Antiguan Pepper Pot

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Pepper pot is an American Indian dish that originated in Guyana, where it is a national dish. “I remember my grandmother would wrap a clean bleached flour sack around her waist so that it formed a bag, and she would go out into the garden to pick the vegetables for the pepper pot,” recalls Gwendolyn Tonge, a home economist for the Antiguan government who contributed this recipe. “We had a lot of pepper pot. We had it nearly every Saturday, sometimes with little dumplings.”

NotesThis hearty soup is almost a stew, so you may want to use it as a filling Sunday lunch rather than as a first course. In Antigua the soup would be made with salted beef and such exotic pig parts as snout or tail. We’ve altered the recipe to use more familiar meats, but the spirit is 100 percent Island. It is the Scotch bonnet pepper, an incendiary little devil that is at least ten times hotter than the jalapeño, that gives the dish its name.

*One (16-ounce) can of pigeon peas or green peas, drained, may be substituted for the dried peas. Skip steps 1 and 2.

Serves6 to 8


Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursehot appetizer, main course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturehot & spicy, meaty, savory, smoky, spiced

Type of Dishhot soup


  • 1 cup (½ pound) dried pigeon peas, rinsed and picked over*
  • 1 pound corned beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 smoked ham hock, cut in half crosswise 2 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh hot chile pepper, such as Scotch bonnet, seeded and minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can peeled tomatoes in juice, drained
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound calabaza or acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ pound white yam (name), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ pound fresh spinach, stemmed, well washed, and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the pigeon peas and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil for minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for 1 hour. (Or soak the beans overnight in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch.)

  2. Drain the peas and return them to the medium saucepan with enough fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. Drain again.

  3. Meanwhile, in a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup kettle, bring the corned beef, ham hock, and water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1½ hours. Drain the meat, reserving both the meat and the cooking liquid. Remove the meat from the ham hock and chop it coarsely; discard the bones.

  4. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup kettle, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, scallions, garlic, and chile pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Then stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, chives, and thyme, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

  5. Stir in the eggplant, calabaza, and white yam and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the reserved meat cooking liquid and the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cooked pigeon peas and the spinach, and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with the pepper, depending on the hotness of the chile pepper Serve immediately.


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