New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Soaking beans in salted water helps them cook up more tender.
  • Multiple cured pork products lend deep flavor to the beans.

Whoever came up with the expression "a case of the Mondays" probably never spent much time in New Orleans.

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (1)

Head to any classic New Orleans restaurant on a Monday, and you're likely to spot red beans and rice running as a special. (An even better plan: Get invited into a New Orleans household.) Why red beans and rice on a Monday? As the apocryphal story goes, Mondays were traditionally laundry days, and women needed a dish that could cook itself, unattended, while they were busy scrubbing clothes. A big ol' pot of red beans simmering on the stovetop was the perfect solution.

Why was laundry done on Mondays? Well, probably because Mondays were bean day, which gave folks plenty of time to get the laundry done. I don't know. These stories are almost never accurate.

What I do know for sure is this: New Orleans–style red beans and rice is mind-bendingly delicious. Smoky, spicy, hearty, and supremely comforting. For someone used to having a big chunk of protein in the middle of their plate for every meal, it can be hard to imagine that beans and rice make a meal in and of themselves in countries all over the world. If there's one version that could convince you, it's New Orleans red beans and rice.

For a dish so complex in flavor, the preparation and ingredient list are pretty simple. A few vegetables to start, a handful of common pantry spices, a couple of fresh herbs, some chunks of pork, and some red kidney beans. Let's go through each step of the process.

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (2)

Selecting and Soaking the Beans

Though red beans and rice is the best-known version of this dish, it is frequently made with other types of beans, and you can do the same if you'd like. Pink beans, white cannellini beans, even black beans will all taste great with the same basic technique. If you want to go with true red beans, pick up some dried red kidney beans.

You could make a quick version of red beans and rice with canned beans, but if you want really creamy texture and the best flavor,dried beansare the way to go. Some recipes suggest that you can cook the beans straight from dried without an overnight soak. Youcan, but it extends the actual cooking time by several hours, and I found that the results were not quite as creamy or evenly cooked.

For the best results,soak the dried beans overnight in salted water. Salt can help soaked beans cook more evenly, as salt ions replace magnesium and calcium ions in the bean skins, allowing them to tenderize more readily. Salting the cooking liquid will also aid in this process. (The whole idea that salting the water prevents beans from softening is aneasily disproven myth.)

The Holy Trinity of Vegetables

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (3)

Red beans and rice starts, like countless other Cajun and Creole dishes, with the "Holy Trinity" of vegetables: onion, celery, and bell pepper. As withthe mirepoix of France or thebattutoof Italy, these vegetables are finely chopped and added to the pot right at the start of cooking, where they'll eventually break down and form the flavor backbone of the dish.

I tried sweating my vegetables in lard, vegetable oil, and shortening, and found that the difference between them was quite minor. If you want to go all in, sweat the vegetables in lard. If you want to get 98% of the way there without having to go find lard at the butcher's, vegetable oil or shortening will do just fine.

The key is to cook the vegetables gently, salting them to draw out liquid and stirring them until they're very soft but not quite browned. Right when they hit this stage, I add a few cloves of minced garlic, then cook the garlic just until it's fragrant.

Herbs and Spices to Add to the Pot

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (4)

Next come the dried spices. There's no need to go overboard with the whole spice rack: Some very reputable recipes, likethis one from New Orleans expert Emeril Lagasse, contain basically no spices at all, instead relying solely on the pork to add extra flavor. I like to use just a few spices in my version—black pepper and cayenne pepper for a bit of extra heat, and some ground sage for its woodsy flavor.

Some recipes call for dried thyme, but I prefer the flavor of fresh thyme in most stews. Picking individual leaves? Nobody hasthymefor that. Present Me just throws the entire sprigs straight into the pot and lets Future Me worry about picking the stems out when everything is done cooking. It's much easier.

The only other aromatics I add are a few bay leaves. (Andyes, bay leaves are important!)

Choosing Your Meat

Most of the time, I'd usechicken stockto cook beans instead of plain water, in order to add more flavor. You can do that here as well, but it's almost redundant. We're adding so many bits of pork that the dish essentially makes its own stock as it simmers.

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (5)

Andouille sausage is a must; it lends a spicy, cured flavor and plenty of rich fattiness. In order to maximize its flavor penetration, I like to add the sausage to the stew right from the start, even before I add the vegetables. That way, it gets a chance to brown a bit, while providing more rendered fat for the vegetables to sweat in.

Tasso, another common addition, lends smokiness, while its rind provides gelatin to add body to the liquid. Unfortunately, it's really hard to find tasso in most parts of the country. I settle for smoked ham hocks in its place. They aren't quite the same, but they're delicious nonetheless.

The really unique ingredient—one that is not always called for, even in authentic recipes—is pickled pork shoulder. It adds an interesting brightness to the beans (though they'll still be plenty delicious without it). Pickled pork, which is just pork shoulder pickled in vinegar, can be even harder to find than tasso.

If you're inclined to make it yourself,Alton Brown has a good recipe. If you want to skip it, adding a small shot of cider vinegar to the finished beans can go a long way toward mimicking that pickled flavor.

Simmering the Beans

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (6)

Once everything is in theDutch oven, including the drained beans and enough fresh water to cover them, it's time to bring it to a simmer, cover up that pot, and walk away to get your laundry done.

But don't plan on too many loads. I don't know if it's because I soak my beans or if beans were simply much tougher back then, but I find that my beans are perfectly tender in between one and a half and two and a half hours.

You can continue to cook them under the lid even after they're fully tender—this is one of those dishes that are totally okay if they overcook a bit—but if you're anything like me, the aroma will be so overwhelmingly good that you'll want to get it to the dinner table as soon as you possibly can.

Once the lid comes off, it'll take about 20 more minutes of simmering to reduce the liquid down to the right creamy consistency. Depending on the freshness of the beans, the rate at which they give off their creamy starch can vary, so you might find in some cases that the liquid will evaporate before the beans have released enough starch to make the pot properly creamy. If this happens, just splash some extra water into the pot, and keep simmering until you get the texture you want.

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (7)

To finish it off, hit the pot with vinegary hot sauce, like Crystal or Frank's, then pick out those bay leaves and thyme stems (or don't, and just give your guests a quick word of warning before they dig in). If you're so inclined, you can shred the meat from the ham hock, or shred the pickled pork or tasso, if you use those things.

There are some people, with more patience than I have, who say that the beans will have better flavor if you let them cool and serve them the next day. As with mytesting on stews, I didn't find that the flavor changed all that much with the wait, but the texture certainly does. Reheated red beans are even creamier than same-day red beans, so, if you can stand to wait, it doesn't hurt to give them a rest in the fridge overnight.

But I won't blame you if you don't.

Pass out the bowls of rice, bring the whole pot to the dinner table, and let people dig in. They're gonna want seconds.

May 2017

Recipe Details

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Cook3 hrs 5 mins

Active30 mins

Soaking Time8 hrs

Total11 hrs 5 mins

Serves6to 8 servings


  • 1 pound (450g) red kidney beans

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil or lard

  • 1 pound (about 450g) cooked andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch disks

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 12 ounces; 340g)

  • 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)

  • 4 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (3 to 15g) ground cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)

  • 1 teaspoon (about 4g) ground sage

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 smoked ham hock (optional)

  • 8 ounces (225g) pickled pork shoulder or rind (optional; see note)

  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 3 bay leaves

  • Hot sauce, such as Crystal or Frank's, to taste

  • Cider vinegar, to taste (optional; see note)

  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cold water. Add 2 tablespoons (30g) kosher salt and stir until dissolved. Set aside at room temperature for 8 to 16 hours. Drain and rinse.

    New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (8)

  2. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil or lard over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add andouille and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Season with salt and cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened and are just starting to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add cayenne pepper, sage, and a generous 10 to 12 grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, along with enough water to cover by about 2 inches (roughly 6 to 8 cups), ham hock (if using), pickled pork (if using), thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Cover and cook until beans are completely tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (Older beans can take longer.)

    New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (9)

    New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (10)

  3. Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened and turned creamy, about 20 minutes. If the pot starts to look dry before the stew turns creamy, add a cup of water and continue simmering. Repeat as necessary until desired level of creaminess is achieved. Discard bay leaves and thyme stems. Season to taste with hot sauce, a few teaspoons of cider vinegar (if using), and more salt and pepper. For best texture, let cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat the next day, adding a little water to loosen to desired consistency. Serve red beans over steamed white rice.

    New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (11)

Special Equipment

Dutch oven


Pickled pork can be difficult to find, and the beans can easily be made without it. If you're omitting the pickled pork, a small splash of cider vinegar can help brighten up the flavor of the beans, but is not completely necessary. Add it to suit your own taste.

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New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe (2024)


What is the tradition of red beans and rice in New Orleans? ›

Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans-style dishes to be commonly served both in people's homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants and even schools continue to serve it as a Monday lunch or dinner special, usually with a side order of cornbread and either smoked sausage or a pork chop.

What thickens red beans and rice? ›

Mix the cornstarch and cold water together in a bowl then pour it into the red bean mixture and stir well. You will start to see the texture become thicker and creamier. Once done, remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Do you have to soak your beans for red beans and rice? ›

Some recipes suggest that you can cook the beans straight from dried without an overnight soak. You can, but it extends the actual cooking time by several hours, and I found that the results were not quite as creamy or evenly cooked. For the best results, soak the dried beans overnight in salted water.

What meat is good with red beans and rice? ›

If you wonder what meat goes with red beans and rice, there is just nothing better than a juicy grilled chicken. This is not just any grilled chicken, it's juicy. It's flavorful. The secret for this recipe lies in the technique and the marinade!

Why do Cajuns eat red beans and rice on Mondays? ›

Back in the day, Mondays were traditionally known as "wash days". the day when all of the family laundry was done. Doing all that laundry left little time to pay attention to cooking dinner. Red beans and rice were a perfect solution.

Why do they eat red beans and rice on Mondays in New Orleans? ›

Decades later, once red beans and rice had cemented itself as a staple in New Orleans' culinary makeup, it was known as a Monday, or wash-day meal, because it could be made using the same hot coals used to heat clothes-washing water.

Why add vinegar to red beans? ›

Vinegar Makes Red Beans Taste Great!

Vinegar is an acidic liquid produced through fermentation and used in cooking as a flavoring agent and preservative. Its acid content and tangy flavor make it a standard in marinades.

What if I put too much water in my red beans and rice? ›

If there's too much liquid in the pot, raise the heat back up to a rolling boil to burn off some of the liquid. After letting the pot boil for 10-15 minutes, reduce heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes. To make it a memorable experience, add a bottle of beer to the pot when you add the red beans.

Why is my red beans and rice so watery? ›

After boiling the beans for one hour, the beans should be tender but the pot as a whole will still look pretty watery. To thicken the pot, begin smashing the red beans against the side of the pot with your spoon. Smash the red beans and let it continue to simmer without a lid for an extra 30 minutes.

What happens if you don't rinse beans before cooking? ›

"If you rinse your beans thoroughly, you will have a consistently flavored product, but if you do not rinse them, different amounts of salt will remain in the dish each time you cook it, and it will be hard to cook consistently," he says.

What happens if you don't rinse red beans? ›

Rinsing Canned Beans, From a Nutrition Perspective

If you're a relatively healthy person though, enjoying canned beans without draining or rinsing them first is fine. That's because our bodies require sodium to function. It's only when we go above and beyond what we need that it becomes a problem.

How many hours should you soak red beans before cooking? ›

Before cooking, all dried beans need to be rehydrated by soaking. The 10- to 12-hour overnight soak is the easy and always effective method, but you can quick-soak beans by bringing them to the boil for one minute, then covering the pan and letting them sit for one hour.

Can you eat red beans and rice everyday? ›

Yes, you can eat rice and beans every day. Many people in third world countries do. Rice and beans are complementary vegetables that together provide all the necessary amino acids and minerals to live on, although either alone will be deficient in some. A 50/50 mix is ideal.

Do you cover red beans when cooking? ›

Pour 8 cups of water into the pot. Add the Camellia brand red beans to the pot and bring to a boil - about 10 minutes. Cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

What protein to eat with red beans and rice? ›

Red beans and rice is a hearty one pot meal that's of course delicious over rice, but you can also serve the beans over grits, eggs, or toast. It can be prepared with a variety of large or small red or even black beans, with the addition of protein like sausage, chicken thighs, or shrimp.

What is the significance of red bean rice? ›

The red color of the rice symbolizes happiness and prosperity. It's a traditional dish served on many happy and celebratory occasions, such as New Year, the birth of baby, birthdays, festivals, and weddings. Traditionally Sekihan is made of 100% glutinous rice (you might also call it sweet rice or mochigome).

What does red bean rice symbolize? ›

It is believed that sekihan is used for celebrations because of its red color, symbolizing happiness in Japan. It is usually eaten immediately after cooking but it may also be eaten at room temperature, as in a celebratory bento (boxed lunch).

What is a fun fact about red beans and rice? ›

Red Beans and Rice is a Monday tradition because Monday was considered the “wash-day”…. laundry. Red Beans could cook on the stove, mostly unattended, all day while the laundry was done. Also, Red Beans could be made with the precious ham hock reserved from Sunday supper.

What is red bean rice to celebrate? ›

Sekihan is served to celebrate children's growth, long life, and other special occasions. It is a type of okowa, a widely popular recipe made by steaming glutinous rice and adzuki beans. Its red-brown color comes from the adzuki bean cooking water, which is absorbed by the glutinous rice before steaming.

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