Quick Coconut Chicken Pelau (recipe)


Pelau is one of Trindad’s signature national dishes and I would argue its also our definitive one-pot meal. This is the meal that we make whenever we have informal gatherings (‘limes’) either at home, at a river or on the beach. It also feeds hungry revellers at Carnival time and provides a comfortable rhythm to a lazy Sunday afternoon. Cooked in coconut milk and seared in caramelized sugar (after being marinated in a garlicky marinade) the chicken in a good pelau is soft, falling off the bone and delectably (yet not overpoweringly) sweet. A good pelau is a work of art and this version is a quicker truncated version of the classic recipe that retains the authenticity and method of preparation. However, if time and inclination permit, I highly recommend that you prepare this recipe in the more lengthy time-honored manner embodied by my father’s recipe Bertie’s Trinidad Pelau

Coconut Chicken Pelau (Quick)


2??? – 3 lbs. Chicken pieces (seasoned the night before with 1 rounded tsp salt, 1 rounded tsp pepper, chopped chives, 1 tsp thyme, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp Angostura bitters, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. soy sauce and 1 tbsp. ketchup)
2 c. Rice, washed
2 c. Coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 c. Water
1 Large onion
1 Sweet pepper
1 13.5 oz tin Pigeon peas, drained
2 – 3 tbsp. Vegetable oil
??? c. Sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper



1. Season the chicken (as stated above) the night before. It helps to ‘stab’ the chicken pieces as well to allow the flavour of the marinade to really permeate 🙂


2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven (‘d big pot’)
3. Add sugar and allow to burn until dark brown
4. Add seasoned meat and stir until pieces are well coated with burnt sugar; brown for 5 minutes


5. Stir rice into chicken and turn often till well blended; cook for 3 minutes more


6. Add onion, scotch bonnet pepper and peas and stir fry for a few seconds (you may want to make sure to keep the pepper at the top of the pot cos if that thing bursts, well I can’t help you any further 😉 )


7. Add additional salt, pepper, coconut milk and water.


8. Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover and simmer until rice is cooked and all liquid has evaporated (about 25-30 minutes). If rice is still hard, add more liquid and continue to cook longer. Pelau can also be baked in oven (this is my preferred method). Cover pot with tin foil, place in oven and bake at 350??? for 25-30 minutes, add more liquid if necessary. Preparing the rice in the oven prevents burning at the bottom, but some people love the burnt bits (we call it ‘bun bun’) for reasons I’m still trying to figure out 😀

9. Remove pepper before serving!!

Serves: 8-12