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Jamaican Pigeon Peas & Rice

Infused with coconut milk and Caribbean herbs and spices, this Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice recipe is the ultimate holiday side dish.


¾ cup dried pigeon peas, presoaked (See Notes)

¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 ½ cup warm water

1 tsp all-purpose or mild jerk seasoning

2 stalks scallion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 sprig fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoon dried

1 tsp whole allspice, manually ground (or ½ teaspoon pre-ground)

1 whole scotch bonnet pepper, uncut and unbruised (See Notes)

1 ½ tsp salt, (less if using salted canned peas)

½ tsp black pepper

2 cups long grain rice


Prepare the dried pigeon peas: Add the presoaked peas to a pot or pressure cooker. (¾ cup dried pigeon peas)

Fill the pot with enough fresh water to ensure the level is 1 inch above the peas (about 3.5 cups/800ml). Cover with a lid.

Cook on high heat for one hour in the pot (adding more water if needed to maintain the level) or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker.

Make fresh coconut milk (or skip to the next section if using a 14oz can): Add the shredded unsweetened coconut flakes to a blender with warm water. ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, 1 ½ cup warm water

Blend for 2 minutes. I used an immersion blender for easier cleanup.

Strain the mixture, extracting as much liquid as possible. I used a nut milk bag which is super fine and much easier to use.

Set the coconut milk aside.

Make the cooking broth for the rice: Once the peas are cooked, allow the pressure cooker to release before opening.

If you’re using a standard pressure cooker. Place the pot in the sink and run some cool water over it until the pressure fully releases.

Add the precooked peas with liquid or undrained canned peas to a pot more suitable for cooking rice. If you cooked the peas in the rice pot then no need to remove them.

Add the homemade coconut milk (or canned coconut milk) to the pot.

Stir in the jerk seasoning, scallion, garlic cloves, thyme, allspice, scotch bonnet pepper, salt and black pepper. 1 tsp all-purpose or mild jerk seasoning, 2 stalks scallion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 1 tsp whole allspice, 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper, 1 ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper

Cover the pot and bring to a boil at high heat for 5 minutes.

Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for 15 minutes or until the liquid is reduced and has a deep reddish-brown colour.

Key tip: If your pot doesn’t already have a vent, slightly ventilate the lid to prevent any boiling over.

Wash the rice: Add the rice to a large bowl and fill with water. 2 cups long grain rice

Stir to release the starches that could make the rice stick together while cooking. Drain.

Repeat the rinsing and draining steps until the water is clear (about 4 to 5 times total).

Cook the rice: Once the broth is ready, add the drained rice to the pot.

Add more water if needed to ensure the level is 1 inch above the rice.

Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil, then the lid.

Allow the rice to cook and steam for 12 to 15 minutes or until it’s tender and all the liquid is absorbed.

Allow it to rest for 10 minutes after cooking. Remove the strands of scallion, thyme branches and scotch bonnet pepper. before gently stirring with a fork.

Notes Soak pigeon peas for 8 hours or overnight in double the amount of water. Drain and rinse.

Alternatively, use one 15oz/425g can of dried pigeon peas for this recipe. Add at Step #3 under "Make the cooking broth for the rice".

When using scotch bonnet pepper in this recipe, the goal is to extract the flavour from the skin without the spiciness. Most of the spiciness is in the seeds so it should be fine to use as long as it’s not cut or bruised.

Scotch Bonnet is one of the hottest peppers in the world (10 to 50 times hotter than jalapeños) so handle with care and wash your hands with soap after using.

Recipe found here: