Jamaican Pumpkin Rice

7.12.21 | Recipe by Renz
A delicious one-pot of rice and pumpkin that steps up your white rice game. A well-seasoned rice mix, with a nice flavorful twist.

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.

We have 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?

There are many different types of pumpkins. Varies in size, color, and sweetness. In the Caribbean, we typically grow and eat the calabaza pumpkin or 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.

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

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

And pumpkin has such great health benefits.

The health benefits of pumpkin 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

Ingredients to make Jamaican pumpkin rice

This Jamaican pumpkin rice recipe is a simple, 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.

  • Pumpkin - you can buy a chunk of it, or also look for it cubed in the chilled section in the Caribbean markets. Sometimes you may find cubes with skin or cubes with the skin removed.
  • Rice - I always use parboiled rice.
  • Scallion (green onion)
  • Onion
  • Scotch bonnet pepper - or any hot pepper you have to use. Habanero peppers can be a great substitute. I also use my pepper whole more so for the flavor of pepper, but if you want more spicy rice, you can slice up the pepper.
  • Fresh thyme - you can also use dried thyme if you are unable to find fresh
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 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.
  • Garlic cloves - fresh garlic is best, but you can use garlic powder if you need to.
  • Butter
  • Oil - you can use olive oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil.
  • Pumpkin soup seasoning

Dutch pot

How to make Jamaican pumpkin rice

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

Chop up your scallion, onion, and garlic. Leave the pepper whole.

On medium heat, you will add them to your butter along with black pepper and saute till 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 this and saute it for a little bit to get toasted. This helps give the rice a little nutty flavor. It also helps if you washed out the starch from the rice prior. See note about washing rice.

Add in 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. And season with salt.


Adding rice to pot to make pumpkin rice

Bring water to a boil, then lower to medium-low and cover pot and let that simmer steam till 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. 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.

Jamaican pumpkin rice being simmered in water with spices
Remove the thyme sprigs before serving. And the pepper

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 stew fish.


* 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.



In place of pumpkin: You can also use winter squash in place of the pumpkin. A type of winter squash is 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.

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.

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: