Guandules con Coco (Pigeon Peas with Coconut)

Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)

‘Tumba Coco’ is the slightly comical name of a village in San Juan de la Maguana province, and can also be a derogatory term for a simple person. I heard someone once criticising a village school for ‘only being able to teach the kids to knock down coconuts’. But this is not a job to be undertaken by just anyone. Watch the people who scale up a coconut palm to knock down the nuts and see if you dare follow in their nimble footsteps!

Or not, and just enjoy this delicious guandules guisados con coco (pigeon peas with coconut) a delight from the Samaná region.

Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)

Coconuts grow in abundance practically everywhere in the Dominican Republic, but when you approach the Samaná peninsula the landscape becomes a riot of coconut palms. Not surprisingly, the coconut and its derivatives have become an integral part of Dominican cuisine.

The most popular coconut dishes are:

  • Camarones en salsa de coco – prawns in coconut sauce. The more common version, typical of the Samaná region, is fish in coconut sauce, but prawns add a touch of extra class to this succulent feast. Another variant is crab in coconut sauce.
  • Moro de guandules con coco and Guandules con coco (accompanied by white rice) are common all over the country. The Moro is usually served on special occasions, like weddings and Christmas dinner.
Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)
  • Pan de coco is a flat bread with a subtle coconut flavour sold on the roadsides (see our leavened version), beaches and restaurants of the Samaná peninsula.
  • Agua de Coco/Coco Frio is everywhere! Sold on the streets, the roadsides, the beaches it makes the most refreshing drink. Split the nut open and eat the jelly-like pulp with a ‘spoon’ fashioned from the top of the shell after drinking the water. Yummy! Unfortunately the drink is being displaced in some shopping centres by a commercial, bottled version, which makes a mockery of the natural experience of drinking the sweet, cool water straight from the coconut. It is beyond me why someone would want to generate more plastic waste in such an unnecessary way, and why consumers are willing to pay more for drinking it out of plastic.

Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)

Coconut milk/creamed coconut is the ingredient used in some of these dishes. It is available tinned. There is a sweetened and unsweetened version, so make sure you buy the sugar-free creamed coconut for savoury dishes. The sweetened one is good for drinks like Piña colada. What I haven’t found here is grated/desiccated coconut: I expect people here just grate a dried coconut (coco seco).

Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)

Unfortunately fresh coconuts cannot be exported as they do not last long enough, so those of us who live in areas where coconuts cannot be grown can only buy the dry version. I have often wondered why coconuts do not grow in the Mediterranean, where date palms rule. I think the long dry summers and the cool winters are responsible for this. Certainly the only coconut palms I have seen in that region are ornamental.

Guandules con coco (Pigeon peas with coconut)

Am I the only one here who has crossed continents with two fresh coconuts in my backpack? My mother is passionate about agua de coco so I have on more than one occasion challenged customs laws by carrying this precious contraband over to her. But as security checks become more stringent I will not be doing this in the future, and I have informed my mother that she has to overcome her aversion to long-haul flights and visit us here, if only to drink her beloved agua de coco.

Aunt Ilana
Guandules con Coco (Pigeon Peas with Coconut)
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Try Guandules con Coco Recipe (Dominican Pigeon Peas with Coconut) a recipe from the Samaná region. It is one of our favorite recipes, one guaranteed to delight your guests.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 cups of dry green pigeon peas, boiled very soft
  • 2 tablespoon of oil (canola, corn or peanut)
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
  • A pinch of oregano
  • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • 2 yellow lantern pepper (gustosos, cachuchas, ajicitos) crushed (optional)
  • 4 thyme sprigs (optional)
  • 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cups of water (aprox.)
  • 2 cups of diced auyama (West Indies pumpkin)
  • 3 sprigs of cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  1. Separate the pigeon peas from the water in which it boiled. Reserve both.
  2. In a pot heat the oil over low heat.
  3. Add onion and cook and stir until it becomes transparent.
  4. Add oregano, garlic, yellow lantern pepper and thyme.
  5. Cook and stir for a minute
  6. Add the pigeon peas. Cook and stir for a minute.
  7. Mash the pigeon peas over heat.
  8. Add the coconut milk and 3 cups of water (this includes the liquid you reserved from boiling the peas).
  9. Add the auyama and boil over medium heat until the pumpkin is cooked through and the peas reach a creamy consistency, adding more water as it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
  10. Add the cilantro and season with salt to taste.
  11. Serve with arroz blanco, salad and meat or seafood.
No pigeon peas? Tough luck, as there is no substitute for its smoky flavor. If you absolutely must do without it I have found mung beans to be the closest in flavor and texture.
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{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Joanie March 9, 2014, 2:18 PM

    He hecho la receta dos veces pero me quedan aguados? Sera porque no le hecho la Auyama?

    • Aunt Clara March 11, 2014, 5:45 PM

      En parte, también es posible que los guandules estén muy duros. Hierve hasta que rompa la cáscara, y maja un poquito cuando estén cociendose.

  • Jennifer February 24, 2013, 7:03 PM

    I live in California, I love guandules con coco but can’t find auyama or yellow lantern peppers. Is there anything I can use as a substitute?

    • Aunt Clara February 24, 2013, 11:36 PM

      I suppose you can use some other type of squash or pumpkin and another type of pepper. The flavor might not be identical, but hey, better that than nothing.

  • Andrea August 11, 2012, 10:16 PM

    This recipe looks so good!!!

  • JLeBlanc June 14, 2012, 6:33 PM

    I volunteered in the D.R. this year and loved the cooking. Recently, I made this for my children's spanish classes. Grades 2 through 6 and most everyone loved it! I used canned green pigeon peas as I could not find dry beans and I cut the onions smaller for the kids. I also purchased your cookbook. Thanks.

  • missskitttin May 4, 2012, 1:04 PM

    Why thyme? I didn't know about the existence of thyme in dominican cuisine while I lived there, and I didnt think they had thyme in Samana but of course maybe I don't know enough about Samana or meddled with cooking while there…

    • Aunt Clara May 4, 2012, 2:14 PM

      These are my recipes (it's not the official site of Dominican food, if there could be such thing, but a personal blog). To me legumes without thyme is unthinkable, where I come from (Cibao/La Linea) thyme is always added to legumes. Of course you are free to do without, but you will be missing on something really good. :)

  • Susan June 8, 2011, 5:51 AM

    Si solo tienes disponible en tu area guandules enlatados, quedaria igual?

    • Aunt Clara June 14, 2011, 7:03 AM

      No quedan exactamente igual, pero tampoco queda mal.

  • Claritza April 21, 2011, 12:43 PM

    Okay Ya! Lo tengo que dejar hervir por mas tiempo. Se me puso verde :0)

  • Claritza April 21, 2011, 12:28 PM

    Hola! A mi me quedan muy ricos los guanduls con coco y siempre sigo esta receta al maximo pero, la salsa no me queda verde como en la foto… Como conseguir que me quede verde la salsa?

  • Clarissa February 6, 2011, 2:34 PM

    ~_~sooop yummy. my mom make something like this all the time. She makes a Moro con guandules and adds some coco Lopez Mmm yum!

    • JLeBlanc June 14, 2012, 6:42 PM

      This recipe is different than the cookbook, Are they similar in flavor? I would imagine the pumpkin adds a layer not in the cookbook recipe.

      • Aunt_Clara June 14, 2012, 7:30 PM

        Yes, they are different, but the flavor is very similar too.