How to make a well seasoned Jamaican pumpkin rice

7.12.21 | Recipe by Renz

A delicious one-pot meal of rice and pumpkin that steps up your white rice game. A well-seasoned rice mix, with real pumpkin chunks, with a nice flavorful twist that's a must for the table during the holiday season.

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One thing about Caribbean people is that we eat a lot of rice dishes. A lot. So when we get tired of the plain rice, the many seasoned rice variations come out. We have numerous versions of rice and peas, saltfish and rice, okra and rice.

There is pumpkin rice too. This flavorful pumpkin rice is a major part of Jamaican cuisine.

Sunday dinners must have a bowl of rice on the side, and this pumpkin rice is a great alternative.

Another well-seasoned, tasteful rice is my yellow turmeric rice.


What is pumpkin rice?

Pumpkin rice is a seasoned rice dish with rice and pumpkin cubes.

There are many different types of pumpkins. Varies in size, color, and sweetness. In the Caribbean, the type of pumpkin we grow and eat is the calabaza pumpkin commonly referred to as Caribbean pumpkin, Jamaican pumpkin, or Cuban squash. It is orange in color and has thick skin and is very tasty. I think this will always be the best pumpkin to use.

It is commonly sold in pre-cut chunks in Latin American and Caribbean markets. It is a bit difficult to cut up. You sometimes would be lucky to find it already pre-peeled, cubed, and packaged in the chilled area.

The more orange in color it is, usually, the sweeter that piece will be.

The health benefits of pumpkin make this dish not just a delicious dish but a healthy one. Pumpkin's benefits include boosting your immune system, high in vitamin A and it's low in calories. It also helps with healthy skin and contains many antioxidants.

Ingredients in Jamaican pumpkin rice

This Jamaican pumpkin rice recipe is a simple side dish with a basic recipe. Ingredients aren't anything that needs to be sought out. In fact, in a Caribbean home, these are basic pantry items we usually have on hand.

Ingredients to make Jamaican pumpkin rice

  • Pumpkin - you can buy a chunk of it, or you can also look for it cubed in the chilled section in the Caribbean markets. Sometimes you may find cubes with or without skin.
  • Rice - I always use parboiled rice as it stands up better to longer cooking times
  • Fresh herbs: Scallion (green onion), fresh thyme (or you can use dried thyme)
  • Vegetables: Onion, garlic (fresh or garlic powder)
  • Scotch bonnet pepper - or any hot pepper you have to use. Habanero peppers can be a great substitute. I use a whole scotch bonnet pepper because it's more so for the flavor than it is for heat.
  • Seasonings: Salt, Black pepper, pumpkin soup seasoning (optional)
  • Vegetable stock/water - You can use either one of these as your liquid or even mix and match. Using vegetable stock helps with additional flavor to make this seasoned rice.
  • Butter - I prefer to use butter here instead of oil to get everything going. If you use salted butter make sure you look out for salt levels. A good substitute would also be an oil, preferably coconut oil or olive oil.

Dutch pot

How to make Jamaican pumpkin rice

Make sure you cut up your pumpkin into small pieces and about the same size so that they can cook as evenly as possible.

Chop up your scallions, onion, and garlic. Remember to leave the pepper whole.

On medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet, then add the above-chopped ingredients. Saute until the onions are opaque. You can also use oil instead of butter.


Sauteing of pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic and pepper in butter

Add your rice to the skillet and saute it for a little bit to get toasted. This helps give the rice a little nutty flavor. It also helps if you wash out the starch from the rice prior. See note about washing rice.

Add your cups of water/stock to this rice mix and add in your remaining seasonings. If you did not saute your hot pepper in the beginning add it in now. Season with salt and give the pot a good stir.

Adding rice to pot to make pumpkin rice

Bring the water to a boil, then lower it to medium-low heat, cover the pot, and let that simmer till the rice is cooked.

Occasionally check on the rice. If you think the water is disappearing but the rice still seems hard, add more water. I would do 1/4 cup at a time. And LET IT STEAM for about 25-30 minutes.

Once the rice is cooked, fluff it up with a fork.

Jamaican pumpkin rice being simmered in water with spices
Be careful of the scotch bonnet pepper while fluffing. If you find the rice dry, you can add some coconut oil and mix it in. It also gives it additional flavor.

Remove the thyme sprigs and pepper before serving.

What to eat pumpkin rice with

This flavorful rice is a great meal by itself. I really do gobble up some of it hot out of the pot. But it's great paired with different protein dishes.

I always love it with some stew of sorts. So like some turkey neck stew or stew chicken.

But it's also great with some brown stewfish or jerk chicken.


* Should I wash my rice: This is always a debate. Washing your rice removes starch from the rice which is what makes rice sticky. Using washed rice is up to you.

* Make sure that your pot lit seals tightly with your pot
. Keeping the steam in the pot is important to getting the rice to cook. If you think your cover is not tight, you can cover the pot with foil past its edges then cover it with your lid.



What if I don't find pumpkin: You can also use winter squash in place of the pumpkin. A type of winter squash is a common butternut squash.

Coconut milk or coconut milk powder: If you are like me and like a little extra flavor, you can use some coconut milk. If you have canned coconut milk, swap out one cup of water with the milk. Or if you have the powder you can just sprinkle about a tablespoon in the water to boil.

Different types of rice: You do not have to use white rice. You can also use brown rice, jasmine, or basmati rice. Obviously, these cook for different times and may need different water. If you are using a different type of rice than what I've used, I suggest using water as you would normally cook. A good point is also that you can add more water later down versus having to take liquid away.

Broth/water: You can use these interchangeably. Using broth can give an additional layer of flavor to your rice. When using vegetable broth though check for salt content levels and for your other seasonings. I always tend to add salt later down for better control.

Other vegetables: Feel free to add in some extras. Sweet green peas are a great option.


Some more of my favorite Caribbean rice dishes:

Some more pumpkin recipes: