Jamaican Rice And Peas – An Authentic Caribbean Side Dish

Jamaican rice and peas are a staple side dish in many kitchens because of their versatility! It’s an incredibly easy recipe to make. But it does require time and focus. It is extremely flavorful and filling. And it makes a delicious, neutral side for any meal.

If you’d like, you can play around with the seasonings and adjust them to your liking. And, if you are feeling adventurous, you can add other herbs and spices that will pair well with your main dish.

You can serve this rice and pea recipe alongside my Jamaican Beef Patties or my Jamaican Fried Dumplings.

Jamaican Rice And Peas on a plate.

What Is Jamaican Rice And Peas?

This Caribbean dinner is one of the simplest and most popular Jamaican side dishes that you can prepare. It is incredibly easy to make, despite taking some time. This dish is loaded with flavor and will help fill you up quickly!

But what exactly are Jamaican rice and peas? It’s simple: this dish consists of mainly white rice, fresh coconut milk, red kidney beans, and Scotch bonnet peppers. There are many aromatics included in the recipes. Most of them will almost always include onions, garlic, and thyme.

Then, depending on the household and even region you find this dish in, they can also contain pimento seeds, stock or broth powder, and chili. It really varies a lot, and that’s part of why so many people love rice and peas.

But now you may be asking, where are the peas?

Well, in Jamaica, they commonly refer to beans as peas. I know. It can get pretty confusing. And while it’s technically not correct, that’s just the way it is.

Why do the Jamaicans eat rice and peas on Sundays?

Rice and peas are a traditional dish in Jamaica that’s traditionally served on Sundays. It was, and still is, considered a special meal to be enjoyed on the weekend after a hard week of work.

The combination of rice and beans is also unique because it provides all the essential nutrients for a balanced diet. In other words, it’s not just delicious, it’s healthy too!

Jamaican Rice And Peas on a plate and in a Dutch oven.

What You Will Need To Make Jamaican Rice And Peas Recipe

First, you will need some rice and red kidney beans. You can use any type of white long or medium-grain rice. Just don’t use a starchy type of rice or short-grain rice. It will make the meal clumpy and sticky, not fluffy.

The canned kidney beans are first cooked in a combination of water and garlic. Once cooked, you will add coconut milk. You can also use coconut cream for a richer and thicker dish. This is also when you add the seasoning ingredients.

My Jamaican rice and peas recipe contains simple aromatics including onions, scallions (green onions), thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento seeds, margarine, Maggi seasoning, and salt. It may seem like a lot, but most of these are pretty standard in a kitchen, especially if you love South American and African cuisine.

After the mixture is left to simmer for a while, you can add the washed white rice. 

All that’s left to do is allow the rice to cook until it becomes tender and has a thick consistency.

Jamaican Rice And Peas placed on a pot on top of a wood board.

Tips And Tricks

  • This recipe is simple to make, but it does require careful observation. You need to ensure that you always have enough liquid to cook the beans and rice. If the mixture is too dry, it could cause the ingredients to burn, dry out completely, and lose all of their flavor.
  • If you use dried kidney beans, your cooking time will be significantly longer. Canned beans are already tenderized and to some extent, partially cooked. It helps a lot to soak the dried beans before starting the cooking process.
  • You can also use your preferred canned beans, black-eyed, pigeon peas (aka gungo peas), or even dried kidney beans if you can’t find one. Just remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • The most important thing to remember is the ratio of beans to rice. The standard ratio in Jamaica is 1:2, meaning one part beans to two parts rice. Adjust this ratio according to your preferred texture–a higher ratio of beans will result in a softer texture while a lower ratio will be firmer.
  • When cooking, it is recommended to use unsweetened coconut milk instead of water for added flavor and texture. The result should be a flavorful, creamy rice that is just the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

How to Serve Jamaican Rice and Peas

This Jamaican rice and peas recipe is usually served with a piece of grilled fish or jerk chicken. It can also be enjoyed as a standalone dish, especially when cooked with pieces of vegetables like carrots and green beans. You can even serve it over grilled shrimp skewers or sriracha chicken wings for an extra flavor boost.

Recipe Variations

There are many variations of the classic Caribbean recipe.

  • For a vegetarian version, you can substitute the traditional pork fat with olive oil or butter as a healthier alternative.
  • You can top off the recipe with some freshly chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish.
  • For an extra spicy kick, you can add some freshly minced jalapeños or habaneros.

How to Store and Reheat Jamaican Rice and Peas

Fridge: To store, you should allow them to cool completely before transferring them into a container. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Freezer: You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. To do this, transfer them into a freezer-safe bag or container. When ready to eat, allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating on the stovetop.

Reheat: The best way to reheat beans and rice is on the stovetop over low heat for 10-15 minutes until heated through. You can also use a microwave, but the rice won’t be as moist or flavorful.

Jamaican Rice And Peas.


Why Are My Rice And Peas Soggy?

It’s because you used too much liquid. It is crucial that you monitor the liquid levels before simply adding more. If you need to reduce the water levels, cook the ingredients without a lid to help the water evaporate.

How Can You Reheat Jamaican Rice And Peas?

I recommend using the microwave. It’s the quickest and easiest method to use. Fluff the leftover rice and peas and place them in a large container. Cover the top with plastic wrap. Poke a single small hole in the center.

Microwave the dish for roughly 2-4 minutes. The build-up of moisture will help keep the rice and peas moist and prevent them from drying out.

Are there any substitutes for coconut milk?

Absolutely! If you’re not a fan of coconut milk, you can always substitute it with canned evaporated milk or even half-and-half. The flavor won’t be quite the same, but it will still offer plenty of creaminess to your rice dish.

Alternatively, some people prefer to use water in place of coconut milk. This is an especially good option for those who are watching their calorie intake or trying to keep the dish vegan-friendly.

Is it better to use dried or canned beans for Jamaican rice and peas?

The short answer is that it really depends on your preference and the amount of time you have available. If you’re pressed for time, then using canned beans can be a great shortcut.

However, dried beans tend to taste better and are more economical in the long run. Plus, they give you the opportunity to add additional flavorings such as garlic, thyme, or bay leaves.

Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to make sure your beans are cooked through before adding them to the dish.

Can I make this Rice and beans recipe in an Instant Pot?

Yes, absolutely! Cooking rice dish can be easily adapted to the Instant Pot. Start by sautéing your aromatics (onion, garlic, etc.) in the pot using vegetable oil or butter. Once those have softened, add the rice and beans and any other seasonings you’d like to use.

Then add enough liquid to cover the beans and rice, making sure to not exceed the max fill line. Close and seal your Instant Pot then cook on high pressure for around 10-15 minutes, depending on your ingredients.

Once done, let the pressure release naturally before opening your instant pot and stirring in any additional seasonings (if desired).

More Jamaican recipes

Jamaican Rice and Peas served with curry.

Jamaican Rice And Peas – An Authentic And Easy Side Dish

Jamaican rice and peas are a simple recipe to prepare. As the name suggests, it contains red kidney peas and rice, mixed with a variety of authentic Jamaican flavors including coconut, pimento peppers, Scotch bonnets, and thyme.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 8
Calories 412 kcal


  • 2 cups canned red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups fresh coconut milk
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 scallion stalks (green onions), chopped
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, pierced or habanero pepper
  • 4 Pimento seeds, crushed
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 1 tbsp Maggi all-purpose seasoning
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups white rice, washed or any long grain white rice


Cooking the beans

  • To start, rinse the canned kidney beans twice to remove any dirt.
  • Once rinsed, place them in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and the garlic cloves.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Check the progress often and give the beans a stir to prevent them from burning.
  • Once the first 2 cups of water have evaporated, add the remaining water and allow the beans to cook until they become tender.

Create the flavored base

  • Once the beans have become tender, gently stir in the coconut milk. Make sure it's mixed in well.
  • Then, add the sliced onion, chopped scallions, fresh thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper, pimento seeds, margarine, Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Again, give the ingredients a good stir.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and leave it to cook for 20 minutes. Stir it often to prevent it from burning. Remember to scrape the sides and base so the flavors are completely blended.
  • Finally, add the sugar and boil the mixture for 10 minutes.

Cooking the rice

  • Once the rice mixture is the same color as the beans and has a thick stew-like consistency, it's time to add the washed white rice.
  • The rice should be 1 inch below the liquid line. So, if there isn't enough water, add a little bit more. Make sure to stir the ingredients well to check the water level before adding more.
  • Cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the rice to simmer. Keep an eye on the mixture to prevent it from burning.
  • Once all of the liquid has evaporated, lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Leave it to steam until the rice is tender while stirring occasionally.
  • Serve your Jamaican rice and peas immediately with your main dish and an accompanying sauce. You can serve it as a main dish or a side.


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 412kcalCarbohydrates: 93gProtein: 12gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 640mgPotassium: 514mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 191IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 67mgIron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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