How to Make Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice has long been a Louisiana staple, especially in New Orleans. But if you can't travel to the Crescent City to try it, you can follow this recipe and enjoy this flavor-packed favorite at home. Discover how easy it is to make this tasty crowd-pleaser.

A bowl of freshly-cooked red beans and rice with sausage slices.

Beans and rice are a common, healthy combination served throughout the world.  Red beans and rice, however, was made popular in New Orleans and throughout southern Louisiana.  I’m not from Louisiana, but I’ve lived here for several years — long enough to incorporate local recipes into my day-to-day cooking.

I’ve made red beans and rice many times both on the stove and in the crockpot (more on using the slow cooker shortly).  The first time I made it was when I threw a little party upon moving into my new apartment.  Southern hospitality is all about feeding people, so that’s what I did.  Around 20 people lined up to serve themselves buffet-style in my tiny kitchen.  I prepared a huge part of the New Orleans dish alongside fat slices of buttery garlic bread and, of course,  a behemoth pitcher of Southern sweet tea.

The meal was a big hit. I had just put up my Christmas decorations, too, and the atmosphere was so festive as the lively crowd helped themselves to heaping plates of food, then made themselves right at home, talking and laughing, amid a backdrop of pine-bough wreaths and strings of multi-colored lights.

Here’s everything you wanted to know about red beans and rice and how to make it.

History of Red Beans and Rice

Originating in New Orleans before the Civil War, red beans and rice were a meal frequently served on Mondays.  Why?  In those days, homemakers did certain chores on certain days of the week.  Monday was laundry day, and, as you might expect, getting clothes clean was a lot more complicated than throwing them into a machine and pouring soup on top.

Homemakers first had to fill huge tubs of water, soak whatever needed to be laundered, and scrub it vigorously.  Then they had to wring it out and hang it on a line to dry.  Needless to say, laundering was a strenuous activity that took a considerable amount of time and energy.

To make life easier on themselves during wash day, these homemakers prepared meals that were low-maintenance.  Red beans and rice easily fit that description.  They could prepare it in the morning and let it simmer all day long, allowing plenty of time for all the spices to blend so the food would be packed with flavor by the time it made its way to the dinner table.

Customize Your Cooking

Red beans and rice generally calls for red kidney beans, white rice, vegetables, spices, sausages, and a ham hock.  Beans and rice are incredibly filling, so if you’re cooking on a budget or simply trying to cut meat out of your diet, you can leave out the sausage and ham and still enjoy a delicious meal.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and try this recipe for yourself, check out this awesome New Orleans recipe.

How to Make Red Beans and Rice


The complete set of ingredients to be used in the recipe.

  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans
  • 1 pound andouille sausage  (You can use the smoked kind instead if you find andouille to be too spicy).  cut the sausage into 1/2-inch rounds.
  • 2 fifteen-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 six-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoons sage
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Cooking oil
  • 2 cups rice, cooked according to the directions on the package


Step 1:  Soak the Dry Beans.

The red beans are soaked in water for four hours.

Rinse the beans and soak them for at least four hours.  Next, drain them, place them in a large stockpot, and cover them with fresh water.  The water level in the pot should be about an inch higher than the beans.  Add the ham hock.  Place the pot on the stove over medium heat.  Bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid to simmer.

Step 2:  Finely Chop the Onion and Bell Pepper.

The vegetables are chopped finely.

Antebellum cooks had to do all that chopping by hand, but if you’re short on time, you can use a food processor and still achieve the same authentic taste.  When you’re done, place the minced onion and bell pepper in a bowl, add the garlic, and set them aside.

Step 3:  Saute the Sausage.

The sausage slices are sauteed in a skillet.

Add 3-4 tablespoons cooking oil to a large, heavy skillet and place it over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage, turning it to cook both sides.  Saute it until it’s browned and crispy.  When it’s cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the bean pot.

Step 4: Saute the Veggies.

The vegetables are then fried on the same oil of the sausage.

Using the same hot oil from the sausage (you made need a little more), cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, stirring constantly.  The onion will be translucent when done.  Place the vegetables in the bean pot, along with the tomatoes, tomato paste, and the rest of the spices.  Keep stirring to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

Step 5:  Cook the Mixture to Soften the Beans.

The ingredients are then mixed and the beans softened.

Allow the pot to simmer on low heat for at least two hours, or until the beans are softened.

Step 6:  Mash-Up Some of the Beans.

About 15-20 minutes before you’re ready to serve your savory dish, scoop out about half a cup of beans from the stockpot and place them in a bowl.  Smash them with a fork or a potato masher and stir them into the pot to give the red beans and rice a creamy consistency.  Take out the ham hock, remove the fat and bones.  Shred the meat, add it to the pot, and stir thoroughly to distribute it throughout the mixture.

Step 7:  Serve It Up.

A bowl of freshly cooked red bean and rice with sausage slices.

In large bowls, serve the finished product over generous helpings of rice.  Enjoy!

Crockpot Tip

And here’s that crockpot pointer we promised you.  Place the beans in your slow cooker.  Saute the meat and veggies and add them too, along with the other ingredients.  Cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.  When I use the crockpot, I cook the rice separately since it doesn’t take that long to prepare.

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