Trinidadian Pelau

Pelau is one of Trinidad's most popular dishes, says Prime, chef and co-owner of Cane, a restaurant in Washington, D.C. that pays tribute to the multifaceted influences in the cuisine of the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The layers of flavor in Chef Prime's pelau come from a range of sources: Zesty, spicy Green Seasoning, plenty of coconut milk, a hit of ketchup and Worcestershire, and an ingenious technique of sauteing both the beef and the rice and pigeon peas in a scorched caramel to create a rich texture and nutty taste. The sugar also helps balance the chiles' heat, creating a dish that demands bite after bite.

Trinidadian Pelau
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey
Active Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
6 to 8


  • 2 pounds beef chuck stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 ½ cups Green Seasoning, divided

  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (such as Matouk's or Grace brand hot pepper sauce), divided

  • ¾ cup turbinado sugar, divided

  • ½ cup vegetable oil, divided

  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (from 1 large onion), divided

  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped (4 teaspoons)

  • ½ cup ketchup

  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

  • 3 to 4 cups water, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 cups canned or frozen pigeon peas (drained and rinsed if canned, thawed if frozen)

  • 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice

  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper, divided

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, well shaken and stirred

  • 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, stem removed

  • 2 fresh bay leaves


  1. Toss together beef with 1/2 cup Green Seasoning and 1 tablespoon of the pepper sauce in a medium bowl until combined; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

  2. In a 10-quart pot, stir together 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar and 1/4 cup oil until combined. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns dark brown and begins to foam, about 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and immediately add marinated beef and any remaining marinade. Cook, turning pieces occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup onion, remaining 1 cup Green Seasoning, and garlic and cook until onion is slightly translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining 1 tablespoon of pepper sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and adding 3 to 4 cups water as needed, a cup at a time, until beef is mostly tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. (The meat should have a little bit of liquid around it; you will know to add more water if the meat starts frying instead of simmering.) Remove pot from heat and transfer beef to a large bowl using a slotted spoon; pour cooking liquid into a separate large bowl. Clean the pot and return to the stove.

  4. Combine remaining 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar and remaining 1/4 cup oil in cleaned 10-quart pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns dark brown and begins to foam, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add pigeon peas, rice, and remaining 1 cup onion and cook, stirring constantly, until onions are translucent and mixture is coated with caramelized sugar, about 5 minutes; season with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.

  5. Stir together reserved cooking liquid from the meat with coconut milk, adding water to mixture as needed to equal 8 cups total. Add meat and cooking liquid mixture to rice mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and stir in Scotch bonnet and bay leaves; season with remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and remaining 3/4 teaspoons pepper.

  6. Cover and cook until liquid is completely absorbed and rice and beef are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes; serve immediately. (The "bun bun" at the bottom of the pot is a special treat.)

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