Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is the official Monday dish in New Orleans, found on that day in restaurants of almost every kind all over town. It’s also a good dish to serve on chilly days, of which we’re having quite a few lately. Although most people agree on the recipe, the trend in recent years–especially in restaurants–has been to make the sauce matrix much thicker than I remember growing up with. This version is the old (and, I think, better) style, with a looser sauce.

I have, however, added two wrinkles. One came from a radio listener, who advised that beans improve greatly when you add much more celery than the standard recipe calls for. That proved to be correct. Also, the herb summer savory (sometimes just called “savory” in the spice rack) adds a nice flavor complement. If you can’t find savory, use oregano, or just leave it out.

Red beans are classically served with smoked sausage, but they’re also great with fried chicken, oysters en brochette, or grilled ham. But the ultimate is chaurice–Creole hot sausage–grilled to order and transferred, along with all the dripping fat, atop the beans.

  • 1 lb. dried red beans
  • 1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 sprigs parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. savory
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water.

2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).

3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.

4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.

The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat.

Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.

Serves six to eight.

10 Readers Commented

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  1. E.J. on April 14, 2014


    • Tom Fitzmorris on May 3, 2014

      Of course! The red beans are cooked normally, with all your usual additives.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Bobby on July 17, 2014

    How big of a pot would be needed to cook 10 lbs of white beans?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 19, 2014

      I’m just guessing, but I’d say about a five-gallon pot. It might be easier to buy a few turkey roasting pans (the aluminum foil kind) and cook the beans in the oven.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  3. Parker on August 4, 2014

    Amazing that such a simple dish can have so many variations. I like plenty of pork. Pickled pork, smoked ham hock along with some sliced smoked sausage. If on hand I also like the addition of an 8oz can of tomato sauce which I read was attributed to Satchmo.

  4. Parker on August 4, 2014

    Also, I do not recall if it was Tom who I heard this from, but I have found that the flavor of the beans do not suffer when omitting the bell pepper.

  5. Manshp Smith on August 6, 2014

    In the past, I remember that bell pepper was ‘never’ used with red beans. Is this no longer true ?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on August 10, 2014

      You can put anything you want in red beans. But I do know that a lot of cooks dislike bell peppers in any form, which may explain this manifesto.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  6. David on February 5, 2015

    Hi Tom,
    I’ve been trying duplicate the red beans from Popeye’s (without much luck). I think I’m close but not close enough. Recently I learned that the late Warren LeRuth developed the actual recipe for Popeye’s red beans. Although, the recipe I found online from LeRuth’s Front Door/Back Door cookbook seemed overly simplified; just beans, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, ham, and smoke sausage. Can it really be that simple? Any advice or ideas?


    TOM SEZ: Puree a pack of Oscar Meyer wieners–the pork and turkey kind–and scrape the puree into a pot of simmering red beans (one pound of dried beans). Stir until the puree disappears. Sounds weird, but it works.

  7. Bill Fields on March 30, 2015

    Tom: I can’t seem to locate your 12 best red beans and rice restaurants. I know you had a list at one time but I lost it. Also, being a worry wart, I often wonder what will become of your recipes when you give up your website. I wish you could somehow make the list permanent, but still maintain a way to add new ones as we go along. I think it is a great resource.

    I may have done a top-12 red beans list in the past, but it was long ago and probably out of date. All my current top-12 lists can be found by going to the home page:

    then clicking in the main menu at the top of the page on Lists, then All Top-12 Lists.

    I’ll work up a new red bean list sometime soon. . . but you wouldn’t believe how many hours it takes to whip up these things. And it’s just me here.

    Tastefully yours,
    Tom Fitzmorris