Pepperpot is Guyana's national dish and one that was made popular by the indigenous people known as the Amerindians. It is believed that the Amerindians concocted this dish as a means to preserve their meats since they did not have refrigeration.
The stew itself is flavored with cinnamon, orange peel, clove, brown sugar, hot pepper, and the main ingredient- cassava cassareep. The cassareep is what allows for the meat to be preserved for weeks. My dad used to make a pot of this and just leave it out on the stove top for days. We would just reheat it when we were ready to sap it up with bread.
The Main Ingredient: CASAREEP
Cassareep is used widely in Guyanese cooking. It is a brown sauce made from extracting and boiling the juices from the cassava root. The cassava that is used to make cassareep is a specific kind; one that is bitter and has a certain age. Once the cassava is grated, it is placed in something to squeeze the juices out of it. The juices are then boiled with sugar to achieve a dark syrupy looking liquid.
The finished product smells like burnt sugar and has the consistency of molasses. Casareep contains preservative agents, which is why pepperpot can be left out on the stove top for days without spoiling and does not need to be refrigerated. The dark brown color that the cassareep gives the meat might not be so appealing to the eyes, but the flavor is really quite unique.
This is why cassareep is used in various ways in Guyanese cooking-the intricate flavor and color it adds to a dish is unmatched by anything else. I have never made cassareep and most people don't. Generally, no one makes this at home, it is mostly store-bought and the reason is because making it is a very long process. As a home cook and someone who likes to experiment in the kitchen, I am telling you that some things are better off being bought and cassareep is one of them.
You can buy bottles of this stuff these days and in many different sizes. An 8-ounce bottle would run you about $5-$6 US and can be found at local West Indian stores. This is not something you would typically find in an ethnic aisle of a grocery store, but if you do, please feel free to let us know where by leaving a comment in the bottom section of this post.
Prepping The Meat
The meat needs to be lean and is therefore steamed to remove all fat. Add meat to a pot with enough water to come up the sides. In this step, we are going to "steam" the meat to remove any fat.
After meat has been steamed, discard of liquid in the pot. I prefer to do this step because I find the stew can have a rank taste if skipped.
And other ingredients
Add water and let this cook for a few hours until the liquid has reduced by ¾. Meat should be tender.
Pepperpot on Christmas Morning
We enjoyed ours with homemade bread. See recipe here.
This is my dad's pepperpot recipe, the best one I have tasted. Some people put onions, garlic and all sorts of other seasonings into their pepperpot. But to me, the more you add to this dish the less it becomes pepperpot. That being said, since there is a variety of ways to make this dish, don't let anyone tell you that your family's recipe is wrong. If you want onions and garlic, add it.
We base our tastes of dish on the way we first enjoyed it. For me, this is how I have known pepperpot to taste because it is the way my father always made it. He adapted this recipe from his mother. They are from Berbice and the people of Guyana cook their food according to the region they are from. Merry Christmas to all of you and no matter how you make your pepperpot, I hope you enjoy every last bit of it on Christmas morning!
Pepperpot on Christmas Morning
- 3 lbs of meat- beef, lamb, pork, or goat (I used goat for this recipe)
- 1 cup cassareep
- 4-5 cinnamon sticks (not ground)
- 1 ½ inch orange peel
- 6-8 cloves
- 1-2 wiri wiri peppers
- ½- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 16 cups water
- Steam the meat for about 15 minutes so that all the fat can be removed. Once you have steamed the meat, remove any dangling pieces of fat. Discard the liquid in the pot.
- In another large pot, add meat, cassareep, and all other ingredients. Add the water and boil until the meat is tender and until the broth has reduced by three-quarters, a few hours. My dad usually boils the meat until it falls off the bones, but some people like their pepperpot meat a bit more on the tough side. It's all about preference.
- Adjust salt to suit your tastes.
- Pepperpot is best when made a couple days ahead.
How to steam the meat
- Place meat in a pot with enough water to cover just ¼ way up the pot. Let meat simmer on low heat until the fat congeals and can be removed from each piece, about 15 minutes. Remember, you are not cooking the meat during this step, just heating the meat enough so the fat can be removed. This allows for a lean stew.
- Pepperpot does not need to refrigerate and can be stored on the stove top. Flavor is best when made a few days ahead.
As a Guju girl married to a Guyanese boy, I often venture out to make the difficult dishes. This is one that I have not tried yet as my mother-in-law takes care of it every year! I would love to try to make the plait bread though. I experimented this year and ended up with a super dense bread that I did not like! Do you have a recipe for plait bread that you can share?
Hey! Do u season the meat first and then add it to the pot?
Ms. Gourmet Express
Hi Anonymous- I do not season the meat, that would change the flavor of the broth, some people do, its a preference thing.
Hi Krupa- I do have a plait bread recipe. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to give you the recipe.
Thank you both for visiting!
Thanks for sharing! My family add "fine leaf thyme" or oregano to this dish. For fun, you should try it at least one time. I hope I am not being too bold. You are truly an expert and I appreciate your hard work!!!! Thanks for these recipes!
Hi there, thanks for your suggestion! I will give it a try next time ?. And you're not being bold at all, I welcome suggestions and tips. It's good for other readers as well! Also, thanks for your kind words, I'm still learning all about the foods of my culture!
Hi Alicia, thanks for sharing this recipe. Like you we had pepperpot and plaited bread for Christmas. I must confess that my mum made it for me and I've yet to try cooking it for myself. I'll be giving it a go soon and using some of your tips. Your photos are really lovely.
Hi Alicia, thanks for the recipe! My dad makes some of the best pepperpot you could ever taste! We sure did enjoy for christmas, and New Years! Instead to eat it with plait bread, we tried it with deli rolls from the grocery store, those tasted good, but the plait bread was missing :(. However, I do need a recipe for the Plait Bread. Like the one u get at sybils, or little guyana bake shop in queens NY! May I have the recipe for it? I have tried 3 different recipes (one potspoon of this, one handful of that) And none of them came out good. All were hard, dense, stiff, dry, and tasteless. HELP!
It's not too late. I am making pepperpot for my husband tonight. He loves it!
I made pepperpot tonight and it came out great!! Thanks Alicia 🙂
Yummmy for my tummy!! loving all ur recipes!! 🙂
Hi Do you think Pepper Pot can be made with chicken? I'm a woman with Guyanese roots, first gen American and I would like to make Pepper Pot, but my auntie says she's never tried it with chicken, always, beef, and pork...never lamb or goat. They don't do goat... Anyway, let me know what you think of trying it with chicken. Thanks
Monica & my daughter Gracie 🙂
Thanks for visiting! I have never made pepperpot with chicken nor have I ever seen my dad make it with chicken. I do know of people that love it with chicken so I am positive you can try it and see how it turns out! I would love to hear about your results.
Back to Black
So....steaming the meat would mean What? How do I do that exactly?
Hi "Back to Black"!
Steaming the meat just means putting it into a pot with a little water and letting it cook slowly. There are typically no seasonings added at this point, all of the fat will melt off of the meat during this process, which is what you want. Pepperpot is meant to have very lean meat. Hope this helps.
Feel Like something is missing, but not sure I have all the ingredients and there is a take missing Hmm. Plait bread came out wonderful. How about Thyme?? I usually season the meat with Thyme before cooking
Everyone makes this dish differently. I know many people in my family that put onions, garlic, thyme etc. in their pepperpot, however, the ingredients you see above is all that my father puts into his pepperpot. My dad got this recipe from a very old Guyanese cookbook and we have used this recipe for many many years. Perhaps you can use this recipe as a base and add anything else you like 🙂
Hope you have a merry christmas and a happy new year! Thanks for visiting!
Hi!!! There are so much souvenir coming to me right now.... I'm a 31 year old french guyanese girl, but my mum and all my mother family are from georgetown, demerara!!!!
And this it's my favorite food.... For christmas or for all good occassion, and if i beggin (a little bit, no much) my mother) to prepare this recipe, i become a little girl^^. Now i live in france and i can't eat this; I will try to do my own pepperpot, but i know that it can't be more delicious than my mum. Thank you for this recipe.... (Sorry for my bad english)
I am making it for my hubby right now so far it smells good the steps were easy to follow aswell
Thanks for your comment, hope you and your husband enjoyed it 🙂
ALICIA, I am so excited! girl, your are the bomb. this turned out so great! my family jealous of me now!
Lol, I'm glad you enjoyed it! That's funny about your family! Merry Christmas to you!
It's funny that I know the person that commented the other day, lol.
But Alicia I must say this recipe coincides with that of my Grandmother!
I have one question, since I have no way of getting Wiri-Wiri peppers, other than friendly import from Guyana, here in MD, can it be substituted with scotch bonnet peppers instead?
Other than that, appreciate the blog, the best that I've followed, by far. Must be a Guyanese thing!
Thanks for your comment! Is your grandmother from Berbice by any chance lol? I ask only because I've noticed people from different regions of Guyana have their own way of making this dish, and you mentioned her version is similar to my dad's version. As for your pepper question - yes, you can absolutely use scotch bonnets. When I can't get access to wiri wiris that's what I use as well. I would say a small one or even half would be enough for the amount this pepperpot makes. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
If I'm not mistaken she is from Bernice... But man oh man did it turn out well! Reminds me of home, and its been YEARS since I had "best pepper pot" (as the Trinidadians does say)!
Hi there. Came across this recipe recently and I am going to give it a shot tonight. Haven't had pepperpot since I was young 🙂
My husband is Guyanese we Just moved to Georgia with our family. FAAAAR away from his mom who always makes the pepper pot. I know its not Christmas but I'm trying it for the first time today.
I was told I should not eat it the first day its better after 2 days
Thanks for the recipes keep em coming !!
A bit off topic, but Melvin are you from Alexander Village? I have been looking for that person for a while.
I'm from Alexander Village who are you looking for?
Thanks a bunch!
I'm trying it for the fist time for this christmas[tonight] - wish me luck;-)
I love tha paisley/comma shaped bowl - whereever did you get that from?
Have a wonderful Christmas and Joyous New Year!!!
I will be making pepperpot for the first time this evening... pray for me.
Thanks so much, same to you! I got the bowl at a store in SOHO in NYC called Pearl River.
You will be fine lol, let me know if you have Q's!
Back to Black
I am Just not seeing your reply! (And of course I see the instructions on the bottom of the recipe now. smh.) Thank you so much! I'm starting sorrel now and I'll be making pepper pot today for tomorrow.
I haven't had pepper pot for more than 10 years, mom and granny passed away before I learned 🙁
I have to try this!!! Especially since my mom is from Berbice too!
I think this dish varies by region because my wife's mom and mine as well use oxtail and cow foot along with some stewing beef. They crave the glueniss of the cow foot. Not really healthy I'm sure but the oxtail as well once cooked through is heaven....yummy. of course the pepperpot is slow cooked but you have to be careful not to boil out the oxtail less you end up with just the bones.
Lovely recipe, have a pot on the cooker as I tpye this. Add my first pepperpot in Gloucester as a lad. Made my the mum of one of my friends. Didn't have again until I visited Barbados and a local restaurant, owned by Guyanans had it on the menu. What I do have a lot of which is very close to it in flavour is Thsi Pa Lo, their version of a Chinese dish . Very dark salty sauce, sweetened with cane sugar and spiced with dried chillies, whole star anise, peppercorns, cloves, cassia bark( with some people also adding either fennel seeds or coriander seeds). The bulk ingredients are belly of pork, deep fried bean curd and hard boiled eggs. Not normally flavoured with orange peel, but I've had the Chinese original and that sometimes as dried tangerine peel added.
It turns out pretty well with chicken. Truth is I like to pressure my chicken for 15 mins then I let it boil slowly. My friend told me she was gonna try it with soy. She is vegetarian.
Thats how we make ours too.. I live in Oklahoma US now and cannot find those types of meats here.. Such a disappointment
What brand of casareep would you recommend? I'm having a hard time finding it in the West Coast. I saw a few different brands on Amazon.com but I am open to purchasing from a site/company that you trust. I want to surprise my Guyanese mom with some pepper pot during the holidays, but I'd like to do a test run (or 8) before the big day! It doesn't hurt that it's one of my favorite Guyanese dishes too... 😉
So here it's my first time making pepper pot and I didn't steam ..I just place the goat meat with Casreep after seasoning it whole day and put to pressure cook for 8 mins and then allow to boil until gravy is thick
Thank you for this recipe . This is my second consecutive Christmas making this delicious dish,always good to the last drop . This year I've added onions and garlic- no offense- it's the way I also remember it. None the less, following your recipe was definitely the foundation . So a heartfelt sincere thank you !
Hi Alicia, years later I'm still making this recipe and experimenting by adding little tweaks here and there (adding garlic and onion or making it with freshly butchered chicken). Thank you again for posting your simple, straight forward, and delicious recipes. I wouldn't have ever attempted to make some of these dishes without this website!
Can you please tell me roughly about how long this takes to cook once everything is in the pot? It doesn't say and I'm big on timing lol. I would like to surprise my husband with this one Saturday morning
Thanks for your comment. I wish I could give you an exact time, but the timing of this depends on the meat that you use. It also depends on how you like this stew -meat falling off the bone or more intact. If I had to estimate, I would say 3 1/2 hours of boiling. The meat has to cook and the liquid has to reduce in the pot by 1/3. If you do have any other questions, feel free to email me :).
As an Essequibo boy who grew up in Canada with pepperpot every Christmas, I must say it is impossible to surprise someone with it. That's not just because of the great aroma, but because to be truly good, you can't eat it for the first two days! In our family it is LAW that pepperpot can't be eaten before the third day, it needs to sit on the stovetop and age, to develop the best taste. Break the law at your own risk!
As for casareep, beware store-bought stuff that is really soy sauce and molasses (I've been burned, even buying from a Guyanese grocery store in Toronto). In my humble opinion, if it comes in a glass bottle with a nice professional label, it must be FAKE. I was blessed with a trip to Charity market this year, and got the real stuff -- bought from an Amerindian stall within sight of the Pomeroon, filled in re-used plastic water bottles (always with a little bit that leaked out to stain the cap), with a crooked paper label. THAT is the only real casareep 😉
How long can casareep last? We have had some for a number of years.Would it be safe to use?
I have made Pepperpot for years using a slow cooker. Put it on and leave to cook overnight. Mine will last weeks once you boil it up everyday and you can add more meat periodically. My mother used to occasionally parcel out portions and freeze to reheat later in year.
Hey so my pepper pot is tasting bitter, usually when I make this there's no problem. I was wondering if you had any advice??
If you haven't had a problem in the past I'm wondering if it's the brand of casareep you're using. I've been hearing that a lot of the casareep they're selling in the stores now have soy sauce and other seasonings in it. If you don't think that's the issue my advice would be to add more brown sugar to the Pepperpot. Hope this helps!
Thanks for your amazing blog, everything is authentic. Happy holidays
Thank you Priya, much appreciated!
Looks so good! I want to try making this one day!
Hey there. This is a great recipe. Wondering out of the cassareep brands available on amazon... which one do you recommend.
Can Pepperpot be made in an instant pot? Also, can I pressure cook the meat to remove fat instead of steaming? Thanks!
Hi Nikki, yes it certainly can be made in an instant pot or any slow cooker. Also, yes to pressuring the meat as well. Enjoy!
Hello, so my mother is from Guyana and this Christmas I want to make this, where in the world do you get wiri wiri peppers from? Is there a substitute pepper? ? and can you order the cassereep online ? If so is their a trusted brand ? Thank you !!!
You can use scotch bonnets instead. I think one small one will be enough for this recipe. You can buy casareep online or at any Caribbean market. Just make sure there is no soy sauce in the ingredients. That will make it salty. Hope this helps!
Hello can you advise if this pepperpot can be made in a pressure cooker and if so are you able to share how?
Looking forward to trying this recipe. I've wonderful food memories of my Aunt's Guyanese friends and a Benedictine brother who lived in Trinidad that we would get pepperpot from at Christmas time. Several years ago my Guyanese friend made it, we both lived in Jamaica. She's now living in the Cayman islands and I got a bottle of cassareep from a Caribbean grocery in Hartford, Connecticut.....I'm really looking forward to recreating the memories I've had.....Will make coconut bake to have with it?
Hello, can you tell me please what should I do if the pepper pot is too sweet . Thank you
Hi, you can add a little more water and salt.