What Is Jamaican Rice & Peas?
Jamaican Rice & Peas dates way back to the days of slavery, which in fact was brought to Jamaica by the Africans during the slave trade. Since then, it has gained the title of “most eaten Jamaican food”. From generation to generation, Jamaicans have been making this dish traditionally so much so that I can guarantee you that there may only be a few occassions where rice & peas don’t make the menu. It has become a typical “Sunday dinner” side dish as well as a “must have” at most weddings, parties, events, funerals and festivals. You can also find this dish on virtually every Jamaican restaurant menu that you may visit.
Rice & Peas actually does happen to be one of my favourite as well. It is very versatile and can be eaten with quite a few different dishes. Most Jamaicans will eat it with brown stew chicken, fried chicken, curry goat or chicken, oxtail, brown stew or escovitched fish to name a few. And definitely with your gravy on top. When cooked authentically it is made from fresh or dried red kidney beans, rice, coconut milk, and other natural seasonings which I will list below. When cooked right it should be fluffy but not too soft, The red beans will give the liquid a nice color and it will taste amazing.
- Red Kidney Beans
- Scotch Bonnet Pepper
- Coconut Milk
- Pimento Berries (not pictured)
- Bacon or Pigtail (not pictured)
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- Some people like to soak their peas overnight especially if they don’t use a pressure cooker. However, I use a pressure cooker and cover the peas with about 4-5 cups of water. Pressure for about 20 minutes and check for softness. At this point it should be soft enough to cut through with a spoon or fork without any resistance.
- If using bacon, cut in medium pieces or small and slightly fry. If using pigtail, just 1 0r 2 small pieces will do, just wash off the excess salt. (If cooking with pigtail, use 1 tsp. less salt).Pigtail may be pressured with the peas.
- When your peas are ready, you should have pre-washed your rice.
- Drain off as much as the peas water as you can into your glass measuring cup to use in addition to your water measurement required.
- Add the rest of ingredients to the peas in a medium pot. Stir to combine together for about 2 minutes.
- Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Stir rice completely, if still not fully cooked or dry, place a piece of Saran Wrap to cover the top of the pot completely and replace lid. This allows further steaming to cook the rice without adding additional water which can make it mushy. Leave covered about another 15-20 minutes, check, fluff with a fork. By this time it should be cooked perfectly.
Authentic Jamaican Rice & Peas
- 3/4 - 1 cup Red Kidney Beans depends on how much peas you like
- 5 cups Water to cook the peas
- 2 cloves Garlic mashed
- 1/2 tsp. Ginger grated
- 2 stalks Scallion roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 5 Pimento Berries
- 2 tsp. Salt (less if cooking with pigtail)
- 1 Tbsp. Butter
- 1-2 pieces Pigtail or 2 strips Bacon (optional)
- 1 whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper
- 15 oz. can Coconut Milk
- 1 cup Water
- 2-1/2 cups White Rice
Measure out your peas and wash. I recommend to use a pressure cooker as it will cook faster. Pour your peas in the pressure cooker, add about 5 cups of water and your 2 cloves of mashed garlic. When hissing starts, time it for 20 minutes. Cool pressure cooker and check if ready. (should be mostly soft and easily cut with a utensil, cut a couple pieces to be sure). If needs to cook longer, you may add a little more water as needed and pressure another 10 minutes. If using pigtail, it can be pressured with the peas.
If using a regular pot, peas could take 1-1/2-2 hours to be ready.
If using bacon, cut into small pieces and fry for a few minutes.
When peas are ready, wash rice and set aside. Drain the remaining water from the peas into a glass measuring cup. You will use a total of 1 cup of water to the rice.
Add the peas and all other ingredients to a medium pot on medium-high heat. Stir until it comes to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover for about 20 minutes. Most of the water should be evaporated.
Stir rice, if not fully cooked, cover the pot top completely with Saran Wrap and replace the cover. Allow it to continue steaming for another 15-20 minutes. Remove cover and saran. At this time it should be cooked. Fluff with fork and serve.