Rice and Peas

I don’t know where to start describing Rice and Peas Jamaican style...Really! Because I have been asked on several occasions to define this combination dish regarding one ingredient—the red kidney bean—it is clear that either we Jamaicans got it wrong, or the world needs to catch up with us defining red peas.

Of course, I don’t care if it’s described as a bean or pea, as this has nothing to do with the taste.

The fact is we’re not going to call it anything other than what we’ve been used to saying.

It if matters to the right-naming convention crowd to stand firm in any useless bellow regarding ‘red peas’ and the dish itself, go for it…Yah Mon!

Understood as the standard staple for Jamaican Sunday dinners, rice and peas accompanied with meat or fish, is the yard stick by which some people decide if your dinner invitation is worth the effort.  

While this fare is served in Jamaican restaurants as the foundation on which all dishes are made, the truth is this rich combination needs very little to enhance it. The coconut milk and thyme do a very good job flavoring this dish.

As such, the richness of both with the scallion and an optional scotch bonnet pepper to further twist this combination is simply delicious...Wow. Mouth-watering! Yah Mon!

However you like your red kidney beans with rice, also known as peas and rice in the eastern Caribbean, please remember it is your choice to make it the way you like.

Now, there are the people who will swear on the cross that Gungo (pigeon peas) rice and peas is the right combination and that red peas is only common because of economic factors beyond our discussion at this point. 

Well, if there is one thing I can conjure up to offset that view is Gungo is seasonal. In addition, it is not commercially available on every store shelf or even in the open marketplace.

And, on top of that, Gungo is in a class by itself: not known around the world as a partner for rice. We, in the Caribbean, are the only people who place such faith in Gungo as well.

As it stands, red peas (kidney beans) are usually the first choice when making Sunday dinner…Nuff Said.

Rice and Peas


  • ½ lb. Red Peas (Red Kidney Beans)
  • 1lb. Rice
  • 12 oz. Coconut Milk (not water)
  • 1 Stlk. Scallion (Green Onions)
  • 2 sprg. Thyme
  • 2 tblsp. Salt.
  • 1 tblsp. Margarine (optional)
  • 1 Qt. Water


Wash peas and remove any foreign matter, if present. Wash scallion and remove only the outer layer.

Add peas and salt to water and boil peas in a 2-quart stock pot until medium soft, on medium heat.

The water will evaporate during the boiling process, so add more warm water to the pot.

Here is the trick to making this rice and peas nice and shelly.

As you may know, rice is usually cooked using a two to one ratio; two equal parts of water to one part of rice, or close to it.

So, add the coconut milk, thyme and scallion to the cooked peas and let this combination boil for about 5 minutes, then taste the pot. Add more salt to taste.

Now estimate the amount of water in the pot to the ratio of the rice you have. Try to get a two to one ratio or as close to it as possible.

Add the rice to the ingredients and stir, using a fork.

Add the margarine to the rice and peas and then reduce to a low heat. Wait until the boiling water in the pot sinks just below the top of the rice.

Wet a piece of cellophane and cover the rice then cover the pot with the pot cover. Simmer until rice is soft and shelly.


This is making rice & peas from “scratch”, as everyone would say. But you can use canned red kidney beans if you would like to, you know.

You wouldn't need to cook the red beans for any long length of time either, Cool?

I would like you to try to experiment with this recipe any way you like. For example, the coconut milk can be omitted from this dish….it will taste just as good, believe me I have tried it like that already.

Another thing, if you want a true spicy Jamaican food flavor, add a Scotch Bonnet Pepper to the pot the same time you are putting in the scallion and thyme….

YAH MON!!! Return to Jamaican Cooking from Rice and Peas