About Jamaican Rice and Peas
It's a tradition!
This dish is a traditional Sunday dinner dish that 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 veggies 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 are seasonal and are usually available during the Christmas period, so red peas have become the popular choice. There is the exception of those who were not born on the island and so have not adopted the tradition. Also, some people have chosen to break the tradition, but in any case, the root of the Jamaican Sunday dinner is this rice and peas dish.
You can use your choice of rice. I have stopped using regular white rice and have been using par-boiled for some time for my Jamaican rice and peas. Whenever I can afford it, I will use brown rice, but that is quite expensive, and since I changed my diet, I have been eating brown rice as cooked plain rice.
Alternatives to Gongo Peas 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 the dish, just in case you can't get—or don't want—red peas or kidney beans.
- Round red is another type of red pea that's different from the kidney bean. I'm not sure of its American name.
- Black-eyed peas or cowpeas also work in this dish.
- 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.
- Soybeans can also be used.
- When all else fails, you can use lima beans or broad beans.
But Jamaica's favorite peas for rice and peas are gongo peas, and they are 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
Note: If using coconut cream, add water to make four cups of milk. One 16-oz can will make 4 cups of milk. If using the packet of powdered milk, follow the instructions.
Let's 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 cleaned.
- 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 the 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!) After milling or grating the coconut, we add 4 cups of water and squeeze the juices out of the coconut, throwing the trash away so the goats or pigeons can have it.
- 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 the heat to medium and cover the pot. Let the coconut cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Rinse the rice two times and drain. Add rice to pot and stir.
- When the pot starts to bubble again, reduce the heat 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 aren't dried out enough. You can also tell that the rice and peas are cooked when the rice starts to catch at the bottom of the pot.
Variations on 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 capful coconut oil or vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Season with your scallion, thyme and pepper. Add a dash of black pepper to taste. Cook seasonings for 15 minutes, then add rice and cook as per recipe.
Use evaporated milk.
Make 4 cups of milk by adding enough water to one 16 oz can of evaporated milk. Use instead of coconut. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the 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 the pot for this until you put your rice in.
You can substitute your coconut milk for plain unsweetened soymilk, too!
Red Peas Nutrition Facts (Serving Size: 1 Cup)
|Nutrient||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 benefit. 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.
Beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with rice, as in Jamaican-style rice and peas, they give you a high-quality source of protein that is free of trans or saturated fats.
Here we have another lifesaver because kidney beans are a very rich source of healthy fiber. This fiber helps to reduce bad cholesterol and also helps to prevent 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, making 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 overnight. We cleanse the beans properly by removing any unwanted material or bad peas, then rinse and drain. Then add enough water to cover the beans leaving about three inches of water above the 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 by 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 a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn the flames off and let stand for an hour, then return to heat. Add more water and let cook. You will cut your cooking time by about 25 - 35%. I prefer this method.
Kindly Rate This Recipe
Note that all photos and video used in this article belongs to the author.