Jamaican rice and peas is a delicious staple recipe that goes great with rich Caribbean stews and curries, and it’s super simple to make!
I absolutely love Jamaican food! I was first introduced to this delectable cuisisne by my college roommate, Sade. I remember the first time she brought brown stew chicken, rice and peas, stewed cabbage and sweet plantains to our college dorm room after coming back from a family visit. One taste and I was hooked!
When I visited Jamaica on a cruise to visit the Dunns River Falls, I made sure to indulge in traditional recipes like this one. I also learned a lot of history about this recipe while traveling throughout Jamaica.
Rice and peas has a rich history rooted in the country’s African heritage and the influence of the Caribbean slave trade. During the transatlantic slave trade, African slaves were brought to Jamaica to work on sugar plantations. They brought with them their culinary traditions, including methods of preparing rice and peas. The availability of rice and peas in Jamaica was influenced by the trade routes between Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas.
Coconut cultivation also played a significant role in the development of Jamaican cuisine, as coconuts were brought to the Caribbean by European explorers and were cultivated on plantations. Coconut milk, a key ingredient in rice and peas, adds richness and depth to the dish.
Over time, rice and peas became a beloved and integral part of Jamaican cuisine, served on various occasions, including holidays, family gatherings, and celebrations. The dish reflects the cultural diversity of Jamaica, incorporating African, Caribbean, and European culinary elements.
Today, rice and peas is a symbol of Jamaican identity and is enjoyed not only in Jamaica but also by people around the world who appreciate the unique and delicious flavors of Caribbean cuisine. Different regions and families in Jamaica may have their own variations of the dish, adding to its diverse and vibrant culinary tradition.
This is one of my favorite things about travel. You can really learn a lot about a culture through its cuisine.
Jamaican food reminds me a lot of other Caribbean cuisines, as it features lots of delicious spices, rich stews, and familiar ingredients like rice and plantains. While I didn’t grow up eating Jamaican food, but now that I’ve had it, I can’t get enough.
Why do Jamaicans call it rice and peas?
Traditionally, this dish is made with pigeon peas (also known as gungo peas), hence the name. However, you’ll often see this dish also made with red kidney beans, which Jamaicans refer to as red peas.
What is Jamaican rice and peas made of?
This rice-based dish features long-grain rice and pigeon peas or kidney beans, cooked in a flavorful coconut milk-based broth. The broth is flavored with scallions (green onions), garlic, onion, ginger, thyme, allspice, bay leaves and Scotch Bonnet peppers.
What to serve with rice and peas?
Jamaican rice and peas are very similar to Puerto Rican arroz con gandules, it goes well with just about anything! This dish goes great with all kinds of Jamaican stews and curries. I’m particularly fond of serving it with my recipes for Caribbean jerk wings or Jamaican brown stew chicken.
Check out these other Caribbean-inspired recipes from Delish D’Lites:
- Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken
- Grilled Caribbean Jerk Chicken Wings
- Caribbean Spiced Rum Cake Recipe
- Colombian Arroz Con Coco (Coconut Rice)
- Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Drink, Egg-Free & Vegan Versions)
- Plantain Cups with Shrimp and Avocado Salad
- Puerto Rican Pasteles De Yuca
- Puerto Rican Pinchos De Pollo (Chicken Kabobs)
- Cuban Sandwich Empanadas (Air Fryer Option Included!)
Jamaican Rice & Peas
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 1 15-ounce can pigeon peas, undrained
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 3 scallions finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper subsitute with a Habanero pepper
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste, if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups long-grain white rice rinsed and drained
Preheat your dutch oven or pot on medium heat.
Add the butter or olive oil, then add the onion & scallion. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until fragrant and softened, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn.
Add the garlic, ginger and allspice. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
Add the coconut milk, thyme, bay leaves, Scotch Bonnet/habanero, water, salt and pepper, then bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the pigeon peas and rice, then stir and allow the mixture to return to a boil.
Allow the rice to cook uncovered. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface, immediately stir the rice, then lower the heat to low and cover.
Simmer for 25-30 minutes over low heat, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
Remove and discard the thyme stems, bay leaves, and Scotch bonnet. Serve hot.
This recipe freezes very well. Store in a ziplock bag for up to 3 months. To reheat, transfer the rice to a microwave-safe container, cover it with plastic wrap, and microwave the rice for 4-5 minutes, or until hot.