Yesterday I shared a bit of the history of that New Orleans/Mardi Gras classic, Red Beans and Rice.
Today, I’m sharing my family recipe – tweaked to be vegan.
First, a few pointers …
Red beans and rice have a long cooking time, but very little hands-on time. You do a little chopping and sauteeing up front. After that you just need to give the beans a stir every now and then.
Red beans and rice are traditionally spicy. This version is medium spicy. If you have a more delicate palate, be sure you remove the seeds and pith from the jalapeno – or forego the jalapeno entirely! You may also want to use just the cajun/creole seasoning and omit the extra cayenne pepper. On the other hand, if you like spicy, you may want to add another jalapeno pepper, more cayenne pepper, or use a stronger brand of seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s More Spice Seasoning or BOLD Seasoning, instead of Original Creole). If you’re not sure, it’s always best to build the heat slowly.
Most red beans and rice recipes call for an entire one pound bag of beans; I’ve found this is way too much unless I’m cooking for a crowd or stockpiling for the freezer. This recipe is scaled for 4-6 servings – four very generous servings if you’re eating this as a one-dish meal, 5-6 servings if you are also including sides. If you are cooking for a crowd, just make a double batch.
Vegan sausage is optional, but recommended. Tofurky makes a great Andouille sausage if you want to be authentic. If you can’t find it, use whatever sausage you have on hand or your favorite. In these pictures, I used Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage. Always read ingredient labels as there are many “vegetarian” brands of sausage these days that are not vegan. Gluten-free people should skip sausage as most brands have vital wheat gluten.
Plan ahead – soak your dried beans overnight, or prep them in the morning so they can soak while you’re at work!
Finally, if you are new to cooking, relax. Red beans and rice is a pretty difficult dish to muck up. Exact ingredient amounts needn’t be precise – it won’t make a difference if your medium green pepper is a little bigger than my medium green pepper, or if you decide to use an extra stalk of celery.
Now, let’s start cooking!
Ingredients for New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
1 Cup Dried Red Kidney Beans, sorted, rinsed, and soaked
1 Tablespoon Canola or Olive Oil
1 Medium to Large Yellow Onion, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 Medium Bell Pepper, diced (Any color is fine; green ones are cheaper)
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Jalapeno or Serrano pepper, finely diced (optional)
4 Cups Water
1/2 Teaspoon dried Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Cajun/Creole Seasoning Blend
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
1-2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
A few drops of Liquid Smoke (1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon)
A shake or two of Hot Sauce, like Tobasco (optional)
2-4 Links cooked Vegan Sausage, sliced in coins or half-moons
3 Cups Cooked Rice
Directions for New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
First, do your prep work. Make sure all your veggies are sliced and diced before you begin.
In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, and hot pepper (if using). Saute for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and the onion beginning to turn translucent.
Add the beans, water, thyme, bay leaves, and Cajun/Creole seasoning.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about an hour and fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. If at any point the beans start looking dry, add a little extra water.
After an hour and fifteen minutes, the beans should be getting soft. Taste; add more Cajun/Creole seasoning, a pinch of cayenne pepper, or a few shakes of hot sauce if needed. Most Cajun seasoning blends have salt, so you may not need to add any additional salt.
Add a few drops of liquid smoke.
Add the apple cider vinegar – this “lightens” and “brightens” the taste, much like lemon juice on black beans. Go slowly – some brands are stronger than others.
Add the cooked vegan sausage.
Cover and cook for at least 15 more minutes, or until the liquid has a gravy-like consistency and you can easily mash a few beans against the side of the pot. Mashing a few beans will help thicken the gravy even more.
Remove the bay leaves – or not. Mama used to leave them, and say whoever found one would have good luck. Don’t eat the leaves, though!
Serve over hot cooked rice.