For many, "sun, sand and sea" is the beloved trilogy that encapsulates the true essence of The Bahamas. However, for locals, our culture and history are vastly depicted through our food. A required side dish among native menus, peas n' rice is a traditional staple that has traversed generations of home cooks. Though it's preparation is fairly simple, it's origin is quite remarkable. Peas n' rice or Rice n' peas — as it is commonly known throughout the Caribbean, originated from a Ghanaian rice dish called "Waakye". The dish was prepared by enslaved West Africans during the Transatlantic slave trade using rice and any available legume, including pigeon peas or kidney beans. Variations of the recipe also include the use of salt-beef as a substitution for added salt.
Fragrant aromatics, pigeon peas, and rice, cooked in a flavorful tomato-based broth.
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peas n rice 101
Rice: The topic of rice is usually one of pure preference, for this recipe although long-grain is preferred it can be a bit unpredictable when gauging the liquid to rice ratio. For this reason, I used parboiled rice — if you’re a novice in the kitchen I would recommend using this because it's much easier to cook especially when prepared for a crowd.
however, If you are a seasoned cook, feel free to use your desired preference — just be aware that the liquid measurements will vary.
Aromatics: For this recipe, I chose to adhere to tradition when it came to the aromatics. The inclusion of diced onions, bell peppers, celery and thyme is customary as the flavorful quartet is typically featured throughout Bahamian cuisine. Furthermore, they contribute to the overall flavor of the dish.
fROM ISLAND TO ISLAND, THE PREPARATION AND INGREDIENTS FEATURED RANGE FROM CURED MEATS TO OUR BELOVED OCEANIC STAPLE, CONCH.
How to Make:
Bahamian Peas n' Rice
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion *diced
1/2 green bell pepper *diced
2 stalks celery *diced
4 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp browning
1 16 oz can pigeon peas
4 cups uncooked rice (I used parboiled)
6 1/2 cups water
1/4 habanero pepper (more or less depending on your heat preference)
Salt to taste
To a large pot under medium-high heat, add vegetable oil.
Add diced bell peppers, onion, celery and thyme. Stir well and allow to cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Season generously with salt.
Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking for 4 minutes. The hue of the tomato paste will gradually deepen.
Add pigeon peas and browning. Pour in water and bring mixture to a boil.
Stir in rice, cover and continue on medium high heat for about 7 minutes.
Stir them reduce heat to medium, cook for 7 minutes.
Stir once more and simmer until rice is thoroughly cooked through.
This method ensures perfectly cooked and fluffy rice each time. I find that stirring or "fluffing" the rice in intervals keeps it from sticking to the bottom and ensures an even cook.