chili, use a habanero pepper. Leave the scotch bonnet whole for sweet heat that doesn’t overwhelm the dish. And if you want it to be spicier, slice the pepper before adding it to the rice.
  • Beans: A more traditional option for this meal is pigeon peas (known in Jamaica as gunga peas). However, kidney beans are more accessible in the U.S. You can also use black-eyed peas or black beans. I use canned beans to make this recipe quick and easy, but you can also take the time to soak, rinse, and cook red kidney beans if you don’t mind a little extra work (it’s worth it).

Additions and Substitutions

  • Liquid: I cook the rice in coconut milk, but feel free to use broth or water.
  • Beans: Replace kidney beans with black-eyed peas or black beans; you can also use dried beans instead of canned ones.
  • Rice: Use brown rice instead of white rice. However, you may need to increase the cooking time.

How to make Jamaican Rice and Peas

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Warm one tablespoon of avocado oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering; add the rice and toast until it becomes golden, for about 5 minutes.

Rice and garlic toasting in a pan.

Step 2: Pour coconut milk into a saucepan and add salt and a crushed Maggie Bouillon Cube. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat.

Coconut milk boiling in a pan.

Step 3: Add garlic to the toasting rice and cook for about 2 minutes.

Rice and garlic toasting in a pan.

Step 4: Pour the boiling coconut milk mixture over the rice and stir to combine. Add the scallions, allspice berries, habanero pepper, kidney beans, and thyme sprigs.

Let it come to a boil. Then, reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender for 10-15 minutes.

Coconut milk, green onion, and herbs added to the rice.

Step 5: Remove the rice from the heat and fluff it with a fork. Cover with the lid and set it aside to steam for 5 minutes before serving.

Jamaican rice and peas in a serving bowl.

Expert Tips

  • Wash the rice until the water runs clear; this removes excess starch and impurities and prevents the rice from clumping as it cooks.
  • Increase the water ratio by two tablespoons if you’re making rice at a high elevation.
  • Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South Western United States, but I love the nutty flavor that comes from toasting the rice before cooking it. This is not a common practice in Jamaican cuisine, so feel free to skip it and begin with boiling the coconut milk and adding the rice if you prefer.

If you enjoy this side dish, try one of these rice recipes!

Jamaican rice and peas in a serving bowl.

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
  • Freeze: Let the dish cool, then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container. Jamaican rice and peas freezes for 6 months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the rice in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Warm the leftovers in the microwave or stovetop, and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of beans do you use?

I use kidney beans to make Jamaican rice and beans, but a more classic option would be to use pigeon peas if you have access to them.

Can I prepare this recipe in advance?

You sure can. Prepare the rice, add it to an airtight container, and store it for 3-5 days until you’re ready to serve.

More Caribbean Recipes:

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Jamaican rice and peas in a serving bowl.

Jamaican Rice and Beans

Tressa Jamil
Jamaican rice and peas are a staple for get-togethers and gatherings; pair the flavorful side with roasted meat or stew for a classic Sunday dinner.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 222 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
  • 2 cups coconut milk, full-fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Maggie bouillon cube, crushed or 1½ teaspoon of powder
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 2 scallions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 scotch bonnet or habanero
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
Instructions
 
  • Warm one tablespoon of avocado oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering; add the rice and toast until it becomes golden, for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Pour coconut milk into a saucepan and add salt and a crushed Maggie Bouillon Cube. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  • Add garlic to the toasting rice and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Pour the boiling coconut milk mixture over the rice and stir to combine. Add the scallions, allspice berries, habanero pepper, kidney beans, and thyme sprigs. Let it come to a boil. Then, reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the rice from the heat and fluff it with a fork. Cover with the lid and set it aside to steam for 5 minutes before serving.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • Wash the rice until the water runs clear; this removes excess starch and impurities and prevents the rice from clumping as it cooks.
  • Increase the water ratio by two tablespoons if you’re making rice at a high elevation.
  • Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South Western United States, but I love the nutty flavor that comes from toasting the rice before cooking it. This is not a common practice in Jamaican cuisine, so feel free to skip it and begin with boiling the coconut milk and adding the rice if you prefer.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 222 kcal | Carbohydrates: 32 g | Protein: 6 g | Fat: 7 g | Sodium: 475 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 10 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




Annie

Monday 13th of February 2023

Easy to prepare and tasted very good! We enjoyed it with your jerk chicken recipe.

Tressa Jamil

Monday 13th of February 2023

Yep, it's perfect with jerk chicken. I am so glad you enjoyed it. And if you haven't tried it yet, this is our recipe for Jamaican Chicken Fricassee