Recipe: Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad From the Kitchen Window column

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad

This recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites (Clarkson Potter, 1996), turns a traditional Caribbean combination into a tangy salad. Pigeon peas, also known as gandulas, can be found canned or dried at Latin American markets or well-stocked grocery stores. Make sure you get the mature brown pigeon peas, not the green ones. If you can't find pigeon peas, substitute an equal amount of beans of your choosing.

Deena Prichep for NPR
Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad
Deena Prichep for NPR

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 teaspoon annatto (achiote seed)*

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/4 cups brown rice

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt


2 medium tomatoes, chopped and cored

3 garlic cloves, peeled

Juice of 1 lime

1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (depending how much sourness you like)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper to taste


1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

1 1/2 cups cooked pigeon peas

In a small saucepan, heat the annatto in the olive oil over low heat for about a minute, until the oil takes on a dark yellow-orange color. Drain through a strainer into a large pot. Add the rice, thyme and garlic to the oil in the large pot, and raise to medium-high heat. Stir for a few minutes to toast, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat until it's just high enough to remain at a simmer. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, make the dressing. Place all of the dressing items in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste to adjust seasonings and set aside.

When the rice is ready, turn out into a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Let cool slightly, then fold in the vegetables. Chill before serving.

* Annatto/achiote is a seed that, when heated, gives oil an orange color and subtle flavor. You can find it at Latin American or Asian markets (labelled "curry korn"), and it's sometimes available in a paste that you don't have to worry about straining. If not available, omit and proceed with the recipe.