Oh my goodness are you going to love this recipe! It has been years in the making and I think I have it pretty close to the real deal that knocked me off my feet when I first tried it in New Orleans.
The kicker here is, I make it vegetarian style. And the vegetarian style is Kickkk Asss!!
If you don’t try my version, PLEASE try some version of it – especially if you go to New Orleans where it is done right and you’ll never have it taste better (weirdly, the Popeye’s version is actually not that bad, for a fast food version.)
I don’t know why they don’t really make Red Beans and Rice correctly in Colorado, but they just don’t. And, every time I have seen it on the menu somewhere I have tried it. But, it has never compared to what I consider the “real” style. If it doesn’t look like a soup, it is not the real deal, it is just a sad iteration of what it should be.
How I Came To Love This Dish So
So, I was going on my very first training trip, and it happened to be in New Orleans. I was only there for the training, so I was there for 2 days, by myself, in a scary city, that had still been recovering from Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t dare venture out on my own, and the bank I was training was far from downtown. I was a little sad that I never got to see the downtown or try any food or hear any blues music while I was there.
I got to the airport and went to my gate, but I was hungry for food. I went to some place in the airport and since I was in New Orleans, I was going to try Gumbo or Étouffée, but I asked the lady which was the best thing on the menu that I should try. She said, without hesitation, “Get the Red Beans”. I almost didn’t.
If I wouldn’t have gone with her recommendation, my life would have been OH so much sadder. I would probably never have stumbled onto what I consider the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
I don’t love beans as a side, in fact, I NEVER eat sides of beans or order sides of beans. So I was concerned, and I asked her, “is that like a side of beans or something?”. She said, “no, more like a soup.”
So, I reluctantly ordered these Red Beans & Rice. It came in a soup container, and looked like soup, and had a big ball of white rice in the middle of it. I’m also not the biggest fan of rice, it’s okay, but only with something else that’s good. The fact that Rice was in the name had me concerned.
Well, I took my plastic spoon, popped the lid off the Styrofoam container, and dug into both the weird looking stew stuff and the rice. And then, I literally, looked around for the first seat I could find. I actually had to sit down, no joke, and I can remember the bite and the immediate need for a chair like it was yesterday even though it was over a decade ago.
HOLY CRAP. It had the flavor of rich, smokey, salty, meatiness (but there wasn’t any meat pieces I could discern in it – just a flavor I couldn’t recognize I would assume was meat). It was like NOTHING I had ever tried before and I’m sure I looked like a ravenous animal as I scarfed it down as if my life depended on it.
So good…. SO, SO GOOD. Like, I’m salivating big-time right now from the memory.
When I got home I told my husband we were going back to New Orleans, but that I only wanted to stay at the airport (no joke) for this meal. Like, I wouldn’t have cared if we flew there, ate, and flew home – probably with like 10 to-go things of this dish.
We did go back, and we did actually eat at the airport – AND we found the same style in the New Orleans downtown area.
But in between the trip, I have been determined to reproduce it myself.
I wouldn’t say it is quite as perfect, but close.
AND, I have been able to create a vegetarian version that comes out pretty amazing (at least I think so, and the other vegetarians I have fed it to have attested to this as well).
But, Where’s The Beef?
Now, for you meat lovers, I have a version for you too – so don’t get your feathers too ruffled. I know the original version uses meat.
The only variation on the meat version is to brown and add your favorite meat in at the end, and to use bacon fat instead of butter to cook the vegetables. People’s choices here are usually very personal and close to their heart based on their roots and what they grew up with, but the typical meat choices are:
- Smoked Ham Hock
- Smoked Andouille Sausage
Now, when I did eat meat but not Pork or Beef, I opted to use turkey or chicken sausage and this gave the dish great flavor and texture, so I would say you could use that alternatively – but I also should say it’s not true to the origins of the dish, which I believe is either the sausage or the ham hock.
A Brief History Lesson
I won’t go to into the weeds here, but Red Beans & Rice is a dish that was traditionally served on Mondays in Louisiana, since Mondays were the day women would do the wash and planned to spend most of the day scrubbing their clothes, not cooking. They would use the Pork bones from Sunday night’s dinner and create a stew from those pork scraps where they’d throw in celery, onion, bell pepper, spices, and beans. It would sit all day long and absorb and create all the amazing flavors from the pork bones. Often time meat was also added, specifically andouille sausage or ham.
Even though Mondays aren’t wash days anymore like they used to be, this dish is sometimes a Monday special, or just an everyday special you can find on the menu in most restaurants in Louisiana.
And, that’s how this dish came to be.
Things You Should Know
Now, I used to use a LOT of ingredients in making this dish, and it still calls for a good amount – but I have learned some secrets and cheats along the way.
Before, I used to use white vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, cayenne, Tabasco, & tomato paste. I learned most of these ingredients and more are in Buffalo Hot Sauce, so I just use 3 tablespoons of that (I’d advise start with 2 and see if you need more) and 2 tablespoons of Ketchup. You could probably sub out the Buffalo Hot Sauce for Louisiana hot sauce, cholula, or any other pepper sauce of your preference.
You really should let this stew for a couple of hours at least. The flavors melding together is what makes this dish so special. If you can stand it, try to hold out and let it simmer for as long as possible. I will warn you though, it’s hard to do that, because it smells and tastes SO good.
The amount you will make if you follow this recipe should give you a couple of day’s worth of meals. This dish tastes maybe even better the next day.
Red Beans & Rice has basically become a part of me like no other food ever has. If you’ve never tried it, I really hope I can convince you to give it a shot with this post.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 15 oz cans red beans, rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2-3 tbsp buffalo or other hot sauce
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 2 bay leaves, removed
- 1 sprig of thyme, removed
- 2 cups rice, cooked
- 1 tbsp green onions, for garnish
- Open, drain, and rinse off the 3 cans of beans.
- In a heavy stock pot, add 2 cans of beans and half of the stock/liquid (2 cups) and let sit in liquid for 10 minutes with no heat.
- After 10 minutes, bring beans to a boil over medium heat and let cook for 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Chop your onion, bell pepper, garlic, and celery. You might opt to use a food processor for this as these items should be chopped as small as possible.
- Heat butter on med-high in skillet, add vegetables and garlic to skillet and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
- Mash your beans into a soup/stew and then add vegetables.
- Add the additional can of beans but do not mash these in so that you have some whole beans in the stew.
- Add spices/sauces/ketchup and taste. If you need more of anything, add it.
- Add bay leaves & thyme on the top, so that these are immersed but not mixed in.
- Simmer pot on low for 2 hours or so, adding liquid and stirring as needed (I will usually need almost all of the box of stock to keep the consistency like a thick soup/stew)
- At this point, you can simmer it longer or you can eat it once your rice is done - but the best flavor comes out the longer this simmers.
- Make rice before serving, per instructions on rice package.
- Before serving, remove bay leaves and thyme.
- Serve in a bowl with rice scooped in the middle, garnish with onions or parsley and serve with bread.
The end result should have a salty, smokey flavor to it. If it doesn't, add more salt and/or liquid smoke, starting in half teaspoon increments and adding more to your taste preference.
Rice can be white or brown, or flavored if you like flavored rice.
You can garnish with parsley or green onions.
A good, crusty bread, is nice to have with this meal for dipping.
To make the meat version of this dish, make these adjustments:
- Cook the vegetables in bacon fat (optional)
- Use chicken stock or bone broth instead of vegetable stock
- Use butter or bacon fat, and brown the meat of your choice in skillet, then add to the stock pot after all other ingredients have been added. Allow to simmer with other ingredients for a few hours.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 675Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 33mgSodium 1159mgCarbohydrates 110gFiber 23gSugar 8gProtein 37g
This nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although alteredrecipe.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.