Red Beans and Rice is a delicious main dish idea and one of the most loved foods in Cajun cuisine. While this recipe follows the “Cajun” way of making this popular dish, there are many other ways in which you can enjoy beans and rice, depending on the cuisine type! It's a great dish that goes a long way and is also low cost.
Scroll down to get this easy slow cooker recipe. It's perfect for any time of year, but we love it to warm up cold winter evenings with! You can also enjoy it for Mardi Gras!
Spicy Red Beans and Rice
This recipe is your typical Cajun or Creole type cuisine. There are important differences between the two, much of which has to do with where the recipes originated from. This recipe is a basic beans and rice dish and has the main southern Louisiana flavors we know and love.
The history of red beans and rice goes back to days in which ham was traditionally prepared for Sunday dinner. Ham is, of course, a low cost protein that goes a long way for larger families. It was a typical larger dinner served with other veggies and sides. As most families do, leftovers were used up and not wasted. Any leftover ham and the ham bone used was then repurposed for Monday dinner: Red Beans and Rice.
The nice thing about using cooked ham is that it has all the flavor but no definite cooking time. You can just allow it to simmer with the rest of your ingredients and you will have a delicious meal ready. It's something you can prep in the middle of the afternoon, right before or after lunch, or before you head into the office for the day.
Protein to Serve with Red Beans and Rice
While the traditional meal involves ham, you can actually substitute any protein you prefer. You can make it with Cajun sausage as pictured above. This allows you to still be able to use a fully cooked protein, and just let the slow cooker simmer without worrying about cooking time. Link sausage is still fairly affordable compared to other proteins if your budget is tight and you're looking for low cost meal ideas.
Using pre-cooked ham:
I have actually used smoked ham leftover from Easter for this meal. It works just as well and if anything, the smoky flavor adds to it! Don't be afraid to use leftovers that may have other flavoring. Remember if you're using a smoked ham, there may be some sugar glazing on the edges. I prefer to just trim that off, so it doesn't affect the saltiness of my Red Beans and Rice. It's up to you, however.
The lovely thing about cooking with beans and lentils is that they do work for a meatless meal. If you're thinking of making this meatless, just be sure to add in enough spice to flavor your beans. When using ham or sausage, some of the flavoring of the meal comes from the meat. You can opt to add in other vegetables, or just be generous with your Cajun seasoning! There are also plenty of plant-based sausages on the market, so if you can't skip it, we recommend adding that in place of the traditional pork sausage.
How to Make:
When starting your red beans and rice, you can optionally used canned beans or rinsed raw beans. The raw or uncooked beans in the bag are extremely economical. You can also find these in bulk. If you do use them, ensure you allow yourself enough time to let them cook completely. Overcooking in the slow cooker is not usually a concern.
After you prepare and clean your beans, start sautéing your vegetables in a separate skillet. This step is not required but does bring out the flavors more! You will add your bell pepper, celery, and onion to the skillet with butter and allow them to sauté until glossy and sweating. Turn off heat and add all the vegetables into the slow cooker.
Add your other ingredients and place the lid on the slow cooker. This recipe takes 5-7 hours, but I always find I prefer my beans more on the “cooked” side. So allow 7 hours and then some additional prep time for right before you plan to serve the beans.
About an hour before serving, remove about 1/2 cup of the hot beans into a small bowl. Mash these beans up with the back of a fork or spoon thoroughly. Return them into the slow cooker and stir. The reason for doing this is to release the starches within the beans themselves. It will thicken up your sauce and also add flavor, so don't skip this step! When serving, some prefer more “sauce” served with their beans and some not at all. My kids never really wanted any of the sauce– just plain ol' beans, thank you!
Serving With Rice
The only important point here is to not mix your rice into the beans before serving. Unfortunately this can actually ruin your meal! The starches in the beans will add to the rice and make it a mushy mess. So, cook rice separately and serve together. You can use your Instant Pot for rice, or just warm up pre-cooked rice in the microwave!
To save even more time, I have used rice that I had in my freezer! Recipe below. If you don't like spicy food, like me, you may want to cut back a little on the Tony's Seasoning. Or if you do like spice, throw in a little extra! This is one of those meals you can really throw in any vegetables you need to use up.
If you have an extra carrot or jalapeno pepper, toss it in! The flavors you can add are totally up to you. Print your recipe below and hope you enjoy this delicious recipe!
Celebrating Mardi Gras? Enjoy this Sheet Pan Low Country Boil at home!
- 1 pound uncooked red beans or 4 cans of red beans, drained
- 7 cups water
- 2 cans 22 oz. chicken broth
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs. cooked Cajun sausage or Leftover Ham
- 2 Tablespoons Tony's Original Creole Seasoning
Rinse the beans thoroughly and be sure to check for any bad ones. Pour into the crock pot.
Dice veggies on a cutting board into uniform size. In a separate saute pan, heat the bell pepper, celery, onion along with 1 Tablespoon of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Let the vegeteables heat until glossy and beginning to be tender. Then, immediately add to the slow cooker and beans.
Add the water, chicken broth, sausage or your preferred meat, Bay Leaves, and seasoning to the crock pot.
Cook on high for 5-7 hours.
One hour before cook time is finished, remove 1/2 cup cooked beans and place into a small bowl. With the back of a spoon or fork, mash the beans up thoroughly. Return them to the pot and stir. Resume cooking.
Prior to serving, ensure Bay Leaf is removed and stir mixture. The cooking liquid should be opaqe and seasoned. Taste the cooking liquid, add more salt if necessary.
Serve over freshly cooked Jasmine rice, optionally add cooking liquid for flavor.
Always cook rice separately!
Amount Per Serving Calories 663Total Fat 35gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 88mgSodium 3118mgCarbohydrates 51gFiber 13gSugar 5gProtein 38g