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Pigeon Peas and Rice

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“Based on a recipe from Heidi Haughy Cusick’s book, Soul and Spice, African Cooking in the Americas. This book is chock-filled with Caribbean, Bahia Brazilian, and Louisiana Creole recipes. She says, “This Caribbean mainstay is found on all the islands in a variety of forms. Sometimes it is cooked with pork; other times it is prepared with water, onions, and salt. The peas can also be cooked with coconut milk, and garlic, tomatoes, and green onions can be added. Curry power is another option. And the hot habanero (Scotch Bonnet) chile is optional. Pigeon peas are native to Africa and resemble black-eyed peas. They are pale yellow and have a small “eye”. In the West Indies, pigeon peas also go by goongoo, Congo, and gungo peas. The peas’ earthy flavor is wonderful; when these legumes are combined with rice the resulting texture is a mouthful to behold. In Cuba red beans and rice are called congri. A dish of black beans and rice on the island is called Moros y Christianos, for Moors and Christians. Cook time doesn’t include soaking the peas overnight. When I tried this, I added 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke along with smoked bacon in place of ham hocks (couldn't find) and our guests and we loved it! Nice backdrop to any dish that suggests a rice accompaniment.”
1hr 45mins

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 2 12 cups dried pigeon peas, rinsed and picked over (1 pound, black-eyed peas can be substituted)
  • 8 cups water or 6 12 cups water and 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 12 lb ham hocks, cut into 2-inch pieces (to reduce the saltiness of the ham hocks, you may first par-boil them in enough water to cover for 3) or 1 turkey neck, whole smoked or 3 -4 pigs tails
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh habanero peppers (Scotch Bonnet) or 1 pickled habanero peppers (Scotch Bonnet) or 1 12 teaspoons red hot pepper sauce (Papa Joe's brand Scotch Bonnet red hot-pepper sauce recommended)
  • 1 12 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
  • salt
  • ground black pepper


  1. Place pigeon peas in bowl and cover with several inches extra water; soak overnight. Drain.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine drained pigeon peas with water (or water and coconut milk). Bring to the boil and add the ham hocks, onion, 1 clove of the garlic, and the chile. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes.
  3. Stir in the rice; reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, another 20-30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the rice is tender, add the last garlic clove to the pot by squeezing it through a garlic press.
  4. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and red-hot sauce, if using, and serve.

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