Island Rice Pilaf

I really can’t imagine ever just eating plain rice again. Over the past few years I’ve discovered so many different things you can do with rice, especially cooking it with different liquids and seasonings.

One of my all-time favorites is Savory Coconut Rice, which combines coconut milk, garlic, and jasmine rice. This recipe is kind of like that, but it veers off in a slightly different direction. Instead of using jasmine rice, this recipe uses plain rice (great for those of you who can’t find jasmine) and includes some black beans, which always go great with rice. Coconut milk makes everything creamy and mellow, while savory herbs like garlic and thyme add depth. A little sweet pineapple and fresh cilantro help round everything out to create an awesome (and easy) side dish.

The mellow creaminess of this rice was perfect for balancing my Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken, but it would go great with any spicy meal.

Although I called this “pilaf,” be aware that it’s definitely heavier and more dense than most pilafs. When I hear the word pilaf I think of a light, fluffy rice mixture. Cooking the rice in coconut milk definitely makes it heavier and even a little sticky. So, just be aware of that before you begin. That being said, I could eat a mountain of this rice!

Island Rice Pilaf

Island Rice Pilaf

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4.5 from 4 votes

island rice pilaf

This hearty pilaf combines rice, black beans, pineapple, and cilantro for a taste of the Caribbean Islands. 
Total Cost: $5.52 recipe / $0.92 serving
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Servings: 6


  • 1.5 cup uncooked long grain rice ($0.50)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme ($0.03)
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.02)
  • 15 oz can black beans ($1.29)
  • 13.5 oz can coconut milk ($2.14)
  • 1.5 cups water ($0.00)
  • 20 oz can crushed pineapple ($1.14)
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro ($0.22)


  • Add the rice to a medium sauce pot. Mince the garlic and add it to the pot along with the salt, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Drain the can of black beans and then add them to the pot. Lastly, add the can of coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water. Stir briefly to combine the ingredients.
  • Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a full boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and allow it to continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure that it’s still simmering after turning the heat down to low. If it is not, increase the heat slightly.
  • After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest undisturbed for an additional 20 minutes. The rice will continue to steam during this time.
  • After the final 20 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork (it won’t look pretty at first because the coconut cream will be on top). Drain the pineapple and roughly chop the cilantro. Fold both the pineapple and cilantro into the rice mixture then serve.

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
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Island Rice Pilaf & Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
Pictured with Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken.

Step By Step Photos

rice seasoning
Add the rice, minced garlic, salt, thyme, and crushed red pepper to a medium sauce pot.

black beans coconut milk
Next comes the black beans and coconut milk. Make sure to drain the beans well before adding them to the pot. You can even rinse them briefly to remove the starchy/slimy canning liquid.

Add the drained black beans, the canned coconut milk, and 1.5 cups of water. Give everything a brief stir to make sure the seasonings are distributed. Place a lid on top and bring the pot up to a full boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes. The trick is to find the lowest heat setting where the liquid is still gently simmering. A thick bottomed pot also makes a big difference. Thin pots tend to make the rice stick to the bottom of the pot.

After the rice has simmered for 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit for another 20 minutes without removing the lid. This lets the rice steam form its residual heat. After that final 20 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice. It won’t be pretty when you first remove the lid because the coconut cream will be sitting on the top like a white layer of goop. But, once it’s all fluffed up, it looks more appetizing.

pineapple cilantro
Lastly, roughly chop the cilantro and drain the pineapple. Add them both to the rice and then gently fold them in. I had a can of pineapple chunks on hand, but crushed pineapple would definitely work a little better.

Island Rice Pilaf
And then EAT.