How to Cook Great Rice and Beans
Have you ever noticed that some dishes can be found in almost every area of the world? They might go by different names or be spiced differently, but they are almost identical if you look beyond that. That's true for rice and beans.
An example of this is flatbread. Mexico has tortillas, and India has chapati. Go to Africa and find injera; visit Russia for blini, Malaysia for roti, and Greece for pita.
Most cultures also have some dumplings, "whether they be called ravioli or pot stickers or Jamaican patties," and some 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.
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 full of protein.
Other Names for Rice and Beans
A 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, 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, beans, and even different rice and spices.
For example, to make Mexican-inspired rice and beans, cook the rice in chicken stock and cook the beans with a bit of chorizo in beer and/or chicken broth seasoned with cumin and chili powder.
For an Indian-inspired dish, cook basmati rice with clove and cinnamon. Cook chickpeas with cubed potatoes and diced tomatoes in vegetable stock seasoned with curry powder.
Here is an easy recipe for rice and beans. Enjoy it the way it is written. Then, don't be afraid to change the ingredients to reflect a particular country's cuisine.
These recipes make a lot and will serve 6 - 8 people with leftovers depending on who is eating and what you serve them with.
Canned Bean Substitutions & Equivalencies
If you are in a hurry, you can substitute canned beans, although the results will differ. 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 ½ 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
- Chickpeas, great northern beans, and lima beans: 1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
- Lentils: 1 cup dried lentils = 3 cups cooked
You can check this page if you need help with your bean conversions.
Rice and Beans Recipe
- 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1½ lbs smoked sausage cut in ⅓ inch slices
- 1 lb dry red kidney beans
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 green bell peppers seeded and chopped
- Salt and black pepper - to taste
- Cajun seasoning such as Louisiana or Tone's, to taste
- Hot sauce such as Tabasco, to taste
- 1 beer optional
- 7 - 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- Hot cooked white rice
- Soak kidney beans in cold water overnight. Water should be at least 2 inches over the beans.
- Heat a large Dutch oven until hot. Pour in the oil and heat until it shimmers. Brown the smoked sausage and set aside.
- Add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan, if necessary, and over medium heat sweat onion, celery and green pepper until onions are translucent.
- Add the bay leaf and a heavy pinch of salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. Cook until onions start to color.
- Add the optional beer or about one cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Stir and cook to scrape off any bits stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
- Add enough stock to cover the beans by about 1 ½ inches.
- Add several shakes of hot sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about an hour. Add more liquid and turn down the heat if the liquid is reducing too quickly.
- Taste, and adjust seasonings. Return the smoked sausage to the beans and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until the beans are soft
- Mash some of the beans against the side of the pot to break them up and thicken the mixture.
- Taste again, and add more seasonings or hot sauce, as needed. Remove bay leaves.
- Serve over hot cooked rice. White is traditional, but brown rice adds a little more interest and fiber.