My vegan Red Beans and Rice are a meatless but just-as-comforting version of this Louisiana comfort food classic. I'll show you how to pack in so much authentic taste and richness, you'll be licking your bowl. Soy-free and nut-free recipe, can be gluten-free.
The words, "Red Beans and Rice," conjure up a hearty bowl of deliciousness, no matter how much or how little you know about this quintessentially Lousiana recipe.
This is the best sort of comfort food with rather humble origins. The story goes that red beans and rice were made on Mondays by cooks in Lousiana looking for an easy, hands-off recipe that would use up leftover ingredients from Sunday supper, like beans, veggies and pork.
So you can see that traditionally, despite the promising name, this is not a vegan or vegetarian dish.
Versions of this recipe typically use ingredients like bacon, tasso (a pickled ham), and andouille sausage for flavor. Now that's a lot of meat in one dish, so veganizing it definitely requires some thoughtful substitution.
I often say this and it bears repeating, that when you veganize foods, don't just take out the non-vegan ingredients. Meat is a strong flavoring agent and it has that elusive umami. So if you just take the meat out your dish is going to taste flat-- unless you susbtitute intelligently.
I did quite a bit of research for this vegan red beans and rice recipe to make it as authentic and traditional as possible, and got some really good ideas from the experts at America's Test Kitchen (their recipe is not remotely vegan, though). In the end, I think I succeeded in creating a really delicious dish you will not miss the meat in.
What we love about this recipe
- It's as close to authentic as can be
- It's hearty
- It's filling
- It's nutritious.
- It's easy.
- It's true comfort food.
- It's delicious.
Tips for making the best vegan red beans and rice
- Use the small red beans that are typically used in Louisiana for making red beans and rice. I'll add an affiliate link in the recipe box, but these are the Camellia red beans and they cook up really creamy and delicious, exactly as you want them in this recipe.
- Brining the beans apparently helps keep them creamy and flavorful. If you have the time, soak the beans in salted water overnight. I quick-brined mine, meaning I brought the beans to a boil in salted water, then let them stand for an hour before using. It worked really well.
- Use a long grain rice like basmati where the grains remain separate after cooking and don't get all gummed up together. The rice needs to be washed in a colander until it runs clear, pretty much as you would cook it for most dishes. It's also quite plain, the only difference being that you'd saute it in a touch of butter, or vegan butter in this case, and salt the water.
- Start your red beans with the holy trinity of Lousiana cooking, onions, green bell peppers and celery, for the most flavor. Throw in some garlic.
- I used vegan sausage in my vegan red beans and rice recipe (if you're gluten-free, use a gf sausage). To make sure I got in the flavors of andouille sausage, I added ingredients that would commonly go into it, like fennel and allspice. The flavor of fennel works doubly well here because it is also somewhat close to that of sassafras, an herb used in the filé seasoning of Lousiana that sometimes finds its way into red beans and rice. I made a spice mix with the fennel, allspice, cumin for smokiness, onion powder, smoked paprika (a little, not a lot), paprika and cayenne. If you are particularly adventurous and like some heat, throw in a quarter of a scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely chopped.
- For umami, add a touch of liquid aminos/soy sauce/tamari. Any one is fine. You can leave it out if soy-free.
- For more umami, use a mushroom stock or, if you don't have it or can't make it or buy it, use vegetable stock or water. I make mushroom stock much as I would my vegetable stock, but I add mushrooms to it, especially mushrooms that are a bit past their peak freshness. Or you can make mushroom stock by reconstituting dry mushrooms. Place dry shiitake or any other dry mushroom in a bowl with four cups of hot water. Let them stand 20 minutes. You can chop up the mushrooms and add them to the recipe and use the stock in it as well.
- You will need to let the beans boil away for about 45 minutes until they're done. Then add in the sausage and let them cook a little longer for the flavors to permeate.
- A tip I learned from America's Test Kitchen was to add red wine vinegar to add a freshness to the recipe and substitute for the flavor of pickled pork, which is usually added to this dish. It makes a difference, so do use it. If you don't have red wine vinegar, use apple cider vinegar.
Can I make this recipe oil-free?
- Saute the onions, celery and green bell peppers in two tablespoons of vegetable stock.
- To make the rice, add the rice to a dry saucepan and saute until the grains start to get opaque, then add water and proceed.
- You can leave out the vegan sausage in this recipe and make it with just beans. Or add mushrooms along with the other veggies.
Vegan Red Beans and Rice Recipe
- Large stockpot
For the red beans:
- 1 pound small red kidney beans (2 cups)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
- 2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
- 1 medium green bell pepper (finely chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp thyme (use 2 tbsp if using fresh thyme)
- 1 tsp sage (use 1 tbsp if using fresh sage)
- 4 cups vegetable stock (mushroom stock is even better) + 4 cups water
- 13-14 oz vegan sausage (cut once lengthwise, then chopped into ½-cm pieces. Use a gf sausage if gluten-free)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari or liquid aminos. Leave out if soy-free)
- 1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- Salt to taste
- 4 scallions (white and green parts, chopped, for garnish)
For the red beans spice mix:
- Place all ingredients for the spice mix in a spice grinder or blender and make a powder. Set aside.
- To brine the beans, soak the beans overnight in water with 2 tsp salt stirred in. To quick-brine them, place them in a dutch oven or stockpot with water to cover by an inch and stir in 2 tsp salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and let the beans stand, covered, for an hour. Drain the beans before using them.
- Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers and bay leaves along with a good pinch of salt and saute until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the spice mix and saute a few seconds.
- Add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook, stirring, for another minutes.
- Add the drained beans to the stockpot, mix well, then add four cups of the stock and four cups of water. This may seem like a lot but the water will reduce as the beans cook up.
- Bring the beans to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat to about medium low or a point where the beans are still boiling vigorously. Cover the stockpot and let the beans cook 45 minutes to an hour, until nice and tender.
- Add the vegan sausage to the pot along with the soy sauce and a tablespoon of the vinegar. Return to a boil and again, lower heat to medium and let the beans continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until flavors have nicely merged.
- Add salt and the remaining vinegar. Mix well, turn off heat, and serve.
Make the rice:
- Wash the rice under running water until it runs clear.
- Place the butter in a saucepan. Once it's melted, add the rice and saute for a couple of minutes until it starts to turn opaque.
- Add 3 ½ cups of water to the rice and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and let the rice cook, undisturbed, for 16 minutes.
- Turn off the heat but don't open the lid. Let the rice stand another 10 minutes before opening and fluff grains with a fork.
- Place the rice in a bowl, ladle the red beans over, and garnish with scallions.