Red beans and rice can be a simple comfort food, relying on browned onions and meat for its main flavor, but I take it much further in the vegetarian version I share this week in my Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon. My favorite version of this quintessential Southern dish has a long ingredient list packed with flavor.
If you tend to believe that a recipe with more than a handful of ingredients is too complicated to make, look at this one again: You’re essentially dumping everything into a pot, cooking it, and serving it over steamed rice. And if you’re missing something on the list, you can pretty much cook the beans with as many of the ingredients as you do have and end up with a delicious meal.
There is one shortcut I use to shorten the ingredient list: If I’m cooking dried beans, I preseason them with many of the flavorings and then just add the final ingredients when I make the dish as a quick midweek meal.
Learn more about this dish and get the complete recipe for Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice in my column.
Twice as Tasty
To make my red beans and rice ingredient list look less daunting when I want a quick meal, I often add the base flavors to dried beans when I cook them. I use this seasoning technique for all types of beans, adding a range of flavors. My base recipe for Seasoned Pot Beans keeps the flavors simple so that I can eat them as is or use them in a wide range of dishes:
- Smashed Bean Pasta
- Vegetarian Baked Beans
- Taco Salad
- Black Bean Veggie Burgers
- Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice
Here, I’ve adapted that recipe so that it gives you the flavorings I enjoy specifically in Southern red beans. It makes about 4 cups of cooked beans, so you can double the size of the meal or stash the remaining beans in the fridge to use later in the week. You can even freeze the cooked, preseasoned beans in 2-cup portions in a freezer-proof bag or container for later meals.
When you use substitute Seasoned Red Beans for the cooked beans in my Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice, just use the following ingredients: Seasoned Red Beans, soy sauce to taste, tomatoes, bell pepper, and lime juice. The onion sautéed in olive oil is optional, although putting it in the final dish will give meal more texture.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main ingredients plus some aromatics and stock.
1. Soak the beans for up to 24 hours.
2. Sauté the vegetables.
3. Add all other ingredients and cook.
4. Enjoy as is or use in Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice.
Seasoned Red Beans
2 quarts cold water
8 ounces dry red beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium fresh or frozen grilled onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons dry basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 dried red chili, crumbled, or 1/4 teaspoon Home-Smoked Chili Paste
3 cups Vegetable Stock
In a stockpot, stir the salt into the water until dissolved. Briefly rinse the dried red beans in a colander under cold running water. Add them to the pot, cover with a lid, and let the beans soak for 6 to 24 hours.
Drain and rinse the beans through a colander, and then rinse and dry the pot. Add the olive oil and set the pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and slightly brown. Add the unpeeled garlic, bay leaf, basil, cumin, coriander, chili, and drained beans, and then pour in the stock, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the beans, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until tender.
Remove the beans from the heat and pull out the bay leaf and garlic cloves. Squeeze each garlic clove from its skin back into the pot, mashing it lightly with the back of a spoon. Let rest 5 minutes before serving or using; let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Makes about 4 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- If you’re using store-bought stock, check the label; it may be more heavily salted than you’d like and mean you should leave the soy sauce out of the final dish. If you use homemade stock with little to no salt, you may appreciate the umami of the soy sauce called for in the Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice recipe.
- You can cook these beans in an electric or stovetop pressure cooker to cut the cooking time down to 5–8 minutes, but you’ll likely have liquid to drain off since you won’t be letting the beans reduce in an open pot. Follow your pressure cooker’s instructions for the exact process and cooking times. If you double the recipe, be sure your pressure cooker is filled no more than halfway.
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