Twice as Tasty

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

My favorite twist on red beans and rice has a lengthy ingredient list but packs in so much flavor even meat lovers enjoy the meal

By Julie Laing
Red beans and rice. Photo by Julie Laing

With my Scandinavian and British Isle roots, red beans and rice wasn’t a family recipe. By the time I discovered this Southern dish, I’d already cut one of its key traditional ingredients (pork) from my diet. But as a budget-conscious college student and then an on-the-cheap traveler, I was an instant fan of the base ingredients – and the way I could spice them up with whatever leftovers were at hand.

I kept it simple when I wrote my first recipe for red beans and rice: “Dump it all in a pot (except the rice) and simmer.” Then I decided I could afford to be a little fancy, sautéing the onions and garlic first in the bean pot. Today, my original technique ultimately remains the same: Measure out the rice, get the bean mixture cooking and let it simmer until the rice is ready to eat.

My favorite twist on red beans and rice has a lengthy ingredient list but packs in so much flavor even meat lovers enjoy the meal. When I’m at home, I often start with dried beans and cook them with many of the seasonings. These preseasoned beans are then ready to turn into a quick weeknight meal. At home, I also reach for homegrown fresh or frozen vegetables, depending on the season.

This recipe is so simple that it’s a staple of my sailing menu too. The sailboat’s galley makes my tiny kitchen on land seem spacious. On the water, I rely on store-bought cans of beans and tomatoes and as many of the spices and other ingredients as I remembered to pack. In every variation, it’s delicious.

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

Serves 3-4

1 cup basmati rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 dried red chili, crumbled

2 cups cooked or 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, undrained

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 cup diced tomatoes

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

1/4 cup lime juice

Fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

Rinse the rice in a mesh colander under cold water, and then pour it into a small saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Dice the onion and sauté over medium heat for about five minutes, until soft. Stir in the garlic and chili, cooking for about 30 seconds, and then the beans, soy sauce and seasonings. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and lime juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. Serve the beans over or alongside the rice, sprinkled with cilantro if desired.

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