red beans

Red beans and rice

Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine, (not originally of Cajun cuisine) traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, vegetables (onion and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf) and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. It is an old custom from the time when ham was a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. Similar dishes are common in Latin American cuisine, including moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.

Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans style dishes to be commonly cooked both in people's homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants continue to offer it as a Monday lunch special, usually with a side order of either smoked sausage or a pork chop. And while Monday washdays are largely a thing of the past, Red Beans remains a staple for large gatherings such as Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties.

However, red beans and rice is a particularly domestic dish. It is rare that a restaurant is known for its red beans being outstandingly good. Although many cooks are well known for the high quality of their red beans and rice, most of them are not professional restaurant chefs.

Red Beans and Rice is also an important staple in Central America, where it is known "arroz con habichuela". They are important in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian and Jamaican cuisine. They are usually accompanied with any form of plantain snack (including "tostones" and "fritos"), chicken, or meat. In the Dominican Republic it is common to pour olive oil on top of the dish.


Red kidney beans or small red beans are used and they are usually (but not always) soaked beforehand. Onion, celery, and usually a bit of garlic are sautéed briefly. Some people choose to include bell pepper, thus completing the trinity. The vegetables should be diced finely so that they will melt away once the dish is done. The beans and water are added as is a ham bone. Diced ham may also be included. Seasoning includes salt, thyme, bay leaf and cayenne pepper. While Cajun (and to a lesser extent Creole) cooking is often thought of as being very spicy, red beans are prepared on the mild side and are usually served with a bottle of hot sauce nearby.

The beans take about two hours to cook. The best versions of the dish offer an interesting contrast in texture. The overall effect should be creamy. But the beans themselves should be firm (not mushy and certainly not crunchy). This is accomplished by mashing up to a quarter of the beans in the last half hour or so of cooking (smash the beans against the side of the pot using the back of a large spoon). To get an even creamier texture, some chefs will gradually incorporate butter into the beans during the last ten minutes.

Some people will cook smoked sausage with the beans. But traditionally, the sausage or pork chops were cooked on the side.


White rice is cooked separately. When being served buffet style for a party, the rice, beans, and sausage should all be kept apart and assembled as needed by the guests. When served on a plate, the rice is usually mounded in the center, pehaps with a bit of parsley. The beans are spooned all around the rice and piece of sausage are placed on one side. Garnish with chopped green onion and have a bottle of hot sauce available.


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