Jamaican Red Pea Soup Recipe

Soup on Saturdays was a family tradition in my house when I was growing up in Jamaica. Red Pea Soup is my all-time favourite soup! It’s a thick and flavourful soup chock full of meat, starchy vegetables and chewy dumplings. Like most Jamaican soups, Red Pea Soup is more like a stew. It’s a main meal not a starter soup or one you’d have with salad or sandwich. Red Pea Soup sticks to your ribs and satisfies.

Follow my instructions in my video and you should have no problem making this hearty soup. I’ve provided the traditional recipe which includes salted pig tails. However, if it’s a stretch for you to find (or perhaps it’s a tad too Jamaican for you), you can replace it with a ham hock or not include this ingredient at all.

But if you want to go for it, salted pig tails are sold in most West Indian grocery stores. Just soak them as per my instructions to remove most of the salt (used as a preservative) before making the soup. Pimento seeds give this soup a beautiful flavour, but I suggest removing them before serving the soup since they’re not meant to be eaten.
Cooking Tip 1: When peeling a yellow yam, make sure to avoid letting it touch your skin. The starch in the yam will make your skin itch so I suggest holding it with a tea towel or paper towel when peeling

Cooking Tip 2: When it’s necessary to add more water to the simmering soup, use boiling water to keep the cooking temperature of the soup stable



1 1/2 cups Dry red peas (kidney beans)
8-10 cups Water, approx.
1  lb Stewing beef
1 1/2 lb Pig’s tail or ham hock (optional)
1 large piece Yellow yam
1  large Sweet potato
1 medium onion, chopped or 3 Stalks green onion, chopped
1 tsp Dried thyme or 3 stalks  fresh thyme
1 tsp Pimento seeds (optional)
1 tsp Hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp Black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup flour
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together to make stiff dough

Overnight prep

1. Place dry kidney beans in large soup pot on stove, cover with water and soak overnight
2. If using, place pig tails in bowl, cover with water and soak overnight in fridge to remove excess salt


1. To remove more excess salt, put soaked pig tails in a pot, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Repeat this step two more times.

2. Place stewing beef in pot with red peas and add enough water to cover the two ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 1 hour, or until peas and beef are cooked. Note: the beef will likely be cooked before the peas, so remove when tender.

3. At the same time, in a separate pot cover pig tails with water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

Note: In both pots, as water evaporates when cooking, add boiling water to cover ingredients.

4. When all the ingredients are tender add pig tails (with liquid) to pot with peas and beef and continue simmering.

5. Peel and cut yam and sweet potato into large serving pieces; add to boiling soup. Add boiling water to pot to semi cover yams and potatoes.

6. Make dumplings (see above and video) and add to boiling pot of soup.

7. Add onion, thyme, pimento, hot pepper sauce and black pepper to soup pot and simmer until yams and potatoes are tender and soup has thickened.

8. Taste soup for flavour and add salt or pepper, if needed.

Note: This soup should be moderately thick, but if it is too thick add some boiling water.
Video Lesson: Gold Members click below to watch us make this recipe step by step.

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red pea soup
Comments (28)
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  • wendy

    Thanks Again Faye
    I Will Be Trying This Recipe On Tuesday,
    While My Husband Is On Vacation We Will Be Cooking This Together.

  • Karen

    WOW how I would have loved to have this website when I was younger. Still there are recipes I never did learn to cook and this website is a God-sent. This will help as I and my husband teach our kids how to cook.

    Question: Could I use chicken instead of beef?

    • NORMAN

      You surely can use chicken, I personally love usin chicken feet. two of my children are vegetarians,so most of the times we make this a meatless soup. the meat isn’t missed.

  • Paige

    What is the difference between this and stew peas with rice?

  • Marcia

    Hi Fay, I came across your website while searching for Jamaican Foods. I’m Belizean and my boyfriend is Jamaican. Although there are some similarities in the foods, I find Jamaican food to be tastier and spicy. I tried your Red Pea Soup recipe and he loved it. It was the first time he ever finished the pot. I will enjoy trying all of your recipes.

  • Stephanie

    Ms Fay,
    Can I substitute the pig tails for Turkey Tails or legs? I don’t nor does my island boy eat pork…

    • Cook Like A Jamaican

      Hi Stephanie,
      The pigs tails add a lot of salt to the soup, so if you substitute it with another meat you’ll need to add some more salt as well. Also, what are turkey tails? Blessings! Fay

  • netty

    Hi fay. Is there any other type of yam that could be substituted for the yellow yam? I haven’t been able to find any yellow yams here in houston Texas, although I have found a type of yam called Name, but its more white than yellow on the inside. Please help! I would love to try this recipe. Thanks.

    • Cook Like A Jamaican

      Hi Netty,
      We have white yams in Jamaica too. It’s sounds like Name may just be another name for that. I think you should give a try and let me know how it turns out. Just don’t use American yams, which are really sweet potatoes. Blessings, Fay

  • Tessa

    Delicious! I made this tonight and it was great. I couldn’t find yam at the grocery store, i know where to get it next time. I increased the dumplings and sweet potatoes to make up for the lost yam. No pig tail either, not a fan. But I will try am hocks next time. So good! Thanks again. Trying your curry chicken tomorrow, cant wait

  • DJ

    Pea soup is a thick soup but most definitely is not like a “stew”. Stew peas, which in essence thick pea soup, is a real stew and made with the same ingredients (give/take a few). For example, I have seen stew peas that was not cooked right (way too thin) passed off as soup. Thick soup, yes, stew, absolutely not.

  • willie

    Hi, Miss Fay, i tried this recipe and it came out great, thank you for every thing and your time…love ya.Willie

  • Paula

    Thanks Fay, it was delicious my soup come out just as I remembered and loved as a little girl.My belly is full!

  • Natasha

    Fay, thank you so much for your delicious and easy recipes. I get excited every time I see an email with a new recipe. Keep ’em coming. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Peteinatlanta

    This is a great recipe Fay! We used smoked ham hocks and the broth turned out real nice.This was my families intro to yellow yams and they loved them.Keep up the great work Fay, I really enjoy your blog.

  • Ads

    Fay, red pea soup is a dish I grew up on but never learned to prepare. I’ve been meaning to learn to prepare it seeing how my children love it (thanks to their grandma). I stumbled across your site today and for the very first time I prepared red pea soup. Not only were the children proud of my accomplishment so was the wife. From my family to you… Thank you!

    • Fay & Angela

      Hi Ads,
      Thanks for getting in touch. Glad to hear the recipe turned our well! Always here to to help.
      Blessings, F&A

  • Ads

    Just shared the link with my sis. Thanks again! 🙂

  • Paul

    I cant find yellow yam or pigs tail where I live, any ideas anyone ?

  • Siona-Kim

    Ok here is my pigtail hack- I added three strips of raw pepper crusted bacon and diced it up, removing the excess fat and added it to the soup. Since I moved to Portland OR from NYC its challenging to find Pig tail – also I\’m a squimish eater… ( I also don\’t eat goat head or chicken foot soup – I cant tell you how many treats with the wooden spoon I had to stare down as a kid). Also I added two chopped carrots, one chopped parsnip and let the soup bones simmer in the soup the whole time after cutting the meat off ( during the meat removal process). It all came out excellent…. note to self make more dumplings – silly roommates ate them all before I woke up!

  • Leena

    What type of flour is best to use?

    • Fay & Angela

      Hi Leena,
      All-purpose flour is always safe. In the UK it is called Plain flour. Blessings, Fay

  • Newbie_Chef

    Fay/Angela, please update to indicate how it is done with the tinned red (kidney) peas. I am gonna cook red peas soup for the first time and will be using the canned peas. so it will be trial and error for me. Thanks.

    • Fay & Angela

      Hi Newbie,
      Sorry I wasn’t able to reply sooner. How did your soup turn out? Which peas did you end up using? Fay

  • Donovan

    I’m a born Jamaican, grew up in America. Came to America when I was 12 I’m now 53. I’m ready to learn to cook some Jamaican food. I enjoy reading and watching your instructions. Red peas soup is my favorite so that’s what I will start off with… wish me luck.

  • Jestina

    Tradtionally it has a little coconut milk or coconut cream in it. I am surprised at the amount of recipes that doesn’t call for it. Cholesterol and saurated fats aside, a little of what you enjoy is nice especially if it makes it taste nicer. Sorry, if it does not have coconut milk or a little coconut cream then I don’t want it. It does look good though.

    • Fay & Angela

      You’re right. A lot of versions of this recipe call coconut but I don’t think it needs it. You’re welcome to add any ingredients you’d like, especially ones that make your toes curl. Blessings, Fay

  • Kayan

    It’s nearly the end of fall and I wanted to get some soup recipes ready for the cold east coast winter. This one is perfect! I was able to get all my ingredients at an asian grocery store and they were shockingly cheap. The yellow yam was the most expensive at $7 but worth it. I was able to find pigtail but it wasn’t salted. As a kid, I remembered this that this soup was salty and I didn’t want mine to turn out fresh. So, I did a wet brine the night before similar to a Thanksgiving turkey. It was fantastic. I could eat the pig tails alone!

    I only made a few additional tweaks: I wanted a creamier soup so I blended up some of the peas and yam and added it back to the soup. I also tossed in a whole habanero pepper instead of hot sauce. The biggest change was the addition of coconut milk. I remembered seeing a comment on the website about coconut milk and added a little. As soon as I added the milk and tasted the soup, it brought me back to when my Aunt June would make this for us as kids.

    This one’s a keeper and I will be making this more often as it’s cheap & easy to make and very filling. Thanks Fay!