Jamaican Rice and Peas (or Caribbean Red Beans and Coconut Rice) is an easy and flavorful side dish that brings a fun tropical flair to your meal.
Jamaican Rice and Peas
A common side in Jamaican cooking is a dish called “Rice and Peas”. Jamaican dinners, particularly on special occasions, aren’t served with plain white rice.
They jazz up their rice with beans (traditionally Pigeon peas), coconut milk, and a lot of flavor!
What are Pigeon Peas?
Pigeon peas are small round peas that can either be found green (fresh) or brown (dried). They are often used in Latin and Caribbean cooking, and can be found canned or dried in many Latin grocery stores.
Since pigeon peas are not particularly common in all parts of the world, red beans (like kidney) are very often substituted in this Jamaican rice and beans side dish.
Caribbean Coconut Rice and Beans
What really sets Jamaican rice and peas apart is that the rice is cooked with coconut milk, aromatic herbs, and Scotch bonnet chilies.
The coconut milk gives the rice a creamy and lightly sweet flavor. While the herbs and chilies give the dish a savory spice.
But don’t worry, our recipe for rice and beans won’t have you calling for the fire department from a chili pepper overload!
What are Scotch Bonnet Chiles?
Scotch bonnet chiles are native to the Caribbean and are incredibly spicy. We’re talking 40-50 times the heat of a jalapeno.
Small, squat, and bright orange, they kind of look like habanero peppers. And their heat is similar. But, they tend to have more sweetness to their heat than habaneros do. (If you can taste that sweetness through the heat, that is.)
Our Jamaican Rice and Beans Recipe
Instead of tracking down a whole Scotch bonnet pepper for our rice and peas, we’ve made the dish a bit easier (albeit less traditional) by simply adding heat from ground black pepper.
If you have hot peppers on hand, feel free to throw a whole Scotch bonnet or Habanerro pepper into the pot with the rice as it simmers.
If you do use a whole chile, since the pepper is left whole, it shouldn’t add an alarming heat to the dish, rather a more subtle chili flavor and light spice. (But we’d recommend leaving out the black pepper until you taste your rice, just to be sure you like the heat.)
How to Make Jamaican Rice and Peas
The steps to make our recipe for Jamaican rice and beans are quite simple.
- Saute onions and garlic in butter.
- Add rice and seasoning with water and coconut milk and simmer.
- Add your cooked beans and continue cooking until the rice is tender.
- Remove the bay leaf and season with salt.
- Let the rice stand.
- Season with salt to taste.
In the time it takes to cook a pot of rice, you have now made a delicious, coconut-infused, Jamaican dish.
It’s the perfect way to jazz up your typical rice side dish!
What to serve with Jamaican Rice and Peas
This side dish is perfect to serve any time you would typically serve rice. You can dial the heat up or down as you prefer, so the dish is incredibly versatile. You can serve it with robustly flavored main dishes, since the coconut milk adds a cooling effect. Or, you can serve it with more simple main dishes, since the heat and flavor of the rice can add a nice pep to the meal.
Jamaican Rice and Peas (Coconut Rice and Beans)
- ½ tsp unsalted butter
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 c rice, dry
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp thyme
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 c water
- ½ c coconut milk
- ½ c cooked red beans (kidney beans or pigeon peas)
- ½ tsp salt
- Heat butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 1-2 minutes over medium heat.
- Add rice, bay, thyme, pepper, water, and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.
- Add the beans and continue to cook, covered, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 8-10 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and mix in the salt. Let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes to finish steaming.
- Taste the rice and adjust the salt and pepper as desired.
This is one of the recipes from the early days of Curious Cuisiniere. We’ve updated our pictures since we first made it, but we’ve left the original images here as a fun throwback and shout out to how far we’ve come. Enjoy!