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!
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.