Red Beans & Rice

Better than a night on the town in N'awlins? Just as good as red beans and rice in some divey spot in the Louisiana bayous? A big bowl of steaming red beans over plump hot rice right at home in the comfort of your own kitchen. My recipe can be meaty or vegan but never lacks for flavor, thanks to a heap of warm spices and a three-stage slow-cooking technique.

Real Food, Fresh & Flexible. Meaty with a Ham Bone or Ham Hocks Or Just Leave Them Out, For Just-As-Good (Maybe Better?!) Vegan Red Beans & Rice. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep. Naturally Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.
Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ KitchenParade.com. Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

It Wasn't Monday But the Beans Were Wondrous

On My Mind ♥ KitchenParade.com, a road trip across Louisiana

Once upon a time, my dad and I set out to cross seven southern states the day after Christmas. We left Houston Dark Early, that put us well into Louisiana by lunch.

Dad wanted McDonalds. I wanted gumbo, something I'd heard of but never tasted. Words were spoken. But I was driving and somehow, pre-internet/Yelp/Google Maps/GPS, we left the freeway and made a few uncertain turns on quiet dusty streets to finally pull up to a suitable dive-y looking spot.

"We'd like to try your gumbo!" I announced at the counter, displaying my status as an enthusiastic if not especially educated foodie. "No gumbo til tomorrow," came the gruff response. "We close for Christmas."

Dad harumphed, all this extra time and no gumbo. "What else are you famous for?" I queried, hoping for something suitable. "Red beans. Cooked 'em this morning."

Soon Dad and I were tucking into enormous shallow bowls of reddish beans and andouille sausage pooling around a mass of white rice.

Bean Heaven, long ago but not forgotten.

Practical, Thrifty Food.

Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ KitchenParade.com. Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

And the truth is, Red Beans & Rice are a food of real legend.

The story goes that by tradition, Red Beans & Rice simmer away on Mondays.

  • Monday beans made good use of Sunday's ham bone. Zero food waste isn't a new concept, it goes way-way back! Waste not, want not!
  • Monday was also wash day, manual labor that's difficult to contemplate in a modern world of hot running water plus washers and dryers. Hands-off cooking and easy one-pot meals aren't new either!

What's In Red Beans & Rice? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.


  • Red Beans Either "red beans" (yes, that's how the bags of dried beans are labeled) or red kidney beans. Look for dried beans in one-pound bags in a section near the canned beans.

  • Rice Cook up a pot of white rice (How to Cook White Rice) 30-60 minutes before serving Red Beans & Rice. It goes under the beans, not in the beans.

  • Ham Bone or Ham Hocks My recipe makes wonderful vegan Red Beans & Rice but oh, it's very good with ham too. If you have a bone leftover ham bone after Christmas or Easter or in the freezer, definitely use it. If you don't have a ham bone, buy one or two "ham hocks" (or a ham shank, a little harder to find) at the grocery, look for them in the refrigerated case near the meat department. Each ham hock is about the size of a fist, they add so much flavor to beans. I keep one or two in the freezer, the quick way to great Monday beans without a special trip to the store.

  • Fresh Vegetables Red Beans & Rice includes the "holy trinity" of vegetables, onion, celery and bell pepper. I add the vegetables in three batches. The first batch cooks with the beans from beginning to end, adding flavor but disappearing into the bean broth. The second batch goes in about halfway through, adding texture (without turning mushy) and freshness. The third batch is a bit of diced green pepper garnish that gets sprinkled across the beans, whoah, what a difference a bit of cool, fresh bell pepper makes.

  • Salt Salt is so important to the flavor of beans, so you'll add what might "seem" like a lot of salt but really isn't. It's for cooking an entire pound of beans and especially isn't compared to canned beans. (For reference, a half cup of my Red Beans, made without the ham, has only 19mg of sodium. I just checked a few cans from the pantry. A half cup of canned beans contains 270-470mg of sodium. Yikes, when the healthy upper limit of sodium intake is about 1500mg per day.)

  • Spices My Red Beans & Rice is full of warm Creole spices (cumin, smoked paprika plus a sprinkle of cayenne) plus garlic powder, black and white pepper

  • A Few Extras for Extra Flavor My Red Beans & Rice also includes a few drops of Liquid Smoke plus a small splash of vinegar and a touch of sweet just before serving. You don't use much but these extras make all the difference!

Six Simple Steps to Red Beans & Rice Goodness.

I promised you a three-step slow-cooking technique to draw out flavor. They are half the six easy steps to excellent beans.


Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ KitchenParade.com. Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

SOAK (upper left) the beans overnight. I know, I know, so many folks skip this step anymore. But after trying a pot or two with unsoaked beans, call me a card-carrying member of Team Soak. Just rinse the beans under running water, transfer to a large bowl (or the cooking vessel you plan to use the next day) and cover with water plus another couple of inches of water, that allows room for the dried beans to puff up as they absorb water. In the morning, drain the beans and rinse again. Now they're ready to cook!


START ON THE STOVE (upper right) Bring the soaked beans and 6 cups fresh water to a boil on the stove. Add some vegetables, all the spices and (if you're using) a ham bone or ham hocks.


THREE HOURS IN THE OVEN (bottom left, FLAVOR-ENHANCING TECHNIQUE #1) Move the covered pot to the oven set at 225F/105C. Tell Alexa to "set the bean timer for three hours" and then walk away. During this time, the beans will slowly, gently cook, absorbing flavor from the spices and ham.


ADD FRESHNESS, THEN THREE MORE HOURS IN THE OVEN (bottom right, FLAVOR-ENHANCING TECHNIQUE #2) Now add the celery, carrot and green pepper and cook for another 3 hours, covered. Adding the vegetables halfway through the total cooking time means they don't overcook and turn mushy.


FINISH IN THE OVEN UNCOVERED The Red Beans are fully cooked now but the broth is a little thin. With a potato masher, mash the mixture just a bit, creating some texture. With the lid off, let the Red Beans cook for up to another 90 minutes. If you want to "hold" the Red Beans for another while, without cooking any longer, cover the pot again and reduce the heat to 180F/80C. At this safe holding temperature, the beans stay hot but won't cook anymore.


BRIGHTEN (FLAVOR-ENHANCING TECHNIQUE #3) If you've read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (affiliate link) by Samin Nosrat (or seen her show on Netflix), you get how important it is to taste the beans now. So scoop up a few beans and give them a taste, really paying attention. Then add a little red vinegar and a little sweetness (we use sorghum but maple syrup, honey, even molasses would also work). Now taste them again, what a difference, eh?! You might want to add a bit more of vinegar or sweetness, otherwise taste for salt and pepper.

You Might Be Wondering ...

Are Red Beans & Rice Creole or Cajun? This origin of this rustic, hearty pot of beans is Creole, a cuisine influenced by West African, French, Spanish and Haitian cuisines. But Creole and Cajun are cousins, special to Louisiana and New Orleans.


Are Red Beans & Rice Spicy? Some recipes are indeed super-spicy, my husband's son made a big pot for dinner last week and yikes, oh so lip-burning spicy. But my Red Beans & Rice is warm with spices but won't make anyone sweat. Call it "spiced" but "not spicy". That's because my recipe excludes the andouille sausage that is the primary source of heat in most pots of red beans and rice. If you like the heat, could you use andouille instead of ham? You bet.


Which Is Better, Red Beans or Red Kidney Beans? Both work great but I lean toward Red Beans, they're slightly smaller and the skins are slightly more tender. That said, don't stress over the type of bean, either one will make one excellent pot of beans.


Soaked beans for Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ KitchenParade.com. Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

Do You Have to Soak the Beans? No ... but I still do and think it makes for a plumper, meatier bean, once they're cooked.


Can You Quick-Soak the Beans? Yes! Just rinse the beans well, cover with water plus a couple of inches and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat, cover and let soak off heat for an hour.


Sometimes Dried Beans Just Don't Cook. Why? There's a reason, they're old. More information here, Why Dried Beans Won't Cook.


Can You Cook Red Beans & Rice Ahead of Time? Absolutely. The details are in the recipe, below.


Can You Freeze Red Beans & Rice? Yes! The details are in the recipe, below.


Can You Make Red Beans & Rice in a Slow Cooker? Probably. I haven't yet, since I prefer "slow cooking in the oven" to a "slow cooker". But if it were me, I'd follow the same instructions included in the recipe, using a slow cooker on Low instead of the oven.


Have I Missed Something? Leave a comment or send me a quick email!


What Makes This Recipe Special?

  • tons of flavor, thanks to warm spices and the salty, meaty ham
  • tons of flavor, even in the vegan version, thanks to warm spices
  • mostly hands-off cooking
  • a mix of slow-cooked and just-added freshness
  • no special ingredients, just foods and spices from the pantry
  • inexpensive to make, very filling and satisfying
  • fun food for a casual crowd

  • Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ KitchenParade.com. Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!



RED BEANS & RICE

Hands-on time: 30 minutes over 24 hours
Soaking time: 8-12 hours
Cooking time: 8 hours
Time-to-table: 24 hours
Makes about 10 cups
    SOAK THE BEANS
  • 16 ounces (454g) dried red beans or red kidney beans
    START ON THE STOVE
  • Soaked Beans, drained & rinsed again
  • 6 cups fresh water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 green pepper, diced small
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (also called pimentòn
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Sprinkle cayenne or to taste
  • 1 meaty ham bone or 1 or 2 meaty ham hocks or 1 meaty ham shank or 8oz/225g chopped smoked sausage (omit for vegan Red Beans)
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke, optional but wonderful
    AFTER THREE HOURS IN THE OVEN
  • 1 green pepper, diced small
  • 2 ribs celery, diced small
  • 1 small carrot, diced small, untraditional but nice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
    JUST BEFORE SERVING
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sorghum, maple syrup, honey or sugar to taste
  • Additional salt & pepper to taste
    TO SERVE
  • White Rice, How to Cook White Rice
  • Red Beans
  • Fresh Green Pepper, diced, for garnish (don't skip!)
  • Hot Sauce, to taste

SOAK THE BEANS Rinse the dried beans under running water, running your fingers through the beans to locate and discard any shriveled beans or small stones that somehow occasionally appear. Transfer the beans to a large, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven or a large bowl. Cover with cool water plus two or three additional inches of water, allowing enough water for the beans to remain submerge as they expand while absorbing the liquid. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or about 8-12 hours. Drain the beans, discarding the water. Rinse the beans again.

START ON THE STOVE Set the oven at 225F/105C. Bring the beans, fresh water and salt to a boil. As the beans get hot, a light scum may form on the top of the water. Skim this off with a slotted spoon. ham-Add the remaining ingredients.

THREE HOURS IN THE OVEN Cover and let the beans cook completely unattended for 3 hours.

THREE MORE HOURS IN THE OVEN Stir in the chopped green pepper, celery, carrot (if using) and parsley. Cover and cook unattended for 3 more hours.

UNCOVER for 30-90 MINUTES Use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to smash some of the beans to thicken the bean broth. To further thicken the bean broth, cook the beans for up to 90 minutes uncovered, checking every 30 minutes to see when the bean broth reaches your desired consistency.

If making ahead stop here and refrigerate. Bring back to temperature.

HINT! Cook the rice while the Red Beans finish in the oven.

JUST BEFORE SERVING Taste the Red Beans. Stir in the vinegar and sorghum and taste again, decide whether more is needed. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, you may not need any at all.

TO SERVE Place hot cooked rice in bowls, top with Red Beans. Sprinkle with diced green pepper and hot sauce.

SERVING SIZES Beans are filling! When I served Red Beans & Rice for my book club recently, I plated 1/2 cup rice with 1 cup Red Beans. That was both too much rice:beans and too much to eat. Since then, I allow 1/4 cup rice with 3/4 cup Red Beans for women and double that for men. That said, for apples to apples nutrition comparisons with other recipes from Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture, I'm sticking with a 1-cup serving.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Red Beans can be made a day or even two ahead of time. If you like, Red Beans may be safely held in at 180F/80C all day long. This makes for a hot wonderful dinner if you're away from home or outside all day.

TO FREEZE Red Beans freeze beautifully. Just fill a freezer container, allowing room for the beans to expand once frozen. To avoid freezer burn, press a double layer of waxed paper onto the top of the beans, then seal with the container's lid. Don't forget to label!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup (assumes 8oz ham): 167 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 12mg Cholesterol; 338mg Sodium; 34g Carb; 15g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 15g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 3 & blue 1 & purple 1

More Ways To Use a Good Ham Bone

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Ham & Beans At Last Black Bean Soup Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup

More Cajun-Style Food

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Gumbo Old-Fashioned Brunswick Stew Bourbon Pralines
~ more Cajun & Creole recipes ~

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ dried bean recipes ~
~ bell pepper recipes ~
~ ham recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

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