Guyanese cook-up rice is an easy one-pot meal made with tender marinated beef or other meat, beans, and fresh aromatics. Whether you’re ringing in the New Year or just want a hearty family dinner, this traditional Guyanese recipe is a winner!
Guyanese-style Cook-Up Rice
Growing up in Guyana, Ole Year’s Night was synonymous with cook-up. My dad would make it early on New Year’s eve, so we could eat it at midnight as the first meal of the New Year.
This recipe is a labor of love. However, there are several other versions of cook-up rice that are not as complicated and more beginner friendly. Feel free to try my Chicken Cook-up Rice Recipe, Three Bean Vegetarian Cook-Up Rice or Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas and Beef Cook-Up Rice.
- Guyanese-style Cook-Up Rice
- Why You’ll Love This Guyanese Cook-Up Rice Recipe
- What is cook-up in Guyana?
- What is the history of Cook-Up rice?
- Ingredients for Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
- How to Make Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
- Prepping for your Guyanese Cook-Up rice
- Step by Step for making Cook-Up Rice
- Recipe Substitutions & Variations
- Tips for the Best Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
Why You’ll Love This Guyanese Cook-Up Rice Recipe
- Versatile: This is one of the easiest recipes to customize which is why I’ve shared so many versions of Guyanese cook-up rice recipes on this site. You can make this with a variety of meats and veggies; on the stovetop or an Instant Pot; with beans, peas, or both.
- Easy One Pot Dish: Prepare delicious cook-up in one pot so when dinner is over, there are fewer dishes to wash.
- Great Family Meal: This dish is perfect for when you have a hungry group to feed because it’s super filling.
What is cook-up in Guyana?
Guyanese Cook-up Rice or just cook-up is a one pot dish. Peas, meat, rice, coconut milk, and aromatics are cooked together until all the flavors blend into a flavorful dish. It was brought to Guyana by enslaved West Africans and has similarities to Waakye.
What is the history of Cook-Up rice?
Cook-up is an any day type of dish. When I was growing up in Guyana, neighborhood kids get together and made a bush cook-up rice. Which simply meant cooking it outside over an open flame. Cook-up Rice is especially important for Ole Year’s Night (New Year’s Eve). Guyanese people make a pot of blackeyed peas cook-up rice to ring in the New Year. It is thought that if you had a pot of blackeyed peas cook-up rice at the start of the New Year, then you would always have food in your home.
Ingredients for Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
For this recipe, I am using a combination of peas and beans, but you can simply use one type of peas or beans. I am also making a large pot of cook-up rice but feel free to half the recipe for a smaller quantity.
- Beans & Peas: For this recipe, I use a combination of chickpeas, pigeon peas red beans (kidney beans as a substitute), and black-eyed peas for a variety of taste and texture.
- Beef: Use cubed stew beef and beef with bones, like cubed short ribs.
- Seasoning: Season the beef simply with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar contributes a subtle sweetness that balances out the cassareep
- Cassareep: This thick, dark liquid derives from cassava root. It is a staple in Guyanese cuisine. It adds a rich, bittersweet taste and deepens the hue of the meat. You may use 1 teaspoon of burnt sugar browning or soy sauce instead.
- Avocado oil: Use this to sauté the aromatics and brown the beef.
- Aromatics: Diced yellow onion and grated garlic cloves are a delicious foundation of flavor for this one-pot dish.
- Medium grain rice: This type of rice absorbs flavors well. Use Jasmine rice as an alternative. Remember to wash your rice.
- Coconut milk: This gives the dish a creamy quality.
- Water: This is optional. After you pour in the coconut milk, if there is about two inches of liquid covering the meat and rice then you do not need additional water.
- Wiri wiri peppers: If you want to add some heat to the rice, add these peppers or something similar.
- Yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh thyme
- Cilantro stems
- Thai basil stems or marridman poke
- Mexican Oregano leaves or broad leaf thyme (Optional)
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
The art of cook-up rice varies from region to region in Guyana, by households even. There is also a debate about whether dry cook-up is better than wet cook-up and vice versa. Recently, I’ve even seen versions of cook-up rice that looked more like soups. My dad is the cook-up expert in my family. Spending most of his life as a porkknocker (prospector) in Guyana’s jungles he relied on a good cook-up to see him through.
From my dad’s tutelage, I know that a good cook-up rice:
- Has fat that adds a creaminess to the rice. Think about the creaminess of risotto.
- Has soft peas or beans that are not mushy but cooked all the way through.
- Is soft, but not clumpy or soppy
- Is a bit moist as it will “dry down” (become dryer) as it cools.
Overall, these are the things to look for no matter what ingredients you add to your cook-up.
Prepping for your Guyanese Cook-Up rice
The first step in cook-up rice making is to soak your peas. Some peas will cook faster than others so if you are mixing peas you will want to separate the ones that cook faster. Black eyed peas and yellow split peas boil in 20 minutes (after soaking overnight). Pigeon peas and chick peas cook within 40 minutes and Red beans will take 45 minutes to an hour.
Next make a green seasoning by blending together aromatics and fresh herbs and set aside.
Add the green seasoning to your cubed beef and beef with bones along with the other seasonings and let marinate for 30 minutes or overnight if time allows.
Step by Step for making Cook-Up Rice
There are many steps in this simple dish but they are all simple and easy to follow. Allow yourself enough time to go work your way through this delicious recipe.
If you are cooking your dish entirely on the stove top, start by sautéing your aromatics, then your meats add the peas and or beans that take the longest to cook first. In this recipe I added the chickpeas, pigeon peas and red beans in. When they were tender then I added in the black eyed peas.
Then add the rice and coconut milk. If you are using canned coconut milk use 1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk with 1 1/2 cups of water. If you are using fresh coconut milk, use 3 cups of fresh coconut milk for this recipe.
Add the pepper (if using), marridman poke (thai basil) and dried Guyanese thyme to the pot them mix together well.
Bring the pot up to a boil, then give it a good stir, cover and reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the rice is fully cooked.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave.
Recipe Substitutions & Variations
- Meat: You can use brisket, salted pork, lamb or chicken. Some recipes top it with fried fish.
- Veggies: Add callaloo, kale, or spinach for extra nutrients. Especially if you’re making a vegan version.
- Legumes: Try any variety of beans or peas. Black eyed peas, pigeon peas, red beans, and kidney beans are the most popular options.
- Cassareep: If you can’t get ahold of any cassareep, browning, or soy sauce instead.
- Peppers: If you want to try another kind of pepper besides wiri wiri peppers, substitute it with scotch bonnets, serranos, or habanero peppers.
- Basil: Don’t have Thai basil or Marrid Man Poke? Use Italian basil instead.
- Butter: Some people add a dab of butter to the pot when they are making cook-up rice and then add a bit on the top when the dish is done cooking.
Tips for the Best Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
- Remember to allot time to soak your beans or chickpeas. (Black eyed peas cook faster than chickpeas and red beans so they will need to be soaked separately.)
- Marinate the beef for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. If you have more time, allow it to refrigerate overnight.
- Use medium-grain rice, which tends to absorb flavors well and has a stickier texture, ideal for cook-up rice.
- Mix well. When everything is done, give the cook-up a good mix so all the meat, beans, and rice are well combined. But be gentle when stirring to avoid breaking the rice grains.
- This a great meal to make in advance because it tastes even better the next day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although this dish is a complete meal on its own, it’s commonly served with sides like chutneys, salad, or fried plantains and often topped with fried fish.
Aside from the time it takes to soak the beans and marinate the meat, it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare cook-up rice.
The unique flavor comes from a combination of ingredients, including cassareep, a thick, dark liquid made from cassava, which adds a distinctive bittersweet taste, and marridman poke, a sweet basil grown in Guyana.
Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
- 2 Mixing Bowls
- Heavy Bottom Pot
- 1/4 cup chickpeas
- 1/4 cup red beans may use kidney beans
- 1/4 cup pigeon
- ½ cup black eye peas
- 1 lb cubed beef
- 1 lb beef with bones like cubed short ribs
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt divided
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cassareep may use 1 teaspoon of burnt sugar browning or soy sauce instead
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil or similar
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 2 cups medium grain or Jasmine rice washed
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk canned
- 1 1/2 cups water to dilute the canned coconut milk
- 2 wiri wiri peppers or similar
- 1 tbsp Guyanese dried thyme or similar
- 2 scallions
- ½ yellow onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4-5 cilantro stems
- 4 thai basil stems marridman poke
- 2 Mexican Oregano leaves broad leaf thyme Optional
- In a small bowl combine the chickpeas and red beans. Inspect for any pebbles or rotten beans, then rinse and soak with enough water to cover the beans (about 1 to 1 ½ cups of water). Leave to soak overnight. In a separate bowl, do the same for the black eyed peas. Black eyed peas cook faster than chickpeas and red beans so they will need to be separated.
- Make the green seasoning by combining all ingredients and only 2 stems of Thai basil in a food processor and blending until smooth. This takes about a minute. Then set aside. Roughly chop the remaining Thai basil leaves and set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the stew beef and the beef bones, add the green seasoning, 1 teaspoon of salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, brown sugar and cassareep. Mix together well, cover and let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
Full Stove Top Instructions
- When ready to cook, heat a large, deep and heavy bottom pot on medium heat, then add the oil. When oil is hot add the diced onions, and cook until soft and translucent (about 2 minutes). Then add the garlic. Next, add the marinated meats and cook stirring often until the meat is relatively brown on all sides.
- Drain and rinse the Chickpeas and kidney beans. Then add it to the meat. Mix together well, then add enough water to cover the meat (about 4 cups). Increase the heat to to high and bring the pot up to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are tender but still have a bit of texture. This should take about 30 minutes.
- Drain and rinse the black eye peas and add it to the pot. Add a cup more water if needed and the remaining salt. Continue to cook until all the peas are fork tender but not mushy (about 20 more minutes).
- Next add the washed rice and combine well with the cooked meat and peas, then add the coconut milk and water. After you pour in the coconut milk, if there is about two inches of liquid covering the meat and rice then you do not need additional water. If there isn't enough liquids add an additional cup of water. Mix well to combine everything.
- Add the whole wiri wiri pepper, chopped basil leaves and dried Guyanese thyme. Mix well. Allow the liquids to come up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the rice cooks (about 20 minutes).
Partial Pressure Cooker Instructions
- To speed up the cooking process you may cook your peas and beans in a pressure cooker. I am using an instant pot for this step.
- Bring your instant pot up to temperature then add the 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. When the oil is hot add the marinated meats and sauté for about 5 mintues to brown the meat a bit.
- Drain and rinse the red beans, pigeon peas, chickpeas combo and add to the instant pot. Add 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine then seal up and pressure cook on high for 25 minutes.
- Separately, add a large heavy bottom pot to medium heat. Then add the remaining avocado oil. When the oil is hot add the diced onions and cook until soft and translucent (about 2 minutes). Then add the garlic and continue to cook for about minute.
- Drain and rinse the black eyed peas and add it to the pot. with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then add about 3 cups of water to the pot, cover and allow to simmer until the peas are tender (about 20 minutes).
- When the peas are tender and the instant pot completes its pressure cycle add the cooked meat to the pot with the black eyed peas. Mix well to combine. Then add the washed rice, coconut milk, water, wiri wiri peppers, chopped basil and dried Guyanese thyme.
- Mix together well, then bring up to a boil. Cover, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is fully cooked.
- When the rice is fully cooked, use a large spoon to mix everything together so there is not separation between the meat, beans/peas and rice. Serve hot.
- To speed up this recipe, feel free to use canned beans or peas. You may replace a 1/4 cup of dried beans or peas with 1/2 cup of canned peas or beans. Drain and rice your beans before adding to the pot.
- I love tomatoes so I always add it to my cook-up rice. It is not a typical ingredient for cook-up so it is not listed in the recipe but appears in the photos of some of the steps. You can add two diced tomatoes to your cook-up rice and sauté with your onions if you so choose.
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.