A Classic: Cajun Red Beans and Rice

When I was a kid, I hated eating. Really, really hated eating. My parents dealt with it as best they could, but in the end, I was scrawny and sick-looking. Until one summer, when I went to live with my grandparents for a month and a half. And they didn’t have the few foods I liked around, nor did they have my parents’ blessed patience. If I didn’t eat what was served, they were just fine with that–my choice, right?

Well, soon enough, I figured out that wasn’t gonna work long-term, and so I started–tentatively, at first–to eat. And some of it was bad junk food (Pop-Tarts and hotdogs), but mostly, it was my grandmother’s amazing cooking. Pancakes–fried crispy at the edges in way more oil than mom would ever use–for breakfast, and red beans and rice for lunch and supper.

In the end, I gained enough weight to finally look my age that summer, and developed an insatiable taste for red beans. Now–spoiler alert–mine still aren’t as good as mawmaw Joyce’s were all those years ago, but I’d venture to say I’ve gotten pretty close! So, check out the recipe and let me know what you think.

Cajun Red Beans & Rice
Yum
Print Recipe
Creamy, flavorful red kidney beans served over rice make for a perfect--and protein complete!--meal.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3 hours 8-12 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3 hours 8-12 hours
Cajun Red Beans & Rice
Yum
Print Recipe
Creamy, flavorful red kidney beans served over rice make for a perfect--and protein complete!--meal.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3 hours 8-12 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3 hours 8-12 hours
Ingredients
Bean Ingredients
Rice Ingredients
  • 2 cups White Rice You can use Brown to make it healthier, but you'll need to adjust the water accordingly, per package directions.
  • 4 cups Water Adjust a little up or down if you like your rice particularly moist or dry.
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
Servings: servings
Instructions
Ingredients
  1. The assembled Ingredients (less Garlic, somehow)
Instructions
  1. 8-12 hours before you'd like to cook your red beans, cover the dried beans in enough water to immerse them with a couple of inches to spare at the top. Let them soak that way, then drain before you start cooking. (If you forget, or just wanna save time, you can always cook your beans a little longer)
  2. In a large, deep stockpot or Dutch Oven, heat your oil over medium heat until it's just starting to shimmer and ripple. Add in your diced vegetables (onions, bell pepper, and celery) and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, for about 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables are noticeably softened.
  3. Tip in your sliced sausage at this point and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until some pieces of the sausage begin to take on a little color. Then, add in the garlic and cook for one more minute, stirring frequently.
  4. Mix in your dried spices and seasonings (salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaves), stirring well, then add in the soaked, drained beans and about 6-8 cups of water--enough to cover the mixture completely with a couple of inches to spare at the top.
  5. Increase the heat to high and bring the heat to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 1.5 hours. You'll want to stir every so often--every 30 minutes or so at least--stirring more frequently as the beans cook down and thicken the mixture. If, at any point, it starts to look too dry and thick for your tastes, just add a little more water.
  6. At the 1.5-hour mark, the beans should be quite tender. If you like your beans with a little body to them, go ahead and turn off the heat for the beans now. If, however, you like creamier beans, use the back of your spoon to mash some (about a quarter) to most (about two-thirds) of the beans against the side of the pot and continue cooking down for another 15-30 minutes, stirring much more frequently. The released starches will thicken the mixture quickly and could easily catch and burn if you let it sit too long. In any case, make sure to remove the bay leaves when you find them, as they generally don't taste very good if munched on directly.
  7. In a smaller saucepot (~2.5-3qt), heat the rice water over high heat until it starts to boil.
  8. Add in the salt, butter, and rice, then stir to combine. Cover it, lower the heat to very low, and cook--covered--for about 15-17 minutes (closer to 45 for brown rice), until virtually all of the water has been absorbed.
  9. Leave the cover on, but remove the pot from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes to finish steaming.
  10. Then, uncover it and fluff it gently with a fork.
  11. Serve the rice with the beans poured over. To be as traditional as possible, keep a bottle of Crystal-brand (or whatever you prefer!) hot sauce nearby for guests to sprinkle on top.
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Now, onto the how’s, why’s, and what’s of the recipe.

For instance, why start with soaking the beans? It’s not–strictly speaking–essential, after all. What it does do is reduce the overall cook time of the recipe by a good bit, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take time comfortably sleeping in bed over time spent standing in front of the stove any day. If you forget to soak, don’t worry about it! Give the beans a “quick soak” instead–just put ’em in a pot with a ton of water, bring it to a boil, then kill the heat and let ’em sit for an hour, covered up. You’ll still want to drain them, and yes–you’ll lose a little flavor doing it that way–but it all works out in the end.

And that combo of ingredients tossed in upfront? That’s the Cajun Trinity: onion, bell pepper, and celery, plus the delicious flavors of garlic and Cajun-spiced Andouille sausage. Halfway between a French mirepoix and a Spanish sofrito (two old-world cooking bases that I’m sure we’ll explore someday on this site), it’s packed with flavor and lays down an aromatic base for your whole recipe. Without that foundation to build on, your beans could easily turn out terribly bland–spices alone won’t rev ’em up to 100%.

Concerned about carbs? Try not to worry–outside of a few specific diets that would balk at this particular combo, red beans and rice is an exceptionally healthy food that contains all the amino acids to make all the proteins your body needs to rebuild tissue and keep you healthy. The big doses of fiber and vitamins+minerals certainly don’t hurt, either!

Finally, what are some ways you might choose to change up this recipe as you munch on leftovers for a week? Well, I’ll dig back into my childhood a little there.

Dicing up a green onion or two and sprinkling over top of a bowl of rice and beans will add a light springiness to the otherwise deep, earthy, salty flavors. Like I suggested above, a few shakes of some hot sauce will also wake the dish up, albeit in a very different way. And I find that a really great accompaniment to rice and beans–particularly soupy ones–is a nice hunk of lightly toasted French bread to sop up all the leftover sauce. And, if you’re me, a little bowl of Zapp’s-brand “Cajun Crawtaters” (awesome spicy Cajun kettle chips) is basically required-eating with red beans and rice, but I won’t fault you if you can’t find a bag at a nearby grocery store!

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