Red Beans and Rice is a delicious New Orleans classic and an easy recipe to cook at home. A rich, creamy, smoky, comforting meat and bean stew, served with rice. The ultimate New Orleans comfort food.
Red Beans and Rice
History tells us that Monday is Red Beans and Rice day in New Orleans. The lore is that the pork roast was a common Sunday dinner, and that leftover pork bones were used to flavor Monday's red beans and rice. And since Monday was laundry day (which used to take the whole day) New Orleanians needed a dish that mostly cooked itself, so they could focus on the wash while dinner simmered away on the stove.
Red Beans and Rice is easy to make from scratch. There's very little hands on time required other than some chopping and sautéing, and the ingredient list is pretty simple.
What Goes Into Red Beans and Rice?
- DRIED RED KIDNEY BEANS come in light and dark. Either type can be used. Soak the beans for 8 hours or overnight. Or use the quick soaking method.
- CELERY, ONIONS AND GREEN PEPPERS are what New Orleanians refer to as THE HOLY TRINITY. These three vegetables, finely chopped and sautéd, create the foundation of flavor in Cajun and Creole cooking.
- GARLIC is finely minced or passed through a garlic press
- ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE is a spicy, heavily smoked sausage used often in Creole and Cajun dishes. It imparts wonderful spicy smoky flavors to this dish. If you can't find Andouille sausage, use another smokey spicy sausage such as Chorizo or Kielbasa.
- HAM STEAK is readily available in the smoked meat section of the grocery store. It comes with or without a small bone. Either is fine, as long as you have about a pound of meat.
- SPICES: bay leaves, dried thyme, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
How to make Red Beans and Rice
- Sauté the holy trinity (celery, onion and green pepper) in vegetable oil for a few minutes, until tender
- Add the diced ham and sliced sausages and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes
- Add the garlic, beans, broth and spices, bring the ingredients to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 2 hours
- Check out the before and after pics below, to see the delicious result of a long slow simmer
- The final step of this recipe is to mash some of the beans and stir them through, to thicken the stew.
New Orleans is testament to how multiculturalism can translate into amazing food.
Red Beans and Rice is an example of Louisiana Creole cooking, which has roots in the cooking customs of the French aristocracy that settled in New Orleans at the turn of the 18th century, merged with the vast and varied ingredients and techniques brought by settlers from other lands, including Spanish, German, Native American, African, and Italian.
Spaniards brought peppers and spices, Germans brought sausages and delicious baked goods, the Native Americans grew corn and beans, Africans brought Okra and so on.
Lucky me that two of my sons attended Tulane University in New Orleans. My kids got a great education and I got to visit them and enjoy the amazing jazz and food scene in NOLA. I'm not sure if Red Beans and Rice would be in my cooking repertoire if my kids had chosen a different college, though I have to admit that the first time I tasted Red Beans and Rice was at Popeye's, and I absolutely loved it.
When we dropped our oldest son off at Tulane freshman year, our whole family flew down to New Orleans five days early to explore the city, starting with a culinary tour of the French Quarter. We ate our way from jambalaya and red beans and rice to beignets and pralines. It was such an enjoyable way to learn about the city and it left me excited to cook creole food at home, with red beans and rice at the top of my list. It's become a regular favorite in our house.
Whether you're celebrating Mardi Gras, cooking for game day festivities or enjoying a quiet dinner with family or friends, there's nothing like red beans and rice to make everyone happy at the table.
Here's the Red Beans and Rice Recipe. If you try this recipe, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!
Red Beans and Rice New Orleans Style
Red Beans and Rice is an easy, comforting, family friendly recipe that's great for feeding a crowd.
- Prep Time: 25 mins
- plus soaking time for the beans: 8 hours or overnight
- Cook Time: 2 hours 30 mins
- Total Time: 2 hours 55 mins
- Yield: 6-8 1x
- Category: Main course
- Method: simmer
- Cuisine: Creole
- 1 pound of red kidney beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight. (To soak, put beans in a large bowl and add water until it's 2 inches above the beans. Or use the quick soaking method).
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil such as canola or light olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped yellow or red onion (2 medium onions)
- 1 cup finely chopped celery (2-3 stalks)
- 1 cup finely chopped green pepper (1 medium pepper)
- 3 Bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound, packaged boneless ham steak, diced into ½-inch cubes (see notes)
- 12-16 ounces smoked Andouille sausage, thinly sliced (see notes for subsitutions)
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced or squeezed through a garlic press
- 9-10 cups low salt chicken broth or water (I recommend Swanson's)
- Salt to taste
- 6 cups cooked white rice (from 3 cups raw rice)
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced, to sprinkle on top
- Drain beans and set them aside.
- Heat oil in a large cooking heavy cooking pot or Dutch oven. Sauté onion, celery and green pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add bay leaves, salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne and stir through. Add ham and sausages and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the drained beans and 9 cups of the broth and turn the heat up high. As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 2 hours, adding additional broth or water (¼ cup at a time) if the beans start to look dry.
- Remove pot from heat. Using a fork or the back of a wooden spoon, mash about a third of the beans against the side of the pot. Or you can use a potato masher to mash the beans against the bottom of the pot. Return the pot to a low simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until the beans are tender and creamy, adding extra broth or water to thin, if needed.
- Serve the beans with rice and garnish with chopped scallions.
What kind of red kidney beans? When you're shopping for dried red kidney beans, you might come across two different types. One is light pink, the other dark red. Either works well in this recipe, though I have a slight preference for the dark ones because it results in a richer deeper color in the final dish, which I like.
What is ham steak? Ham steak is a thick slice from a smoked ham. Look for boneless ham steak in the smoked meat or bacon section of the grocery store. They come smoked, with or without a bone, and usually weigh a pound. If you can't find boneless ham steak, look for one with a very small bone and close to a pound of meat.
Sausage Substitutions: If you can't find andouille sausage, use another spicy smoked sausage such as Chorizo or Kielbasa.
Keywords: Red beans and rice
Originally published January 14, 2013. Updated November 9, 2021 with all new photos including process shots; added nutritional information; and clarifying details in the written post.