Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe Using Red Kidney Beans
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About the Jamaican Rice and Peas
It's a tradition!
This dish is a traditional Sunday dinner dish which is usually served with roast chicken, brown stewed chicken, pork, beef or fish. If you are vegetarian or Rasta then you eat your rice and peas with stewed vegetables and trust me the Rastafarian stewed veges are great! In other parts of the world their version of this dish might be known as rice and beans.
Jamaican rice and peas are cooked using either red kidney beans (known as red peas) or gongo peas. Gongo peas is seasonal and is usually available during the Christmas period so red peas has become the popular choice. There are the exception of those who were not born on the island so have not adopted the tradition or some people have chosen to break the tradition, but in any case, the root of the Jamaican Sunday dinner is the rice and peas.
You can use your choice of rice. I have stopped using the regular white rice and have been using the par-boiled for some time for my Jamaican rice and peace. Whenever I can afford it I will use the brown rice, but that is quite expensive and since I changed my diet, I have been eating the brown rice as cooked plain rice.
Other peas you can use for this dish
The way Jamaicans love their rice and peas, they will use almost any peas or beans available to make the dish. Here are some other choices for Jamaican rice and peas just in case you can't get or don't want the red peas or kidney beans.
- Round red is another red peas but is not kidney beans. Not sure of the American name.
- Black eyed peas or cow peas
- Black beans. I love this one. You have to give the peas a soak overnight to get away some of the colour or the rice and peas might turn out too dark!
- Adzuki is a red bean but not many Jamaicans know it.
- Soy beans
- When all else fails you can use the lima beans or broad beans
- But Jamaica's favorite peas for rice and peas is the gongo peas and this is used to make Christmas dinner.
1/2 lb red peas
2 lbs rice (parboiled rice is very good for this)
1 medium to large coconut (milled or grated) OR ***4 cups canned coconut milk.
4 cloves garlic smashed
1 large stalk scallion
1/2 teaspoon pimento seeds (some of you know this as allspice. If you can't get the seeds, use a pinch of the allspice/pimento powder)
1 green scotch bonnet pepper
1 large branch of fresh thyme
salt to taste
*** If using coconut cream, add water to make four cups of milk. One 16 oz can will make 4 cups milk. If using the packet powdered milk follow the instructions.
Lets start cooking!
In a bowl cleanse your red peas by removing foreign objects and bad peas. Wash your peas about three to four times to make sure they are properly cleansed.
In a large pot, preferably a Dutch pot, or your favourite rice pot, put peas with 3 cups water, pimento and garlic on medium high to cook.
When the water starts to boil add another cup of water and cover. Bring to a boil again and reduce flames to low (not too low). Let peas cook until almost all the water is gone.
While the peas are being cooked, mill your coconut. I use a traditional grater, but you can use a blender by cutting your coconut into tiny bits and blending with 4 cups of water.
As I mentioned, I use a grater, well not me....my fiancé is responsible for grating the coconut every Sunday....lol. After milling or grating the coconut we add 4 cups of water and squeesze the juices out of the coconut, throwing the thrash away so the goats or pigeons can get them.
Take the rice and peas quiz!
When the peas are cooked add your coconut milk or juice. Smash or pound your scallion and add to your pot. Add washed thyme and washed green scotch bonnet pepper. Salt to taste. Increase flames to medium and cover pot. Let coconut cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.
Rinse rice two times and drain. Add rice to pot and stir.
When the pot starts to bubble again reduce flames to low and let simmer until all juices are gone. You can test the readiness of the rice and peas by inserting a fork in the center. A fork that comes out wet means that your rice and peas isn't dried out enough.
You can also know when the rice and peas is cooked when the rice starts to catch at the bottom of the pot.
Variations on making this dish
Sometimes you don't have coconut so what do you do? Here are a few variations to the Jamaican rice and peas for when you fall short on coconut milk.
- No coconut no problem. Instead of the four cups of coconut juice add plain water, 1 heaping tablespoon butter, 1 capfull coconut oil or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon sugar. Season with your scallion, thyme and pepper. Add a dash of blackpepper to taste. Cook seasonings for 15 minutes then add rice and cook as per recipe.
- Using evaporated milk. Make 4 cups milk by adding enough water to one 16 oz can of evaporated milk. Use instead of coconut. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to pot when seasoning. Cook only for five minutes after it starts to boil. Follow the rest of the recipe per instructions. Be careful to watch that the milk doesn't boil over so it's best not to cover pot for this until you put your rice in.
- Use soymilk. You can substitute your coconut milk for plain unsweetened soymilk too!
Red Peas Nutrition facts - serving size one cup
Daily value %
vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Kidney beans or red peas nutritional benefits
First let us talk about molybdenum. This is a trace mineral that many of us have never heard of and if you take a look at the table you will see that this is the most prominent nutrient in red peas. Molybdenum has more than one benefits. It helps to metabolize iron and synthesizes the proteins in our bodies. It also helps to metabolize fats and carbohydrates and is absorbed in the body through the intestines and excreted when we urinate.
This very important mineral also helps to reduce the toxicity of preservatives in foods by detoxifying the sulfites. Sulfites can be dangerous and without molybdenum many of us may have developed health issues such as heart problems. Some allergic reactions to sulfites are headaches, rapid heartbeat and disorientation.
A good source of protein and when combined with rice as in the Jamaican style rice and peas, gives you a high quality source of protein that is free of trans or saturated fats.
Here we have another life saver because kidney beans are very rich source of healthy fiber. This fiber helps to reduce the bad cholesterol and also helps to prevent the blood sugar from spiking after a meal. These beans are quite healthy for the diabetic and hypoglycaemic.
Where is the sodium?
In my research I could not find any information that stated any kind of sodium levels in red peas. if there is any sodium in there the amount might be too small to note. If you notice that the beans have 22% of the required daily serving of potassium, makes it a hypertension fighting food. With little or no sodium kidneys are high on the list for hypertensives.
Tips on cooking dried beans
- A traditional Jamaican way to reduce the cooking times for dried beans is to soak the beans over night. We cleanse the beans properly by removing any unwanted material or bad peas, rinse and drain. Then add enough water to cover beans leaving about three inches of water above beans. You must place beans in a large container with enough head space after the water is placed in it. Cover and rest overnight. The beans will increase about 150% in size. Drain the liquid from the beans and add fresh water and cook. Usually this cuts the cooking time by about 30 - 40%. The disadvantage is that the color of the beans and rice and peas will not be as bright because you must drain the water it was soaked in and that water contains the color of the red peas. I don't like this method.
- Another way to reduce cooking time is to put the beans to boil. As soon as water boils turn flames off and let stand for an hour then return to fire. Add more water and let cook. You will cut your cooking time by about 25 - 35%. I prefer this method.
© 2012 Carolee D. Samuda, All Rights Reserved
Note that all photos and video used in this article belongs to the author.