Nothing epitomizes the New Orleans culinary cultures like Red Beans and Rice. A pot of red beans slowly simmering with seasoning meat and the Trinity, it represents the simple and economic character of South Louisiana food, inexpensive ingredients, and uncomplicated cooking methods. It doesn’t get much simpler than Sweet Daddy D’s New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.
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Think of New Orleans and immediately you think of Mardi Gras and food. To me, that simply means Red Beans and Rice. This is not just a humble pot of beans, in New Orleans and the region Red Beans and Rice is a tradition and culinary phenomenon that ranks up there with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and a cochon de lait. (Learn more about the traditions of Mardi Gras right here!) It’s hard-wired into our cultural fabric and shows up in just about every home and every restaurant, where it’s usually the Monday Special. Although there’s lots of lore of how it has taken over Mondays, I don’t care how it started, Red Beans and Rice is so good that it’s earned a revered spot on the weekly food plan for an entire region-it’s Monday, no need to think about what’s for lunch! Like many other Louisiana staples, everyone has their favorite recipe, most handed down from parents or grandparents. Honestly, I doubt I’ve ever had a bad dish of RB&B but I hate to let the secret out of the bag – the best recipes are simple and naturally no-angst.
Here is what you need
Red Beans are dry red kidney beans. A pound of dry beans will feed a decent size crowd.
A ham bone from a smoked ham with a good bit of meat left on just seems to be a perfect match for the beans. If you don’t have access to a ham bone, smoked ham hock, smoked ham shank (or even some smoked turkey necks are excellent), tasso or pickled meats are also very good seasoning meats.
Smoked sausage. The sausage can be spicy or mild and it adds its flavor to the profile and provides a nice consistency when you eat it. Try to choose a smoked sausage or andouille that has a high-fat content so the fat renders and adds to the flavor. Experiment with different sausages and you will see what I mean.
The Holy Trinity-The The trinity is chopped onions, celery and bell peppers and is a foundation ingredient in many south Louisiana dishes. yellow onions, bell peppers and celery. As the vegetables cook down, their natural sugars become part of the flavor.
Herb and Spice Blend
Oregano, basil, thyme, Creole seasoning, bay leaves and ground black pepper. Kosher salt at the end.
You’ll want to try these great brands:
Here is what you do
First…you have a beer. If you get in the right frame of mind, putting this together is easy, but you do need to plan a little ahead. Your mise en place starts with an open beer. Sit down and read the recipe from top to bottom while you sip. Make sure you have all the ingredients (there’s not that many!) and know what to do with them-follow these steps:
Decide if you are going to soak your beans. I recommend using one of these methods to soften the beans before cooking and reduce the cooking time. Prepare the beans for soaking by rinsing them with cold water in a colander. Remove any pebbles, weird-looking beans and anything else that is not a red kidney bean:
Overnight soak. Place the dry beans in a bowl, cover with cold water and set aside for at least 8 hours. The beans will soften somewhat and get all crinkly. Some of the beans will float to the top, some people discard the floaters but I always use all of the beans. When you’re ready to cook, simply discard the water and you are ready to go.
Quick 3-hour method. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the beans and return the water to a boil. As soon as it returns to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, cover the pot and let the beans sit and soak for about 3 hours. Then, just discard the water and they are ready.
Quick 1-hour method. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the beans and return it to a boil for about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover the pot and let the beans sit and soak for 1 hour. Then, just discard the water and they are ready.
If you forget or decide not to soak your beans, no one will cancel Mardi Gras. In fact, there is some question if soaking is even necessary or beneficial but I doubt you’ll catch many old Louisiana cooks not soaking their red beans. If you want to know more about soaking and other bean-centric topics, check out my Lagniappe post on dem beans.
Slice the sausage into medallions and set aside; get your seasoning meat ready.
Next, chop up the Trinity (yellow onions, celery and bell peppers) and place all into one bowl; chop the garlic and put it in a separate bowl.
Mix the Herbs and Spice Blend together in a small bowl, but do not include the kosher salt-leave that separate because it goes in at the end. Set all this aside and you’re ready to go, time for a swig and don’t forget to tell some friends you’re cooking a pot of Red Beans, you’ll get some company.
Render the sausage fat
Place a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sauté the sausage medallions until the fat has been rendered and the sausage is starting to brown, this usually takes about 5 minutes. Once the fat has rendered and the sausage has nicely browned, pull it out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Make sure to leave the rendered fat and any fond from the sausage in the pot because this is the foundation upon which to build the flavors.
Drain the soaking water from the beans and discard the water. Place the kidney beans in the Dutch oven and stir to mix them with the sausage renderings. Next add the seasoning meat to the beans, along with the bay leaves. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by about an inch and return the heat to high and bring the beans to a boil. When you add the cold water, you should see that nice rendered fat floating at the top of the water. That’s some good.
Slowly simmer the beans for one hour
Once the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat. cover the pot and simmer for about an hour, stirring from time to time so that it doesn’t stick (if it’s sticking you may need to lower your fire).
Add the vegetables, sausage and Herbs and Spices
After that hour, add back the sausage then add the Trinity, garlic and about ⅔s of the Herb and Spice Blend (no salt yet). Mix everything together well.
Continue to simmer the beans
The rest of the cooking is done by simmering, stirring occasionally and sequentially covering and uncovering the pot like this:
- Simmer 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Simmer 30 minutes, covered.
- Home Stretch!
Make sure during these times that you stir the pot occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom (lower the heat if it’s sticking too much) and add water to keep the beans just covered if you need to.
The Home Stretch
Take the cover off the pot. The beans should be getting thick and creamy and are done when they are the way you like them, so test the beans to see if they are soft enough for you. If the beans are still a little tough, keep simmering uncovered and test every 10 minutes or so. When you taste test the beans at this stage, remember you haven’t added any salt yet, so they will be a little bland. If it seems like the beans are not getting soft after all this time, check out my Lagniappe article on why beans may not soften as you want.
Salt the beans
The beans are ready when they are as soft and creamy as you like them. Some folks like a little more liquid, some like them thicker. If they are just about ready, it’s time to finally add the salt-this will wake them up quickly. Start with about a teaspoon of salt, give them a good stir, taste and add more if you like. Correct the overall seasoning with some of the reserved Herbs and Spice Blend if you want more kick. If you are using a ham bone, remove the bone and pull off all the ham you can, and add that back to the beans. Discard the ham bone. When done, set the beans off the heat, covered while you cook the rice.
Cook the rice
I use parboiled long-grain white rice. Regular long grain rice is also fine. If you have a trusted way to cook the rice that works for you, go for it. If not, here’s what I do:
- To cook the rice, I add about 4 to 6 cups of cold water to a saucepan, bring it to a boil and add a large pinch of kosher salt. Stir in 1 to 2 cups of uncooked rice. Each cup of uncooked rice will yield 3 cups of cooked rice. Return the water to a boil. Stir occasionally and check the rice for doneness after about 12 minutes. (Add more water if you need to, this is not a method where you want the rice to absorb all of the water-you are boiling the rice in the water, so add more if you need to). If the beans are done to your taste, drain the rice in a colander. I usually rinse the rice, but it is not necessary. The grains of rice should be separate (as opposed to all stuck together), and tender but not mushy.
Plate up dem Red Beans and Rice and Enjoy!
Take the bay leaves out, mound up some rice on a plate or bowl and ladle on some Red Beans. That’s it, all there is to it
Hints and tips
Here is a summary of the cooking times:
One Hour, uncovered, with just beans, seasoning meat, bay leaves and water.
After adding the rest of the ingredients:
30 minutes, uncovered
30 minutes, covered
15 minutes to an hour, uncovered until done
What are Red Beans? They are actually Red Kidney Beans. This recipe is developed with dry beans and the only beans I use are Camellia Brand Red Kidney Beans. You can substitute your favorite brand.
Jazz up your plate of Red Beans and Rice the way you want. Definitely have some hot sauce handy, or some chopped onions, or even pickled cocktail onions (a favorite of the Mother Unit). My favorite condiment in South Louisiana is vinegar with peppers. Try a few (or more) dashes on your Red Beans and Rice and you’ll love the explosion of flavors!
Red Beans and Rice are a complete meal in themselves, but also go well with a lot of things-grilled smoked sausage, stuffed bell peppers, hamburger patties, pork chops, fried chicken, fried fish, meatloaf…. anything you can imagine.
I’ve been cooking my beans for hours and they are still hard! My first guess is that your beans are too old. The freshness of dry does beans matters, but they should last 2 to 3 years stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature in an airtight, sealed package. If the dry beans develop an odor or mold, it’s time to toss them. Another issue may be the altitude affects the cooking time of beans. If you want to nerd out on all things beans, check out my article Do You Soak Your Beans Before Cooking?
Leftover cooked beans can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Place the cooled beans in a shallow, airtight container within a couple of hours after cooking. Reheat in the microwave or saucepan, adding a little water to thin them out, if needed.
To freeze leftover beans, place them in a shallow, airtight container and into the freezer within 2 hours of cooking. They should last about 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stove or microwave.
Cooked white rice can be frozen if placed in an airtight container (using a vacuum sealer is optimal) for up to 6 months. You can reheat rice on the stove or microwave, just add a little bit of water to it while you reheat.
You’ll want to try these great brands:
If Red Beans and Rice looks good to you, check out these other great Cajun and Creole Recipes:
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Yeah You Right!
Red Beans and Rice
Here's What You Need
- 1 pound dry kidney beans Soaked over night in cold water
- Seasoning meat See Recipe Notes
- 1 pound smoked sausage
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 medium green beel pepper chopped
- 2 stalks Celery chopped
- 4 or 5 cloves garlic chopped
Herb and Spice Blend
- 2 teaspoons Oregano
- 2 teaspoons Basil
- 1 teaspoon Thyme
- 2 teaspoons creole seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- To Taste kosher salt See Recipe Noptes
Long Grain Rice
- 1 cup uncooked rice
Here's What You Do
- Soak dry beans in cold water overnight. (See Recipe Notes for alternate soaking methods)
- Get all the ingredients you'll need together and prepped; set a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid on the stove.
- Chop up all your veggies and set aside; Slice sausage into medallions and set aside; Mix the all the Herb and Spice Blend ingredients except the salt (see Recipe Notes) in a small bowl and set this aside also.
Cook 'em Up
- Sauté the sausage over medium high heat in the Dutch oven you will use to cook the beans. Once the sausage is browned and the fat is rendered, remove the sausage from the pan and set aside, leaving all the rendered fat in the pan. About 5 to 7 minutes
- Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Add the soaked beans, the seasoning meat and the bay leafs to the pot with enough cold water to cover the beans by about an inch; bring to a boil over high heat. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and simmer for an hour. Stir occationally.
- After an hour simmering slowly, add the chopped veggies, the browned sausage and about ⅔ of the Herb and Spice Blend without salt (reserving the remainder) to the pot and stir well to mix everything together. If needed, add a little more water to keep the beans just covered. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat uncovered for about 30 minutes. Stir often so they don't stick.
- After the 30 minutes uncovered, stir well, lower heat, cover the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir often because the beans will want to stick to the pot.
- After 30 minutes covered, remove the cover and simmer over low heat until the beans are soft and creamy-this should take another 15 minutes but may take up to an hour. Stir often so they don't stick. Add a little more water if they are getting too thick.
- While the beans are simmering, cook the rice according to the instructions on the bag or box.
- Once the beans are as creamy and tender as you like them- turn off the heat, remove the seasoning meat from the pot (if it has bones); take the meat off the bones and return the meat to the pot.
- Now is the time to taste for seasoning and salt. Start with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, stir well and taste. If you think the beans could use more seasoning, add some or all of the reserved Herb and Spice Blend, salt and/or ground black pepper.
- Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.
Quick Review of the Time
- As far as the cooking time, it will vary with the beans, but here is a summary: 1 Hour covered with just beans, seasoning meat, bay leaves and cold water covering beans; ½ hour uncovered after adding veggies, spices and sausage; ½ hour covered; Final 15 minutes to an hour uncovered.