Coconut Rice and Beans

Coconut Rice and Beans is a Caribbean-inspired, easy-to-make side dish that's packed with protein and flavor! Tender black beans and perfectly cooked rice cooked in nutty coconut milk and seasoned with lots of tropical spices. It's great served with grilled meats and seafood, tacos, or eaten as a meal on its own. It's vegan, gluten free, made from mostly pantry ingredients and is one of my favorite sides of all time.

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While we're all stuck inside, we might as well make the best of it, right?

For me, that means cooking more than ever. This recipe has been on my list to share forever, and I can't think of a better time than right now to post it. Made with mostly pantry ingredients, it's perfect for quarantine cooking and is sure to brighten up even the gloomiest day.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

This is a Caribbean-inspired recipe that I learned to make in Jamaica, where it's more commonly called Rice and Peas. It's typically made with pigeon peas, which are a small, dark brown dried legumes. They're green when fresh, but difficult to find where I live. I can't usually get pigeon peas in my grocery store, so I use black beans instead. Red kidney beans or pinto beans would also work well.

The difference between this style of rice and beans and others is the addition of coconut milk and distinct Caribbean spices like allspice (called pimento in Jamaica) and Scotch Bonnet peppers. The coconut milk adds a richness and nutty flavor that's almost a little bit sweet, but thyme, scallions and bay leaves keep it plenty savory.

a pot of black beans and rice with a habanero
A bowl black beans and rice with scallions
scotch bonnet and all spice (pimento)

What are Scotch Bonnet Peppers?

Scotch Bonnet peppers are very spicy chili peppers that are native to the Caribbean. They're similar to Habaneros, which are more common here in the US, so I use them interchangeably. Scotch Bonnets are very spicy - far spicier than your average jalapeño. However, they also have an incredible fruity flavor that can be imparted into dishes without overwhelming them with spice.

In this recipe, the whole pepper is added to the pot with the rice and beans as they cook to infuse it with flavor. If you just leave the pepper whole, it really won't add much spice at all. I like to make a small incision on one side of the pepper so that it can release more of its flavor and a little bit of its spice into the dish. You can also split the pepper in half if you want lots of heat.

If you are very opposed to heat and cannot tolerate any, or if you simply cannot find Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chilies, you can leave them out altogether. You can also look for a chili called "Aji Dulce," which has a similar fruity flavor to a Scotch Bonnet without the intense heat. Aji Dulce are not commonly found in grocery stores, but you can often find them at Latin markets.

How do you Make Coconut Rice and Beans?

This recipe is really simple and takes less than 30 minutes start to finish. First, saute an onion with lots of classic Jamaican seasonings, like allspice (pimento), thyme, bay leaf and a Scotch Bonnet (or Habanero) pepper, until fragrant.

Next, add jasmine rice (or any long grain rice) and a can of black beans that have been drained and rinsed. Cover with coconut milk and water, then simmer until the rice is perfectly cooked. Fluff the rice and beans with a fork, finish with a shower of scallions and that's it!

A pot of black beans and rice with a fork
A close up of a bowl of black beans and rice with scallions

What to serve with Coconut Rice and Beans?

So many things! Personally, I love to keep with the Jamaican / Caribbean theme and serve this with jerked chicken, jerked shrimp or this Jerked Fish with Grilled Pineapple Salsa. It's great with grilled meats and seafood, tacos, fried fish, smothered pork chops, etc. Really, anywhere you would normally serve rice (or risotto) or beans, you can serve Coconut Rice and Beans.

One of my favorite ways to eat Coconut Rice and Beans is actually leftover the next day! I eat it with some grilled or roasted vegetables and a crispy fried egg on top. It's filling, high in protein and can be a meal all by itself!

A close up of black beans and rice

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a pot of black beans and rice with a habanero
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Coconut Rice and Beans

Coconut Rice and Beans is a Caribbean-inspired, easy-to-make side dish that's packed with protein and flavor! Tender black beans and perfectly cooked rice, cooked in nutty coconut milk and seasoned with lots of tropical spices. It's great served with grilled meats and seafood, tacos, or eaten as a meal on its own. It's vegan, gluten free, made from mostly pantry ingredients and one of my favorite sides of all time.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 353kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 scotch bonnet or habanero chili pierced with a knife *See note
  • 1 cup jasmine rice or long grain rice
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk shaken or stirred well (full fat is best but low-fat also works)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a small-medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the allspice, thyme and bay leaf, then stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.  
  3. Add the Scotch Bonnet pepper and rice, then stir until every grain of rice is coated in the oil and seasonings.
  4. Add the black beans, coconut milk and water, then season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then cover and turn the heat all the way down to low. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  6. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the pot sit, undisturbed, for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid, then fish out the bay leaf, thyme sprig and Scotch Bonnet (leave in for more heat) and discard. Fluff the rice and beans with a fork, then sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately.

Notes

*For less heat, don't pierce the chili. For more heat, slice it in half. For even more heat, dice the chili and saute with the onion. 

Nutrition

Calories: 353kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 603mg | Potassium: 337mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 93IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg
Coconut Rice and Beans is an easy, Caribbean-inspired side dish that's packed with protein and flavor! #easy #caribbean #jamaican #recipe #rice #beans #coconut #side | ColeyCooks.com
An overhead shot of a table with a pot of rice and beans and 2 bowls of it

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8 Comments

    1. You can use brown rice but it will need longer to cook - at least 10 minutes but maybe more. Check it to test and adjust as needed. If it's dry and still not cooked through, add 1/4 cup more water and continue cooking until the rice is tender.

  1. 5 stars
    I made this recipe but I used pigeon peas like you said you had in Jamaica. I used a frozen scotchey and a few aji dulce peppers. I followed everything else just used a lot more fresh thyme than you suggested. I really liked the recipe. Super simple and tasty on it's own!

  2. 5 stars
    I just made this for the first time. It was very good. I look forward to pairing it with a jerk protein & a Mango or Pineapple salsa. A couple of comments/questions::
    - I love the no fuss rice technique. I didn’t want to take the pot lid off, but wish I would have stirred it after 10 min. I think I used too big of a pot, so some of the top layer of rice wasn’t fully cooked. The rest turned out amazing. Lesson learned.
    - I slit the habanero on 4 sides, and didn’t de-seed it, but left it intact. It was a nice slow burn.
    -Question: maybe b/c of the heat, I felt like it was a little bland. I like bold flavors. Should I add more allspice & thyme? Another ingredient?
    Thanks!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Dan! Absolutely add some more allspice and thyme if you want more flavor. You can also add some garlic and more onion if you wish, and add lots of scallions at the end.

  3. 5 stars
    I hope you, Chaser, Phoebe, and your families are hanging in there. Beans, coconut milk, and rice were at the top of my stocking up list. I used to make something similar to this with mango. Actually, I thought that scotch bonnet was a little mango at first because I'm stuck wearing old contacts right now. I'll be making this on my instagram story one night soon.

    1. Thanks Danielle! I actually make this as a side whenever I cook seafood with mango salsa - it's a perfect combo! Hope you're able to get some new contacts soon - I only have a few pairs left in stock and trying to make them last. Stay safe!!