Jamaican stew peas with smoked turkey is my kind of comfort food. It’s thick and rich with the flavor of smoked meat, herbs and spices. However, I have to confess that the authentic Jamaican stew peas is not made with smoked turkey. It’s traditionally made with either pigs tail or salted beef. But since I don’t eat pork (pigs tail) and rarely eat beef, I started making this with smoked turkey to satisfy my stew peas craving.
I live in Connecticut and in the cold winter months, I turn to this recipe to warm my bones. It’s hearty and filling and doesn’t leave you hungry in a few hours.
But before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar with Jamaican cuisine then you’re probably wondering why the heck it’s called “stew peas” when there aren’t any peas in it? Well my friend, Jamaicans call every kind of bean… peas. Unless it’s butter beans or broad beans. I don’t know where this custom originated but so it is.
Why I used smoked turkey
The authentic Jamaican stew peas can be made with pigs tail, corned pork, salted beef, oxtails or even chicken feet. As a kid, I only ate this dish when it was prepared with salt beef and it was delicious. So when I started cooking on my own, it was impossible to find salted beef so I turned to smoked turkey. I’ve been using smoked turkey ever since and it’s a healthier option. Smoked turkey is readily available in most local grocery stores. However, the other meat options are usually only available at Caribbean, Latin or Asian markets.
Spinners are Jamaican dumplings that you’ll find in any Jamaican-style soup or stews. It’s basically flour, water and a little salt mixed into a stiff dough. It’s called spinners because you pinch off a little piece of the dough and spin it between your hands into a long tapered shape. The spinners give this stew an authentic look and feel, however you can eliminate them if you don’t want to go through the hassle.
Tips for making stew peas
- Choose smoked dark meat turkey – it doesn’t dry out, has more flavor and holds up to the slow cooking process
- Canned vs dry kidney beans – dry kidney beans are what give the dish so much of its flavor. I personally feel like some of the flavor is lost when you use canned beans. Plus you won’t get that deep red color that comes with cooking the dry beans.
- Adding fresh ginger – I recently started adding a piece of fresh ginger to help with digestion of the kidney beans. It doesn’t alter the final flavor and is totally optional.
Stew Peas with Smoked Turkey is a great stew if you’re looking to try something new. Just be careful you don’t end up eating the entire pot. Check out my Instagram for a short video on how I make this recipe. Here are the ingredients and instructions. Enjoy!
Jamaican Stew Peas with Smoked Turkey
- Pressure cooker, instant pot or slow cooker
- Medium pot
- 16 oz Dry kidney beans -sort, rinse and soak
- 2 Smoked Turkey legs -cut in half
- 1 Cup Coconut milk
- 1 Small Scotch bonnet pepper -leave whole
- 3-5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 1 Tbsp Pimento (all-spice) seeds -whole
- 3-5 stalks Scallion -chopped
- 1 Small Onion -cut into 4
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 Cups Water or vegetable stock
Spinners (Jamaican dumplings)
- 1 Cup All-purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup Water
- Pinch Salt
- Pour beans onto clean surface, sort through and disregard any that don't look good, then rinse at least 3 times or until water turns clear.
- Soak beans in warm water while you prep other ingredients.
- To pressure cooker add smoked turkey legs, kidney beans, onion, 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, whole scotch bonnet pepper and pimento (all-spice) seeds along with 4 cups of water or enough water to cover all ingredients. Seal and pressure cook for 40 minutes. Set a timer if needed. *See below for slow cooker method.
- While the stew is cooking, make spinners. In a medium to large bowl, combine flour, salt and mix in enough water to bring dough together. If too sticky add more flour and if too dry add a little more water. Knead until dough is soft. Divide dough into small balls. Roll each ball in your hand into a long tapered shape. Should yield about 10-15, then set them aside.
- After 40 minutes carefully open pressure cooker. Kidney beans and smoked turkey should be about 75-80% cooked. Remove ginger piece and any thyme sticks.
- Add spinners, coconut milk, butter, scallions, remaining fresh thyme and 1 bay leaf, salt and black pepper to taste along with 4 more cups of water or stock. Simmer for another 25 minutes on medium low heat until beans are tender and meat completely falling off the bone. Stew should be thick when done.
- Let it rest for a few minutes and enjoy! Best served over rice.
- For slow cooker or stove top cooking:
- Add smoked turkey legs, kidney beans, onion, 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, whole scotch bonnet pepper and pimento (all-spice) seeds along with 4 cups of water or enough water to cover all ingredients. Slow cook until meat and beans are tender.
- From there, go to the “re-season and simmer step”
- Using canned kidney beans:
- Cook your meat of choice with the seasoning until tender then add canned beans along with “re-season and simmer step”
If you’d like more Caribbean style stews check out my Plantain and black bean stew.