Chicken cook-up rice is a hearty dish of sautéed chicken, black-eyed peas, fresh herbs, veggies, and rice simmered in coconut milk. This Guyanese one-pot meal is typically made for New Year’s Eve (Old Year’s Night).
Guyanese Cook-up Rice
Traditionally cook-up rice is cooked outdoors over a coal pot or wood stove. This method of cooking added a bit of smokiness to the cook-up rice, a flavor that I long for often.
In versions of cook-up rice, you may find meat, poultry, smoked fish, and sometimes dried shrimp. Carrots and other root vegetables are often added as well. Most Guyanese make cook-up rice on Saturdays as it is an easy, uncomplicated, comfort food and can go a far way if unexpected visitors show up at your door.
- Guyanese Cook-up Rice
- Why You’ll Love This Chicken Cook-Up Rice Recipe
- What is Cook-Up Rice?
- Making Bush Cook-Up in Guyana!
- Ingredients for Chicken Cook-Up Rice
- How to Make Chicken Cook-up Rice
- Tips for the Best Chicken Cook-Up Rice
- Recipe Variations
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Chicken Cook up Rice
Why You’ll Love This Chicken Cook-Up Rice Recipe
- Convenient: This is a one pot rice dish so everything cooks in one vessel, which means the cleanup is super easy.
- Comfort Food: With plenty of rich flavors, this hot meal is super satisfying and comforting.
- Versatile: This Carribean cook-up rice is made with chicken but you can use a variety of meats and spices.
What is Cook-Up Rice?
Cook-up Rice is a traditional Guyanese one pot meal. In Guyana, we make cook-up rice on Ole Year’s Nite (New Year’s Eve). Guyanese around the world eat cook-up rice at midnight on New Year’s Eve as a way to ring in the new year with prosperity.
Making Bush Cook-Up in Guyana!
As children growing up in Guyana, my brother and I made many “bush cook-ups.” A bush cook-up is a variety of cook-up rice, that neighborhood children sneak off to make, often when they are left unattended by parents. I remember one such day when my mother went down to the city center to shop and left my brother and me at home with clear instructions not the leave the house. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a “bush cook.”
We quickly called our neighborhood friends and instructed them to bring one ingredient each for the cook-up rice. Together with a “little bit of this and a dash of that” and my mom’s best pot we made the most delicious cook-up rice over a wood-fueled flame in our backyard.
However, the pot became engulfed with flames and was completely ruined. You don’t even have to ask about the whooping we got when my mom returned home. But to be honest, it was totally worth it!
Ingredients for Chicken Cook-Up Rice
This dish comes together with some pantry staples, Guyanese spices, and your choice of meat.
- Chicken thighs: Diced into 1 inch pieces.
- Dried black-eyed peas: soaked over night and drained
- Jasmine rice: washed and drained
- Coconut oil: Use this or another oil for cooking.
- Freshly made coconut milk: This is best for cook-up rice. I buy grated frozen coconut, add water, blend it, and then strain for easy coconut milk. However, for a long time I couldn’t find fresh or frozen coconut and used canned coconut milk diluted with 2 cups of water instead.
- Water: Used for moisture.
- Onion: Diced.
- Tomatoes: Diced.
- Fresh Asian Basil: Alternatively use Marridman poke. Whichever you use, ensure it is finely chopped.
Seasoning for the chicken
- Garlic cloves: Or use 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic instead.
- Dried thyme: I highly recommend using Guyanese thyme.
- Brown sugar: This adds some sweetness to mellow the savory flavors.
- Seasoning: Season simply with ground black pepper and salt.
- Cassareep: This gives the chicken a deep brown color and a distinct bittersweet flavor that works well in this recipe. If you’ve ever had pepperpot, then you’re familiar with the taste.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Chicken Cook-up Rice
Soak Dried Beans
Do you soak your peas before cooking? I recently learned that soaking beans and even grains before cooking, helps to break down some of the hard-to-digest sugars and proteins making it easier on the gut.
Since learning this, I have become a soaker. Before I was definitely a throw it in the pot with some salt and pressure cook it kind of cook when it came to beans. To learn more about soaking peas and beans and tips on how to soak different kinds of beans, check out this article from spendwithpennies.com
Marinate Chicken for Cook-Up Rice
When making cook-up rice, I either use green seasoning as my marinade or a combination of dry herbs. For this recipe, I use dry herbs.
Sear the Chicken
Add coconut oil to a large stock pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken and sauté for 10 mins or until it has a great sear and is brown on all sides. When the chicken is brown all over then you are ready to move on to the next step.
Then add the onions and tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes.
Cook the Black-Eyed Peas: Two Methods
There are two different ways to cook black-eyed peas for a chicken cook-up. The first is to pressure cook it separately with just some water and a pink of salt.
The other is to cook it on the stovetop. On the stovetop, cook your peas until it is soft enough that you can smash them with your fingertips. But try not to overcook it or it will make your cook-up rice mushy.
There is a third method: pressure cooking it with the chicken and seasoning. However, I don’t like the texture of the chicken using this method.
Add Rice and Coconut Milk to Chicken Cook-up Rice
When the peas are cooked to your desired tenderness, add washed rice to the pot.
After adding the rice to the chicken and black-eyed peas, mix everything together well and then sauté for 1-2 minutes. Stir often to toast the rice a bit before adding the coconut milk.
Fluff the Chicken Cook-up Rice
When my mom makes chicken cook-up rice, she stirs the pot constantly for even cooking. I no longer make cook-up rice like this. I cook the rice undisturbed over a low flame.
Then I use a fork to fluff the rice and mix everything together. Therefore creating a perfectly cooked and loose cook-up rice. If you like softer clammy cook-up rice, mix your rice together with the pot spoon instead of the fork.
Leftover cook-up rice tastes even better the next day! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat it, place it in the microwave.
Tips for the Best Chicken Cook-Up Rice
- Remember to soak dried beans. This helps them cook faster, even if you soak them in boiling water, while you prep your other ingredients it will make a significant difference in the cooking time.
- For the best results, marinate your chicken for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This tenderizes the meat and makes it even more flavourful.
- Sear the chicken. This will prevent the chicken from having a boiled or “fresh” taste as Guyanese people often say.
- Cook the chicken before adding the vegetables. I used to cook my onions, garlic, and tomatoes first then add the chicken. Then my mom was visiting earlier this year and when making her chicken cook-up rice, (which is amazing, by the way) she seared the chicken first. When I asked why she did it this way, she said the seasoning first made the chicken too wet and it didn’t get the sear she wanted. She actually said, “It doan [don’t] fry up good when you do it that way!” So now I do it her way and what do you know, it is way better than my way!
- Rinse your rice. This removes debris and surface starch but it and also reduces the level of naturally occurring arsenic in rice by up to 30% (according to the FDA). Read more about why it is important to rinse your rice by clicking here.
- Dilute the coconut milk with water. When used without diluting, the cook-up rice gets an overly fatty flavor and is too rich.
- Meat: I use chicken but you can use brisket, salt beef, pigtail, oxtail, or fried fish.
- No Beans: Don’t like black-eyed peas? Swap it for pigeon peas. If you want to skip peas and beans altogether, try cook-up rice with spinach.
- Parboiled Rice: When I first started making cook-up rice on my own, I used parboiled rice because it was the easiest to cook with and most forgiving. Now that I have mastered my cook-up rice making I use Jasmine rice which is my favorite rice to use for cook-up rice.
- Spicy: If you want to add some spice, add wiri wiri peppers. Scotch bonnet peppers, serrano peppers, or jalapenos will work as substitutes, depending on how hot you want the dish to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
The phrase “cook-up” refers to the origin of the dish. It was considered a meal for peasants. The concept of the dish is that you use whatever you had on hand to make a meal (rice, beans, odd ends of meat, and spices).
This Caribbean dish is from Guyana by way of enslaved Africans.
Chicken Cook up Rice
- Large Stock Pot
- 11/2 lbs chicken thighs diced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup dried black-eyed peas soaked over night and drained
- 2 cups of jasmine rice washed and drained
- 2 tablespoon of coconut oil or other oil for cooking
- 3 cups of freshly made coconut milk, or
- 1 cup of canned coconut milk diluted with 2 cups of water
- 4 cups of water
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 tomatoes diced
- ¼ cup of fresh Asian Basil or Marridman poke finely chopped
Seasoning for the chicken
- 5 cloves garlic grated or 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon of dried thyme preferably Guyanese thyme
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cassareep
- 1 teaspoon of salt or salt to taste
- In a medium bowl, add chicken, garlic or granulated garlic, cassareep, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Then mix together well and let marinate for at least 30 mins
- Then add coconut oil to a large stock pot on medium heat and bring up to temperature
- When the oil is hot add the marinated chicken and sauté for 10 mins or until it has a great sear and is brown on all sides
- Then add the onions and tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes
- Next, add black-eyed peas and 4 cups of water and mix together well. Then increase the heat, cover and cook until the peas are tender enough to be crushed with your finger tips. This should take about 30 minutes
- When the peas reaches the desired tenderness and all the liquids cook down, add the rice. Mix together well, then sauté for about 2 minutes to toast the rice a little before adding the coconut milk
- Next add the coconut milk and the Asian basil, stirring the pot constantly to remove any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pot
- Continue to stir as the coconut milk comes up to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible heat, cover the pot and let it steam until the rice is completely cooked. This should take about 30 minutes.
- Then remove from the heat and fluff with a fork
- Serve your cook-up rice hot!
- When I first started making cook-up rice on my own, I used parboiled rice because it was the easiest to cook with and most forgiving. Now that I have mastered my cook-up rice making I use Jasmine rice which is my favorite rice to use for cook-up rice.
- If you like a more soft and clammy cook-up rice, instead of fluffing the rice with a fork at the end, mix the rice together with the pot spoon and remove from the heat immediatly
- I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe but bone in chicken adds a lot more flavor to this dish.
The information listed in the recipe card is an estimate provided by an online nutrition tool. The tool evaluates ingredient names and amounts then makes calculations based on the number of servings listed for the recipe. It is provided as a general guideline and not as a precise calculation. For precise nutrition information please feel free to add the ingredients to your preferred nutrition calculator or consult a doctor or licensed nutritionist.