Rice and peas is a Jamaican side dish of coconut rice mixed with red beans, perfumed with spices, and a whisper of warmth from fresh chilli. Traditionally cooked on the stove but I find it much safer to cook in the oven as coconut milk has a tendency to catch on the base.
Excellent accompaniment with all things Jamaican, Caribbean and tropical. Or eat it straight out of the pot!
Welcome back to Jamaican week!
It’s Jamaican week here on RecipeTin Eats! A week where I’m sharing a set of recipes so you can enjoy a Jamaican-themed dinner in the comfort of your own home! Here’s the menu:
🌴 Jamaican menu 🌴
Jamaican coconut rice and peas (beans!)
Rice and peas is a staple side dish in Jamaica and much of the Caribbean. Though called rice and peas, it’s actually made with beans! The reason this name came to be is because Jamaicans call red kidney beans peas – though funnily enough, other varieties of beans are called beans.
That’s ok. All you need to know is that this coconut rice is delicious and any day it makes an appearance on your dinner plate is a good day!
What you need for Jamaican rice and peas
Remember – Jamaican’s call this dish rice and peas but it’s made with red kidney beans, not peas. So there’s no peas in sight!!!
Rice types – Long grain works best as the grains will separate best. But you can also use basmati, jasmine and medium grain rice. Recipe will also work for sushi rice (short grain rice) but the rice will be stickier (because that’s the nature of the rice).
Rice types not suitable for this recipe – brown rice, risotto (arborio), paella or faux rice (cauliflower, quinoa).
Red kidney beans – Traditionally, dried beans are used which require overnight soaking. I’ve opted for canned for convenience.
Other beans – Black beans also works and will look similar. Other beans will work fine too but will make the end dish look different..
Scotch bonnet or habanero chilli – This adds a subtle hint of heat and flavour into this dish. Authentic! But you can skip it, if you prefer not spicy.
Scotch bonnet is traditional but hard to find here in Sydney, so Habanero makes a great sub (sold at Coles, Woolies, some Harris Farms) else use a large red cayenne pepper or 1 birds eye chilli.
Coconut milk – Not all coconut milk is created equal! Cheaper = less coconut %, more water = less coconut flavour. Aim for > 70% (I use Ayam which is 89%). Check the ingredients label. Low fat – doesn’t have as good a coconut flavour. But it will work.
Dried thyme – A commonly used dried herb in Caribbean cooking.
All spice – For beautiful warmth, another ingredient that makes a regular appearance in Caribbean food! Also used in Jerk seasoning (see Jerk Fish). Substitute with mixed spice.
Bay leaf – Earthy aromatic. Fresh is best if you can, else dried.
Garlic and onion – Essential aromatics that we sauté with butter and the spices. So good!
Butter – You can use oil if you prefer, but butter is better flavour!
Note on authenticity
(Because I got some very cranky messages about the authenticity of this recipe!)
Traditionally, rice and peas is prepared on the stove using dried beans which are soaked overnight. I choose to use canned beans for convenience, and I cook the rice in the oven rather than stove because I find it is the best fuss-free, least risky way to cook rice with coconut milk.
While coconut rice can be successfully and well cooked on the stove, it does require exactness of stove strength, a good pot and certain coconut milk quantities (thin consistency but good coconut flavour, hard to find in ordinary Western grocery stores). The oven is much easier for home cooks!
Avoid the stress. Use your oven! Trust me on this. My team and I tested coconut rice over 30 times to perfect it for my cookbook. It’s taken almost 8 months before we could face a coconut rice recipe again!!
How to make Jamaican rice and peas
This recipe starts off on the stove to sauté the aromatics then is finished in the oven so your coconut rice will come out beautifully fluffy every single time. No more mushy coconut rice, ever again!
Sauté the garlic, onion, thyme, all spice, bay leaves, scotch bonnet habanero chilli until the onion is translucent – about 3 minutes.
Liquids – Add coconut, water, kidney beans and salt.
Rice – Once it comes to a simmer, add rice then give it a quick stir. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface, immediately cover then transfer to oven.
Don’t have an ovenproof pot? Transfer to a baking dish once the liquid is simmering, cover tightly with foil and add 5 minutes to the bake time (to give it time to come up to temperature in the oven).
Bake for 40 minutes. All the liquid should be absorbed (tilt to check) though you will have some coconut cream on the surface.
If you taste the rice at this stage, most grains will still have a small amount of firmness in the middle and be wetter than ideal. This self corrects in the next step when we rest!
Rest 15 minutes – Leave the pot on the counter with the lid on for 15 minutes. During this step, the rice grains will finish cooking so they are tender all the way through, and each grain of rice will absorb the liquid sitting on the surface when you first pull it out of the oven. This is what makes rice fluffy rather than ending up with a pot of mushy rice!
Usually plain rice is rested for only 10 minutes. But for coconut rice, the extra 5 minutes makes all the difference due to the thickness of the coconut milk which takes longer to be absorbed. If you only rest for 10 minutes, the grains will be slightly firmer than ideal and the surface is stickier.
Fluff and serve! Pick out the chilli and bay leave, if you want. Fluff with a rice paddle or rubber spatula, then tumble the rice into a bowl and serve!
What to serve with Jamaican rice and peas (beans!)
Today’s recipe comes as part of a set of recipes for a Jamaican dinner menu. Jerk fish for the main, a tangy tropical Jamaican Slaw, this rice and peas and rum and raisin ice cream (without an ice cream maker) for dessert! See top of post for photo of your Jamaican dinner plate.
As a Jamaican staple dish that’s popular across the Caribbean, rice and peas will be a perfect accompaniment with any dish from this region. But I wouldn’t stop there! Anything tropical or with tropical(ish!) vibes, seafood and citrus flavours would be a fitting match. Think – Huli Huli Hawaiian chicken, lime chicken, Lemon garlic pork chops, steak with chimichurri sauce (yes!) garlic prawns or a beautiful piece of fresh fish with crispy skin finished with a simple squeeze of lemon.
So many possibilities! Share your suggestions for what you’d pair this Jamaican rice with! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Jamaican rice and peas
- 50g / 3 tbsp unsalted butter (or 2 tbsp canola or veg oil)
- 2 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 1 small onion , finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp all spice powder (sub mixed spice)
- 2 bay leaves , preferably fresh
- 1 scotch bonnet or habanero chilli – any colour (optional), keep whole (Note 1)
- 2 x 400g / 14oz cans red kidney beans , drained (Note 2)
- 1 x 400 ml / 14oz coconut milk , full fat (Note 3)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp cooking salt
- 2 cups long grain white rice (Note 4)
- Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan).
- Sauté aromatics – Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium or large ovenproof pot (Note 5). Cook garlic, onion, thyme, all spice, bay leaves, scotch bonnet until onion is translucent (~ 3 minutes).
- Add coconut milk, water, beans and salt. Once it comes to a simmer, add rice then give it a quick stir. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface, immediately cover then transfer to oven.
- Bake for 40 minutes. All liquid should be absorbed (tilt to check) though you will have some coconut cream on the surface.
- Rest – Leave the pot on the counter with the lid on for 15 minutes. Then fluff and serve!
Life of Dozer
It’s Jamaican week. You know this had to happen…. I’m so predictable! 😂