Best Haitian Rice & Beans Recipe - How to Make Diri ak Pwa


Diri ak Pwa (Haitian Rice & Beans)

February 20, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
Author Notes

Caribbean people love to compete, especially when it comes to food. When my daughter’s father claimed that Haitians make the best rice and beans of all the islands, I rolled my eyes. My own cultural pride had issues believing anything could be better than what Trinidadians call peas and rice, a flavorful dish using pigeon peas. But also, that’s a bold claim amongst some very stiff competition.

Then he taught me how to make diri ak pwa (also known as diri kole ak pwa) and I was officially schooled. Haiti FTW. Other islands, come at me. What makes Haiti’s take on rice and beans so special is the cloves, a staple spice in Haitian cooking, and the method of boiling the rice until most of the liquid has been absorbed before turning down the heat. This makes the rice somewhat grainy and more structured than most. Coconut milk, largely found in preparations in the south of the island, adds flavor and a subtle creaminess. In the north, the dish is more often made simply with water. Another trademark is tossing in a whole—not chopped, not minced, not sliced—Scotch bonnet pepper for its distinctive smoky taste without all the intense heat. You just have to pray it doesn’t split open while it cooks, and don’t forget to discard it before you start poking around! While cloves are often added loose (as in A Taste of Haiti by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas or on Haitian Dining With Marie on YouTube), sticking the cloves in the pepper is a trick he showed me to find the cloves easier.

Most recipes call for a chicken bouillon cube, but I don’t think it’s necessary, and without it you’ve got an extremely satisfying vegan dish. If you do crave that chickeny flavor, season with bouillon to taste when adding the coconut milk in step four. I prefer substituting olive oil at the end, instead of the more traditional margarine or butter, for the lighter effect. If butter is your thing, substitute a tablespoon for the oil in step six, and let it melt on top of the rice.

Diri ak pwa is sometimes made with other bean varieties such as black beans (pwa nwa), pinto beans (pwa bè), or pigeon peas (pwa congo). Annette Dor has a great recipe for diri ak pwa congo on YouTube. However, kidney beans (pwa wouj) are my personal favorite. They give the rice a beautiful reddish hue and have a buttery taste. Because kidney beans don’t need to be soaked overnight, it’s particularly worthwhile to start with dried rather than canned. I promise it is worth the extra effort. They have a firmer, richer cooked texture than canned beans do, which stands up well to the rice.

Lastly, don’t discount the crunchy bits of rice at the bottom of the pot. Haitians call this graten and it is a highly coveted byproduct. —Lesley Enston

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup coconut milk, preferably full-fat
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (or habanero)
  • 3 to 5 whole cloves
  • Salt
In This Recipe
  1. Bring the beans, 8 cups of water, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to boil. Continue boiling for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low and partially cover. Cook until beans are tender, 1 hour or so; check occasionally to make sure they’re submerged and add water if necessary. A properly cooked bean should squish between your fingers but not fall apart.
  2. Drain the cooked beans, reserving the cooking water. You should have at least 3 cups of the liquid—add additional water if needed.
  3. Rinse the pot, then set over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, then the onions and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and cook for 2 minutes, then add the coconut milk. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the reserved bean water. Pierce the pepper with the cloves, then add this to the water, along with the thyme. Season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then add the rice. Continue boiling until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Add the last tablespoon of oil, lower heat to medium-low and cover, cooking off the rest of the liquid, another 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Discard the thyme stems and pepper, which usually float to the top. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cliff Bernadel
    Cliff Bernadel
  • Naomi Kate Francois Brignolle
    Naomi Kate Francois Brignolle
  • Regine
  • LukasVolger
  • Nadege Germain
    Nadege Germain

    36 Reviews

    Cliff B. February 24, 2021
    😂Reading the comments🤣 Ayisyen pap manke'w.
    Her rice look frozen!
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    I don't know what rice this is, but I can assure you without a shadow of a doubt that what is portrayed here is NOT our Haitian rice and beans.Whoever made this, I suggest you go and learn the true,authentic way to make our rice.This looks overcooked and mushy.It is a disgrace to present such ignominy as our cherished Di ri ak pwa rouj.Please remove it and and perhaps attempt to create one that is closer to ours.
    HaitianQueen February 17, 2021
    I’m sorry but Haitian rice and beans does not look like this.
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    What kind of mushy rice is this???We Haitians don't overcook.This looks like a lumpy mashed potato with skin.overcooked .
    fodjen1 February 17, 2021
    what in the papa legba is that isht? we have issues in haiti to have our food being disrespected like that...please dear sir/madam kindly remove that dog food that you are posting. This is trash and we don't eat that
    Carl090 January 30, 2021
    Even a drunk Haitian wouldn't cook such bad looking meal. When trying to degrade a culture, a country; I know you will guys will do it with proud.
    Hopefully that's your cooking style, don't emphasize that this is Haitian meal. Since when Haitian puts a habanero on top of their meal as a decoration. You wasted all your time looking for a Haitian dish picture, and you happen to select this one as your favorite and most attractive and appealing picture of a country's most favorite dish. You said yourself, Haitianz take great pride in cooking their food.
    Well, rice and beans in a pot with a habanero on top is not our style.
    Carl090 January 30, 2021
    Gade yon tenten, poukisa blan sa yon kontinye ap gate kilti yon peyi. Reprezantasyon diri pat ak gro bout pwa sa pa fouti manje Ayisyen. To make it worse, vagabòn an mete yon bout piman sou tèt manje pou dekorasyon. Sa se fout frekansite.
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    Frekansyte se rans.Fok nou aprann moun sa yo gen respe pou gro koken chenn kiltiAyisyen nou an.Fok yo wete tintin sa nan figi moun.
    Rao22 January 27, 2021
    Didn’t get the look right and I’m reading people say it’s vegan but what about our rice is not already vegan... that’s not the look period !!! Change the pic and it’s fine
    Regine January 26, 2021
    Beautiful story. However, Haitian rice and beans would not look mushy. The rice is grainy, fluffy and we prefer smaller red beans. The kidney beans are usually used for “pois en sauce” (red beans sauce) which we eat with white rice. However, I give you a 10 over 10 for your story and effort!!!
    mfremont January 26, 2021
    This is disrespectful that’s all I am saying 🥱
    Ati January 26, 2021
    What is disrespectful? Enlighten me please! Banm on ti limyè!
    Emma L. January 26, 2021
    Thanks for sharing your concern here—can you tell me more about what you find disrespectful? We stand by Lesley's connection to this recipe, and all her thoughtful research and work that went into it.
    Htfsty January 26, 2021
    I'm guessing you're a professional troll.. aveg ou aveg ou bien that's how you make yours?
    Htfsty January 26, 2021
    You have the ingredients right , but your rice is what you need to work on, it's too pasty, and your beans looks mushy, you must have overcooked your beans, and your water ratio for the rice is off hence the reason it looks like that...
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    Di ri sa se pa di ri Ayisyen.This is cultural abomination. Tintin pate sa.
    Htfsty January 26, 2021
    First of all, our rice doesn't look like that, if you're going to attempt to showcase our food at least learn how to make it and educate yourself! Haitians take pride in their cooking specially their rice and meats.. this right here isn't it.. take this down
    Ati January 26, 2021
    From a proud Haitian and a gastronome to another Haitian, “first off”, you should read. The recipe is perfect! This is simply a diri ak pwa, a vegan dish. Is your issue with the presentation or the recipe?
    Emma L. January 26, 2021
    Hi Htfsty—thanks so much for sharing your feedback. Could you tell me more about your concern with the rice here? As I wrote below, this photo showcases this particular version of diri ak pwa, which the author speaks to at length in the headnote—how it fits into the larger context of the dish and how it can be modified based on regional variations or personal preference.
    Htfsty January 26, 2021
    You have the ingredients right , but your rice is what you need to work on, it's too pasty, and your beans looks mushy, you must have overcooked your beans, and your water ratio for the rice is off hence the reason it looks like that...
    Htfsty January 26, 2021
    You're speaking to a vegan here, even so my rice doesn't come out like me that..
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    Every Haitian is appalled by the presentation. That should tell you that something is wrong. You should apologize,gastronomist or not,remove that picture and come up with one that actually portrays the authentic Haitian di ri ak pwa.This one is far from it my friend. Very far cry.
    LukasVolger January 26, 2021
    This is delicious - so satisfying and flavorful. And I love that it’s vegan.
    LukasVolger January 26, 2021
    This is delicious - so satisfying and flavorful, it’s definitely going into the regular rotation. And I love that it’s vegan.
    Nadia18 January 25, 2021
    This is not what Haitian rice looks better...and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t taste like it either.
    Emma L. January 26, 2021
    Hi Nadia18, thanks for sharing this note. Can you tell me what about the visual is problematic from your perspective? This photo showcases this particular version of diri ak pwa, which the author speaks to at length in the headnote—how it fits into the larger context of the dish and how it can be modified based on regional variations or personal preference.
    Carl090 January 30, 2021
    There's no particular version of Haitian diri ak pwa that would look like that even in the most impoverished province of Haiti. Please, take advice from the people (the source) who know well and better their own food.
    Yes, the look is disturbing and problematic.
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    No Haitian rice would ever look like thats Everything is overcooked.
    Ruthy January 25, 2021
    Plz remove
    Ati January 26, 2021
    Tell me more. Why should it be removed?
    Emma L. January 26, 2021
    Hi Ruthy, just responded to your note on the Hotline.
    Nadege G. January 25, 2021
    Excuse me but our haitian doesn't look like that. Must of the time we use basmati rice... I can see u are not the only one who post those type of pic. You should go try it to a Haïtian resto may be you will see.
    Ati January 26, 2021
    Basmati or Madan Gougous?
    Emma L. January 26, 2021
    Hi Nadege G, thanks for sharing your thoughts. As the author Lesley talks about in the headnote, diri ak pwa varies by household and region—and this version, made with long-grain rice, is what's special to her and her family.
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    Madan gougous.Too much water.Overcooked.Basmati is a new thing.Madan gougousse is the rice of choice. Back in the day there was no basmati.I suggest that we don't deviate from the originality of the recipe.
    Naomi K. February 20, 2021
    Emma, every region of the country cooks that rice the same way.There are no variations.None.I don't know who told you that. This is not pizza.