Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice

Susan S. Johnson

This vegetarian – and vegan! – red beans and rice recipe checks all the boxes. Cozy and comforting? Check. Hearty and healthy? Check. Just about the cheapest dinner recipe around? Big ‘ol check.

I don’t know about you, but grocery bills have been causing me physical pain lately. $8 for a dozen eggs?! Seriously – ouch.

So I’ve been leaning more into budget-friendly recipes, and red beans from scratch have been my fave. I started with this NYT Red Beans & Rice recipe, swapping out the meat and swapping in flavor in other ways, tweaking the recipe until I thought it was just right.

I make these vegetarian red beans and rice every other Monday or so and we enjoy a heap of beans and rice for dinner and lunch the next day. But wait, there’s more! THEN into the freezer goes the remainder for several more meals down the road. And the entire thing costs, what, $7 total to make, if that? Such a winner.

It’s not just about budget, though. This vegetarian red beans and rice recipe makes for beans that are seriously crave-worthy, with a smoky depth that truly rivals any meaty counterpart.

So how do we get all that flavor – particularly, that mouthwatering smokiness – with none of the meat? Well, stay tuned for the full list. But I have to give a special call-out to the #1 magic ingredient, smoked paprika. Made from pimenton peppers smoked over oak, I’m a firm believer that this ingredient belongs in every vegetarian and vegan’s pantry. Smoked paprika lends that heavy hit of smokiness that can usually only be found in meat products, and it’s glorious.

Here’s what else we’ve got:

Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice Ingredients

  • Dried red beans – a full pound to feed a crowd or meal-prep up your life.
  • Smoked paprika – I’ve already sung its praises, but seriously: deep, smoky heaven right here.
  • Cayenne pepper – Just a bit for the tiniest hit of heat. Of course, if you’re a heat seeker, load up.
  • Onions, celery, and green bell pepper – the holy trinity of Cajun and Creole cooking.
  • Garlic – lots of it.
  • Dried basil, rubbed sage, and a bay leaf – for more flavor-amping action.
  • Scallions and parsley – added at the end for color, and of course, flavor.
  • White long-grain rice – the perfect carby counterpart to your protein- and fiber-rich beans.

(Keep scrolling for the full, printable recipe.)

How to Make Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice

The full recipe is just below, but in a nutshell, just know that it’s not super fast process. TOTALLY WORTH IT THOUGH. And it is mostly hands-off.

The basic steps are:

  • Soak your beans – overnight or using the fast-soak method.
  • Cook up your aromatic veggies and spices, then add the soaked beans and water.
  • Cook! It usually takes just under an hour. While the beans are cooking, prepare the rice.
  • Once the beans are just about done, pull out a cup of beans, mash them, and add them back into the pot for some creaminess.
  • Add scallions, parsley, and the perfect amount of salt.
  • Serve with rice and, of course, enjoy your frugal and unbelievably delicious meal.

Here’s the full, printable recipe!

Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice

This budget-friendly, uber-hearty recipe takes the New Orleans classic and removes the meat – but not the flavor. The ultimate vegan and vegetarian comfort food meal!

  • 1 pound dried red beans
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 each medium yellow onions (diced)
  • 6 each medium garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 medium green bell pepper (diced)
  • 2 medium ribs celery (diced)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups water
  • 2-3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cups cooked long-grain white rice (This is if you’re serving all the beans at once – otherwise, you may want to make less rice. My rule of thumb is about 3/4 cup of rice per serving.)

Toppings

  • Diced scallions
  • Chopped parsley
  • Sour cream or vegan sour cream

Soak beans.

  • Rinse and pick through dried beans, pulling out any broken beans or debris. To soak, you can use one of two methods. Overnight method: Add beans to a large pot or bowl and fill with water to about 2 inches above the beans. Let sit overnight. Drain water. Quick-soak method: Add beans to a 4.5-quart or larger pot. Fill with water to about 2 inches above the beans. Set over high heat and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for one hour. Drain water.

Cook beans.

  • To a 4.5-quart or larger pot, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, 8-10 minutes.

  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil along with the garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne, basil, sage, and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.

  • Add the bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.

  • Add the beans along with the bay leaf and 8 cups of water.

  • Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until beans are tender, 45 minutes to an hour. To check to see if the beans are done, I do two things: 1. Pull a couple of beans out and blow on it. If the skin peels, they’re done or very close to it. 2. Taste test three or four beans – if they’re all tender and not hard in the middle, they’re done!

  • Turn off heat. Pull out one cup of beans and add to a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the beans then return to the pot and stir to incorporate.

  • Stir in the scallions, parsley, and salt. I like things on the salty side, so I start with 2 teaspoons of salt, then taste and usually add one or two more until it’s just right. If you’re not sure, start with 1 teaspoon and go from there. If you don’t think your beans have enough flavor, keep going!

  • Let beans sit off-heat for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve!

  • Add beans to a bowl along with a scoop of rice. Top with scallions, parsley, and a dollop of sour cream or vegan sour cream if you like.

Prep leftovers.

  • We usually throw a couple of servings of beans and rice in the fridge for lunch the next day, then freeze the rest. You can place a couple of servings at a time in a freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and flatten to freeze, or use your favorite freezer containers. I usually just freeze the beans and make the rice fresh. It’s so convenient to have a quick meal ready to thaw, heat, and eat for busy days!

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 413kcal, Carbohydrates: 69g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Sodium: 603mg, Potassium: 860mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 321IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 74mg, Iron: 4mg

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