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Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Cajun Red Beans and Rice is the signature dish of Louisiana if there ever was one. This boldly spiced, thick, and hearty stew suits all seasons, moods, and meals. It’s easy understand the timeless appeal of such humble ingredients once you’ve experienced it for yourself. The original version often included sausage or ham, but it’s a snap to make entirely plant-based.

Closeup of red beans and rice in a bowl

Red Beans and Rice is more than just a food; it’s an edible tradition passed down through generations of Creole and Cajun families, particularly in New Orleans, since the early 1800s. Countless families still come together around a big, bubbling pot of red beans for comfort and nourishment, no matter how busy life gets.

While pork in many forms played a big role in those foundational meals, modern innovation has given us nearly identical alternatives to create vegan versions without straying from tradition. Paving the way for a more inclusive future, this recipe is one that everyone can enjoy.

Red beans and rice in a bowl, mixed together

Why You’ll Love These Cajun Red Rice and Beans

The rich smell of slowly simmer spices will draw in hungry mouths from miles away. Beyond that heady aroma, there’s a whole lot more to love:

  • Complete protein. When eaten together, rice and beans are an unstoppable nutritional duo.The combination delivers all nine essential amino acids to form a complete source of protein in one bite.
  • Hands-off approach to cooking. Red beans and rice were the original “set it and forget it” foods.Once you get everything on the stove, it does the rest of the work for you, freeing you to focus on other things.
  • The spice is always right. You can easily adjust the seasoning to taste, whether you prefer it blazing hot, or have picky kids to please.

The Origin of Red Beans and Rice

There’s never a bad time for Red Beans and Rice, but traditionally, they were on the menu for Monday every week in New Orleans. Sunday was often a more lavish affair with roast ham at the center of the table, so the bones and leftovers were repurposed the next day to build this stew. Monday was also wash day, which meant that women could more easily multitask. As a dish that essentially cooks itself, you could have a pot of beans simmering away on the stove and scrub clothes at the same time.

Closeup of Red beans and rice in a bowl, mixed together

Notes on Ingredients

Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.

  • Kidney beans – Start with dry kidney beans for the best quality and most affordable results.
  • Olive oil
  • Sweet onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Cajun seasoning – This spice mix typically includes black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. You might find some variants that also add salt, dry mustard powder, or cumin.
  • Dried thyme
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable broth – Chose a low sodium variety to keep your salt levels in check.
  • Parsley
  • Vegan sausage – Andouille style sausage is ideal, like the options made by Field Roast or Tofurky.
  • White rice – Long grain is best since it cooks up light and fluffy, which is better to absorb all the rich stew.

How to Make Cajun Red Beans and Rice

  • Rinse the beans thoroughly. Place in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of cold water. Soak overnight.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook until starting to soften. Then add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, thyme, cayenne, and salt, and cook until fragrant.
  • Add the beans, broth, bay leaf, and parsley bundle.
  • Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
  • Add the sausage and return to a simmer for 30 minutes. Keep uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.
  • In a medium pot, combine the rice with water and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the grains are tender.
  • Remove the parsley and bay leaf from the beans. Serve hot over the rice

Tips for Success

This recipe is a foolproof blueprint for success, even for new cooks. Here are a few tips to make the it better than ever:

  • Pick through the beans before cooking. Dried beans can sometimes have small pebbles or bits of dirt remaining from the harvesting and packaging processes. It would be a nasty surprise to chomp down into that, so it pays to take an extra minute to check. I like to spread them out on a sheet pan to give them a once over before rinsing.
  • Add a touch of vinegar to taste. Instead of going straight for the salt, add a splash of vinegar to brighten up the flavors after cooking. Anything from apple cider to red wine vinegar, balsamic to malt vinegar works brilliantly.
  • Consider the sausage optional. For a whole food, plant-based diet, you won’t be missing anything without the prepared meat analogues. Alternately could try incorporating diced smoked tofu for a different sort of meaty experience.
Closeup of red beans and rice in a bowl

Serving Suggestions

Red Beans and Rice are already an ideal complete meal. There’s nothing else needed to dress them up, but that doesn’t mean extras would hurt, either.

Some simple toppers and condiments include:

  • Hot sauce
  • Sliced scallions
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Ideas for more substantial sides include:

Overhead shot of red beans and rice in a bowl

How to Store Leftovers

Store the red beans in a separate container from the rice for best results. Both can be kept in the fridge for 5 to 7 days. To reheat, microwave individual servings for 60 to 90 seconds, until hot all the way through.

Can Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice Be Frozen?

Yes, this is a great dish to freeze for quick meals on the fly! Pack the rice and the beans separately in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do NOT thaw before reheating, which can make the beans mushy or mealy. To reheat, microwave each separately for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring periodically, until hot all the way through.

Red beans and rice in a bowl

More Cajun Side Dishes

Overhead shot of red beans and rice in a bowl
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5 from 1 vote

Cajun Red Rice and Beans

This boldly spiced, thick, and hearty stew suits all seasons, moods, and meals. You'll never miss the meat in this plant-based version!
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 11 hours
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 bunch parsley tied together with twine
  • 1 14 ounce package vegan sausage, sliced (if you can find it, use andouille)
  • 1 cup long grain white rice

Instructions

  • Rinse the beans well. Place in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of cold water. Soak overnight. Rinse well.
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep pot over medium. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook until starting to soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning,thyme, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  • Add the beans, broth, bay leaf, and parsley bundle. Stir well.
  • Bring to a simmer, and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
  • Add the sausage and return to a simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.
  • In a medium pot, combine the rice with 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the grains are tender.
  • Remove the parsley and bay leaf from the beans before serving with rice.

Notes

  • Pick through the beans before cooking. Dried beans can sometimes have small pebbles or bits of dirt remaining from the harvesting and packaging processes. It would be a nasty surprise to chomp down into that, so it pays to take an extra minute to check. I like to spread them out on a sheet pan to give them a once over before rinsing.
  • Add a touch of vinegar to taste. Instead of going straight for the salt, add a splash of vinegar to brighten up the flavors after cooking. Anything from apple cider to red wine vinegar, balsamic to malt vinegar works brilliantly.
  • Consider the sausage optional. For a whole food, plant-based diet, you won’t be missing anything without the prepared meat analogues. Alternately could try incorporating diced smoked tofu for a different sort of meaty experience.
Recipe Rating