This vegan adaptation of the traditional Louisiana Creole red beans and rice is a delicious, wholesome and exciting mid-week family meal. It is exciting because it contains humble and budget-friendly beans, lentils and rice yet elevates these ingredients into something really special.
Vegan red beans and rice is just meatless Southern comfort food at its best and is delicious served with rice, and a large slice of crusty bread or a few Home-Made Cornbread Muffins to dip and dunk into the thick tasty homely red bean stew.
History of red beans and rice
Cajun red beans and rice is a flavorful, hearty dish hailing from the Southern United States, specifically Louisiana. It showcases the rich culinary history of the region, which is a melting pot of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences.
This classic comfort food is made by slow-cooking red kidney beans with a medley of aromatic vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, and celery, which are often referred to as the "holy trinity" of Cajun and Creole cooking.
The dish is further enhanced with a variety of seasonings, including cayenne pepper, garlic, and thyme, creating a vibrant and spicy flavor profile.
Cajun red beans and rice is usually served with white rice and often accompanied by smoked sausage, ham hocks, or andouille sausage, and is a firm beloved staple in Louisiana and beyond.
Using up leftover family dinners
Traditionally, red beans is often prepared on Mondays, as it presents an ideal opportunity to repurpose leftover pork and bones from Sunday dinner.
Throughout history many traditional recipes have stemmed from ordinary peoples need to use up leftovers by repurposing into the next days meal. Other tasty examples include our vegan adaptations of traditional favourites: Irish Stew, to Scottish Stovies, Welsh Cawl Soup and Lancashire Hotpot.
Vegan red beans stew and rice
This vegan red bean stew recipe replaces traditional pork or meat with red split lentils, which not only thicken the stew but also impart a delicious umami flavor and a meat-like appearance.
The red bean stew is seasoned with bay leaves, thyme, Cajun [or Creole] seasoning mix, and dried garlic. Soy sauce, red wine vinegar and tomato paste add extra flavour dimensions that compliment the red beans and lentils.
White long grain rice serves as the perfect accompaniment to this red bean stew, along with one or two homemade cornbread muffins. The recipe includes a simple method for cooking long-grain rice, but do feel free to use a different type of rice.
Mardi Gras, Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, and Shrove Tuesday - all festive celebrations where food takes center stage!
If your celebrating Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, then a bowl of red beans and rice is the perfect family meal. For another vegan Mardi Gras recipe check out our tasty Vegan Dirty Rice.
Mardi Gras, is a vibrant and festive annual celebration held primarily in New Orleans, Louisiana, and other parts of the world.
It marks the last day of indulgence before the Christian season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is famous for its colorful parades, masquerade balls, and lively street parties, featuring music, dancing, and vibrant costumes.
In the UK, Mardi Gras is not a widespread holiday but we do have a few parades and events that celebrate Mardi Gras. Also we do mark Fat Tuesday but we tend to use the other names Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday, and use it as an excuse to consume lots of tasty pancakes!
Pancake Day is held on the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. The date of Pancake Day varies each year because it is determined by the date of Easter, which is a movable feast. Generally, Pancake Day falls between February 2nd and March 9th in the Gregorian calendar.
For an Easy Vegan Pancake recipe check out our family favourite recipe as well as my kids favourite easy vegan Chocolate Chip Pancakes. A pancake or two, or even an entire stack, make the perfect dessert to enjoy after savoring a bowl of comforting red beans and rice!
How to prepare red beans and rice
This vegan adaptation of Red Beans and Rice is really easy to prepare. Once the veggies are sauteed, the flavourings and veggie broth are added and then everything cooks to perfection.
First saute the diced carrot, celery, bell pepper and onion.
Next add the cooked pinto beans [or red kidney beans], red split lentils, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaf, and thyme.
Pour in the vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper, then stir thoroughly and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the stew reaches a thick consistency and the vegetables become tender.
Remove the pan from the heat, pop a lid over, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before adjusting the seasoning.
While the red beans stew is simmering prepare the rice:
Place the long-grain rice in a saucepan, pour in water, season with salt, and stir.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Cover the saucepan with a lid, turn off the heat, and let it sit for another 10 minutes.
Finally, fluff the rice with a fork.
Serving suggestion: enjoy the red beans and rice with old-fashioned cornbread muffins, and a garnish of fresh parsley. We also have an easy Slow Cooker Steamed Cornbread recipe which results in an incredibly light and tasty cornbread.
Recipe notes and frequently asked questions
Red beans stew can be stored within a covered container within the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Leftover rice should be cooled quickly and placed in a food container.
Red beans can be frozen for 2-3 months. Rice can also be frozen along with the beans or frozen separately.
To reheat leftover red beans, first defrost within the refrigerator if frozen, and place into a non-stick saucepan. Bring to a simmer and heat until piping hot throughout. A little extra water will likely need to be added to the stew as it will become very thick. Just add enough to loosen the sauce.
How to safely reheat rice:
It is recommended that rice is reheated to an internal heat of 165F [74C]. A food thermometer is a great investment and only costs a few pounds.
To safely reheat rice, follow these steps to ensure it's heated evenly and to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses:
- Store leftover rice properly: After cooking, cool the rice within 1-2 hours, and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Proper storage helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Use a microwave: Transfer the rice to a microwave-safe dish and spread it out evenly. If the rice has dried out, sprinkle a little water over it to add moisture. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or a microwave-safe plate to keep the steam in, but leave a small gap to allow steam to escape.
- Heat on high: Microwave the rice on high for 1-2 minutes, depending on the quantity and the power of your microwave. Stir the rice halfway through the reheating process to ensure it heats evenly.
- Check the temperature: After reheating, check the rice to make sure it's steaming hot throughout. If not, continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until it reaches the desired temperature.
- Reheat only once: To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, only reheat the rice once. Any leftover reheated rice should be discarded.
Or reheat on the stovetop:
- Transfer the rice to a saucepan and add a splash of water to help restore moisture.
- Heat the rice over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.
- Once the rice is steaming hot throughout, remove it from the heat and serve immediately.
Red beans and rice is generally gluten-free, as the main ingredients—red beans and rice—do not contain gluten.
However, it's essential to check the specific ingredients in your recipe, as well as any seasonings, sauces, vinegars, and vegetable broth [stock cubes], to ensure that they are gluten-free as well.
A few tasty ideas:
1. Any variety of rice, including cauliflower or broccoli rice
2. Cajun Dirty Rice [instead of plain rice]
3. Quinoa (see our Chili Recipe for an easy quinoa cooking method)
4. Mashed potatoes or mashed root veggies
5. Baked white or sweet potatoes
6. Potato fries, chips, or wedges
7. Steamed or stir-fried green veggies
8. Roasted veggies
9. Crispy green salad
10.. Vegan sausages
11. Vegan coleslaw or potato salad
12. Pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage
13. Canned jalapenos, fresh sliced chili, or hot sauce
14. Sliced green/spring onions or chives
15. Cornbread muffins (check out the recipe notes for this post as there is a gluten-free vegan cornbread muffin recipe)
16. Crusty bread
17. Garlic bread
18. Quick 3-ingredient dinner rolls
19. Buttermilk plain scones
20. Grits or polenta
21. Fried plantains or yucca
22. Hush puppies
23. Black-eyed peas salad
The secret to perfect rice is perseverance! In all seriousness, if you feel you're not great at cooking rice, it's likely you just haven't found the optimal method yet. Don't give up; instead, try this helpful guide and keep practicing:
1. Rinse the rice: Before cooking, thoroughly rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This removes excess starch and prevents the rice from becoming overly sticky or clumpy.
2. Use the right rice-to-water ratio: The ideal rice-to-water ratio depends on the type of rice being cooked. Generally, long-grain rice like basmati or jasmine requires a 1:1.5 or 1:2 rice-to-water ratio, while short-grain rice like sushi or Arborio typically needs a 1:1.25 or 1:1.5 ratio.
3. Choose the appropriate cooking method: Different types of rice may require different cooking techniques. For example, long-grain rice can be cooked using the absorption method, while short-grain rice might benefit from the risotto method, which involves adding hot liquid gradually while stirring continuously.
4. Use a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid: A good-quality pot ensures even heat distribution, while a tight-fitting lid traps steam to cook the rice evenly.
Cook on low heat: Once the rice has reached a boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently. This prevents the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot or becoming mushy.
Alternative extra easy cooking method: For certain rice varieties like basmati and long-grain, cook the rice for 10 minutes. As soon as the rice starts to show indentations and before it finishes cooking, turn off the heat but leave the pot on the warm burner for another 10 minutes. Then, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for an additional 5 minutes. Using this method, you'll achieve perfect rice every time! This is my family's favourite method, works every-time.
5. Resist the urge to stir or uncover: While the rice is cooking, avoid stirring or lifting the lid. This ensures that the rice cooks evenly and retains the steam necessary for proper cooking.
6. Let the rice rest: Once the rice has finished cooking, remove it from heat but leave the lid on for an additional 5-10 minutes. This allows the rice to steam further and helps the grains firm up and separate.
7. Fluff gently with a fork: When the rice has rested, fluff it gently with a fork to separate the grains without breaking them. This step enhances the rice's texture and prevents clumping.
This may seem like a lot of steps to keep in mind but honestly once you've cooked perfect rice a few times, it will all become second nature!
Traditionally, red kidney beans are used for Cajun red beans. However, I happened to have pinto beans in my food cupboard so that's what I went for, and they taste fantastic in the spicy sauce. It's your meal, so feel free to use any beans you have on hand or prefer.
Both canned beans and home-cooked beans have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice ultimately depends on factors like personal preference, convenience, and time constraints.
* Convenient and ready to use, saving time and effort.
* Precooked, which eliminates the need for soaking and cooking.
* Can save cooking fuel.
* Can sometimes have added preservatives or salt, but low-sodium and organic options are available.
*May have a slightly different texture compared to home-cooked beans.
* Allows for better control over the texture and seasoning.
* Often more cost-effective than canned beans, especially if you can buy the beans in bulk.
* Free from added preservatives or sodium.
* Requires soaking (for most beans) and cooking, which takes more time and planning.
* Can cook a large batch and then freeze the surplus in portions. Beans defrost quickly, and can often be added frozen directly into recipes that are going to be boiled or stewed.
Both options can be nutritious and delicious; it's up to you to decide which one best suits your needs and preferences. If you're short on time, canned beans might be a better option, while home-cooked beans are ideal for those who prefer more control over the cooking process and ingredient quality.
Preparing your own home-cooked beans is quite easy once you know the process. Follow these easy steps for tasty home-cooked beans!
Soaking (applies to both methods):
* Rinse the beans thoroughly under cold water, removing any dirt or debris.
* Place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with water, allowing a few inches of water above the beans.
* Let the beans soak for at least 12 hours or overnight. Some beans, such as black-eyed peas or lentils, may require shorter soaking times (around 4-6 hours).
Pressure Cooker Method:
1. Drain and rinse the soaked beans.
2. Place the beans in the pressure cooker and add enough water to cover the beans by about 1-2 inches.
3. Add any desired seasonings, such as bay leaves, garlic, or onions, or just keep the beans plain.
4.Secure the lid on the pressure cooker and set it to high pressure.
5. Cook the beans according to the manufacturer's instructions and the specific type of bean. Generally, cooking times range from 20-40 minutes, depending on the bean variety and the age of the beans. Some pressure cookers have a 'bean' setting you can use.
6. Allow the pressure to release naturally or use the quick release method, depending on your pressure cooker's instructions.
7.Carefully remove the lid, and test the beans for tenderness.
1. Drain and rinse the soaked beans.
2. Place the beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover them by about 2 inches.
3. Add any desired seasonings, such as bay leaves, garlic, or onions, or simply cook with just the water.
4. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. ***although do read the next question for advice on safely cooking red kidney beans***
5. Cook the beans, uncovered, until they are tender. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type and age of the beans.
6. Check the beans occasionally and add more water if needed to keep them submerged.
7. Once the beans are tender, remove them from heat, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
8. Remember that cooking times may vary depending on the type of bean and how long it has been stored, so it's essential to check for tenderness periodically.
Yes, red kidney beans, contain a naturally occurring toxin called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) that can cause gastrointestinal distress if consumed in large amounts.
To ensure the beans are safe to eat, it's essential to fast boil them before proceeding with your chosen cooking method.
Here's how to fast boil kidney beans:
1. Drain the soaked beans and give them a rinse with fresh water.
2. Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with fresh water, allowing about 2 inches of water above the beans.
3. Bring the water to a rolling boil and continue boiling for at least 10 minutes to effectively break down the toxin. Note that this boiling time is crucial, as undercooked kidney beans may contain higher toxin levels than raw beans. **Although I prefer to fast boil for at least 15-20 minutes just to be sure!**
5. After boiling for 10 minutes, you can reduce the heat and let the beans simmer until they're tender (usually around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the beans age).
6. If you're using a pressure cooker, you can now transfer the beans to the cooker and proceed with the pressure cooking method.
7. By following this fast boiling method, you can significantly reduce the toxin levels in kidney beans and make them safe to consume.
It is generally safe to cook dried beans in a slow cooker, but with certain precautions, especially for kidney beans. As mentioned earlier, kidney beans contain a naturally occurring toxin called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), which can cause gastrointestinal issues if not properly inactivated.
Slow cookers may not reach high enough temperatures to neutralize this toxin effectively.
To safely cook dried beans, particularly kidney beans, in a slow cooker, follow these steps:
1. Soak the beans overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.
2. Drain and rinse the soaked beans thoroughly.
3. Fast boil the kidney beans in a separate pot for at least 15-20 minutes. This step is crucial for kidney beans, as the rapid boiling will help inactivate the PHA toxin.
4. Drain the beans again and transfer them to the slow cooker.
5. Add fresh water, seasonings, and other ingredients as per your recipe.
6. Cook the beans on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 3-4 hours, depending on your slow cooker's settings and the desired bean texture.
7. By following these precautions, you can safely cook dried beans in a slow cooker while minimizing the risk of ingesting harmful toxins.
However, if you're concerned about the toxin levels in kidney beans, you may opt for canned kidney beans or use an alternative cooking method like stovetop or pressure cooking.
***Personally I wouldn't recommended cooking red kidney beans using a slow cooker, instead I would fast boil for at least 15-20 minutes, drain and rinse the beans, then cook either on the stove-top or pressure cook using fresh water.***
No, you do not need to fast boil canned beans. Canned beans are already pre-cooked, and the canning process involves heating the beans to a high enough temperature that effectively inactivates any potential toxins, such as phytohaemagglutinin in kidney beans.
While I prefer to err on the side of caution and use canned red kidney beans instead of preparing dried ones, that's just my personal preference, as I tend to be overly cautious. I do, however, home-cook plenty of other beans, such as chickpeas, pinto beans, butter beans, and more.
More tasty vegan family dinner recipes
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Red Beans And Rice
- Non-stick skillet/large pot or similar, with lid
- Saucepan for cooking rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil [or your usual oil]
- 1 medium carrot [diced small]
- 2 ribs celery [diced small]
- 1 medium onion [diced small]
- 1 medium green bell pepper [diced small]
- 580 grams cooked pinto beans [or kidney beans or Adzuki beans] use about 2-3 400g/14oz cans of beans or cook your own]
- 130 grams dried red split lentils
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder [or 4-6 garlic cloves, diced/minced]
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning [or Creole seasoning]
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme [or sprig of fresh thyme]
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste [puree]
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 litre vegetable broth
Rice: [or follow the instructions on the rice package and prepare enough for your meal]
- 1 cup long grain rice rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
To serve, optional
- chopped fresh parsley
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan or skillet.1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add the diced carrot, celery, onion and bell pepper. Cook over a low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently until the veggies have softened. They don't have to be completely cooked just softened up a little.1 medium carrot, 2 ribs celery, 1 medium onion, 1 medium green bell pepper
- Next add the lentils, beans, Cajun seasoning, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, thyme, sugar, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well.580 grams cooked pinto beans, 130 grams dried red split lentils, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, 2 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the veggies are completely soft and the stew is thickened. While cooking give the stew a stir every now and again.1 litre vegetable broth
- Remove the pan from the heat and place a lid over and leave for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, and extra sugar if the spices are too hot!
- Remove the bay leaf and thyme stalk if used. A few tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes is a nice addition stirred through before serving or sprinkled over each portion.
While the red beans are cooking prepare the rice:
- Add the rice and water to a saucepan. Season with a little salt and stir.1 cup long grain rice, 2 cups water
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the water has mostly been absorbed and pucker holes appear over the rice. Turn the heat off and place a lid over the pan.Leave for another 10 minutes or until the red beans are ready.
- Before serving the rice, give it a fluff up with a cutlery fork.
Once the stew is ready:
- Serve with the rice and a few home-made cornbread muffins if liked. A dollop of vegan mayonnaise or sour cream is a very tasty addition, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley or sliced spring [green] onions for a fresh touch.A few tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes stirred through the red beans is a tasty addition, as is a few drops of hot sauce for those who love extra spice!chopped fresh parsley
- The provided nutritional information is for guidance only and should not be considered as an exact calculation, as ingredients may vary. Data includes the rice accompaniment.
- Store leftover red beans and rice in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- For longer storage, freeze the red beans and rice in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months.
- To reheat the red beans and rice, place the leftovers in a non-stick saucepan with a little water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until piping hot throughout.
- Alternatively, reheat the red beans and rice in a microwave-safe container until it reaches a piping hot temperature, stir frequently during cooking.
- Adjust the spice level of the red beans to suit your taste preferences by adding more or less Cajun seasoning, if your beans are too spicy at the end of cooking add 1 teaspoon of extra sugar and consider stirring through some vegan sour cream or similar.
- For extra spicy flavor, consider adding more Cajun seasoning, a dash of hot sauce, a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika to the stew.
- If you're short on time, use pre-cooked canned beans and pre-chopped frozen vegetables [such as a frozen celery, onion and carrot mix] to speed up the cooking process.
- Serve the red beans with a variety of toppings, such as chopped green onions, parsley, fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of lime juice for added freshness.
Thank you for trying out our vegan adaptation of red beans and rice! We hope you enjoyed making and savoring it as much as we do.
If you tried this recipe, please let us know in the comments below how it turned out for you, or if you made any modifications.
If you share your creations on social media, don't forget to tag us (@traditionalplantbasedcooking) and use the hashtag #traditionalplantbasedcooking, so we can see your scrumptious dishes!
Lastly, if you found this recipe helpful, please share it with your friends and family, so they can enjoy it too.
Thank you, and happy cooking!
Love, Jacq x