Caribbean Pigeon Peas and Rice

Pigeon Peas and Rice

Traditionally, this rice dish is made with pigeon peas —cute and round, also known as gungo peas or gandules. They’re a staple in markets with big Latin and Caribbean communities. If you can’t find them, no worries, use red beans — another island favorite. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled — it’s bright and refreshing either way. Recipe by Ellen Kanner. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

Serves: 4 to 6

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups pigeon peas, cooked and cooled (or one 15-ounce can, drained)
  • 2  1/2 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 green or red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 habanero (scotch bonnet pepper) or 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (see note)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 small handful fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add pepper, jalapeño and celery and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.

Stir in diced tomato and season with allspice and cumin.

Add cooked pigeon peas and rice, stirring until mixture is well combined. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the moisture from the vegetables is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Add the thyme and cilantro, and salt and pepper. Serve at once.


  • This keeps well covered and refrigerated for several days. Flavor improves over time.  For crowds, recipe doubles like a dream.
  • Wear gloves when handling hot chilis, especially Scotch bonnet. Use to taste.

Pigeon Peas and Rice

Pigeon Peas and Rice