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Caribbean Pigeon Peas and Rice

(recipe, Ellen Kanner)

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Traditionally, this is made with pigeon peas — cute, round, and tan, also called gandules or the fun name, gungo peas. 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) instead. No harm will be done.


  1. 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  4. 1 green or red pepper, chopped
  5. ¼ habañero (Scotch bonnet) pepper or 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped, depending on how hot you like it (see Note)
  6. 2 celery ribs, chopped
  7. 1 tomato, chopped (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained)
  8. 1 tsp. allspice
  9. ½ tsp. cumin
  10. 2 cups pigeon peas or red beans, cooked and cooled (or 1 15-ounce can of prepared beans, rinsed and drained)
  11. 2½ cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
  12. 1 small handful fresh thyme leaves, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  13. 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  14. Sea salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper, habañero, and celery, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the diced tomato and season with the allspice and cumin.
  2. Add the cooked pigeon peas and rice, stirring until the mixture is well combined. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the moisture from the vegetables is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.


Wear gloves when handling fresh chiles, no matter how manly you are. Covered and refrigerated, pigeon peas and rice keeps well for several days, and the flavor improves over time. For crowds, this recipe doubles like a dream.

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