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Jamaican Red Pea (Kidney Bean) Soup Recipe

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.

Red pea soup with pig's tail.

Red pea soup with pig's tail.

This Jamaican-style red pea soup is loved by all Jamaicans. It can be made with meat or as a vegetarian dish. In Jamaica, we call red kidney beans "red peas," and they are used to make so many dishes. But the three dishes that the red peas are mostly known for are Jamaican-style rice and peas, stewed peas, and the infamous red kidney bean soup.

Red kidney bean soup is hearty and healthy, and in some households, it is made every Saturday. I remember when I was growing up, my aunt would make soup every Saturday. Some of the soup dishes were chicken soup, beef soup, gongo peas soup, and of course the red pea soup.

This version of the red kidney bean soup is made with salted pig's tail. Now I know when Rasta1, my good friend, sees this article, he is going, "Bun fiah pon me" ("Burn fire on me" is a phrase we use to reject something we don't agree with. It's like burning an unwelcome letter).

A few of the ingredients.

A few of the ingredients.

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In Jamaica, we just throw our ingredients together, but yesterday while I made the red kidney bean soup, I decided to take note of all the measurements for the purpose of this recipe. The other thing I want to point out is that Jamaicans love a rich, very red, red pea soup—so, the redder the peas, the better. Personally, I like using the round red for my rice, peas, and soup, but I got the regular kidney beans yesterday, and they weren't that red.


  • 1/2 pound dried red kidney beans (red peas)
  • 1 pound cured/salted pig's tail (optional—omit for vegetarians)
  • 1 pound yellow yam
  • 1/2 pound white potatoes
  • 1/2 pound cocoyam
  • 1 cup flour and 4 tablespoons cornmeal (for making dumplings)
  • pinch of salt for dumplings
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 stalks scallion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pimento seeds
  • 1 green Scotch bonnet pepper
  • water

Optional Ingredients (for Flavor)

Choose only one of the following:

  • 1 Maggi noodle soup mix
  • 1 Grace noodle soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground coriander seeds (my preference)


  1. Make sure there are no foreign bodies in your peas. Wash carefully and pour 4 to 6 cups of water along with the peas in a large pot. We use what we call a dutch pot; it's similar to the ancient kettle pot, but without the handle and the feet.
  2. Put your peas to boil on medium high, add smashed garlic and pimento seeds and cover pot. Let peas boil for about 20 minutes, then add another cup of tap water (we call this sinking the peas). As the peas boil and the water is reduced, add more. Keep checking the peas so you know when they are tender but not fully cooked.
  3. While the peas are being cooked, put 3 cups of water to boil. Cut your pig's tail into chunks (cut them in the joint) and wash them briefly under running water. Don't cut them too small or too big. When the water boils, place the pig's tail in a heatproof container and pour on the boiling water and cover. Let sit for about 30 minutes or until you need it.
  4. When the peas are tender but not soft, drain the pig's tail and add to peas. Let cook until both pig's tail and peas are cooked. The pig's tail should be firm not mushy. Refill water to 3/4 way up the pot if needed and bring to a boil again.
  5. Peel your yam, cocoyam, and potatoes. Cut them into chunks and add to pot. Cover pot and bring to a boil again.
  6. Meanwhile, make dumplings by combining flour, cornmeal and a small pinch of salt. Add water in small amounts, using your hands to bring the dough together. Keep adding water until the dough is formed and firm, but not sticky. Knead with the heels of your hand for 5 minutes, then pinch off a golf-ball-sized piece. Roll to make a ball, then flatten to 1/2-inch thickness and add to the boiling soup. Continue adding dumplings until the dough is used up.
  7. Add your washed thyme, smashed scallion, and your green Scotch bonnet pepper to your pot and cover. Bring to a boil, then turn flames down to medium. Before adding any seasonings, please taste your soup. I personally prefer it without the optional soup mixes. I like using the cumin and coriander option or just keeping it plain, depending on the flavor of the pig's tail.
  8. If salt is needed, flavor to taste. You must let the soup simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, stirring constantly. Don't worry if the potato gets mashed; that will make the soup thicker and richer.
  9. You will know when the soup is done when it is rich and thick and all the flavors have come together. Enjoy!
This is a pot of red pea soup that's being cooked. If you look closely, you will see the bubbles from the boiling soup!

This is a pot of red pea soup that's being cooked. If you look closely, you will see the bubbles from the boiling soup!

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