Jamaican Red Beans And Rice

Jamaican Red Beans And Rice

Jamaican Red Beans and Rice is a simple to prepare, flavorful side dish that is simmered in creamy coconut milk and fresh aromatics. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and easy on the family budget, it is no wonder that similar versions can be found throughout the Caribbean, Latin American and elsewhere.

You will find many versions of red beans and rice served in different parts of the world because both ingredients are easy to grow in many climates and when dried, they can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration. When the beans and rice are cooked together, they form a complete and inexpensive plant based protein that is necessary for a nutritious meal.

While visiting the Island of Antigua, I attended a local chef’s cooking class where I learned how to make a simple red beans and rice dish that was different and delicious. The recipe that was passed on is Jamaican but in Antigua, food isn’t really spicy and that is reflected in this recipe. You might want to call the recipe red beans and rice, “Jamaican style“.

Jamaicans usually call all dried beans “peas“, so you will usually hear red beans and rice referred to as “rice and peas“. Jamaican cooks will usually add a whole Scotch bonnet pepper, a type of chili pepper that is very spicy, to the red beans and rice while cooking. It releases its flavor but not too much of its searing heat (the seeds are the spiciest part of a pepper) and then removed before serving. Red beans or pigeon peas and rice are often cooked on Sundays as a side dish that accompanies the island’s famous jerk chicken, seafood or one of their flavorful curries.

Jamaican Red Beans And Rice Served With Jerk Chicken
Jamaican Red Beans And Rice Served With Jerk Chicken

On the Island of Antigua, a similar one pot bean and rice dish, is referred to as Seasoned Rice. It may include chicken, pork or fish along with red kidney bean, black-eyed or pigeon peas, carrots, celery, okra, or spinach, different herbs and all purpose seasonings. On the Island of Trinidad, a one dish meal originating in the French West Indies called Pelau combines pigeon peas, meat or chicken, and rice along with brown sugar, fresh herbs and coconut milk.

What makes this particular recipe for red beans and rice similar to what is found on other Caribbean islands is that it is cooked with onions, garlic, peppers and fragrant thyme in coconut milk, which gives the rice a creamier texture and richer flavor to the side dish. Anyway you want to prepare red beans and rice, make sure to include coconut milk, it’s what makes the dish special.

Jamaican Red Beans And Rice Also Know As Rice And Peas

Jamaican Red Beans And Rice {Rice And Peas}

Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. diced onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced (I used a red and yellow mini pepper)* See kitchen notes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 c. unsweetened coconut milk, which is one 13.6 oz. can plus a little water to make 2 cups
  • 1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans
  • 5-6 fresh thyme sprigs (about 2 tsp. fresh leaves, removed and chopped)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 c. rice
  • 1 – 2 green scallions, sliced for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil to a pot over medium heat, then add the onions and peppers and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the coconut milk, beans, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Wash the rice in a mesh sieve until the water runs clear then add to the bean mixture. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Fluff with a fork and serve in a large bowl.

*In the cooking class I took, Caribbean Seasoning Peppers, also called Pimento Peppers were used. They look very similar to a scotch bonnet pepper but are smaller and not hot at all. They can be eaten whole and raw, but as the name suggests, are used for their flavor, not heat. They are little known outside of the Caribbean or places that have a large West Indian population. If you can find seasoning peppers, use about a handful diced instead of a bell pepper.

In Jamaica, Scotch Bonnet Peppers are primarily used for their unique flavor profile. The extremely hot chili pepper has an underlying sweetness. It is to be added whole and then removed after being cooked. You also don’t want to allow it to burst. If it bursts, the dish will be very spicy. 

You can start this recipe using dried red kidney beans. Use 1 cup dried kidney beans that are rinsed, soaked overnight and drained, then cook in 3 cups water until soft. Then use about 1 1/2 cups for this recipe.

Rinsing rice helps remove some of the excess starch, this simple technique will help the individual grains of rice stay separate from each other. Not washing can be one of the reasons if you have ever had gummy rice.

You can use either light or regular canned coconut milk for the red beans and rice, regular will have more calories.

I used green scallions as a garnish but in Jamaica they are usually cooked with the other ingredients.

Seasonings such as allspice or ginger can also be added, if you wish.

Notes From The Kitchen

****

Flavorful coconut rice cooked with red kidney beans and some aromatics can turn what might be a bland bean and rice combo into a dish that can be the highlight of an entire meal. Easy on the budget and easy to put together on a busy evening, I think this flavorful recipe may become a favorite with your family.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

61 thoughts on “Jamaican Red Beans And Rice

    1. Hi Darlene, I do hope you enjoy the Jamaican beans and rice. I’ve used coconut milk with rice but had never made a bean dish using it before.

    1. Thank you Kay, I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and a little background on the history of this simple but delicious red bean and rice dish.

    1. Bernadette, my husband and I really loved this recipe…it was a nice takeaway from our recent cruise. I’m happy to know that you like it too.

    1. I Jovina, before enjoying this dish in Antigue, I don’t believe I ever would have thought to add coconut milk to any bean dish but it is a terrific addition.

  1. I love Jamaican food. I lived in Notting Hill for many years, which back then was the Carribean in London. Your recipe for rice and peas makes a perfect accompaniment to curry goat and it’s making me hungry!

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I’m glad the red beans and rice recipe brought back memories of your Caribbean dining experiences in London. I had to smile because one of the first meals my husband had on our first visit to Jamaica years ago was curried goat…I can’t remember what sides he had with it.

    1. Hi Beth, I’ve had lots of rice and bean dishes but adding coconut milk was new to me. I hope you will enjoy this version.

    1. Hi Babsje, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the recipe for Jamaican red beans and rice.

  2. I haven’t made red beans and rice in decades, and when I did, it was from a kit. I’d much rather try a from-scratch version. Thanks! And thanks for all the interesting info surrounding this dish.

    1. Thank you Jeff, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and background on the Jamaican red beans and rice. I believe that you would really like this homemade version, it is simple and very good.

  3. Rice and beans are such a wonderful combination, and there are so many different variations. This looks terrific — and rather different from what I’m used to making. So of course I need to make this one. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi John, I have to agree with you…I never have thought about using coconut milk in a rice and bean dish. This was a first but certainly won’t be the last. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did…thank you.

    1. Mine too Dorothy, the rice and beans had such a good flavor. I hope you enjoy the dish as much as we did if you give the recipe a try.

  4. That’s a delicious looking bowl of beans and rice! I liked the story behind the recipe and have enjoyed seeing the dishes you made during your cooking class.

    1. Thank you Jan, I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and the recipes that we have made from our cooking class in Antigua. The whole experience was fun and memorable.

    1. Thank you Debra. You are right. the red beans and rice will make an appearance as a side dish on our table many times over the summer.

    1. I was the same way Ronit, I’d never heard of coconut milk cooked with beans but it certainly is a nice addition that I will now be doing time and again. Happy to pass on the recipe.

    1. Hi Linda, We usually have some kind of a bean dish a couple times during a month and really enjoyed this new way of preparing them. I think you will too.

  5. Sounds great, Karen, thanks for sharing. I have been growing experimental heirloom Nicaragun peppers this winter…kind of weird. would like to find some of the seasoning peppers.

    1. Hi Amelia, I thought I had a web site of a company (Caribbean Seed) that sold the seeds but after investigating found out it had nothing but bad reviews…people paid lots of money but didn’t get their seeds. Perhaps if you have a local small store that sells Caribbean produce, they might sell the peppers or know of a source. If I find one, I’ll pass on the information.

  6. Hi Karen, I love a good Jamaican Red Beans and Rice. I grew up in South Florida, and one of my best friends is Jamaican. I spent many a Sunday afternoon helping to prepare this dish. Yes, they definitely kick the heat up with a scotch bonnet pepper in Jamaica. This dish prepared in Antigua or Jamaica is still soulful and comforting.

    Hope you are feeling better.

    Best,
    Velva

    1. Hi Karen, I love a good Jamaican Red Beans and Rice. I grew up in South Florida, and one of my best friends is Jamaican. I spent many a Sunday afternoon helping to prepare this dish. Yes, they definitely kick the heat up with a scotch bonnet pepper in Jamaica. This dish prepared in Antigua or Jamaica is still soulful and comforting.

      Hope you are feeling better.

      Best,
      Velva

      1. Thank you Velva, for your nice comment. It is nice that this is a recipe that you know and love. I know we will be making the Jamaican red beans and rice often. They are a nice change from the Cuban black beans that I make often.

    1. Hi Sherry, this was my first experience with beans, rice and coconut milk and we really enjoyed the flavorful side dish. Thank you for your nice comment.

  7. That sounds quite delicious, it will be on the menu very soon Thanks.

    I hope that all is well and that your health is behaving. Keep safe Diane

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts about my health Diane. I’ve been making good progress, just need some adjustments with the medicines. 💕I’m glad that you like the recipe and hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

    1. Hi Sylvia, I hope you like the red beans and rice, we thought it was a delicious side dish. Thank you for your nice comment.

  8. This rice sounds so tasty! I always love cooking with coconut milk, as it adds that subtle sweet rich flavor. Interesting Jamaicans call beans peas. Who knew? 😉 ~Valentina

    1. Hi Valentina, Isn’t it interesting about dried beans being called peas in Jamaica. One of the interesting things you learn when you eat food from different countries. You are right about the coconut milk adding a subtle rice flavor, I’ll definitely be making this dish more often.

  9. This is a delightful recipe, Karen. I eat a lot of beans, and typically quite plain is fine with me. But with the Jamaican rice this would be a real treat. I can’t wait to give it a try. I have the beans on hand, and just need the coconut milk!

  10. This recipe sounds amazing. We adore rice, so this is definitely on our list to try! Thanks, Karen.

  11. Karen,
    I love rice side dishes so much and can’t decide which I like the best. I’ve never thought of cooking rice with coconut milk, but it sure makes sense because of the way rice pairs nicely with Thai coconut soup! This is a must-make recipe for me!
    Thank you!
    ~ Roz

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