Trinidad Pelau Chicken and Pigeon Peas

Trinidad pelau recipe

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Marinate chicken: 60 mins
Total: 2 hrs 35 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
690 Calories
31g Fat
43g Carbs
63g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 690
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 40%
Saturated Fat 13g 66%
Cholesterol 278mg 93%
Sodium 784mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 43g 16%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 63g
Vitamin C 31mg 155%
Calcium 81mg 6%
Iron 5mg 27%
Potassium 1126mg 24%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Trini pelau is an iconic recipe from the island of Trinidad that is often made on weekends and when family and friends get together for a lime (Caribbean slang word for get-together). This one-dish meal originating in the French West Indies combines pigeon peas, meat or chicken, and rice along with fresh herbs and coconut milk. The entire dish is then flavored and colored with burnt sugar.

In this recipe, chicken thighs gain that signature Caribbean flavor from the marinade that includes green seasoning, a typical spicy herb mixture similar to sofrito. Pigeon peas are legumes that have a nutty flavor and are frequently paired with rice and other grains. They are available dried, canned, or ground into a flour. Canned pigeon peas can be used in this recipe and are found in most large grocery stores or specialty Indian and Latin food shops.


  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 2 tablespoons green seasoning

  • 2 teaspoons grated garlic

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or canola oil

  • 3 tablespoons cane sugar, or brown sugar

  • 2 cups parboiled rice, washed and drained

  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper

  • 2 cups canned pigeon peas

  • 1 cup diced carrots, optional

  • 2 cups fresh coconut milk

  • 2 cups chicken stock, or water

  • 1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Trini pelau ingredients
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. In a large bowl, place the chicken, green seasoning, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and ketchup, along with salt and pepper to taste.

    Ingredients in a bowl
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  3. Toss to mix and coat the chicken with the seasonings. Set aside and let marinate for at least 1 hour.

    Toss to mix
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Pour the oil into a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Let it heat until hot but not smoking.

    Oil in pot
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  5. Make the burnt sugar by sprinkling the cane sugar into the hot oil in an even layer.

    Making burnt sugar
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. Let the sugar melt until it starts to froth and bubble.

    Let sugar melt
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  7. As soon as the edges of the froth/bubbles start to turn a slight shade darker, immediately add the seasoned chicken. Stir to mix and coat with the burnt sugar.

    Stir to mix chicken with burnt sugar
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  8. Let cook for 7 to 10 minutes.

    Chicken cooking in a large pot
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  9. Add the rice to the pot, stir to mix, and cook for 3 minutes.

    Add rice
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  10. Add the onion, red bell pepper, pigeon peas, and carrots (if using) and cook for 1 minute.

    Add onion, red bell pepper, pigeon peas, and carrots
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  11. Pour in the coconut milk and the chicken stock or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Pour in coconut milk
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  12. Toss in the whole Scotch bonnet pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover the pot.

    Add Scotch bell pepper
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  13. Once it reaches a boil, partially remove the lid and continue to boil for an additional 7 to 8 minutes.

    Remove lid
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  14. Cover the pot fully, reduce the heat to low, and let cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

    Cover lid
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  15. Sprinkle the green onions on top and fold into the pelau. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary.

    Sprinkle green onion
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature and enjoy.

    Serve hot
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack


  • Although called burnt sugar, it should not reach the point of becoming bitter. Make sure to add the chicken as soon as the butter-sugar mixture begins to bubble.
  • Canned pigeon peas will work fine, but the recipe will be even better with fresh.
  • If you don't have fresh coconut milk, you can use canned, but since it is somewhat thick, it is best to dilute it with water before adding it to the dish.

Recipe Variation

Instead of boneless chicken, you can use pieces of chicken on the bone. Just increase the cooking time to make sure the chicken is cooked through.