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Barbados - Bajan Peas and Rice Recipe

Rice pot

Rice pot

The Diversity of Ancestral Rices. (A) Long, thin-grained rice with purple hull. (B) Round-grained rice with white hull. (C) Panicles of golden-hulled rice (foreground) and purple-leafed rice (background). (D) Tall, weedy rice with pale leaves and sil

The Diversity of Ancestral Rices. (A) Long, thin-grained rice with purple hull. (B) Round-grained rice with white hull. (C) Panicles of golden-hulled rice (foreground) and purple-leafed rice (background). (D) Tall, weedy rice with pale leaves and sil

My Father's Recipe

This is a personal experience recipe. My father began teaching me to cook peas and rice at age 10. We had this dish every Sunday with enough left over for Monday’s dinner or for unexpected guest. Rice and peas is a staple of the Barbadian diet. Nearly every Barbadian meal includes rice and peas. Many Barbadians are of the belief that a Sunday meal without a rice dish is incomplete. African rice has been cultivated for 3500 years making peas and rices a familiar dish for the slaves in Barbados.

My father always started out EVERY session with, “I can’t teach you how to cook. You have to feel it.” What I finally figured out was there were no measurements. I had to learn to add or subtract ingredients until I got it right. I learned patience because this not a dish to rush. I learned to cook with soul (feelings). I can give you the basics, but you have to “feel” when it’s right for you. We had a rice pot – used for cooking rice on Sundays. It was sort of “seasoned” so the rice did not stick. We never soaked this pot – EVER. I called it the “Army-Navy” pot because it was so big.

Uncooked, polished, white long-grain rice grains

Uncooked, polished, white long-grain rice grains

Brown rice

Brown rice

dried Pigeon peas

dried Pigeon peas

Fresh pigeon peas

Fresh pigeon peas

Cans of several types of (peas)beans

Cans of several types of (peas)beans

Peas and Rice - Main Ingredients

Peas and rice is a dish that is eaten throughout the Caribbean. We used Pigeon peas which are related to the tender green sweet peas but are much higher in protein and vitamins, making this a very nutritious dish. Depending on the type of meat or fish, the peas (beans) changed, like blackeyed peas with roast pork. I use smoke turkey now instead of the salt pork meat.

The Pigeon Peas and Rice

For our purposes here we are using dried pigeon peas.  Peas are used to describe edible seeds from the Fabaceae such as the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan ), the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata ).  Pigeon pea is called toor dal in India, Congo pea, Gungo pea in Jamaica, Gandule in Puerto Rico, and other names.  The growing of the pigeon pea goes back approximately 3000 years. Pigeon peas are very drought resistant and can be grown in areas with small annual rainfall. 

Pigeon peas are a food crop used as dried peas, flour, or green vegetable peas. They contain high levels of protein and the important amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan, making the peas and rice dish a great food source by itself.

Parboiled rice is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice. This causes nutrients from the outer husk, especially thiamine, to move into the grain itself. The parboil process causes a gelatinization of the starch in the grains. My father favored UNCLE BEN’S® ORIGINAL CONVERTED® Brand Long Grain Rice. It has a great yield and is very forgiving when too much water is added.  This rice should not be washed.




  • 16oz bag of dried pigeon Use ½ bag
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3-4 dried Bay leaf (Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis)
  • Water
  • ¼ -½ lb Smoked turkey, salt beef, salt pork or use vegetable broth for meatless rice
  • Small onion peeled stuck with 3 whole cloves
  • 2 Celery stalk
  • Bajan spice mix: Bajan seasoning is a blend of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, spring onions, onions, garlic, parsley, basil and scotch bonnet pepper with spices such as clove, black pepper, paprika and salt.
  • 4-5 whole peppercorns
Scroll to Continue

Wash turkey and place in pot with enough water to cover. Add the onion, Bay leaf, celery, Bajan seasoning. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

Dried peas

Wash and pick through peas. Discard bad peas. Cover peas with cold water and place in refrigerator to soak overnight. Discard water and add fresh cold water. Alternative method: Cover peas with cold water in a pot with one bay leaf. Bring to a boil and turn off heat. Let peas soak for a minimum of one hour. Peas should soak up most of the water.

Replace water with fresh cold water, add Bay leaf and bring to boil. Only add enough water to cover peas. When the peas are soft enough to squeeze between your fingers but not fully cook, about 20 minutes. ***Add rice, meat and water from seasoned meat to cover. Don’t add too much water. You can add as needed. *** If you are using large pieces of turkey like leg or wings, leave them in their pot to fully cook. Only remove the seasoned water as needed for peas and rice.

Stir peas and rice to evenly distribute only once. Avoid stirring the rice mixture during the cooking process. It makes the rice mushy. Cover pot tightly and cook over a low heat. After 15 minutes check to see if more water is needed. Avoid opening pot otherwise. If your stove is not level, reposition the pot (turn it around) to make sure the rice cooks evenly.

The water in the pot should be absorbed by the peas and rice. The rice should double. After 20-25 minutes the liquid should be gone or almost. Peas and rice should be soft and cooked. If not, add a ½ cup of liquid and cover pot tightly. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes, then turn off heat. Rice mixture will continue to cook. Don't try to speed up cooking by using high heat. Rice will stick and burn on bottom, while top portion of rice is not cooked. Patience

If too much liquid's been add – heat your oven to 250-300 degrees. Place rice mixture in an oven proof dish if pot will not fit in oven. This process should help the liquid evaporate.

Resources and Work Sited


dashingclaire (author) from United States on June 23, 2010:

Thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment. Hope you enjoy the dish!

Prosperity66 on June 23, 2010:

Hm... looks interesting. Maybe going to give a try - at least I save the page on my computer so that I can get back.

Elena from London, UK on June 23, 2010:

Thanks for The Recipe - I will give it a go this summer.

dashingclaire (author) from United States on June 09, 2010:

elayne001 thanks so much for your comment. It's really a basic dish you can do many different ways. Bon Appetite!

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on June 09, 2010:

Looks delicious. I will have to try it soon. I love beans. Thanks.

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