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New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

Recipe Info

Difficulty: Easy
Mess Level: Moderate
Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 4 hr


  • 1 lb Dried Red Beans (Soaking overnight is optional)
  • 6 Stalks Celery
  • 2 Onion
  • 1 Green Pepper (Optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Oil or Bacon Fat for Sauteing
  • 1 lb of Tasso Ham or meat of choice (optional)
  • 2-4 Cups Water or Stock
  • 2 ½ Cups Dry Rice
  • Additional water or stock for cooking the rice


Note: If using Tasso Ham add half the amount of cumin, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Traditional Tasso ham is coated heavily in spices before being smoked so it will add a lot of spice to your dish already.

  1. Finely dice the celery, green pepper, and onion. This is known in New Orleans as the “trinity” and is what you start all of your classic dishes with such as gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee.
  2. Set aside half of your vegetables.
  3. If using meat, dice it into small cubes and mince the garlic.
  4. Pick through and discard any funny looking beans, then rinse them well.
  5. Saute half of the trinity vegetables with oil or bacon fat over medium heat until the onions become translucent, stirring frequently. Then add in your garlic and meat and saute for another minute. Add the beans, all your spices and then water or stock until the beans are just covered.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and turn it to the lowest heat possible. Allow to simmer for 3-4 hours.
  7. 20 minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions and set aside.
  8. Check the beans to make sure they’re soft all the way through. You should be able to smash them with no resistance. When the beans are cooked, go ahead and start to smash some of them against the side of the pot. This will thicken the mixture a surprising amount. Stop when it’s as thick as you’d like. If you feel you added too much water, simmer the pot on uncovered until enough water evaporates to suit your taste.
  9. At this point the beans should be soft, the meat should be falling apart and the vegetables will have cooked nearly away. Taste the mixture and add more spices or salt as needed to make it rich and flavorful.
  10. Right before you serve it, stir in the remaining trinity vegetables. Getting the bay leaf is considered lucky in many parts of New Orleans, but don’t eat it, go buy a Powerball instead. Serve the red beans over a scoop of rice and garnish with parsley or green onion if desired. Enjoy!

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Savannah Says...

  1. Can I make this with canned beans?

    1. If you can't avoid it...
      It will not be quite the same but yes you can. Begin as you would with dry beans but add 1 15oz can of red beans to the pot to simmer. Simmer for about an hour and smash some of the beans. Then stir in your second can. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

    1. Well it turns out...
      I forgot to buy one and my dish turned out great! Red beans are all about using what you have on hand. You do want some sort of aromatic vegetable to start with like the onion or celery but don’t panic if you’re missing one.
  2. Why is there sugar and cinnamon in this dish?

    1. Sugar and spice and everything nice...
      Because to make this vegetarian, you need to make up for the flavor that the meat would bring. Adding a small amount of things like tomato, sugar and cinnamon help build and round out the flavor.

Ramblings of a Line Cook

Today I must share a story I’m a little ashamed of – When Tony and I had been going out for a few weeks we made a trip to our local thrift store in Colorado, what we were shopping for, I can’t recall. What I do recall is sneaking away to an empty aisle to quietly pass some gas, then deserting the area because what came out of me would have knocked hades unconscious. A few moments later, Tony rounds the corner and goes “Oh my god that old man just let one rip and it smells so bad!” Caught in the insecurities of my own odor and a new relationship I nodded in agreement and let the blame fall on the unsuspecting old man.

It took me about six months before I fessed up to Tony who thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard. I am happy to say we reached the stage in the relationship early where everyone can participate in the healthy habit of passing gas whenever necessary and not feel ashamed of their basic, bodily functions.

Why am I sharing this story with you today? Red beans my friend… I cannot think of red beans without considering the mouth-twisting pain that accompanies their consumption the following day. Therefore I don’t eat beans that often. But moving to New Orleans, red beans and rice are prepared in such a way you cannot help but to scarf down a bowl while wondering why these haven’t been a staple your whole life.

I was a little intimidated by cooking raw beans. If not cooked properly they can make you sick (Which Tony helpfully reminded me of several times while I was attempting the recipe) and you’re supposed to soak them for a long time, perhaps discard the soaking water and then boil them again? It would seem all the recipes online contradicted one another. Fortunately, the grandmotherly cook with a sharp tongue that I met at New Orleans School of Cooking took the fear right outta me. She had no time for the science of cooking beans, you just cook em!

“Mondays in New Orleans are for red beans and rice” she says… Monday’s used to be laundry day so you would start a pot of red beans and simmer them all day, stirring in between loads of laundry washed by hand. Red beans and rice are one of the easiest, least pretentious things you could make. This dish was created by people who had no money and could only cook with what they had. If you remembered to soak the beans, great! If not, add another hour to the cook time. If you’re lucky enough to have a ham bone all the better! If it’s water and vegetables that day, just smash up some of the beans and get on with your week. So whatever you do, don’t be intimidated by red beans, they’re meant to make your Mondays better.

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