Meatless black-eyed peas and rice - Stovetop and Instant pot

29.12.16 | Recipe by Renz

Ready for the dish that would bring you the best of luck? Then this black eye peas and rice is the one you need a choose. A simple dish of rice, black-eyed peas simmered down in coconut milk, it's also the perfect choice for meatless Mondays. This rice recipe is quick, tasty, and easy to make on the stovetop or electric cooker. The only New Year's Eve meal (or Old Year's night as we call it).

A finished pot well cooked black eyed peas and rice alongside some fish.

In the Caribbean, the traditional method of preparing black eye peas and rice, also known as "cook up rice," involves cooking rice and locally available black-eyed peas together in a flavorful broth with ingredients such as coconut milk, herbs, and spices.

This dish is important because the combination of rice and peas creates a complete protein, making it a valuable and nutritious staple in the Caribbean diet. This dish also holds cultural significance in the Caribbean, southern United States, and parts of Africa, where it is often enjoyed as a comfort food and a symbol of hospitality. In some Caribbean countries, it is a popular dish for special occasions and gatherings, and it is often enjoyed with a side of steamed fish and fried plantains.

This rice dish also stands as a precursor for the new year. It is common to cook this dish for New Year's Day as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

The traditional way of preparing black eyed peas and rice in the Caribbean highlights the region's rich culinary heritage and the importance of locally sourced ingredients in creating delicious and wholesome meals.

So get ready to dive into making this meatless version of this delicious recipe and here's to hoping you head into the next day with a little luck.


Dried vs. Canned beans

When it comes to choosing beans for your recipes, you may be faced with the choice between dry beans or canned. Both options have their pros and cons, and each can be better suited for different dishes and cooking situations. In this comparison, we'll look closer at the differences between dried and canned beans in terms of flavor, texture, convenience, cost, and nutritional value. By examining these factors, you can make an informed decision about which type of beans to use.

How to use dried beans

When using dried beans for this dish, you have the option of either soaking them overnight or boiling them the same day. Soaking the beans overnight involves covering them with water and allowing them to sit for at least 8 hours while boiling them the same day requires bringing them to a boil and then letting them simmer for about 2 hours.

If necessary, the black-eye peas can be pre-soaked to reduce cooking time and improve digestibility. Using dried beans is a time commitment, as it requires advanced preparation, but it results in a firmer texture and more distributed flavor in the dish. By using dried beans, you maintain the pea's shape and color in the final dish, giving it a more vibrant and appetizing appearance.

Overall, using dried beans may take some extra time and effort, but the result is worth it for the firmer texture, enhanced flavor, and maintained appearance of the peas in the dish. Soaking dried beans is a key step in achieving the desired texture and flavor, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of the final dish.

Ingredients needed to make black-eyed peas and rice cook-up

Portioned out ingredients for making a one pot cook-up for black eyed peas and rice

  • Rice - I use parboiled white rice. I make sure to wash the rice a few times to get rid of any extra starch since I am using coconut milk. You can also use brown rice to make this. You will have to adjust the cooking time a bit since brown rice takes longer to cook.
  • Black eye peas - Either dried or canned can be used. See above for the points on using either.
  • Pumpkin - the calabaza pumpkin with the green outside is what we use in most if not all our recipes that call for pumpkin. Push comes to shove and if you cannot find it, then use squash.
  • Coconut milk - You can always make your own or buy canned. Always make sure it's the full-fat coconut milk.
  • Water - this is the main cooking liquid but you can substitute it with vegetable stock

See the full recipe list and quantities in the recipe card below.

How to prepare black eyed peas and rice

Black Eyed Peas and Rice is a hearty and flavorful dish that is a staple in many cultures around the world. Whether you're looking for a delicious and nutritious meal to serve your family or a dish to bring to a potluck, this recipe is sure to be a hit.

I will cover the step-by-step cooking process of preparing this cook-up, from soaking the peas to cooking them with the perfect blend of spices and aromatics. Whether you choose to make it on the stovetop, or using an Instant Pot, we've got you covered. Get ready to dive into the world of comforting and satisfying Black Eyed Peas and Rice with this comprehensive guide.

Preparing the peas

If using dried peas, place your peas in a medium bowl and cover with water. Make sure there is way more water than peas in the bowl. Let it sit overnight for the best results. Or no less than 8 hours. You can also boil the beans in water, then leave them to simmer till tender.

If using canned peas, simply throw out the liquid it comes in and rinse them out.

Stove top method

To make black eyed peas and rice using the stovetop method, start by heating a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add water, onions, garlic, and the soaked peas to the pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 5 minutes.

Black eye peas, onions, garlic and seasoning about to be boiled to make cook-up rice.

Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and washed rice to the pot. Continue the boil. Add in fresh thyme and the whole scotch bonnet pepper to the pot.

Added rice and pumpkin and coconut milk to dish to make black eye peas and rice.

Add in sugar, black pepper, and salt. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer (around medium-low heat) and let the pot simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Keep an eye on the pot and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Cooked down black eye peas and rice in a large pot ready to be served,

Enjoy your homemade black eyed peas, perfect for a hearty and flavorful meal.

Instant pot method

This Instant Pot method for cooking black eyed peas is quick, easy, and results in deliciously seasoned beans every time.
  1. Place all the ingredients into the instant pot and give it a good stir. Cover the pot and manually set the time to 15 minutes.
  2. Set the valve to sealing. Let it build up the pressure and cook.
  3. Once time is completed, carefully move the valve to venting. After that, carefully open the Instant Pot lid and stir the black-eyed peas well. They should be perfectly tender and flavorful, ready to be enjoyed.

How to store this dish

When it comes to storing dishes, it can be a game-changer in ensuring the food stays fresh and delicious for longer periods. By following these simple storage guidelines, you can preserve the integrity and flavor of your favorite dishes without compromising on taste.

Finished cook-up rice in a white bowl garnished with cilantro leaves.

How to refrigerate

To refrigerate leftover black-eyed peas and rice, start by allowing them to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer the leftovers to a food storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure the container is clean and dry before placing the leftovers inside.

Once the leftovers are in the container, seal the lid tightly to prevent air from getting in. Label the container with the date it was prepared to keep track of how long it has been in the fridge. Place the container in the refrigerator and store it for up to 5 days.

When reheating the leftovers, remove the container from the fridge and take out the amount needed. Microwave the leftovers on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even heating. Check the temperature to make sure it is hot enough before serving.

How to freeze

Once the rice dish has cooled down to room temperature, transfer it into a freezer bag. Ensure the bag is properly sealed to prevent any air from getting in.

Use a marker to label the bag with the current date and the number of servings inside. This will help you track how long the dish has been in the freezer and how many portions are available.

To best freeze, lay the bag flat on a small baking tray. This will help the rice and peas freeze into a uniform shape, making it easier to stack and organize in the freezer. Then place the baking tray with the bag into the freezer and allow the rice and peas to freeze completely.

Once it's frozen, remove the baking tray and stack the frozen bags of rice and peas neatly in your freezer, allowing for easy storage and organization.


Meats that can be added to this dish would be ham hock, beef, saltfish, and salt meat of some kind like salt pork. You can also use smoked turkey necks to give a nice smoky flavor.

Other things for additional flavors you can use are bay leaves and chicken broth.

Similar recipes

1. Traditional Caribbean rice and peas: This classic recipe calls for kidney beans (red beans), coconut milk, thyme, and scallions. It is typically made with long-grain rice and served as a side dish to jerk chicken or fish.

2. Modern Caribbean rice and peas: A contemporary twist on the traditional recipe, this version may include black beans, pigeon peas, or even split peas along with vegetable or chicken stock, and additional vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, or corn. This variation offers a more customizable approach to suit different dietary preferences and tastes. Switching up the stock, such as using fish stock for a seafood-inspired dish, can also add a unique flavor profile. Adding vegetables like spinach, kale, or diced tomatoes can bring a fresh and colorful element to the dish.

3. Ochro and rice: A combination of ochro with rice cooked using coconut milk creating a rich and creamy dish.

What to eat with black eye peas:

This dish is usually paired well with stews even though I think it's great as the main dish with nothing else.

​But some steamed fish or stewed oxtail are great options.

Here are some more instant pot recipes: