rice with okra on top in a bowl with red pepper

Peas and rice is a beloved staple captures the essence of the Caribbean, boasting a rich history woven with diverse cultural influences. Pigeon Peas Cook-up with Okra is one way of enjoying this delectable dish. Let’s delve deeper into the cultural tapestry of this dish, exploring its origins, variations, and significance across the Caribbean archipelago.

History and Cultural Significance

Pigeon Peas Cook-up with Okra traces its roots back to the intersecting culinary traditions of West Africa and Indigenous Caribbean peoples, During the colonial era, African slaves introduced pigeon peas to the Caribbean, while Indigenous Caribbean communities cultivated rice with expertise.

Beyond its culinary significance, peas and rice holds a symbolic importance in Caribbean culture. It embodies the resilience and resourcefulness of Caribbean communities, reflecting their ability to transform humble ingredients into a dish that nourishes both body and soul.

up close shot of okra in a bowl of seasoned rice with pigeon peas

Regional Variations

While the core ingredients remain consistent, Pigeon Peas Cook-up with Okra exhibits delightful variations across different Caribbean islands.

This version is a meatless Guyanese Cook-up Rice, also known simply as “Cook-up.” Typically it features rice cooked with a variety of meats such as chicken, beef, or pork, along with beans or peas, coconut milk, and aromatic herbs and spices. The combination of meats and beans creates a rich and flavorful dish with layers of savory goodness. It can be made with a variety of beans, peas such as pigeon peas and vegetables such as callaloo. It is then cooked together with the rice, infusing it with their earthy flavors and creamy texture. The addition of coconut milk adds a luscious creaminess to the dish, while herbs like thyme and scallions impart a fresh and aromatic quality. This is great served with Fried Fish, Jerk Pork Ribs with a Tamarind BBQ Sauce, Caribbean Fried Chicken, Fried Chicken Wings with a Hot Honey, Juicy Baked Chicken or Escovitch Fish.

Puerto Rican Arroz con Grandules:

In Puerto Rico it is known Pigeon Peas and Rice is known as “Arroz con Gandules.” This flavorful rendition features sofrito—a fragrant blend of onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro—as its base. Sofrito adds depth and complexity to the dish, infusing the rice with aromatic notes and savory undertones. Adorned with green olives and diced ham or pork, Arroz con Gandules is a hearty and comforting dish that reflects the island’s Spanish and African heritage. Whether served alongside roast pork or fried plantains, it is a cherished part of Puerto Rican cuisine.

pigeon peas rice in a bowl with okra and a pepper

Jamaican Rice and Peas: 

In Jamaica, Pigeon Peas and Rice takes on the name “Rice and Peas.” This iconic dish is characterized by the bold flavors of coconut milk and Scotch bonnet peppers. The creamy richness of coconut milk infuses the rice with a luxurious texture, while the fiery heat of Scotch bonnet peppers adds a tantalizing kick. Traditionally, kidney beans are used alongside pigeon peas, imparting a colorful contrast to the dish.

Trinidadian Pelau:

In Trinidad and Tobago, Pigeon Peas and Rice takes on a unique form known as “Pelau.” This one-pot wonder combines rice, pigeon peas, and tender pieces of meat—typically chicken or beef—cooked together with caramelized sugar. The addition of caramelized sugar lends a subtly sweet flavor to the dish, balancing the savory notes of the meat and earthy richness of the pigeon peas. Finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, Pelau is a symphony of flavors that captivates the senses. Often enjoyed at outdoor gatherings and beach picnics, it is a testament to Trinidadian hospitality and culinary creativity.

Bahamian Peas and Rice:

In the Bahamas, Pigeon Peas and Rice is a cherished staple known simply as “Peas and Rice.” This version showcases the simplicity of the dish, allowing the natural flavors of the ingredients to shine through. Pigeon peas are cooked with rice in a savory broth seasoned with onions, garlic, and thyme. The result is a comforting and wholesome dish that pairs perfectly with grilled fish or conch fritters. Whether served at a beachside barbecue or a family dinner, Bahamian Peas and Rice embodies the laid-back charm and hospitality of the islands.

Each variation reflects the unique cultural nuances and culinary traditions of its respective island, showcasing the diversity within Caribbean cuisine. Despite these differences, the underlying essence of Pigeon Peas Cook-up remains constant—a testament to its enduring popularity and significance throughout the region.

One of the beauty of Pigeon Peas Cook-up lies in its versatility, allowing for adaptations and substitutions to suit individual preferences and dietary needs. For those seeking vegetarian or vegan options, simply omit meat-based ingredients and opt for vegetable bouillon instead.

upclose shot of rice dish with fried fish in the background

Recipes with Peas and Rice

Get the Recipe Pigeon Peas and Rice with Okra


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 whole scallion, finely
  • 1 15 oz can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed(or substitute with soaked dry peas
  • 3 tbsp green seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried Guyana thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 wiri wiri pepper
  • 2 tsp beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 13 oz can coconut milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups parboiled rice
  • 8 whole okra
  • cilantro to garnish


  • If using dry pigeon peas, soak them overnight in enough water to cover. Strain the peas and cook in a pot with fresh water until softened. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and scallions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened and fragrant.
  • If using canned pigeon peas, add them to the pot with the sautéed aromatics. If using cooked dry pigeon peas, add them along with any remaining cooking liquid.
  • Stir in green seasoning, dried thyme, bay leaf, all-purpose seasoning, black pepper, wiri wiri pepper, bouillon, and salt. Pour in coconut milk and water, stirring to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the parboiled rice. Allow the mixture to return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, add the whole okra to the pot, gently nestling them into the rice mixture. Cover the pot again and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, allowing the okra to steam until tender.
  • Once the rice is cooked through and the okra is tender, remove the pot from the heat. Garnish the dish with freshly chopped cilantro for a burst of freshness.


Author: Jehan Powell