An authentic Jamaican side dish, rice, and peas (beans) are naturally vegan and made with creamy coconut milk, thyme, and allspice berries.
When we first started eating at our go-to local Jamaican restaurant, Irie Kitchen, there was one dish that captured the love and affection of my boys immediately: rice and peas. In fact, during my recent visit to Jamaica, they were on almost every menu!
For added flavor and aromatics, the cooking water is seasoned with fresh thyme, onion, garlic, allspice berries, scallions, and Scotch bonnet pepper. If you want to keep the dish mild, skip the Scotch bonnet pepper.
Frequently asked questions:
What is Jamaican rice and peas?
A traditional food hailing from the African continent, rice and peas first became popular in Ghana. Despite the name, there are no garden peas in the recipe. Instead, there are beans that are referred to as ‘peas’ in the Caribbean.
What type of beans do you use?
Dark red kidney beans are more common but I used light red because that’s what I had on hand. Either work! The secret is to start with dried and let them soak in water 8 hours or overnight.
What Makes Jamaican Rice and Peas so Creamy?
The secret is full fat coconut milk such as the Thai style that you can find in a can. While you can use low fat, I highly recommend full fat for added creaminess. This dish is naturally vegan with no butter so the coconut milk adds a ton of plant-based richness.
What do you serve with Jamaican rice and peas?
Of course, traditional dishes like Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork or Curry Goat all taste delicious with rice and peas but truthfully this side dish is extremely versatile and tastes great with any sort of roasted meat, fish or curry.
How far in advance can I prepare Jamaican rice and peas?
It will stay good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If it’s a little dry when reheating, add a little coconut milk.
Is Jamaican rice and peas vegan and gluten-free?
Yes! They are 100% gluten-free and vegan as they are made with coconut milk instead of butter. They’re also protein-packed due to the peas (beans) offering 5 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
What are your favorite Caribbean recipes? I’d love more ideas!
Your fork is waiting.
Jamaican Rice and Peas
- 1 cup dried kidney beans (light or dark) (soaked overnight and strained)
- 3 cups water
- 1 onion (diced)
- 2 green onions (diced, plus extra to garnish)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 5 whole allspice berries
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated)
- salt and pepper
- 14 ounce can full fat coconut milk (unsweetened, Thai style)
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- Add beans to a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then add in onion, scallions, garlic, allspice, thyme, Scotch bonnet (if using), ginger, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
- Add rice to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed in, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from the heat but keep the lid on for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme stems, allspice berries and Scotch bonnet then fluff with a fork. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with scallions.
Looking for more vegetarian recipes? Check out my Pinterest board!
How much ground allspice if you couldn’t find the berries?
Around 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice.
Thank you! It turned out amazing! My husband is obsessed and now I have to make this allllll the time for him! :)
This recipe took me back to one of my favorite vacations – Jamaica! The seasonings were well balanced and went well with bbq jerk tofu on the side.
Ahhh I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! I love jerk tofu!!
Can I use canned kidney beans?
Yes you can!
We LOVED this! We used the scotch bonnet pepper (left over from our CSA … in the freezer …) and it had a wonderful level of heat. We like spice and didn’t think the scotch bonnet was overwhelming, but would definitely not offer it up to our more tender-tongued friends. We just did basic shrimp to accompany it (salt and pepper, no other spices) since it was a first-time recipe, but I could see making an awesome bowl out of it with some (mild) jerk chicken or pork shredded up in it, or blackened fish, or blackened shrimp.
This makes me SO happy!! So glad you enjoyed! Let me know what other recipes you try!! :)
Is there another bean or peas I can use?
Truly it would be great with black beans!
Can I use brown rice instead?
Yes you could!!! It just wouldn’t be traditional.:)
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