Today I would like to share with you one of my favorite foods, and perhaps a favourite of every Trinidadian; it is pelau. Pelau (pronounced: pay-la-w) is a sure bet for any lime . This “one pot” dish is not time consuming, and is easy to prepare (once you plan your ingredients in advance) which makes it also ideal for picnics and river limes. As we say in Trini “this is ah fas’ cook”.

This popular rice dish can be cooked with any type of meat or combination of meat: chicken, beef, lamb, goat, pork, and even “wild meat” (agouti, lappe, deer etc.) and is usually cooked with fresh coconut milk. If you don’t have fresh coconut milk you can use the coconut milk powder. Some people like their pelau dark, others like it brown or light brown. If you want it dark, be careful not to burn the sugar too much or else the pelau will taste bitter, and lose most of its flavor. I personally, prefer pelau that is not too dark.

Instead of “burning” the sugar, some people buy ready-made browning. This saves time, but you should be careful with the amounts of browning added. Some brands are stronger than others. This dish can be served with a side of cole slaw, lettuce and tomatoes, and even a little bit of homemade pepper sauce for a more spicy taste. What ever your taste, Pelau is what I call real Trini food, maybe it should be made our national dish, after all, Guyana has “Pepper Pot” and Jamaica “Akee and Saltfish”.

Update: Check out Pelau II a second pelau recipe which I did later on.



1½ lb chicken, seasoned
1 onion
2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig chive
1 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup
1 bouillon cube (if desired)
2 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1 tin processed pigeon peas
(or 1 cup fresh pigeon peas)
1 whole green hot pepper
1½ cups rice
1 cup chopped pumpkin
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
4 small ochros (optional)
1/2 cup whole corn (optional)
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste


Clean the chicken and cut into small pieces. Season with lime juice and salt, pepper, chive, thyme, chadon beni, and parsley. Set aside to marinate. For this post the chicken was marinated overnight in the freezer.


In a deep pot heat 2 tablespoon of sugar until slightly brown.


Add the seasoned chicken.

Stir in a little water and 2 tbsp oil and cook until evenly browned.

Continue to simmer.

Prepare the peas, carrots, pumpkin, vegetables and herbs for the pot.

Add it all to the boiling liquid. Stir. Add the rice and coconut milk.
Add water and tomato paste and bouillon cube.
If you wish you can add the hot pepper now. Cover.
Uncover and stir occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick.
Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.
Pelau, trini pelau, how to make pelauIf you add hot pepper, remove it from the pot.  Serve pelau with cole slaw or green salad.

Well that’s it for another post. More recipes to come. Bye!



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23 Responses to Pelau

  1. Becky August 27, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    You forgot the Golden Ray butter lol.
    I love pelau and make it at least 1 time a week,it is easy and good when you’re short on time,can’t beat a one pot meal!

    I love that it taste just as well cold as it does hot,so you can take it with you on a lime if you can’t cook there.

    Also i want to add it taste better the day after ,just like soup!!

  2. August 27, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    I purposely left out the golden ray margarine. Since I’ve read this article I don’t use it at all. But you are right pelau does taste good the day after. :^)

  3. judyfoodie August 29, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    I’ve tried making pelau before and always has trouble with the rice. What kind of rice did you use, was it just plain white long grain rice or some other kind?

  4. August 29, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    We don’t use white rice but rather long grain parboiled rice. Locally it’s called brown rice to differentiate it from the white rice that gets sticky when boiled. When using the long grain make sure to wash it out in water before adding it to the pelau.
    In many of the recipes posted this is the rice used. Hope this helps; thank you for your comment:^)

  5. bavaughan January 14, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    Hey! The 1st thing you add, sugar, isn’t on your ingredients list! :-)

    Awesome recipe!

  6. January 14, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    Thank you for your observation bavaughn! I missed this one, and I’ve made the corrections. Thank you once again.

  7. bavaughan January 15, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    No problem. A couple more questions though. In your opinion, is the type of sugar important? I always thought it called for brown cane sugar (which is not so common where I live).

    Also, do you just heat the dry sugar? I thought it needed to be melted/browned in oil.

    I plan to try your recipe & method tonight


  8. January 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Brian, any kind of sugar could be used because in the burning process you would get the brown colour you want. You need to be careful here and not burn the sugar too much or else the pelau will come out too dark or black and taste bitter. We use brown sugar here in Trinidad because it is cheaper than say, granulated sugar.

    Traditionally oil was used with the brown sugar to make the browning, I used to do it this way as well, but lately I learnt this method which makes the pelau less oily; That means less calories and a happier heart for you and me. Good Luck tonight! :^)

  9. Anonymous March 29, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi, I’m planning to make this for my husband’s 50th birthday for about 40 people.
    How many people are your quantities for?

  10. Raz4125 March 30, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    This pot of pelau will comfortably feed about four people; normal serving size.

  11. kitchenwizard May 26, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    This sounds interesting! I never had Trinidad food before, but I love all different int’l flavors, so I’ll definitely try this. Thanks!

  12. Felix Padilla May 27, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    Please tell me how it comes out!

  13. Dora July 31, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    Do you have a recipe for vegetarian pelau? I have tried a few vegetarian versions so far, but I haven’t yet found a great one. I have tasted great vegetarian pelaus before. Never really got the recipe though. Any help? thanks!

    Ps. I’m trying to be vegetarian, and I don’t really like the taste of chicken in pelau. I usually find myself taking out the chicken whenever I am served this dish. I long for a vegetarian one where I can eat everything on the plate! :-)

  14. Felix July 31, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Dora thank you so much for your comment. I’ve had an I-tal ( rastafarian) pelau once and it went down great. Basically all you need to do is instead of browning the meat you could add a meat substitute like soya chunks and follow the rest of the recipe. What you can also do is add some of your favourite veggies together with the peas and pumpkin. Hope this helps.

  15. LaToya March 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    We already have a national dish; coo coo & callaloo. Although I LOVE Palau, Coo Coo & Callaloo makes for a perfect national dish mainly for its uniqueness.

  16. Alisha March 29, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Just had Pelau this sunday at a friends. I ate the pepper ;-? and it was cruciatingly hot on the tongue, so be sure to remove it. Other than that It was a tasty delight

  17. Felix March 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    You ate the pepper Alisha! lol Who told you to eat the pepper?

  18. m_l_bossy March 9, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    I am wanting to make the vegetarian pelau you suggested with tofu chunks. Do I marinate it as I would the chicken if I were making the regular recipe? Also, how much tofu should I use?

    Also, I am making for 20 people so i am multiplying the recipe by 5. Is there any problem that may arise in doing this?

    One final question, fresh pumpkin is not in season at the moment, is there an alternative? Could I used canned pumpkin?

  19. Monas March 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    I want to make a pigtail pelau. Do I brown the pigtail the same way as if I were making a chicken pelau, or do I throw it in after? Do I boil the pigtail before also?

  20. Felix April 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    If you want the bones soft you could pressure cook it or just boil the pigtails to get some of the salt out.

    Then I would brown it as usual.

  21. Latreice August 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Can we say Sunday Dinner!! Gonna make this for sure!!!

  22. karen May 19, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    So.. where was the 2tbs oil used?

    • Felix May 19, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      Fixed it. Check and you will see where.

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