My first taste of red beans and rice wasn’t at my grandma’s, like so many of my other Southern friends. It was at a popular local restaurant, served in a small bowl, with the rice already mixed in.
Fast forward years later. I decided to make up a batch and found that all Creole red beans and rice recipes have their own twist, but share certain ingredients and techniques. One thing these cooks could all agree on was the cooking method: low and slow in a big old pot.
Red beans and rice is a signature dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine made with red beans and pork. It was traditionally served on Mondays, which was laundry day, and made use of Sunday’s leftover ham bone. This simple dish would simmer for hours, making it an ideal choice for a housewife that was busy doing laundry. It was cheap to make, tasted delicious, and felt so comforting that it quickly became a popular dish.
- Cooking Liquid: Most recipes use water versus chicken stock.
- Vegetables: Holy trinity (onion, celery, green bell pepper)
- Pork product: Ham bone, Ham hock, ham, pickled meat, andouille, bacon, tasso
- Spice Profile: garlic, bay leaf, pepper
- Garnish: parsley, green onion, hot sauce
What kind of beans do you use?
The key ingredient is using red beans. To be authentic, you need to buy the dried, preferably the Camelia brand from New Orleans, becuase it cooks up wonderfully creamy and soft. This brand is easy to find in Southern grocery stores, but if your store doesn’t sell it, you can order it online.
How do you soak them?
- Overnight method: cover them with of cold water, add 2 tablespoons of salt. Cover for 12 to 24 hours. Drain. Rinse.
- Quick soak method: same as above but bring the covered pot to a rolling boil. Boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain. Rinse.
What do you for seasoning?
- Start with the basics: garlic, bay leaf, pepper
- Customize it: thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, paprika, or basil
- Increase the heat: cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, a pinch to 1 teaspoon
- Touch of umami: Worcestershire sauce
- Surprise twist: pinch of allspice or ½ teaspoon of fennel
- Finish it: salt to taste
What to serve with this recipe?
- White fluffy rice
- Fresh or toasted French bread
- Pork (Andouille sausage, pork patty, pork chop)
How should I serve this dish?
The most popular way to serve this recipe is to keep the rice and beans separate. This allows the guest to decide the ratio they would like and keeps the rice from absorbing the liquid. Traditionally, the ratio is twice as much beans to rice, but if it is extra spicy, a guest might reverse that ratio, if they prefer things on the milder side.
It’s also nice to provide additional garnishes and condiments for your guests to use. The most common garnishes are chopped green onions, parsley, hot sauce, and vinegar.
You might question the vinegar (white, cider, or red wine), but it is a nice touch. The fresh parsley can be either stirred in just before serving or sprinkled on top. If you like an old school method, try a sieved egg. Another delicious option is pickled pearl onions.
How to Make
Start by soaking the dried beans with your preferred method. Rinse then place in a large, heavy-bottomed metal pot, and cover with two inches of cold, salted water.
Put the lid on and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Shut the heat off, but keep the pot on the element with the lid on tightly. Let them soak for a minimum of one hour.
After an hour of soaking time, they will have swollen and changed in color. Drain and rinse.
While they are soaking, prep the rest of the ingredients. Chop up the vegetables for the holy trinity of onion, celery, and bell pepper. I've added a large peeled carrot to help absorb some of the indigestible sugars.
Heat up the fat (bacon grease and oil) then add the chopped vegetables. Saute for 5 minutes.
Add the spices (red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper, thyme, and paprika). Stir constantly and cook for one minute.
Add the soaked beans, chicken stock, water, carrot, and bay leaves. Mix well with the holy trinity and nestle in the two ham hocks.
Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 3 hours with the lid askew. Stir occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
After two hours, remove the ham hocks, and place them on a large plate to cool.
During the last 15 minutes, remove 3 cups. Place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher.
You can also mash with the back of a wooden spoon or with the tings of a fork right in the pot. This technique will help you achieve a creamy texture.
Once the ham hocks are cool enough to touch, cut the meat off the bone and chop it up. Add most of the ham back to the pot and keep some back for garnish.
Remove the bay leaves and the carrot.
Add the chopped ham back into the pot. Stir it in, add the salt, and adjust seasonings.
Let them simmer for another 15 minutes to meld the flavors. Now, they are ready to serve.
To make the fluffy white rice, gather the ingredients: chicken stock, yellow onion, olive oil, bay leaf, and salt.
Heat the olive oil, add the onion, sprinkle on the salt, and add a bay leaf. Saute the onion until starts turning a light brown, roughly 5 minutes.
Stir in the long grain white rice and pour in the chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
Serve this recipe over the rice and garnish with chopped ham, green onion, and a few cracks of black pepper.
Provide other garnishes and condiments for your guests to enjoy, such as chopped parsley, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, a shaker of vinegar, and pickled pearl onions.
- Don't eat pork? Use smoked turkey neck or smoked turkey drumstick instead.
- If you want to add Andouille sausage, brown it first until it's crispy and the fat has been rendered out before you saute the trinity. (It's not traditional to add Andouille to red beans and rice, however.)
- Want a creamy texture? 15 minutes before serving, mash some of the beans with a fork, wooden spoon, or potato masher.
- Want to adjust the spices? Fine tune the seasonings in the last 15 minutes, and add the salt at this time.
- You'll know when they're done when they are a consistent, creamy texture and the beans have broken up. If your they are still hard after soaking and cooking it could be due to age of the beans, hard water, or altitude.
Craving more cuisine of New Orleans? Check out these delicious recipes.
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Creole red beans and rice is an easy recipe to make when you are craving some authentic soul food from New Orleans. Let these creamy red beans simmer for hours on your stove top. What’s stopping you from serving your family a healthy side dish of red beans and rice for dinner tonight?
For the Red Beans
- 2 pounds dried red beans, soaked, drained, and rinsed (preferably Camelia brand; 907g)
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease (30 ml)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
- 3 cups yellow onion, diced (roughly 2 large onions; 432g)
- 1 cup celery, diced (roughly 5 celery stalks; 123g)
- 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped (roughly 1 medium pepper; 140g)
- 1 ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped (roughly 1 large pepper; 231g)
- ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 2 cups chopped meat from the ham hocks (approximately 270g)
- 4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock (946 ml)
- 4 cups filtered water (946 ml)
- 1 large carrot, peeled (optional)
- 6 bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
For the Rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups long-grain white rice (360g)
- 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (709 ml)
For the Garnish
- bunch of spring onions, green part only, sliced diagonally
- handful of flat leaf parsley, rinsed with stems removed
- white vinegar, for each guest
- hot sauce, for each guest
- a fresh grind of black pepper
Preparing the Dried Red Beans
- Soak the beans using this quick-soak method. In a large Dutch oven, cover them with double the water. Put a lid on it, and bring them to a rolling boil and let cook for 10 minutes. Shut the heat off, but keep the pot on the element with the lid on tight. Let them soak for a minimum of one hour to a maximum of overnight, then drain and rinse the beans and set aside.
Making the Red Beans
- Cut the onions, celery, and bell peppers.
- In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, put in 4 tablespoons of fat (bacon grease, olive oil, or some combination of the two).
- Once the fat has heated up, add the holy trinity (onions, celery, bell peppers) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the first set of spices and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the soaked red beans, chicken stock, water, and bay leaves, Add the carrot and nestle in the two ham hocks then cover. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 3 hours with the lid askew. Stir occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
- After two hours, remove the 2 ham hocks and place them on a large plate. Wait for them to cool before cutting the meat off the bones and adding it back into the pot.
- During the last 15 minutes, remove 3 cups and mash with a potato masher, then return back to the pot. This gives the mixture a more creamy texture. Mix in the salt and sugar and adjust seasonings to taste. If necessary, add some water to get the desired consistency. Serve hot.
Making the Rice
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then saute the diced onion. Add a bay leaf and the salt; then cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the 2 cups of rice and pour in the chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve warm.
Serving the Red Beans and Rice
- Keep the red beans and rice separate so each guest can serve themselves.
- In a bowl, place the desired amount of rice (roughly ½ cup), then ladle the red beans on top (roughly 1 cup). The basic ratio is double the red beans to rice.
- Sprinkle with green onions and parsley, and have the hot sauce and vinegar available for guests to add to their bowls. Add the vinegar 1 teaspoon at a time to your bowl. Enjoy!
- Fifteen minutes before serving, mash some of the beans with a fork, wooden spoon, or potato masher for a more creamy texture.
- Fine tune the seasonings in the last 15 minutes, and add the salt at this time.
- The beans are done when they are a consistent, creamy texture and have broken up.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Category: Side
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Red beans, creole, comfort food
This post was originally published on April 11, 2018.