Christmas/ Jamaican/ Sides/ Thanksgiving/ Vegan/ Vegetarian

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice

October 6, 2020 (Last Updated: January 14, 2024)

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice is a popular side dish of savoury pigeon peas and fluffy rice, infused with island herbs, spices and creamy coconut milk. This well-seasoned Caribbean staple is cooked to perfection so it’s the perfect side to favourites like Jamaican Oxtail, Curry Goat, and Jerk Chicken.

jamaican gungo peas and rice in bowl.

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Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice is a popular side dish of savoury pigeon peas and fluffy rice, infused with island herbs, spices and creamy coconut milk. This well-seasoned Caribbean staple is cooked to perfection so it’s the perfect side to favourites like Jamaican Oxtail, Curry Goat, and Jerk Chicken.

For more Jamaican rice recipes, try my traditional Jamaican Rice and Peas made with red kidney beans, Pumpkin Rice with Coconut Milk and this Vegan Jamaican Bulgur Wheat & Peas recipe next!

jamaican gungo peas and rice in pot.

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice (also known as Jamaican pigeon peas and rice) take two simple ingredients to make an absolutely mouthwatering dish. Enhanced with fragrant spices and aromatics, as well as rich coconut milk, this recipe is an absolute dream!

Sunday dinners always consisted of a rice dish. It was either Jamaican Rice and Peas or the same dish, with gungo or pigeon peas. The ingredients are nearly identical with the exception of the peas or “beans”. However, the flavour is completely different and equally as tasty!

Here’s Why You’ll Love this Gungo Peas and Rice Recipe

  • A Traditional Comfort Meal – served warm, and fresh off of the stove, you can enjoy this as is, all on its own.
  • Great for Any Occasion – this versatile side dish can be served as part of a casual weeknight dinner, at parties, barbecues, during the holidays, birthdays… literally any time and anywhere!
  • So Flavourful – save boring white rice for another time. This fluffy rice is dotted with tender gungo peas and simmered in Jamaican spices, aromatics, and fresh coconut milk.
jamaican gungo peas and rice in two bowls.

What are Gungo Peas?

Gungo peas, also referenced as pigeon peas, are a legume often used in Caribbean and Latin cuisine. They are high in fiber and protein and are an excellent source of vitamins. I use them to make soups (like my Gungo Peas Soup recipe), stews, and rice dishes.

They are bright green and turn brown as they mature. This is why they are sometimes referred to as green gungo peas.

Why do Jamaicans call Rice and Beans Rice and Peas?

Pigeon peas are actually beans. Some Jamaicans refer to beans as “peas”, hence the name of this recipe. A true Jamaican will always refer to rice and beans as “rice and peas” or “peas and rice.”

jamaican gungo rice and peas.

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Medium Bowl – to soak dried pigeon peas in.
  • Large Dutch Oven Pot – to cook pigeon peas and rice in.

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice Ingredients and Ingredient Notes

* INGREDIENTS, MEASUREMENTS AND INSTRUCTIONS ARE LISTED IN THE RECIPE CARD AT THE BOTTOM OF PAGE *

  • Water – to soak the beans in.
  • Green (or Dried) Pigeon “Gungo” Peas – these popular beans have a slight nutty taste.
  • Garlic Cloves – crush fresh garlic.
  • Escallion or Green Onion – crushed.
  • Fresh Thyme – in a pinch, use dried thyme but fresh is preferred.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – use the whole, uncut pepper.
  • Whole Allspice Berries Pimento Seeds – for depth of flavour.
  • Pure Coconut Milk – use any type of coconut milk, just make sure it’s 100% coconut milk and not coconut water or coconut cream.
  • Vegetable Bouillon – for even more flavour, you can also use chicken bouillon.
  • Seasoning – I use seasoning salt or salt (more or less to taste) and black pepper.
  • Rice – use parboiled, jasmine rice or basmati rice, rinsed and drained.
frozen green gungo peas.

How to Make Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice

Soak Pigeon Peas Overnight

Rinse dried pigeon peas. Then in a medium bowl (with a lid), add peas, water, garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet pepper. scallion, thyme and pimento berries. Cover and allow to soak overnight. If using canned or green gungo (pigeon) peas, skip to the next step.

Boil Pigeon Peas

Add water to a medium sized pot and bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat. Rinse and drain green gungo (pigeon) peas, then add to pot along with garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet pepper, scallion and thyme.

Add Coconut Milk and Seasonings

When peas near tender, stir in coconut milk, vegetable bouillon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow coconut infused peas mixture to come to a boil approx. 5-6 minutes.

Add Rice and Simmer

Add rinsed rice (when peas tender), stir, cover and let simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid has mostly absorbed then adjust the heat to low and allow the rice to continue cooking until rice near tender.

Steam Then Serve

Remove from the heat and let steam for 10 minutes, then discard the thyme sprigs, ginger, escallion, pimento seeds and scotch bonnet, if desired. Using a fork, fluff the rice and peas. Serve hot and enjoy!

a pot of gungo peas and rice.

Recipe Substitutions and Tips

  • Rice – use parboiled rice as a healthier alternative. It has more nutrients than white rice.
  • Pressure Cooker – for a fast method to cook the pigeon peas, use a pressure cooker then finish the recipe in a dutch pot.
  • Rice and Canned Gungo Peas – prepare this dish in a fraction of the time when you use canned beans instead of dried pigeon peas. I find that the flavour isn’t as boastful, but still gets the job done.

Serving Suggestions and Tips

Serve gungo peas and rice with savory, saucy dishes. Here are some suggestions:

jamaican gungo peas and rice in bowl.

Recipe Notes and Tips for Success

  • Dried Gungo (Pigeon) Peas – there are many ways in which you can prepare your peas for example, some soak, others use a pressure cooker to cut the time in half. Soaking will lessen the amount of time it will take for your peas to become tender when cooking.
  • Green or Canned Gungo (Pigeon) Peas) – you can also choose to purchase canned green pigeon peas, this will eliminate the need to soak and cook your peas to tender. But, my preferred method is using Brown Betty Green Pigeon Peas.
  • Type of Peas – this dish is made with Dried/ Green Pigeon (Gungo) Peas. However, you can also substitute with Red Kidney Beans, traditionally known as Jamaican Rice & Peas.
  • Liquid to Rice – you can always add more water, if you’re finding that all the liquid has absorbed but the rice is still not cooked. It is better to have less, and add more, than to have too much and end up with mushy rice. 
  • How Much Water to Add – When you have added your rice to the pot, liquid should be an about an inch (roughly the first marking from the tip of your index finger) higher when the rice has settled. White rice – approx. 1 inch, brown rice – approx. 2 inches above.
  • Don’t Burn The Rice – once the rice has been added, you should only be cooking on a low heat – a slight simmer. If not, you run a great risk of burning your rice.
jamaican gungo peas and rice in bowl.

Can I Make this Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! Prepare the rice up to 3 days before you plan to eat it. Store it in the fridge or for longer storage, freeze it.

Storage Instructions

Store gungo peas and rice in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The fat in coconut milk is what prevents it from lasting longer. For longer storage, freeze the rice for up to 4 months.

Reheating Instructions

If frozen, thaw pigeon peas and rice in the fridge overnight. When you want to reheat it, warm it up on the stove in a pot over medium heat. For single servings, use the microwave. You may need to add some water to the rice in order to rehydrate it.

spoonful of gungo peas and rice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are gungo peas the same as pigeon peas?

Yes. Both terms refer to the legume.

Why do you have to soak gungo peas?

Soaking gungo peas drastically reduces cooking time. It also results in better texture and fewer burst beans.

What are gungo peas good for?

Use them in soups, stews, and rice dishes.

Are dried pigeon peas better than canned pigeon peas?

Both will yield tender, delicious gungo peas but dried pigeon peas are more cost-efficient. Dried beans take up to 8 hours to soften, but you can make them in bulk and freeze them for later use.

Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!

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jamaican gungo peas and rice in bowl.

Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice

Taneisha Morris
Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice is a popular side dish of savoury pigeon peas and fluffy rice, infused with island herbs, spices and creamy coconut milk. This well-seasoned Caribbean staple is cooked to perfection so it's the perfect side to favourites like Jamaican Oxtail, Curry Goat, and Jerk Chicken.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Soak Beans 8 hours
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Sides, Vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 715 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Medium Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Uncooked Parboiled Rice rinsed and drained
  • 300g Green Gungo (Pigeon) Peas
  • 3 cups Water plus more/less as needed to soften gungo peas
  • 2 cloves Garlic crushed
  • 1/2-inch pc. Fresh Ginger
  • 1 whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper
  • 1 stalk Escallion or green onion, crushed
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 5 whole Pimento Berries allspice berries
  • 1 whole Vegetable Bouillon Cube
  • 1 cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 tsp Seasoning Salt or salt, more or less to taste, optional
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Add water to a medium sized pot and bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat. Rinse and drain green gungo (pigeon) peas, then add to pot along with garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet pepper, scallion and thyme.
  • When peas near tender, stir in coconut milk, vegetable bouillon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow coconut infused peas mixture to come to a boil approx. 5-6 minutes.
  • Add rinsed rice (when peas tender), stir, cover and let simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid has mostly absorbed then adjust the heat to low and allow the rice to continue cooking until rice near tender.
  • Remove from the heat and let steam for 10 minutes, then discard the thyme sprigs, ginger, escallion, pimento seeds and scotch bonnet, if desired. Using a fork, fluff the rice and peas. Serve hot and enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

If Using Dried Gungo “Pigeon” Peas – soak your peas overnight, or for a few hours then boil in water with herbs and spices until tender. The longer you soak your dried peas, the less amount of time it will need to boil (cook) until tender. Adjust the cooking time accordingly. Once peas become tender, proceed to the next step (step 2).

Nutrition

Calories: 715kcalCarbohydrates: 125gProtein: 24gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 360mgPotassium: 1310mgFiber: 13gSugar: 0.2gVitamin A: 96IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 151mgIron: 7mg

Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Leave a star rating and a comment below! You can also tag @theseasoned.skillet and use #theseasonedskillet on Instagram!
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jamaican gungo peas and rice in bowl.

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Leah
    December 12, 2022 at 10:50 am

    How many people is this recipe for?

    • Reply
      Taneisha Morris
      December 12, 2022 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Leah! It’s for 4 generous servings! However, you can stretch it to serve more if need be!

  • Reply
    Bianca
    May 20, 2023 at 9:13 pm

    5 stars
    Simply excellent.

    • Reply
      Taneisha Morris
      May 25, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      Awesome!! So happy to hear you enjoyed!

  • Reply
    Tamara
    December 24, 2023 at 5:10 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve been looking for a recipe to make for my family. My grandma used to always make rice and peas for family gatherings and we haven’t had it since she passed away. While this recipe isn’t quite my grandma’s, it is absolutely delicious and I am so excited to serve it to my family tomorrow as part of our Christmas feast! I used canned green gungo peas and basmati rice and both worked out well. I substituted the pimento berries with about a 1/2tsp of ground all spice. I will definitely be making this again! Thanks for sharing a great recipe.

    • Reply
      Taneisha Morris
      December 27, 2023 at 10:53 am

      I love this so much! Grandma must’ve been smiling down on you!! So happy to hear this!! Have a great new year when it comes!!

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