It’s Mardi Gras time again! I’ve been craving vegan red beans and rice ever since last weekend, when my husband and daughter left me alone for some much needed quiet time while they went back to New Orleans for the first parades. They came home with loads of beads, doubloons, stuffed animals, and MORE beads, and I was left longing for my favorite childhood food, Red Beans and Rice.
Growing up in southeast Louisiana, I ate a lot of red beans and rice; in fact, Mondays were red beans and rice days in the school cafeteria, and while other kids complained about them and made fun of their lowly appearance, I secretly loved red beans. After all, the cafeteria ladies made real Louisiana red beans, highly seasoned and so well-cooked that it was hard to tell where the beans ended and the sauce began. My Alabama-born mother, on the other hand, cooked something she called red beans but wasn’t. Oh, there were beans and they were red, each one fully intact and separate from its fellow beans in a bland sauce. This was not real Louisiana red beans and rice.
When I grew up and got my own kitchen, I was determined to cook my red beans the way they were supposed to be cooked: all mushy and full of spice. The first recipe I ever tried was from Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. It called for six large ham hocks and a pound of andouille sausage and wound up taking two Dutch ovens to hold it all. I’d never cooked a ham hock before, and it was impossible to find andouille sausage in southern Illinois, where I was in grad school, but I made do with Polish sausage. The recipe turned out knock-your-contacts-out spicy, but I loved it. It was real, melt in your mouth red beans.
That was many years and a couple of lifetimes ago. Over the years I adapted the recipe, first to reduce the amount of meat (I had no love for the ham hocks) and finally to eliminate it entirely. In the process I lightened up the recipe, made it easier to follow, and made it all fit into one pot.
Update March 5, 2019: I’ve updated the recipe to include Instant Pot instructions. This recipe is a little tricky in the IP because beans vary, and some can take longer to get soft than others. I’ve included a really long “quick soak” in the IP directions so that the beans are practically cooked before you add other ingredients. You will still have to play it by ear a little when it comes to getting the beans’ gravy thick enough. I would allow at least 2 hours to make this from start to finish.
Real Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
- 1 pound dry red beans (if you’re in Louisiana, only Camellia brand will do)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 very large onion about 2 cups chopped
- 4 ribs celery
- 1 large bell pepper about 1 1/2 cups chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4-1 teaspoon red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons chopped chipotle pepper, canned in adobo (this is not traditional but lends a smoky taste; substitute another tsp. of Liquid Smoke seasoning or 1/4 tsp. oc chipotle powder if you prefer)
- 1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke or smoked salt to taste
- cooked rice to serve
- Cover the beans with water 2 inches over beans and soak overnight. Or, bring beans to a boil for one minute, remove from heat, and soak for at least an hour. Drain beans and rinse.
- Put the beans back in the pot and cover them with water 2 inches above level of beans. Put over high heat to begin cooking while you prepare the other ingredients.
- You’re going to want to chop the garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper very finely, and the fastest and best way to do this is in a food processor. I throw the 4 peeled cloves of garlic in first, and then add the onion, quartered, and pulse until finely chopped. Add this to the pot on the stove, and then do the same thing with the celery and bell peppers, adding each to the beans. Add the remaining ingredients, except the rice.
- When the beans reach a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring every now and then, until they are completely tender and falling apart. This can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending upon the age of your beans. (Add more water as necessary to keep them hydrated.) When they are completely tender, add more salt to taste, and check the seasonings. Add any additional spices you want, and cook for at least 10 more minutes, until sauce is thick and beans are disintegrating. Remove the bay leaves, and serve over rice.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Check over the beans and discard any debris. Rinse them well and put them in the Instant Pot and add water until 2 inches above the beans. Put the top on, make sure the valve is set to Pressure, and select the pressure cooking setting. Set the time to 0. (This will allow the pot to come to pressure and then turn off. If your pot doesn't allow this, set it to 1 minute.) Once the pot has finished cooking, allow the pressure to come down naturally for 20 minutes and then carefully open the valve to release the pressure.
- Carefully drain the beans and put them back into the pot. Add 4 cups of water and using the Sauté setting on Medium, begin heating the water while you prepare the vegetables.
- You’re going to want to chop the garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper very finely, and the fastest and best way to do this is in a food processor. I throw the 4 peeled cloves of garlic in first, and then add the onion, quartered, and pulse until finely chopped. Add this to the pot on the stove, and then do the same thing with the celery and bell peppers, adding each to the beans. Add the remaining ingredients, except the smoke flavoring and rice.
- Cancel the sauté setting, put the lid on the pot, and make sure the valve is set to Pressure. Use the high pressure setting and set it for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes are up, carefully turn the valve to release the pressure.
- Make sure all the beans are tender; if they're definitely not done, you need to return them to pressure for a minute or two. Usually the beans will be well-done at this stage and just need to cook uncovered for a while to soften up and boil off some of the liquid. Use the sauté setting on low to cook the beans, stirring every few minutes, scraping the bottom well, until the liquid has thickened to a gravy consistency. How long will depend on your beans and how much extra liquid you had. (If something strange has happened and you have too little liquid, do add some.)
- When the liquid is thick and the beans are mostly falling apart, check the seasoning and add the Liquid Smoke or smoked salt and additional salt and other seasonings to taste. Remove the bay leaves and serve with rice.
Nutritional info is approximate.
Throughout this whole procedure, you should have a nice glass of wine. The spirit of Mardi Gras will not be stopped! Throw me something, Mister! Et laissez les bon temps rouler! 🙂
Looking for more vegan Louisiana recipes? Try these:
Mirliton and White Bean Stew
Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
Chickpea Gumbo (guest post at Veggie Venture)
Spicy Collards and Black-eyed Pea Soup
Creole Black-eyed Peas
Gumbo z’Herbes with Cajun Tempeh Bacon
Black-eyed Pea Gumbo
Stuffed Eggplants and Not-So-Dirty Rice
Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Cajun White Beans
…and many more in the Louisiana recipes section
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redFebruary 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm
Great recipe for those, like me, intimidated by cooking abilities of others that we cook for.
I did find it advantageous to mash the beans after forty-five to sixty minutes of cooking because there is really no way to know how old the beans are unless you harvest them yourself.
I also use about half the spices and chipotle peppers for those who have more delicate palates. The rest of us can season our own plates as much as we like without turning off those we share with.
Thanks for this.
ChrisHFebruary 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm
I made this today in the slow cooker by cooking the red beans and water for 3 hours on high and then adding all of the other ingredients to the softened beans for a few hours–the beans disintegrated nicely. (I didn’t bother to pre-soak the beans.) I’m so pleased with how tasty these beans are!! Hallelujah, I’ve found my mardi gras potluck recipe!
BiancaMarch 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm
Of course it wouldn’t be traditional by any means, but do you think I could use red lentils instead of red beans? I have a HUGE bag taking up precious space in my cupboard. Thanks!
YsabelApril 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm
Made these, loved them. They had the perfect amount of kick. My beans weren’t really fresh enough but I’m excited for the summer when I can get some from the farmer’s market :). Love the website, looove the food, it makes being a vegan more tolerable.
NyxApril 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm
I am from Plaquemine, LA, and a recent convert to vegetarianism (and I often do the vegan thing), and I miss red beans and rice sooo much! I really thought the only way to make them taste any good would be to use meat, so I had given up on ever eating them again. But I am going to try this Sunday. Thanks so much! I am so excited to have found vegan versions of Louisiana food! I’m terrible at cooking on my own, lol.
KurtApril 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm
Just made this tonight. It was quite excellent! I did use a wild rice blend for the rice.
CarriMay 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm
This recipe is fabulous. It is super delicious and very very easy to prepare. Don’t skip the salt at the end! Before you add it, the beans are good; nice and spicy but missing *something*. Afterward, they’re pretty close to perfect.
Bea SkelleyMay 28, 2011 at 11:31 am
I tried to print the red beans and rice recipe to take to the kitchen and got 26 pages of reader comments which, though interesting, were a big waste of paper. How can I just print the recipe? Bea
We lived in New Orleans for 15 years, and today is my daughter’s 21st b-day. She was born in nola in Touro Infirmary, 5-28-1990. We’re having a party tomorrow and I’m going to make this recipe for old times’ sake.
SusanVMay 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Bea, look right at the beginning of the recipe. Under the name, there’s a link to “printer-friendly version.” Just click that and you will go to a page with just the recipe that you can print out.
AlmielJune 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm
Have you tried making any of the seitan andouille sausage recipes out there (or your own)? Since you would know authentic I’d be interested in a good version. Thanks!
LydiaJuly 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm
Thank you this was delicious!! I made a much lazier version with lots of omissions and using canned beans, but I loved it and my husband said it was fine. Since he sometimes doesn’t like beans at all, “fine” is good. I wanted to comment because even though I changed the recipe I totally needed yours as a starting point – I was googling vegan kidney beans when I thought of course your awesome site would have something good to do with them! Thank you for all your wonderful healthy recipes and inspiration!
sploizNovember 21, 2011 at 9:22 am
i am not a vegetarian, but my room mate is. so whenever i’m cooking i try to make it vegetarian and have my meat as a side dish because i always cook way more than i can eat. i was searching the internet for vegetarian recipes for red beans and rice and i chose this recipe because of the chipotles. i love chipotles and always keep them around. i only made minimal changes to the recipe. i left out the celery and i sauteed the onions, peppers, and garlic in some butter before adding it to the pot. they now make have chipotle tabasco sauce, but i only used that at the end when i wanted more spice and smokey flavor.
over all it was a great recipe. i will be making it again. thanks
AzuriDecember 29, 2011 at 10:36 am
Thank Goodness! I am definately going to try this recipe. Right now I have to live life frugally and meat is expensive….Bell peppers too but they have good prices at Trader Joes here in California. But anyhow, I am so excited to try this, hope it comes turns out great. Im looking for a good easy red bean recipe to become a staple in my home.
HelenJanuary 20, 2012 at 6:48 am
Susan, I made this for the annual holiday party (held in January when things are calmer) for my husband’s new employment group. It was our first time attending this function, a potluck. The theme this year was Southern Cooking, and I was delighted to find your recipe and personal connection. The one addition I made was gluten-based veggie sausage, the Mexican Chipotle flavor. I’m happy to report, the dish was a hit! We whispered the “secret ingredient,” no animal fat, and one woman said “don’t tell my husband.” In fact, he loved it. Thanks for this very creative, delicious dish!
AndyFebruary 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm
Great recipe! I use pinto beans (will try the kidneys soon), replace the parsley w/ ~ 1 Cup cilantro, chopped.
Also use about 1 chipotle pepper, chopped and 1 Pablano pepper, chopped.
On top of my rice and beans I spot w/ soy or teriyaki sauce and choice hot sauce.
Thanks for your site,
BethMay 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm
Making this in honor of daughter’s Ruby Bridges book report!
Beth from veglist
Robin F.May 8, 2012 at 10:40 am
I have been on a quest for the perfect Red Beans and Rice and I am pretty sure I found it with this recipe. This dish was a HUGE hit all around (2 thumbs up from a 16 month old!). The only thing I did do was make sure that while simmering, my pot was at a steady boil the whole time and at the end, I did wind up having to mash some beans but it came out PERFECT!!! Best of all, I found this meal is be not only easy but VERY budget friendly which is a plus for any vegan family. The quest for the perfect Red Beans and Rice is pretty much accomplished! I will be making this dish again and again in the VERY near future 🙂
YWJuly 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm
Just to let you know how much we love this recipe. I’ve made the dish numerous times. And we lived in New Orleans for more than a decade so we know what good red beans and rice is. Yours is great!
LauraAugust 4, 2012 at 12:39 am
Hi Susan! Thank you for this recipe! I must try it in the coming weeks. I’m also from New Orleans, but living in India right now with vegetarian Indian roommates. They want me to make some new orleans food, but without meat so I’ve been looking for some recipes that I could make in the pressure cooker. This sounds perfect! Not sure if I can find liquid smoke here, but otherwise I can probably get the ingredients! Looking forward to reading more of your recipes!
AnneSeptember 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm
OH YUM! I kept trying red bean and rice recipes but this one is the best! Thanks!
ShelaNovember 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm
What is the nutrition facts for this recipe?
CarolNovember 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm
I found a 1 lb. bag of light red kidney beans at a Super Wal Mart near me. Last night I soaked them and this morning right after breakfast I started cooking and choping. They are so so good, I love them. Next time I may order the Camilla beans. Thank you for all your great recipes!
anitaDecember 14, 2012 at 10:50 am
I made this recipe but it took so long to cook the red beans from scratch from the pressure cooker and then they were still kind of hard. Do they usually take a long time to cook even in a pressure cooker (over and hour). The recipe was so delicious even after a few days! Thanks
Susan VoisinDecember 14, 2012 at 10:59 am
No, that’s really unusual! Sometimes beans are very old (even if you just bought them, they could have been in a warehouse for years) and can take long to cook and still not get very soft. I’m glad it came out all right, but next time, you might want to use a different brand of beans.
mamadogDecember 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Like others, I ended up with way too much liquid, so I gently scooped out 2 cups of water off the top after a few hours of cooking. Next time I will cover with only 1 inch of water instead of 2 because I used too wide of a pan I think. A narrower one would probably need 2 inches. Another idea might be to mix in some TVP granules or Soy Curls to make it “meatier” and absorb some leftover liquidity?
But the taste of this dish is out of this world. What a perfect blend of flavors!! Many thanks. Also great with quinoa and barley.
Terry IngramJanuary 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm
This is DELICIOUS! I have never had Real Louisiana Red Beans and Rice before. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you! I will be making it again for SuperBowl this year.
ValerieJanuary 13, 2013 at 8:21 pm
I made this recipe for dinner tonight and it was DELICIOUS! One of my grandmother’s previous neighbors was from Louisiana and I can remember the taste of her red bean and rice like it was yesterday (but it was really over 16 years ago!). This is probably as close as I could get without a big chunk of pork! I’m so glad Google led me to your blog. 🙂
Liane BlancoFebruary 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm
Thanks for the wonderful recipe – I liove red beans and rice and have been searching for a vegan recipe that would taste awesome, even without the sausage. Looks like this might be the one!
lauraFebruary 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm
Thank you! even my carnivore boyfriend loved these.
I used small red beans, was short on time so I did the “quick boil/soak” method. I sauteed veggies in a tablespoon oil and added teaspoon or two of cajun seasoning. I cooked them at higher temp than called for to expedite but they still came out great. Next time I’ll soak night before then use my long neglected crock pot.
jpFebruary 17, 2013 at 8:48 am
Susan, I mistakenly thought gumbo file was part of the recipe for red beans and rice… no wonder I couldn’t seem to get the taste right. Thanks again for another winner. BTW I voted for you and was dumbfounded that a “neo paleo” would be included in the healthy list, much less win. You were defeated by ignorance. You are my choice. Thanks again for all the recipes.
P.S. I still think teflon is bad.
Matt BFebruary 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm
The funny thing is, or not so funny, that red beans is very high is purines which is cause of gout. So please eat this very tasty dish in moderation.
Susan VoisinFebruary 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm
Thanks for the info. Studies show that moderate ingestion of beans high in purines does not increase the risk of gout.
MattFebruary 28, 2013 at 8:54 am
This sounds really good! I’m going to make it in a slow-cooker for a family potluck to make sure I have something meatless to chow down on…I was considering adding silken tofu to the mix for a little extra creaminess/protein. Do you think this is something that would work well, or should I leave it out?
Susan VoisinFebruary 28, 2013 at 9:11 am
Matt, I wouldn’t do it. This dish is full of protein already, as well as the type of creaminess that red beans and rice is supposed to have. Adding tofu would just dilute the flavor, in my opinion.
MattFebruary 28, 2013 at 11:11 am
Thanks! I was also planning on adding the uncooked rice in the last 30-60 minutes of cooking because I like having everything cook all mixed together. I was considering using quinoa instead of rice — would this negatively impact the dish, or would that be an acceptable substitution?
Susan VoisinFebruary 28, 2013 at 11:19 am
It would certainly be different and nontraditional, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t taste good. The quinoa, that is. I don’t think that rice would cook well all together like that.
MattMarch 5, 2013 at 9:47 am
I did end up making it with the quinoa (and no tofu), and it was a hit at the family potluck I was making it for! Thanks for the recipe!