Cook-Up Rice, a Guyanese rice & peas meal, is a terrific one-pot dish that’s packed with flavor! You can customize it with any type of peas, meat, and veggies you have on hand, and you’ll have a hearty meal ready to go in about 40 minutes. Don’t let some of the traditional ingredients deter you – this dinner couldn’t be easier to create!
In 2023, the theme of Black History Month is Black Resistance and Eat the Culture is recognizing the remarkable and, frankly, underrated resistance of our ancestors in bringing culinary traditions across the Atlantic to shape the vibrance of Black cuisine that we know and love today. They physically and mentally carried African foodways across the deadly Middle Passage to pass down through generations. This year’s Black History Month Virtual Potluck traces popular dishes of the Diaspora from their West African roots to North America and beyond. Share these recipes with your friends and loved ones and follow each participant by using the hashtag #BHMVP2023 on Instagram. You can grab the full list of recipes from this year’s collaboration on the Eat the Culture website.
Today, I’m teaching you how to make a traditional Cook-Up Rice from Guyana, which is a descendant recipe of waakye.
Waakye is a simple, savory rice and beans dish native to northern Ghana. Our ancestors brought this versatile staple to the American South, Caribbean, and South America. I encourage you to follow the story through Waakye from Ghana, Rice & Peas from Jamaica, and Hoppin’ John from the Southern region of the USA.
Consider this recipe to be a starting point. Guyanese Cook-up rice was created to be a dish that uses whatever you have on hand, so pretty much all of the legumes, veggies, and meat (or none) can be customized to what you can obtain! I visited a local African grocery store for some of these ingredients, and used what I could find at big box-chains for the rest. No pressure!
- Black Eyed Peas – If you can remember, soak the dry beans in water then night before and then rinse. If not, see below for my quick-soak method for beans that has them ready to go in an hour!
- Parboiled Rice – Parboiled rice is rice that’s been partially boiled in the husk. This type of rice can greatly withstand the long cooking time and large amount of liquid that we’re using in cook-up rice! You can grab this from an African grocery store if you can’t find it in the American aisles.
- Beef (optional) – Some people like their cookup rice to not have any meat; but we’re using beef in this recipe. Try to find some boneless short ribs or other “stew” beef. You could also use chicken, pork, or fried fish (served on the side) – just adjust cooking times accordingly.
- Canned Coconut Milk – Coconut milk adds a very subtle sweet flavor as well as the perfect amount of creaminess you need for this dish. You can find these cans in the International aisle of your grocery store.
- Cassareep – Cassareep is a concentrated syrup created from the cassava root. It has a distinct flavor – if you’ve ever eaten Guyanese pepperpot, you’ve tasted it – and also acts as a browning liquid for other dishes. I wasn’t able to find this locally, so I substituted it for a tbsp. of molasses!
- Wiri-Wiri Peppers – I’m a huge fan of spice, so wiri-wiri peppers give this dish the perfect kick of heat. If you can’t find these, feel free to substitute with scotch bonnets, Serranos, or even fresh jalapeños.
How to Make Traditional Caribbean Cook-Up Rice
This dish may seem intimidating, but it’s honestly so simple to create and comes together all in one pot!
First, do your mise en place – that’s chopping all your veggies, rinsing your rice & beans, and basically preparing all of the ingredients to be ready to go.
We’re using dry beans in this recipe, so soak your beans overnight. Or, you can use my quick soak method to prepare beans in about an hour – First, rinse the beans and discard any debris. Boil the dry beans in a large pot for about 5 minutes; cut the heat off, then let the beans soak in the hot water for an hour. Rinse again, and you’re ready to go!
Start by cooking your meat, seasonings, herbs, and peppers in some olive oil until the meat has a beautiful brown sear on the outside.
Add in your soaked beans, some beef bouillon, water, coconut milk, and the rinsed rice. Stir in the cassareep and then place a bay leaf on top.
That’s it! Cook for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally, and then another 15-20 minutes covered. Some people serve cookup really “wet” or soupy, whereas others like theirs drier and sturdy. Adjust the cooking time to your texture preference.
Your cook-up rice will be creamy and flavorful. I love to serve this with some fried plantains on the side as well as a crisp homemade coleslaw and English cucumbers.
Variations or Substitutions
Black Eyed Peas
- Pigeon peas
- Kidney beans
- If you can’t find authentic cassareep, you can use molasses in its place.
Thai Basil or “Marrid Man Poke”
- You can get a similar flavor by combining regular Italian basil and a few springs of mint!
- Chicken thighs
- Corned beef brisket
- Salted Pork
- Fried Fish (served on the side)
Other Easy One-Pot Dinners You’ll Love!
Guyanese Cook Up Rice
- 1 cup black eyed peas soaked overnight or using the "quick soak" method
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1.25 lbs. boneless beef short ribs or other beef made for stew
- 1 tbsp. salt
- ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. onion powder
- ½ tbsp. oregano
- ½ tbsp. ground thyme
- 4 cloves fresh garlic minced
- 3 tbsp. Thai basil called "marrid man poke" in Guyana!
- ½ ct. yellow onion diced
- 4 ct. wiri-wiri peppers or scotch bonnets, or serranos
- 2 tsp. beef bouillon or 2 cubes/packets
- 6 cups water
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. cassareep or molasses
- 2 ½ cups parboiled rice rinsed
- 1 ct. bay leaf
- 3 stalks green onions thinly chopped
- Ensure your dry black eyed peas have been soaked overnight, or using the "quick soak" method I listed above. Rinse, and set aside.
- Heat a large pot to medium heat and add in the olive oil.
- Add in the beef, seasonings and herbs, minced garlic, minced onion, and peppers. Sauté for a few minutes until beef browns on the outside and the pot becomes fragrant.
- Pour in your soaked and rinsed beans and the beef bouillon.
- Pour in the water, coconut milk, cassareep, and rinsed rice. Stir thoroughly, then add a bay leaf.
- Let the mixture cook for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring occassionally.
- Cover the pot with a lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes. The cook up rice should still be creamy.
- Stir in the chopped green onions, taste, and add any additional seasonings you prefer. Serve with fried plantains and a crisp mango slaw. Enjoy!
The Coined Breakdown
- Total Cost per serving: $1.38
- Total Cost (10 servings): $13.81