Make flavorful, smoky, savory authentic red beans and rice for dinner tonight! Seasoned with cajun spices, spicy andouille sausage, and smoked ham hocks, this classic New Orleans recipe is a filling, hearty meal right in its own right.
Creamy Cajun Red Beans and Rice on a Monday
Red beans and rice are an essential part of soul food, I can't imagine growing up without my mama simmering a pot of creamy red beans on the stove. Well, any beans, really. Beans are a big part of the cultures I grew up in.
But those red beans' roots come from New Orleans cuisine, as a Monday tradition where the history is as rich as the dish itself. Even Louis Armstrong would sign off as 'Red Beans and Ricely Yours', the love is strong here.
The ancestor of red beans and rice came to Louisiana with the Haitian Revolution around 1810, many freed and enslaved black and indigenous-mixed migrating from Haiti to the United States' east coast bringing diri ak pwa ( that's Haitian red beans and rice) with them...most profoundly having an impact on Louisiana and New Orleans, bringing the free black population percentage to 25% of all of the city's population by 1830. This brought the already French influenced Caribbean cooking from Haiti into the Creole culture.
The tradition of cooking red beans on a Monday came from the fact that Mondays were laundry day. and you could use the hot coals from heating up water for washing for cooking.
A heavy pot of red beans simmering with the leftover ham bone from Sunday dinner meant a lady could focus on scrubbing clothes because doing the wash was not an easy feat back then.
Authentic New Orleans red beans and rice, however, is easy and delicious to make. Tender beans, browned sausage, and savory ham hock stewing for a couple of hours, served over a mound of long grain white rice. What's more easy and delicious than that?
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- Creamy Cajun Red Beans and Rice on a Monday
- Why You'll Love these Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
- Ingredients for Authentic New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
- How to Soak the Beans (and Why?)
- How to Make Red Beans and Rice with Ham Hocks
- Variations and Substitutions
- Recipe Tips for the Best Red Beans
- What to Serve with Red Beans and Rice
- Storage and Reheating Instructions
- More Southern Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
Why You'll Love these Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
- Easy and Affordable Comfort Food - so much of Southern food comes from using what is available: a leftover ham bone, a couple of sausage links, dried beans. Cheap ingredients that make a filling, tasty meal!
- Minimal Fuss - honestly, besides checking on the pot every 30 minutes or so, this is a fuss-free recipe. No fancy techniques and no crazy ingredients.
- Notes for both Dry Beans and Canned Beans - I know some people have a couple of cans of beans waiting to be used instead, so I have instructions on both the dried beans and the canned beans versions.
Ingredients for Authentic New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
Full ingredients, measurements, and printable instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Vegetable Oil - any high smoke point oil works.
- Andouille Sausage - this is a spicy French smoked sausage that is a classic addition to red beans and rice. It will season the beans with its flavor infusing everything.
- Smoked Ham Hock - this is packed with flavor! Smoky, meaty pork shanks full of collagen and connective tissue. Other options: smoked turkey necks and turkey wings or salted pork instead.
- Canned or Dry Red Beans - I use small red beans, the ones that look a little similar to pinto beans, but many people use a mix of them and dried red kidney beans as well. And if you're using canned beans instead, you'll want to look in the notes section of my recipe card where we discuss the cooking time for them.
- Bell Pepper, Yellow Onion, and Celery - this is often called The Holy Trinity, the Creole version of the French Mirepoix. You'll find these three ingredients are the base of many Cajun and Creole recipes.
- Minced Garlic - I love using a garlic press, haven't minced garlic by hand in forever!
- Herbs - I used fresh thyme and bay leaves from my garden along with some dried sage, dried is perfect here. Use what you have, just remember that dried is more potent than fresh so you about half of the amount!
- Cajun Seasoning - this is a spicy blend of salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and other spices. It will bring the heat, so be ready for it. We use the brand Tony Chachere's but you can also make your own to control the spice levels.
- Chicken Broth - you can swap this for water, but the broth adds way more flavor.
- An Acid - red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used here. This acid is to cut through all those rich, savory, salty flavors.
- Salt and Black Pepper - add the salt at the end of cooking. After all that reducing and pork infusing and Cajun seasoning, your dish will be pretty seasoned so season to taste.
How to Soak the Beans (and Why?)
When using dry beans, you'll need to soak the beans overnight to soften them up enough to cook and make them easier to digest by breaking down their indigestible sugars, so there isn't any musical fruit for the dinner table.
Let's Soak Beans
An overnight soak is my preferred way because it's completely hands-free and easy. Pour cold water with about a tablespoon of kosher salt and soak for 10 hours. This salt water soak will help the beans become creamier and well-seasoned by changing the texture chemically while the beans soak in the salt.
Another way to soak them is by boiling water and then letting the dry beans soak for an hour or two. It's easy and great for those of us who end up with a sudden urge to have red beans and rice with dinner. I know I'm not the only one who gets those!
How to Make Red Beans and Rice with Ham Hocks
Step 1 | Soak beans overnight in a large bowl. Pour in enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches and salt the water (about 1 tablespoon per quart of water). Soak the beans in water overnight for at least 10 hours before draining them.
Step 2 | Brown the sliced sausage in the pot over medium-high heat. This isn't to cook the sausage, but to instead infuse the oil with the flavor by rendering some of the fat and flavoring from the meat.
Step 3 | Sauté the holy trinity veggies in our infused fats until the onions begin turning brown, then add the herbs and garlic to the sautéed vegetables at the last minute. Herbs and garlic are fat-soluble, so their flavors really bloom being cooked in the fat rather than in the chicken broth.
Step 4 | Now throw everything right into the pot. Add the beans, add the sausage, throw in those ham hocks, and pour in all the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer. Let the beans cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and smash some of the beans for really creamy red beans and rice.
Step 5 | When the beans are completely tender and the liquid is reduced, your pot of beans is done! Remove the ham hock...and if you're real southern you'll add the meat from the ham hock back in ;).
Step 6 | Serve the red beans over steamed white rice. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve with a dash of red pepper sauce or hot sauce!
Variations and Substitutions
- Fast Version of Red Beans - this version involves the canned beans. Pour the canned, drained beans into the pot and use 2 cups of broth. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the liquid reduces. I recommend smashing some of the beans while they cook to get that velvety texture. The ham hocks will not cook down til tender, so remove the ham hock before serving.
- Tomato Base - some family recipes have tomato sauce or tomato paste mixed in, which brings in some great umami flavor.
Recipe Tips for the Best Red Beans
- Let's talk texture - I keep saying the beans are creamy for a reason! The end result should have a soup/stew like texture, the cooking liquid becoming nappe (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). It should not be brothy at all.
- Spice level - andouille is a spicy sausage, and the cajun seasoning we're using is known for its heat. For a more mild dish, use a mild smoked sausage instead.
- Use a Heavy Bottom Pot - because we are cooking for so long, we want to use a pot that holds heat evenly and won't have a giant hot spot to burn our beans. A dutch oven is perfect for long cook times and easily available.
- If the pot is running out of liquid while it cooks, add additional water as needed.
What to Serve with Red Beans and Rice
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Store in Fridge: Take your leftover red beans into an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Everyone knows red beans and rice are even better the next day!
How to Freeze and Thaw: Put the cooled, room-temperature red beans into a gallon sized, freezer safe zip-top bag. Remove as much air as possible and flatten the bag of beans out, date and label them, then place it in the freezer. Your beans are good to go for up to 6 months!
Thaw the beans by placing them in the fridge overnight or thawing on the countertop for a few hours until the beans are soft.
Reheat: Put the leftover red beans into a saucepan with a good splash of chicken stock or a little water because the beans will be thick. Warm it up over medium low heat until it loosens up and is warmed through. Serve over some rice!
You can interchange red beans, which are small and red, and kidney beans for this recipe. Either one (or even both!) work beautifully in this recipe.
Long grain white rice is the classic for red beans and rice. You can use basmati, jasmine, or whatever rice you really enjoy.
Yes you can use canned beans! The beans will take only about 30-45 minutes to cook with half the amount of cooking liquid needed for dried beans.
More Southern Recipes
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Red Beans and Rice Recipe with Ham Hock
- 1 lb dried red beans
- Cold water for soaking beans
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt for soaking beans
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 12 ounces Andouille sausage sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion medium dice
- 2 ribs celery medium dice
- 1 bell pepper medium dice
- 2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Cooked white rice to serve
- Pour the dried beans into a large mixing bowl, then pour in enough water to cover the beans with 2 inches of water over them. Add the tablespoon of kosher salt and stir. Let the red beans soak for at least 8-10 hours.
- Drain the beans after they are done soaking.
- Pour the 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil into the large dutch oven and heat over medium high. Once hot, add the sliced andouille sausage and let cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sausage once they are a bit browned.
- Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to that pot and saute for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon of dried sage, 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning, 3 bay leaves, and 4 cloves of minced garlic, then saute for another 2 minutes, do not let the garlic burn.
- Pour in the drained red beans, chicken stock, ham hocks, browned sausage, and turn temperature up to medium-high to high, to bring everything to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer.
- Cook the beans for 2-2 ½ hours, until the beans are tender and the meat is falling off the bone of the ham hocks. Add the red wine vinegar half way through cooking and mash about ⅓ of the beans with the wooden spoon onto the side of the pot to help thicken the dish.
- Once the beans are done cooking, taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Pull the bay leaves and ham hocks out of the pot. Pull the meat from the ham hocks and put it back into the pot, discard the bones and the bay leaves.
- To serve, ladle the red beans, sausage, and ham hock meat into a bowl, then spoon rice over the beans.