Red Beans and Rice

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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

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  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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 42 Comments

  • Michelle Wolfley

    For those of you who say not to pre-soak the beans, remember that some us live in high elevations. You MUST pre-soak beans if you live in higher elevations, otherwise they never become edible, no matter how long they are cooked. I made pinto beans once with raw beans. I very carefully followed the recipe my daddy gave me and cooked them in the crockpot for 12 hours. In the end, when I poured them into the garbage, it sounded like a machine gun spraying bullets. They were still hard as pebbles. I agree with the longer cooking times to layer the flavors, but some of us still have to soak our beans, preferably overnight. Great recipe, Elise! I did omit the Worcestershire, and do most of my seasoning at the end of cooking. My friend from Louisiana gets homesick sometimes and knows he can request red beans and rice from this girl in Nebraska and feel comforted. I thank you for this blessing I can share!

  • 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?

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