How to Cook Great Rice and Beans
Have you ever stopped to notice that there are some dishes that can be found in almost every area of the world? They might go by different names or be spiced differently, but if you look beyond that, they are almost identical.
An example of this is flat bread. Mexico has tortillas, India has chipati. Go to Africa and find injera; visit Russia for blini, Malaysia for roti and Greece for pita. Most cultures also have some sort of dumpling"”whether they be called ravioli or pot stickers or Jamaican patties"”and some sort of stew. Curry, coq au vin, beef Bourgignon, Hungarian goulash, bouillabaisse and gumbo, just to name a few.
The one I want to focus on is simple rice and beans. Rice and legumes are inexpensive to produce, are nutritious (the combination of beans and rice yields a complete protein) and can be stored for long periods of time. As a result, many cultures make their own versions of rice and bean dishes.
Also, since meat has historically been featured as a main dish only on special occasions, it only provides a background flavoring note, if it is present at all. This allowed the cook to stretch meat much farther and offer a less expensive meal that was still full of protein.
Other Names for Rice and BeansA sampling of other names for rice and bean dishes. Many recipes are available in ethnic cookbooks and on the Internet:
- Rice and Peas (Jamaican or Puerto Rican)
- Congri (Cuba)
- Moros y Cristianos (Cuba)
- Risi e bisi (Italy)
- Kao Ap Mu Tordang (Thailand)
- Alubias con Arroz (Spain)
- Arroz e Feijão (Brazil)
Rice and Beans Template
When considering making rice and beans, you might go and search for a particular recipe. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But, you might want to consider the dish as more of a recipe template than one stand alone recipe:
- Soak dried beans overnight
- Cook rice in liquid
- Cook onions and maybe some bacon (or similar) in fat and spices
- Add liquid and beans and simmer until tender.
- Add any other flavor components.
- Either stir cooked beans and rice together, or top rice with beans.
When looking at a particular dish as a recipe template, it frees you up to use different cooking liquids, different beans and even different types of rice and spices. For example, to make a Mexican-inspired rice and beans, you might cook the rice in chicken stock and cook the beans with a little chorizo in beer and/or chicken broth seasoned with cumin and chili powder.
For an Indian-inspired dish, cook basmati rice with a little clove and cinnamon. Cook chickpeas with cubed potatoes and diced tomatoes in vegetable stock seasoned with curry powder.
Here are two recipes for rice and beans. Enjoy them the way they are written. Then, don't be afraid to change the ingredients up to reflect a particular country's cuisine. These recipes make a lot and will serve 6 - 8 people with leftovers depending on whose doing the eating and what you are serving them with.
Canned Bean Substitutions & Equivalencies
If you are in a hurry, you can substitute canned beans although the results will be different. Some will say there is a huge difference, some will say not so much. I don't always remember to soak beans the night before so if in a hurry, I pull out a couple of cans of beans from the pantry and prepare this meal in under 1/2 hour.
Canned Beans to Cooked Beans
- 14 -16 oz can = 1.5 cups cooked beans
- 19 oz can = 2.25 cups cooked beans
- 28 oz can = 3 - 3.25 cups cooked beans
Dry Bean Yields After Cooking
- 1 pound dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans, drained
- 1 pound dry beans = 2 cups dry beans
- 1 cup dry beans (most kinds) = 2.5 cups cooked beans
- Chick peas, great northern beans, and lima beans: 1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
- Lentils: 1 cup dried lentils = 3 cups cooked