Red Beans and Rice

A Southern classic, red beans cooked with smoked shanks, onions, celery, bell peppers, and spices, served over rice.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Something tells me we’re not the only ones who get excited over beans and rice. Do you? Rarely a week goes by that we don’t have beans of some sort or another, and my mother’s chili beans with rice are a staple around here.

My father found a recipe in our local grocery store (Raley’s) circular for a Cajun red beans and rice using smoked pork shanks. Given my dad’s love affair with all things pork, he couldn’t wait to make it. Traditional Louisiana red beans and rice also uses Andouille sausage which we did not add, but you could if you wanted. There was plenty of flavor, and plenty of meat, with the smoked shanks.

Red Beans and Rice Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8

If you have access to ham hocks and not shanks, you may want to make up the difference in meat (hocks have much less meat) with sausage. Just take 1/2 pound of Andouille sausage, slice, brown first before adding to the beans with the ham shanks. If you do not eat pork, you might try making this with smoked turkey sausage, in which case I would replace some of the water with chicken stock.


  • 1 lb dry small red beans
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs meaty ham shanks
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Cajun or Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's or Zatarains) or to taste*
  • Tabasco sauce**
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked white rice (from about 3 cups raw rice)

*If you don't have access to packaged seasoning, just skip it and add some thyme (fresh or dried), a bay leaf (in with the beans and shanks in step 2), and a little paprika
**We used a combo of Chipotle Tabasco sauce and regular Tabasco, could also use cayenne pepper


1 Place dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with cold water by a couple of inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. (You can quick soak them by putting them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them, covering them by 2 inches, then letting them soak for two hours.) Drain.

2 Place beans, ham shanks, garlic, chopped onion, and water in a large (8-quart) pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

3 Remove ham shanks from the pot to a dish. Let cool slightly then shred the meat away from the bones. Return the meat back to the pot. Add the celery, bell peppers, Worcestershire and seasonings. Cover and cook for another hour or until the mixture gets thick. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper.

Serve over rice.

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Recipe adapted from "Something Extra", winter 2009 issue, Raley's and Bel Air Markets.

Showing 4 of 41 Comments

  • nonney

    No No and No’!!!
    No Worcestershire!! (where’s that from?)
    No cajun spices- that’s just salt and fake flavorings!
    No tabasco – until after you plate it.
    You MUST cook the seasonings FIRST!! Do Not Throw Them In the Water with the Hamhocks. That is 100% a sign of someone not fron Lousiana and round here, that would be considered Crazy Talking … lol. Saute them in olive oil or butter first! This locks in the flavors. People put all those unnatural saltly spices in food when they dont have time to develop the layers of flavorings. Unless you like heat, add Tabasco. Soaking the beans overnight just makes them cook faster. Drain out that water. Start with new water. What people get wrong all the time with cajun food is they over spice it with heat. I grew up in NOLA & Red Beans. It’s flavorful but not hot.
    I put in 1/4 cup of Olive Oil (makes them creamy) and tons and tons of dry Italian seasonings (the more the better) in addition to the above freash seasonings. We eat it with brown rice to make it healthier, but traditionally it’s white rice.

  • Barry Begault

    As far as tomatoes in red beans, our family recipe calls for a 8 0z can of tomato sauce. Lots of New Orleanians put catsup in their beans. We have always used tomato sauce.
    Most of the recipes for red beans are fairly standard. I probably put more garlic and celery in mine that most. I also chop my veggies a little courser since the kids have grown up. I like the crunch of the veggies.

  • !Queen

    This recipe with ham hocks is the absolute bomb!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dave

    tomatoes vs no tomatoes?

    This seems like one of the main divisions for red beans and rice. I’m not from Louisiana but it seems to me from researching is that that tomatoes are an often used ingredient in Creole cooking compared to Cajun where its use was traditionally more sparingly. Since red beans are a Creole dish wouldn’t tomatoes be acceptable? Secondly, as red beans are a home spun recipe wouldn’t the ingredients list differ from household to household including whether or not to use tomatoes? Also in the olden days it would have depended on the season and whether tomatoes were readily available. No?


    Well, if you’re from New Orleans, Mondays are Red Beans and Rice days. Every Monday, every kitchen in New Orleans and suburbia has a pot of beans cooking. I have to say, I make one of the best dishes of RB&R ever! Its easy, and you don’t need a lot of spices, You don’t need to soak them, either. Here goes: 1lb Red Kidney Beans (has to be Kidney Beans, Camilla brand is the best), In a large pot of water with about 8 to 10 cups of water and a little salt, boil over a high heat. Boil for a couple of hours. Keep adding water as it evaporates, keeping about the same amount at all times. Chop an onion, a tablespoon or garlic, about three to four stalks of celery, and 1/2 lb bacon. Cook bacon in a fry pan until its done, not crispy, but where you can see through the fatty part. To that, add the onion, celery, garlic and sautee together until the onions are transparent. Slice up some Eckerage Keilbasa smoked sausage into little discs and add to the fry pan. Cook this together with the rest until the sausages get hot. Dump everything into the pot of beans. Add to that three Bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 2 to 3 more hours. They get better and better the longer you cook them. You’ll see the beans breaking down and the “water” will be a nice creamy sauce. Cook your rice (Jassmine is my favorite), Serve the Red Beans over the rice, scooping up the smoked sausages as many as you want. THAT’S THE WAY TO MAKE IT. ITS EASY! JUST DON’T LET IT BURN, SO KEEP STIRRING AND MAKE SURE YOU’VE GOT WATER IN THERE. YOU WON’T HAVE TO PUT ANYMORE WATER AFTER YOU ADD THE SEASONINGS. ENJOY!!!

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