Rice and Peas

Fluffy coconut rice meets tender pigeon peas in this quintessential Jamaican side dish.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    1 hour


By Sarah Thompson

Published on January 3, 2024

When former Philadelphia chef Sarah Thompson was growing up, summer visits to her grandmother Gloria’s house were synonymous with Jamaican feasts of curried goat, brown-stew chicken, and callaloo cooked down with onions and peppers. “But it was the rice and peas that carried the whole plate for me,” says Thompson. “Fragrant rice with full stems of thyme and whole peppercorns, all dotted with little round brown peas that gave way perfectly as you bit into them.” You can pick the thyme sprigs out or eat around them as Thompson did as a kid. 

This rice and peas rendition is adapted from Grandma Gloria’s loose recipe, which Thompson contributed to Klancy Miller’s “For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food. While Gloria’s recipe doesn’t call for a specific type of rice, Thompson always saw Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice in her kitchen. She also recommends Parrot or Grace brand for the coconut milk and swears by the knuckle test for step 3: add enough water “to reach just below the first knuckle of your fingertip. In other words, dip your pointer finger in the pot, and the liquid should come just to the crease in your fingertip, right above your nail.” 

Excerpted from For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food by Klancy Miller. Copyright © 2023. From Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


  • 1½ cups medium-grain rice
  • ½ cup dried pigeon peas, rinsed, soaked for 8–24 hours, and drained
  • 1 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • ½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • One 13.5-oz. can coconut milk


Step 1

In a medium bowl, rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.

Step 2

To a small heavy-bottomed pot, add the peas and cover with 2 inches of water (about 2½ cups). Add the Lawry’s, peppercorns, thyme, garlic, and onion and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to medium and gently boil until the peas are tender, 20 minutes. 

Step 3

Stir in the rice, coconut milk, and ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to medium and cook until the liquid evaporates and you can just see the top of the rice, 5 minutes. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, 10 minutes more. Turn off the heat, uncover, and fluff the rice with a fork.

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