Having started my elementary school years at a Catholic school in Louisiana, there is something about the Lenten season that makes me crave Cajun foods. From steamy gumbo to crispy catfish, my mouth starts watering for these comforting, Creole morsels before the last bite of King Cake has been finished. Today I’m sharing a recipe for a meatless, budget-friendly (and diet-friendly) recipe that is perfect for Fridays during Lent, and just about everyday in between!
This Red Beans and (Brown) Rice dish requires a bit of prep work and advanced planning (the beans have to soak and boil briefly before you toss them into the slow cooker), but I can assure you that this recipe is still incredibly simple!
Now, you may be asking, why bother to boil the beans? After all, isn’t the point of a slow cooker to eliminate that pesky step?
Indeed, most dry beans can be tossed in a slow cooker and cook beautifully, but red kidney beans are a special case. Undercooked red beans contain a toxin, so you must boil them for at least 10 minutes before you put them in the slow cooker. Note: this is a prime example of why it’s important to get recipes from reputable sources that have been trained in food safety (such as yours truly)!
Once your beans have gotten a head start on the stove, the slow cooker will soften the beans and develop the flavors of the dish. The familiar southern aroma comes not only from the seasoning, but also from the onion, celery, and green bell peppers (the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun cuisine).
Rice is a namesake component of Red Beans and Rice, but feel free to get creative with your grain base. Personally, I think a combination of different whole grains (like barley, quinoa, and farro) would go really well with this recipe. In fact, I was planning to use barley (hulled, not pearled), but my local Whole Foods was out. This hearty, rib-sticking bowl is best served alongside a dark green vegetable, such as kale chips (like I used) or collard greens.
Slow Cooker Red Beans and (Brown) Rice
adapted from MyRecipes.com
- 1 pound dry red kidney beans
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning (I use 3 tbsp, but if cooking for young children, I recommend 2 tbsp)
- Optional: 7 oz Andouille sausage, sliced (I didn’t use sausage in the recipe today, to keep it budget-friendly and Lent-friendly, but I have used it in the past and it was delicious!)
- 2 cups uncooked brown rice (or other whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, or farro) for serving. This will make about 6 cups of cooked rice, which is enough for about eight ¾ cup servings.
- Soak the dry beans in a pot of water for five hours. Then, drain the soaking water and add fresh water to the bean pot. Bring to a full boil, and boil for at least 10 minutes. NOTE: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. RED KIDNEY BEANS CAN BE TOXIC IF UNDERCOOKED.
- Drain the boiling water from the beans. Then add beans and all other ingredients (including sausage, if using) to a slightly oiled slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 6 hours. Then remove the lid and cook on high for an additional 30 minutes. This will help it thicken up a bit.
- Before serving, prepare rice (or other whole grains, if using) according to package instructions. Two cups of uncooked brown rice will yield about six cups of rice, which is enough for eight 3/4 cup servings.
- Portion about ¾ cup red beans over about ¾ cup brown rice in a bowl.
Nutrition per serving (3/4 cup red beans over 3/4 cup brown rice, not including sausage): 390 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated fat), 18g protein, 76g carbohydrates (17g fiber, 3g sugar), 140mg sodium, 3% Vitamin A, 28% Vitamin C, 11% Calcium, 31% Iron