Jamaican Rice and Beans with Thyme

October 11, 2010 at 10:28 am (AMA, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Caribbean, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Starches, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

Derek and I both really like this dish, based on a recipe from the AMA Family Health cookbook. The appearance isn’t great, and the texture is hard to get right, but the flavor is excellent. The kidney beans and rice are seasoned with a lot of garlic, thyme, and scallions, as well as a little allspice and coconut milk, plus one scotch bonnet (aka habanero) pepper. I don’t make it all that often these days since it’s inherently spicy, and Alma can’t handle the spice. But once she’s more spice tolerant I think it will return to our regular rotation. Other than prepping the fresh thyme, it’s a pretty fast and easy recipe.


  • 16 ounces dried red kidney beans (originally 1/2 a pound), soaked overnight and then drained
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (originally 3/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (or 3/4 cup lowfat coconut milk)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 Tbs. dried)
  • 1 small Scotch bonnet / habanero pepper (or 2 jalepenos), seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice (originally 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 cup raw long-grain white rice (originally 1.5 cups)
  • 1.5 – 2 cups thinly sliced scallions (divided into two piles)


  1. Soak the beans overnight if possible in a 4-quart saucepan.
  2. Drain the beans.  Add the beans back to the saucepan along with 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil for a full 10 minutes.  Add the salt.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the beans are just about tender, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  3. Add the coconut milk, garlic, thyme, hot peppers, butter, and allspice to the beans and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice and 3/4 cup scallions, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to very low, and cook until the rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Salt to taste, and sprinkle with the remaining chopped scallions before serving.

Makes about 10 cups, so around 10 side-dish servings or 6 main-dish servings.  Per main-dish serving (assuming only 14 ounces of beans):  about 357 calories, 8g fat, 61g carbs, 3g fiber, and 12g protein.

My notes:

When it comes to cookbooks, I have a “one comes in, one goes out” policy, which encourages a “use it or lose it” philosophy.  I have some new cookbooks I want to buy, so I was perusing my cookbook shelf to see what cookbooks I could get rid of.  In doing so, I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve made anything from my American Medical Association Family Health Cookbook. Perhaps it’s time for it to go?

So I pulled the cookbook down from the shelf and selected a bunch of recipes to make.  If the recipes turn out well I’ll keep the cookbook.  If we don’t love them then the cookbook is getting gifted to a friend. I picked some recipes that I’ve made before but never blogged about, and some recipes I’ve never made.  This particular recipe is new to me.  I chose it because it looked strongly flavored.  The kidney beans and rice are seasoned with a lot of garlic, thyme, and scallions, as well as a little allspice and coconut milk, plus one scotch bonnet (aka habanero) pepper

Even though I picked this recipe because it had strong flavors, I was surprised at how flavorful the dish turned out.  The habanero made the dish hot, but not unpleasantly so.  And the garlic, thyme, coconut, and allspice melded into a great flavor base.  I couldn’t taste any of the flavors individually, but I enjoyed the dish a lot.  So did Derek.  He kept asking for more and more.

In terms of appearances, the dish isn’t such a standout though.  It kind of looks like rice and bean mush.   The rice doesn’t get all light and fluffy since it’s cooked with the beans.

The most time consuming part of this recipe was prepping the thyme.  Getting 3 Tbs. of thyme leaves off the stems takes forever.  I wonder if I can just chop up the stems and use them as well?

Next time I make this dish I’d like to try it with brown basmati, since I’m really not such a fan of white rice.  Also, the original recipe called for 1/2 tsp salt, but here I increased it to 3/4 tsp. since the dish wasn’t salty enough.  Derek thought it needed 1 tsp. salt or more.

I also thought that the bean/rice ratio was a little low.  Next time I might try 10 ounces of beans and 1.25 cups rice.

Rating: B/B+
Derek: B+

Update 11/2010:  I tried doubling this recipe and making it for Thanksgiving (with basmati brown rice and jalapenos), but it turned out not very well at all.  It was too soupy, and not as flavorful as I remembered.

Update 12/31/2010: Tonight I made it again, as a play on the more traditional New Years Eve Hoppin’ John.  I used white basmati rice, but used only 1.25 cups.  I increased the beans slightly to 9 ounces, and used 1.25 tsp. of salt.  Otherwise I left everything the same.  Again, prepping the thyme was time-consuming.  I wonder how dried thyme would work? The recipe turned out pretty similar to how it turned out the first time I made it.  Derek and I scarfed it up.  I still think it could use more beans and less rice.  Next time I’ll try 12 ounces beans and 1 cup of white rice.  If I were to serve this for guests I think I’d try to think up some kind of tangy sweet and acidic side dish.

Update 7/19/2011:  This time I used 12 ounces of beans and only 1 cup of rice (Thai instead of basmati).  I thought the ratio was definitely improved.  It was fine as is but next time I might increase the bean to rice ratio just a tad more.  I used one small can of coconut milk, which ended up being around 2/3 cup or maybe slightly more.  I used one large habanero and it was definitely spicy but not too spicy.  I forgot the garlic and just threw in a big bunch of thyme still on the stem.  When the dish was done most of the thyme leaves had fallen off, and I pulled the stems out.  It was a lot easier than prepping all those thyme leaves.  The final dish was tasty but not that strongly flavored.  I couldn’t distinctly taste the thyme or allspice or even the coconut milk.  Maybe next time I’ll try adding a bit of dried thyme as well and using more allspice.  Holding half of the scallions for the end is important because the cooked scallions turn a kind of putrid green color, and the fresh scallions brighten the whole dish up.  Note to self:  wear gloves when chopping habanero peppers!!! I think the recipe made about 9 cups this time.  It needs to be eaten in a bowl, but the texture is just short of soupy.  It was kind of like a very creamy risotto that spreads out into a puddle when you put it on the plate.  I liked it.

Update 11/8/2013: I made this recipe again but used a full pound (16 oz) of beans and still only 1 cup of rice (white basmati).  I thought the ratio of beans to rice was perfect. I’m not sure how much water I added.  It might have been a bit more than 7 cups.  I cooked it in my 4-quart pot, which was the perfect size. I used 1 1/4 tsp. of salt (I think) and the final dish was not salty enough. We ended up adding more at the table. Since I had doubled the amount of beans (in comparison to the the original recipe) I increased the amount of coconut milk a bit (to 3/4 cup) and the amount of butter (2 Tbs.).  I increased the allspice from 1/4 tsp. to 3/8 tsp. and still I couldn’t really pick out the allspice in the final dish.  I may try it with a full 1/2 tsp. of allspice next time.  I was too lazy to chop up all the time so I just used 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme plus 20g worth of thyme stems (tied with string) added whole.  I would have liked more thyme taste, but it’s a reasonable compromise if you’re not feeling up to all that thyme-consuming labor. (Yes, I know you’re out there groaning.)  I used only 1.5 cups of scallions but I think the recipe could use a bit more, especially of the fresh green scallions at the end.  When the rice is done cooking this dish is still quite soupy.  After it stands for a while it starts to thicken up, but there’s still lots of liquid in the bottom of the pot.  After a night in the fridge, all the extra liquid has been absorbed and it’s a totally non-soupy rice and beans dish. Derek loves this dish, rating it A- this time!  I still think it’s tasty, but don’t love it as much as Derek.

Update 1/18/2015:  I soaked the beans in 8 cups of water, but didn’t drain them afterwards, since I tasted the soaking liquid and it was so flavorful. I brought the beans to a boil for 10 minutes and then cooked them on low. It took over 2 hours before they were soft enough! The final dish was quite soupy as usual, but all the extra liquid had been absorbed the next morning. We used a full 1/2 tsp. of allspice, and it still wasn’t that strong tasting, but again, my allspice is rather old. We used all fresh thyme (3 Tbs. chopped), no dried, but surprisingly it didn’t take that long this time to prep it. I wasn’t so careful about getting every little stem out, and it seemed to go much faster. Derek bought a huge habanero, but only used about 1 Tbs. of minced habanero, which resulted in a spicy but not too spicy dish.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-


  1. austingardener said,

    No on the thyme stems.
    And gift the cookbook to a friend?
    If you didn’t like it then gift it to “not a friend.”
    I think Hanaleah would like this recipe. She likes kidney beans and she likes coconut milk.
    I will tell her to look at it after her midterms are over in a week.

    • captious said,

      Just because I don’t love a cookbook doesn’t mean a friend wouldn’t. Everyone has different tastes and interests.

  2. trh said,

    What kind of side dish do you recommend?

    • captious said,

      I don’t have any recommendations offhand. If I think of something I’ll post it.

  3. Seitanic red and white bean jambalya « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] I didn’t think the final dish had enough thyme flavor.  I love all the thyme in the Jamaican rice and beans recipe, and I was hoping this would be similar.  But that recipe has you pull the thyme off the […]

  4. Seitanic red and white bean jambalaya « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] I didn’t think the final dish had enough thyme flavor.  I love all the thyme in the Jamaican rice and beans recipe, and I was hoping this would be similar.  But that recipe has you pull the thyme off the […]

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