Red beans and rice recipe is a classic Southern comfort food, rich in flavor and nutrients. Made with red beans, rice, and smoked ham hocks, this dish offers a tasty, hearty meal perfect for any occasion.
This guide will walk you through the steps to prepare and cook red beans and rice and provide valuable tips and tricks for the best results.
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Authentic Southern Red Beans and Rice with Ham Hocks
Red beans and rice is a classic dish from Louisiana that can be made with ham hocks and Andouille sausage. It's a hearty, filling dish perfect for any time of year.
Red beans and rice are two of the world's most eaten foods. The type of Bean is high in protein, and rice is high in fiber, which combines the two main building blocks needed to be healthy.
Have you heard all the talk about bone broths and stocks lately? The amazing health benefits? We are using one today, Beef stock.
Or, you could use homemade chicken stock or even good old water.
Should You Soak the Red Beans Overnight?
When preparing red beans for a classic red beans and rice dish, the question of whether to soak the beans overnight is a common one. The answer depends on your schedule and preference for bean texture.
Benefits of Overnight Soaking:
- Reduced Cooking Time: Soaking beans overnight significantly reduces the cooking time. This is particularly useful if you're short on time the day you plan to cook the dish.
- Even Cooking: Soaked beans tend to cook more evenly, reducing the risk of having beans that are cooked on the outside but still hard on the inside.
- Improved Digestibility: Soaking beans can help to break down some of the complex sugars that can cause digestive discomfort, making the beans easier to digest.
- Quick Soak Method: If you forget to soak the beans overnight, you can use a quick soak method. This involves boiling the beans for a few minutes and then letting them soak for about an hour off the heat.
- No Soak Method: You can cook the beans without soaking, but this will increase the cooking time. The beans may also have a less even texture, but the flavor will still be robust.
Watch How To Make
How To Make Red Bean and Rice
First, the beans.
Are Red Beans and Kidney Beans the Same Thing?
Red beans and kidney beans, while similar in color, are not the same. They differ in several key aspects:
- Appearance and Size: Red beans are smaller, oval-shaped, and have a smoother, darker red appearance. Kidney beans are larger, kidney-shaped, and lighter in color.
- Texture and Taste: Red beans are known for their smoother texture and slightly sweeter taste, holding their shape well when cooked. Kidney beans have a meatier texture and a more robust, earthy flavor.
- Cooking Time: Red beans generally cook faster due to their smaller size and softer texture, whereas kidney beans require longer cooking times to become tender.
- Culinary Uses: Red beans are popular in Caribbean and Creole dishes like red beans and rice, while kidney beans are commonly used in hearty dishes like chili, stews, and soups.
- Dried Red Kidney Beans (1 pound): A staple legume known for its deep red color and kidney shape. High in protein, fiber, and various nutrients, they must be well-cooked to eliminate toxins.
- Smoked Ham Hocks (1.5 to 2 pounds): A cut from the lower leg of a pig, smoked for flavor. Adds a rich, meaty taste to dishes, commonly used in slow-cooked recipes.
- Andouille Sausage (1 link): A smoked sausage made using pork, originating from France. Known for its spicy and bold flavor, it is often used in Cajun cooking.
- Long-Grain White Rice (2 cups): A type of rice with long, slender grains. When cooked, it's light and fluffy, making it a versatile side dish.
- Water or Chicken Broth (4 cups): Used as a cooking liquid. Chicken broth adds more flavor compared to water and can enhance the overall taste of the dish.
- Vegetable Oil (1 tablespoon): A common cooking oil used for frying and sautéing. It has a neutral flavor and high smoke point.
- 🧅 Large Onion, chopped: Adds a sweet and aromatic flavor when cooked. A foundational ingredient in many savory dishes.
- Bell Pepper, chopped: Adds a sweet and slightly tangy flavor with a crisp texture. Comes in various colors, each with a slightly different taste.
- Celery Stalks, chopped (3): A vegetable with a crisp texture and astringent flavor. Often used in soufflés, stews, and salads.
- 🧄 Garlic, minced (4 cloves): Offers a strong, pungent flavor that mellows and sweetens upon cooking. A key ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.
- 🧂 Creole Seasoning (1 tablespoon): A blend of spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and herbs. It adds a robust and spicy flavor typical of Creole cuisine.
- 🍃 Bay Leaves (2): An aromatic leaf used to flavor soups, stews, and braises. It has a subtle eucalyptus-like flavor and is removed before serving.
- Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings used to enhance the flavor of foods.
- 🌿 Fresh Parsley, chopped (¼ cup): A herb with a fresh, slightly peppery taste. Often used as a garnish or to add a pop of color and flavor.
- Green Onions (Scallions), chopped (¼ cup): Offer a mild onion flavor with a crisp texture. Both the white and green parts are used in cooking.
- ♨️ Hot Sauce: A spicy condiment made from chili peppers. Optional, used for adding heat to dishes.
- 🧈 Butter or Beef Marrow Butter (1 tablespoon): Regular butter adds richness and flavor. Beef marrow butter, a by-product of making beef stock, imparts a deep, savory flavor.
What makes this recipe excellent is the consideration for each ingredient and how it is treated. The step is cooking the dried beans to perfection.
#1 Soaking the Dried Beans
- Rinse the dried red beans or select (kidney beans) in a colander under cold water, removing any stones or debris.
- In a large bowl, add the soaked beans and enough water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Soak the beans for 6-8 hours or overnight.
- After soaking, drain and rinse the beans, then set aside.
Time-saving tip: Use canned beans; rinse them off under cool water. (the key difference will be they cook into the dish much quicker, so avoid overcooking).
#2 Cooking the Rice
- Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer under cold water until the water runs clear.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and 4 cups of water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and set aside.
#3 Preparing the Ham Hocks
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Add the smoked ham hocks and cook, turning occasionally, until they are browned on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Remove them from the pot and set them aside.
#4 Cooking the Red Beans
- In the same pot, add the holy trinity, which is onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Stir in the soaked and drained kidney beans, browned hocks, Louisiana-style smoked sausage (Andouille Sausage ), creole seasoning / cajun seasoning, and bay leaves. Pour enough water into the pot to cover by about 2 inches, and cook beans to absorb the flavors.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed to keep the beans submerged.
- When the beans are tender, remove the ham hocks from the pot. Discard the bay leaves. Let the ham hocks cool slightly before removing the meat from the bones. Shred the meat and returned it to the pot.
- Season the cooked red beans with salt and pepper to taste.
You can always substitute with canned red beans (cooked kidney beans).
Serve the red beans over cooked rice, garnished with chopped fresh parsley and green onions. Offer hot sauce on the side for those who prefer an extra kick of spice. Red beans and rice pair well with a variety of dishes, including:
- Cornbread or crusty French bread, perfect for sopping up the flavorful sauce
- A simple green salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing
- Sautéed or steamed green vegetables, such as collard greens, green beans, or okra
- Fried plantains or sweet potatoes for a touch of natural sweetness
Properly storing your leftover red beans and rice will ensure it stays fresh and delicious for future meals.
Follow these steps to store your leftovers:
- Allow the red beans and rice to cool to room temperature.
- Separate the beans from the rice, storing them in separate airtight containers. This will prevent the rice from becoming soggy.
- Refrigerate the leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. They will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- To reheat, place the desired portion of beans in a saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. If the beans have thickened, you can add a splash of water or broth to thin the sauce. Warm the rice in a separate saucepan or in the microwave.
Variations and Substitutions
- If you don't have access to ham hocks, you can substitute smoked turkey legs or andouille sausage for a different smoky flavor.
- For a vegetarian version, omit the ham hocks and use vegetable broth instead of water. You can also add smoked paprika for a hint of smokiness.
- To add some heat, try including a diced jalapeño or a few dashes of cayenne pepper or habanero.
- Different rice options, like brown rice, basmati,
- For an authentic New Orleans experience, serve red beans and rice with ham hocks as a Monday night supper, a tradition dating back to the city's early days when laundry was done on Mondays, and a slow-cooking pot of beans provided a convenient meal.
- Turn your red beans and rice into a festive Mardi Gras dinner by adding colorful sliced bell peppers or a sprinkling of purple, green, and gold edible glitter on top of the dish.
- Create a Southern-themed dinner party by pairing red beans and rice with other regional favorites like gumbo, jambalaya, or shrimp and grits.
Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Ham Hocks
- 16 oz Kidney Beans
- 16 oz Small Red Beans
- 2 Smoked Hamhocks
- 1 medium Poblano or Bell Pepper (chopped) Or Bell Pepper
- 2 cups Beef Stock vegetable or chicken stock will work
- 2 Femur Beef Bones Cooked with the beans, adds a nice presentation with cross-cut femur bones to use for plating.
- 8 cups Water
- 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
- 1 large Onion (chopped) small dice
- 4 stalks Celery (chopped)
- 2 Cooked Rice Jasmine rice is classically used
Cooking The Beans
- Preparing the two types of beans: first, rinse the beans off under cold water and wash the vegetables.
- The vegetables need to be chopped to a small to medium size. They will get cooked down in size with the beans. Chop the vegetables to a size you enjoy thinking about the finished dish and mouth feel.Vegetables:In a small pot, sweat the vegetables with 3 tablespoons of butter and allow the vegetables to release their natural waters. To add a depth of flavor, cook the vegetables until they have browned nicely, to the point the vegetables begin to start to caramelize.Also, the browning of the butter is suggested before adding the vegetables. But be careful not to burn the butter. Butter has milk solids in it and they can ruin the dish with the flavor of burnt milk. To brown the butter: butter over medium heat in a small sauce pot until the butter smells nutty in aroma and becomes amber in color.Once the vegetables are cooked, then transfer them to a large stock pot and add the 2 types of rinsed beans.
- Then add the Hamhocks, Andouille sausage, Beef Bones, minced Garlic, Beef Stock and Water.2 Cups of Beef or Chicken Stock8 Cups of Water1 ½ pounds/ 12oz Andouille sausage (amount shown in image)Femur Bones - as many as are needed for plating1+ large Tablespoons of minced Garlic
- Tip: Our suggestion is to cook the beans with the ham hocks and the femur bones, then around the mid-cooking point remove half of the beans. Make sure to cover the removed beans with some of the cooking liquid, or risk the beans drying out. To finish, return the beans to the main cooking pot to rewarm before serving.Cook the beans for 3 to 4 hours on the stovetop partly covered so a small amount of liquid can escape. If you cook the beans for the entire 4-hours the beans will be very soft. Some people love them this way.Note: If you're using a bunch of beef femur bones, clean them beforehand. Boil them in a pot of water to remove impurities.
- After 2 plus hours, the beans will be soft to the touch. The longer cooking time is for the hammocks to soften and release the meat from the bone. Think of it like braising a pot roast. Longer is usually better in the way of softness. The beans become a natural thickening agent from releasing the natural starches.If you would like the dish to be thicker the trick is to smash a few of the beans against the side of the pot. The split beans will mix with the stock and water and thicken. This is a traditional method of thicking red beans and rice.
- Complete guide to cooking rice on the stovetop, using the Instant Pot, a Rice Cooker the Oven and a Microwave. The link is above the recipe card and in the Note section below.