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Jamaican rice and peas (beans)

January 17, 2023  Chef Austin Avatar
Jamaican rice and peas (beans)

Close up of Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)

Called “rice and peas” but it’s made with beans! This traditional Jamaican side dish is a coconut rice mixed with red beans, perfumed with spices, and a whisper of warmth from fresh chilli. Excellent accompaniment with all things Jamaican, Caribbean and tropical. Or eat it straight out of the pot!

Close up of Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)

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 🌴

  • MainJerk Fish

  • Side saladJamaican Slaw

  • Side – this Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (beans)

  • Dessert – surprise coming on Thursday!

Jamaican Jerk Fish on a plate with Jamaican Slaw and Coconut Rice & Beans
A plate of Jamaican deliciousness! Big, bold flavoured Jerk Fish, this coconut rice and peas, plus Jamaican Slaw, a tangy vibrant side that completes this plate.

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.

Confused?

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!

Pot of freshly made Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)

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!!!

Ingredients in Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)
  • Rice types – Long grain works best as the grains are 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!


Baking is best for coconut rice

Ordinarily, rice and peas is a dish prepared on the stove. However, I have found that the best way to cook rice with coconut milk is in the oven. The stove tends to scorch the base of the pot due to the sugar in coconut milk. Uneven cooking of rice grains and gluey, sticky rice rather than separate grains are also notorious problems.

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!

How to make Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)
  1. Sauté the garlic, onion, thyme, all spice, bay leaves, scotch bonnet habanero chilli until the onion is translucent – about 3 minutes.

  2. Liquids – Add coconut, water, kidney beans and salt.

  3. 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).

  4. 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!

How to make Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)
  1. 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.

  2. 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!

Pouring cooked Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans) in a bowl

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 a surprise dessert coming on Thursday! 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

Close up of Jamaican Coconut Rice and Peas (Beans)

Print

Jamaican rice and peas

Recipe video above. Perfumed with thyme and all spice with a hint of traditional warmth from fresh chilli, this Jamaican coconut rice makes the perfect side dish for tropical themed foods such as Jerk Fish or Chicken, with a side of Jamaican slaw!

Baking is best – Ordinarily, this dish is prepared on the stove. But I have found through a LOT of testing that rice cooked with coconut milk works much better in the oven. Fluffier, no scorched base, entirely hands off. Try it. You’ll be converted for life!

Course Sides
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican, Tropical!
Keyword jamaican rice and peas, jamaican rice dish, rice and beans, rice and peas
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 6
Author Nagi

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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 with the lid on for 15 minutes then fluff and serve!

Notes

1. 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.

2. Beans – Black beans also works and will look similar. Other beans will work fine too.

3. 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.

4. Rice types – Long grain works best as the grains are will separate best. But you can also use basmati, jasmine and medium grain rice. Recipe will work for sushi rice (short grain rice) but the rice will be stickier (because that’s the nature of the rice). Recipe not suitable for brown rice, risotto (arborio), paella or faux rice (cauliflower, quinoa).

5. Cooking vessel – I use my 26cm / 10.5″ dutch oven. No oven proof pot? Once the liquid with the rice and beans in it comes back up to a simmer, pour everything into a baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and add 5 minutes to the bake time (to allow for the temperature to come back up in the oven).

5. STORAGE: Rice will keep for 2 days in the fridge or freezer for 3 months.

Nutrition per serving, assuming 6 servings.

Life of Dozer

It’s Jamaican week. You know this had to happen…. I’m so predictable! 😂

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