The History and Significance of Rice and Beans in Afro-Caribbean Cooking

Discover the rich history and cultural significance of rice and beans in Afro-Caribbean cuisine, from its West African roots to its variations in countries like Haiti, Jamaica, and Costa Rica.


Marco Sanchez

3/20/20231 min read

Rice and beans are staples of Afro-Caribbean cuisine, with a rich history that spans continents and cultures. Originally brought over by Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, the dish has evolved and taken on different variations in countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and my home country of Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, we have our own version of rice and beans called Gallo Pinto. It's a breakfast staple made with rice, black beans, and a variety of spices like cilantro and Salsa Lizano. It's a favorite in my family, and my Tia Sonia makes an amazing Arroz con Coco, which is rice cooked with coconut milk, adding a unique and delicious twist to the dish.

In Jamaica, rice and peas is a popular variation, made with kidney beans, coconut milk, and a mix of herbs and spices. Haitians have diri kole ak pwa, made with pigeon peas and a variety of meat or seafood. In the Dominican Republic, la bandera is a dish made with white rice, red beans, and meat, often served with avocado and fried plantains.

The history of rice and beans is a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of African people who used what they had to create delicious and satisfying meals. Today, it's a beloved dish that has become a cornerstone of Afro-Caribbean cuisine, with each country putting its own unique twist on it.

Whether it's Gallo Pinto in Costa Rica, rice and peas in Jamaica, or any other variation, rice and beans continue to bring people together around the table, connecting us to our past, our culture, and our community.