I've always loved cooking the food of Louisiana, probably because New Orleans starved me when I visited it for the first time almost a decade and a half ago.
It was just a month or two after Katrina and half the city was somnolent as it stirred and recovered from the storm. But the vibrance was still around, and at night you could feel it on the city's hallowed Bourbon Street.
Residents and tourists rubbed shoulders as they packed the famous rue in the French Quarter to celebrate life and rebirth and music.
New Orleans is known for its famous chefs, and its restaurants owned by these famous chefs, and many of these were already open for business. It was a foodie's dream -- unless you happened to be vegan.
Everyone was busy making and offering gumbo and chili, jambalaya and red beans and rice, and po'boys and muffulettas, and all those other foods Louisiana -- and New Orleans -- are known for. But no one, at least at that time, was making them without seafood or meat.
So while Desi tucked into pecan crusted catfish and soft shell crabs, I ate green salads (which I almost-hate) and Middle Eastern food (which I love, but not every day for every meal).
Because I abhor the idea of not being able to eat something -- albeit not more than the idea of eating an animal -- over the years, I learned to cook up flavorful vegan versions of these famous foods. I especially love (and so do many of you) my meatless and fishless versions of gumbo and jambalaya. Today, I have for you another classic recipe from Louisiana, Dirty Rice.
Despite its rather odd name, Dirty Rice is a seriously tasty dish, and it's one that's also ridiculously easy to make. Huge bonus, it's utterly kid-friendly and, of course, available as a source of laughter at the dinner table (It's dirty, mom, and I like everything that's dirty).
The reason for that name, according to those who know more about the origins of Louisiana food than I do, is the fact that one of the ingredients in here in ground-up chicken livers, which give it a mud brown color.
Since we happily don't use chicken livers in a vegan kitchen, I had lots of other delicious options to add flavor to my Dirty Rice. In addition to the traditional ingredients -- the Louisiana "holy trinity" of onions, celery an bell peppers and rice -- I added in a dash of smoked paprika, a couple of dashes of liquid aminos (optional if you want to be soy-free) and a good amount of smoky sage.
For the sausage I used the Beyond Meat Italian sausage, which was really very good in here. But you can use any vegan sausage for an equally tasty result.
This dish comes together quite fast. You can cook the rice and the veggies simultaneously and all you need to do at the end is mix them together. It can all be done in under 30 minutes. Now that's a recipe to love, whether you're making it for a weeknight or a weekend.
Tips for making the best vegan Dirty Rice:
- My recipe is quite traditional, but to add flavor and smokiness to this recipe, I use a dash of smoked paprika and liquid aminos -- you can skip the aminos if you want a soy-free dish and just use salt. I also add a couple of tablespoons of chopped, fresh sage, which might sound like a lot, but it really isn't.
- You will need Cajun seasoning for this recipe, and it packs in an awful lot of "bam!" So use it.
- You can use bell peppers of any color, although I've always been partial to green because they taste more savory, and that's what I used. Also my sole green pepper plant has been producing fruit more willingly just before it goes belly up for the winter, and I got a final crop of about five good-sized peppers (I didn't use all in the recipe-- you need about three).
- Break up the sausage into smaller bits by hand or with a knife, before adding it to the recipe.
- Chop your vegetables fairy small -- you don't want huge chunks of veggies in there. It's always a good idea, in any recipe, to cut your veggies into approximately a similar size dice.
- You can make this dirty rice recipe with brown rice. Follow the instructions for cooking rice, but use 4 cups vegetable stock for the same quantity of rice. After the rice comes to a boil, cover and cook it over a low flame for 45 minutes.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Bell peppers (use any color, green are my preference)
- Vegan sausage
- Smoked paprika
- Liquid aminos
- Rice. Use a long-grain rice, like basmati
- Vegetable stock
- Cajun seasoning
Looking for more vegan rice recipes?
- Vegan Jambalaya
- Vegan Paella
- Persian Rice with Saffron
- Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
- Pumpkin Biryani Topped with Candied Cranberries
Vegan Dirty Rice Recipe
Vegan Dirty Rice
- Large saucepan with lid
- Smaller saucepan with lid for cooking rice
- 1.5 cups basmati rice (raw)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 3 stalks celery (finely diced)
- 3 green bell peppers (finely diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (smashed and minced)
- 2 tbsp sage (finely chopped)
- 14 oz vegan sausage (I used Beyond Meat, but any vegan sausage works here. Break it up into small bits by hand)
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp liquid aminos
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp parsley (chopped)
- Bring 2.5 cups of the vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan, add salt and ground black pepper to taste, and add the raw rice. Once the stock comes back to a boil, add the rice, cover, and cook for 8 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, in a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and sage, add a dash of salt and ground black pepper, and saute for about five minutes until the vegetables are soft but not colored. Add the sausage and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the smoked paprika and liquid aminos and stir well, then fold in the cooked rice, the remaining half cup of vegetable stock, and the Cajun seasoning. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Stir in the parsley and serve hot.
- To make this recipe with brown rice, use four cups of vegetable stock for the same quantity of rice, and let it cook 45 minutes over a low flame in a covered pot.