Traditional Jamaican Rice and Peas (Instant Pot Method Included!)

This Jamaican Rice and Peas is infused with coconut, Caribbean herbs and spices. It’s close to authentic and makes a flavorful side dish for family dinners.

rice and peas in instant pot

Jamaican rice and peas is a popular dish served at nearly every dinner table across the island. Growing up, we would have red beans and rice every Sunday and at special events such as Christmas dinners.

Traditionally, this recipe would take hours to make as Jamaicans sought to prepare nearly every ingredient from scratch. One such ingredient was fresh coconut milk. 

Before blenders were popular, it was our assigned task as kids to sit and grate coconut meat every Sunday. Meanwhile, our mothers or grandmothers prepared the dried red beans.

I’ll be sharing a quicker way to prepare this naturally vegan and gluten-free recipe, whether you’re making it from scratch or using canned beans or coconut milk.

Both traditional and Instant Pot methods will be included.

If you enjoy this recipe, I'm sure you'll also like my Vegan Jamaican Patties and Rasta Pasta recipes.

jamaican rice and peas in pot

Ingredient Notes

  • Long grain white rice
  • Red Kidney Beans

Although we refer to them as “peas” in Jamaica, they are actually kidney beans. The dried version is more traditionally used. I used the smaller ones in this recipe.

Larger and darker red kidney beans will give the dish a darker, red color.

Be sure to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight for faster cooking. A pressure cooker is highly recommended but a regular pot can be used. 

Discard the liquid before cooking in fresh water to reduce any bloating or gassy symptoms. 

This is a common problem, especially for new vegans, which I further explained in my Bloat-free Lentil Recipe. To save even more time, canned red kidney beans works fine.

Pigeon peas and rice is another popular alternative made with dried pigeon peas or gungo peas.

  • Coconut Milk

A quicker way to make fresh coconut milk is by blending unsweetened dried coconut with warm water, then straining. Warm water helps to soften the oils in the coconut.

The result is similar to light coconut milk. You could add a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil for a stronger coconut flavor if preferred.

I used Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Coconut but you can use any brand you prefer as long as it’s unsweetened.

Another option is a 14 oz can of coconut milk. A local favorite is by Grace, but Thai Kitchen is pretty good as well. Again, make sure it’s unsweetened.

  • Jamaican Jerk Seasoning and All-purpose seasoning

These add some extra, authentic flavor to the dish. I used Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning. Go for the mild version so as to get the flavor without the spiciness.

Use any basic all-purpose seasoning blend. If it has Caribbean spices then even better.

  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Whole, uncut and unbruised. The goal is to extract the flavor 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.

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 after using.

  • Scallion - similar to green onions but stronger in flavor.
  • Garlic cloves
  • Thyme - Fresh gives the best flavor but you can use dried.
  • Allspice - Freshly ground from whole berries gives the best flavor but preground is fine.
  • Salt and Black pepper

How to make Jamaican Rice and Peas 

Prepare the dried beans:

1. Presoak for 8 hours or overnight in double the amount of water.

hand holding cup filled with red kidney beans soaking in water

2. Drain, rinse and add to a pot or pressure cooker.

3. Fill the pot with enough fresh water to ensure the level is 1 inch above the beans. Cover with a lid.

red kidney beans in pot with water

4. Cook at high heat for one hour in a pot (adding more water if needed to maintain the level) or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. The beans should be tender but not crunchy or mushy.

cooked kidney beans on a metal spoon over pot

Make fresh coconut milk:

1. Combine the shredded unsweetened coconut flakes with warm water.

2. Blend for 2 minutes with a high-speed blender or use an immersion blender for easier cleanup.

side by side images showing coconut milk being made from coconut flakes

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

side by side images of coconut milk being strained

4. Set the coconut milk aside.

Make the cooking broth for the rice:

1. Once the broth is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Then add the drained rice to the pot.

If you’re using a standard pressure cooker. Place the pot in the sink and cool it down with running tap water until the pressure fully releases.

2. Add the pre-cooked beans with the liquid or undrained canned beans to a pot more suitable for cooking rice.

If you cooked the beans in the rice pot then no need to remove them.

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

4. Stir in the jerk seasoning, all-purpose seasoning, scallion, garlic cloves, thyme, allspice, scotch bonnet pepper, salt and black pepper.

pot filled with coconut milk scotch bonnet pepper herbs and spices

5. 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 color.

broth with red beans coconut milk and spices cooking in a pot

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

pot partially covered with lid

Wash the rice:

1. Add the rice to a large bowl and fill it with water. 

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

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

bowl filled with rice clear water and metal spoon

Cook the rice:

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

white rice being added to pot

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

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

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

5. 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.

jamaican rice and peas in pot with wooden spoon

Instant Pot Method (using dried beans)

1. Soak the red kidney beans overnight.

2. Drain and rinse the beans then add to the inner pot.

3. Add scallions, thyme, garlic cloves, allspice, jerk spice, all-purpose seasoning and scotch bonnet pepper. Add the coconut milk and 2 cups of water.

side by side images of kidney beans spices and coconut milk in pot

4. Place the inner pot into the base, cover and lock the lid.

5. Switch the valve to Seal, select Bean and set to cook for 15 minutes on High. Meanwhile, wash and drain the rice as previously directed.

side by side images of instant pot settings

6. Once the timer beeps, switch the valve to Vent to quickly release the pressure. Open the lid and remove the scotch bonnet pepper and any fresh thyme twigs.

scotch bonnet pepper on a spoon

7. Taste and adjust the seasoning or add salt and pepper if needed. The broth should be flavorful.

8. Stir in the drained rice, cover the pot and Seal the vent. Select Rice and set to cook on High for 5 minutes.
Tip: Set a second timer for 20 minutes total. Sometimes the Instant Pot might not automatically switch to "Cooking" or the Timer due to the thickness of the dish, but the heat inside is still enough to cook the rice. To prevent the rice from burning, switch Off the Instant Pot after 20 minutes total and continue to the next step.

white rice being added to instant pot

9. Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes after cooking (Keep Warm for 10 minutes). Then switch the valve to Vent. Gently stir the rice and serve.

rice and peas in instant pot

Serving Ideas

Serve with any dish that you would have with white rice. I’ve served it with Caribbean and International flavors. Some of my favorites include:

Storage 

Unlike plain rice, this dish lasts for less time in the fridge due to the coconut milk going bad much easier.

I suggest only storing it in the fridge for no more than two days. For longer storage, place in the freezer in airtight containers for up to a month.

Portion into individual containers for easier defrosting and reheating. Defrost in the fridge or microwave.

More One-Pot Rice Recipes

rice and peas in instant pot

Jamaican Rice and Peas (Red Beans and Rice)

4.82 from 59 votes
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 1 hr 5 mins
Total: 1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 6
Calories: 382kcal
Print Pin Rate
Infused with coconut, Caribbean herbs and spices, this Jamaican red beans and rice is close to authentic and makes a flavorful side dish for family dinners. Use fresh or canned beans. Instant Pot method included!

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
  • Pot for cooking rice
  • Strainer or Nut Milk Bag
  • Blender
  • Aluminium Foil

Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, select the Metric option below and use measuring spoons.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup dried kidney beans, presoaked (See Notes)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 ½ cup warm water, or one 14oz can of coconut milk instead of water and flakes
  • 1 teaspoon mild jerk seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning
  • 3 stalks scallion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice, manually ground (or ½ teaspoon pre-ground)
  • 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper, uncut and unbruised (See Notes)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt, (less if using salted canned beans)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups long grain rice

Instructions

Prepare the dried beans (or skip to the "cooking broth" section if using canned beans):

  • Add the presoaked beans to a pot or pressure cooker.
    ¾ cup dried kidney beans
  • Fill the pot with enough fresh water to ensure the level is 1 inch above the beans (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 beans 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 cool it down with running tap water until the pressure fully releases.
  • Add the precooked beans with liquid or undrained canned beans to a pot more suitable for cooking rice.
    If you cooked the beans 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, all-purpose seasoning, scallion, garlic cloves, thyme, allspice, scotch bonnet pepper, salt and black pepper.
    1 teaspoon mild jerk seasoning ,1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning ,3 stalks scallion ,2 cloves garlic ,1 sprig fresh thyme ,1 whole scotch bonnet pepper ,1 ½ teaspoon salt ,½ teaspoon black pepper ,1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 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 color.
  • 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, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Then 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.

INSTANT POT METHOD (using dried beans)

  • Soak the red kidney beans overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans then add to the inner pot.
  • Add scallions, thyme, garlic cloves, allspice, jerk spice, all-purpose seasoning and scotch bonnet pepper. Add the coconut milk and 2 cups of water.
  • Place the inner pot into the base, cover and lock the lid.
  • Switch the valve to Seal, select Bean and set to cook for 15 minutes on High. Meanwhile, wash and drain the rice as previously directed.
  • Once the timer beeps, switch the valve to Vent to quickly release the pressure. Open the lid and remove the scotch bonnet pepper and any fresh thyme twigs.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning or add salt and pepper if needed. The broth should be flavorful.
  • Stir in the drained rice, cover the pot and Seal the vent. Select Rice and set to cook on High for 5 minutes.
  • Tip: Set a second timer for 20 minutes total. Sometimes the Instant Pot might not automatically switch to "Cooking" or the Timer due to the thickness of the dish, but the heat inside is still enough to cook the rice. To prevent the rice from burning, switch Off the Instant Pot after 20 minutes total and continue to the next step.
  • Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes after cooking (Keep Warm for 10 minutes). Then switch the valve to Vent. Gently stir the rice and serve.

Notes

  • Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight in double the amount of water. Drain and rinse.
  • Alternatively, use one 15oz/425g can of beans 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 flavor 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.
  • Check the post for step-by-step photos and more info.
Tried this recipe? Upload a photo in the comments below!If you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a rating. It really helps the blog.

Nutrition

Calories: 382kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 602mg | Potassium: 491mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 188IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 3mg
Nutrition Disclaimer
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: Jamaican
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

This post was originally published on October 29, 2020, and updated on August 20, 2021.

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50 Comments

  1. It taste nice we have it in Ghana and it's called wakye but we don't add the coconut and it best served with black sauce , macaroni and gari

  2. No real Jamaican use jerk season in Jamaican rice and peas! Plus the peas is cooked in the water that’s it’s soaked in to get that red coloring! Also the coconut milk and peas is boiled long enough to make last at least until the next day refrigerated as leftovers or as we Jamaicans say, “Sunday-Monday “.. !!!

    1. Hi Anthony,
      Thanks for your comment.

      Every "real Jamaican" should know the primary ingredients in Jerk seasoning are scallion, thyme, allspice (pimento) and Scotch Bonnet pepper. The exact same ingredients listed in the remainder of the recipe. Had you read the post you would have seen where I mentioned that it added extra flavour to the dish. Why? Because not everyone outside of Jamaica has access to all the fresh seasonings. You are free to omit it if you'd like.

      Every Jamaican family has its own cooking techniques. My family, including extended (aunts, grandparents who all still live in Jamaica), uses a pressure cooker to save time. As we Jamaicans would say, "modern times now".

      The taste is the same and the cooking liquid is never discarded (also mentioned in the post) so the red colour is still achieved. Bear in mind that there are different varieties of red kidney beans available in Jamaica. Large, small, red, dark red. If you desire a more intense red colour, choose the darker variety.

      Thanks again for your comment. I hope this cleared up any misunderstanding.

  3. 3 stars
    You use the words “authentic “ to describe the recipe, if you are using jerk seasoning and not the real seasonings then it’s just your version of the recipe! Yeah it might taste good but it’s not authentic! You know what else is in most of those dry jerk seasoning? “MSG”!

    1. What does "real seasonings" mean? Please do tell.
      I'm convinced you didn't read the post. Walkerswood doesn't have MSG nor is it a "dry jerk seasoning".

  4. Hey. I want to make this but with tinned kidney beans. I’m assuming I don’t have to boil them in water for as long as stated - but what do I do?

    Many thanks and blessings

  5. 5 stars
    I was looking for a taste of home... and NOTHING on the internet looked right. Until I saw your recipe! It LOOKED exactly like what I grew up with. So I just knew it was gonna be great. My dad when he first came over to the states, this was the 1st thing he made like religiously.

    I’m so happy and enthralled while reading your recipe, thank you for educating the community. Also even mentioning items that everyone could grab. UGH so good❣️

    1. 5 stars
      Amazing I loved it, only issue is the rice ended up very sticky and mushy. Is that because to much water was added after rice was added?

      1. Hi Sam,

        Sorry you had trouble with the recipe. Adding too much water is one possible cause of it becoming sticky. I've made that error a few times too before getting it right.

        Add just enough to cover 1 inch above the rice. If it's difficult to see this (as I know the liquid wouldn't be clear at this point), you can dip a dry handle of a spoon in the pot until you touch the top of rice. Remove and see how far up the spoon handle the liquid line is.

        If it's an inch, cover and cook for at least 10 mins on medium heat before lifting the lid. Another possible cause of stickier rice could be not rinsing and draining it well to remove the extra starch.

        But I hope that you will give it another try. Thank you for the feedback.

  6. Hi just wondering do you have to drain the canned kidney beans and what temp do you cook at when you add the rice to the broth? Thanks

    1. Hi Jade,
      No, don't drain the canned beans. Increase the heat after adding the rice to bring it to a boil quickly then reduce it to low as soon as it starts boiling.
      On a scale of 1 to 10, that would be about 6 to boil then down to 3 to finish cooking.

  7. 5 stars
    Turned out great. I used the short cut version with canned beans and canned coconut milk for a weeknight meal. The rice was perfectly cooked. I made this as a side for jerk chicken that I already had.

  8. 5 stars
    This has become my go to rice and peas recipe. I’ve made it several times and the only changes I made is to add both all purpose seasoning and the jerk seasoning. Together they give the rice a lot more flavor. My boyfriend is Jamaican and he approves 🙂

  9. Delicious!!! I had a hard time finding scotch bonnet peppers but I did eventually find them. It imparts the flavor but not the heat!!!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, Jhanelle! I got a little chop happy and chopped up the scallions. Do you think that takes away from the desired flavor? I sure hope not! It’s a great recipe and smells amazing!

  11. 5 stars
    OMG..... this recipe was DELICIOUS, my friend from Guyana and she said that I am a honorary Caribbean. The only issue I had was the rice got too done, because I was making it for 20 people; also I was told that the rice was sour, from the person that ordered the dish, not sure what she meant because 8 different people LOVED it. Thanks again for sharing the recipe.

    1. Thanks so much for trying the recipe Sheryl and for sharing it with others! I'm sure you'll nail it next time around! Feel free to reach out if you need any help.

  12. One technical correction: pepper seeds are not hot. Seeds may seem hot because they are in contact with the placenta, which contains the capsaicin glands, but the oleoresin is concentrated in the placenta and endocarp. For more Scotch bonnet flavor, slice the pepper in half, scrape out the placenta, and rinse out the inside of the skin.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights. You are right that the pith of the pepper is spicy. However, I still wouldn't recommend handling the cut pepper too much as it could irritate the skin or eyes in some if our hands aren't properly washed. Not much heat is released if the pepper is uncut so using it whole shouldn't be too much of a problem.

  13. 5 stars
    I used dry kidney beans, canned coconut milk and the instant pot for this recipe. It turned out GREAT! The beans were an excellent texture and the rice was fluffy. So delicious! I bookmarked this one.

  14. 5 stars
    Just finished making this and honestly wow! I have never had rice come out as good as this! Recipe was easy to follow and perfect timings/ratio of liquid. Will continue using this recipe from now on! Paired with some jerk chicken and corn on the cob! Thank you Jhanelle

  15. 5 stars
    This recipe was absolutely stunning and tasted so good. Even without the scotch bonnet peppers as they weren't available near me, they were so delicious and definitely authentic tasting. Deeply appreciative that I am now able to have one of my favorite Jamaican dishes because of you at home!

    I'm very deeply appreciative of the way that you formatted your recipe. It was so nice to be able to see the ingredient portions required mid-instructions! So very helpful and I'm poking around your site just for that.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback Avery! I appreciate that so much. I hope that you'll others that you'll enjoy!

  16. 5 stars
    I am currently making this recipe using the instant pot and dried beans. I've just added the rice and I encountered the "Burn" error. I've venting it and mixed it up and I'm trying it again, I just don't want to add too much water. Do you have any tips for avoiding this error?

    1. Hi Anjali, sorry you are having trouble with the recipe. I haven't seen that message before but due to the coconut milk in this dish the rice can stick to the bottom of the pot. However, it shouldn't burn if it's cooked for the recommended time. Try not to cook the rice for longer than 20 minutes TOTAL after adding it to the instant pot (including the time it takes to heat up or come to pressure). You can set a separate timer if needed, starting it after covering and sealing the vent. I don't recommend stirring the rice or adding more water once it begins to cook. I hope this helps and I hope you'll try it again.

  17. 5 stars
    So delicious!
    I improvised a bit to match the ingredients I had on hand, using brown rice, shallots instead of green onion, and no scotch bonnet. But it is delicious. Love adding to my Instapaper recipes. Thank you for sharing some of your traditions and love of food with the rest of us.

  18. I'm definitely trying this recipe tomorrow, but I'm using an entire 14oz bag of beans. My question is how much water should I add in the pressure cooker for that amount of beans, and how much rice should I add? Also I'm using jasmine rice, is that going to change the rice cooking time?

    1. Hi Candace,

      You can adjust the ingredient amounts by adjusting the serving size. 14oz of kidney beans is about 400g which is roughly 18 to 19 servings of the recipe. The remaining ingredients will be automatically adjusted. Jasmine rice works perfectly in the recipe. I use it very often as well!

      If the rice isn't cooked at the end of the recommended time, keep it covered with the foil and lid on low heat for an extra 10 to 15 minutes.

  19. I’m about to make this for the 2nd time. DELICIOUS!
    Thank you so much for providing options of how to make this. I used canned coconut milk and kidney beans and loved it.

  20. 5 stars
    Loved it. Tasted like my local Jamaican spot. Paired with my newly experimented Jamaican Jerk pork recipe and this is already a staple in my rotation. Thanks!

  21. 5 stars
    This recipe is so amazing! I’ve made it many times over the last few years. Thank you for sharing!