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Mar 9, 2009 01:06 PM

Are your Red Beans & Rice thick like stew?

There have been a lot of Red Beans and Rice recipes floating around out there lately and I have noticed something about them. The photos look like the red beans are almost a stew consistency, very thick, laying on top of a bed of rice. Now I am not an expert on this meal, but I have a great recipe that I make that comes out with the red beans being looser than that. Not really soupy, but juicy, so that when you mix it with the rice it blends well. Like when you put the beans on top, the juices start to seep into the rice, not just lay on top of it. I'm not sure how to explain it. Could some of you Red Beans & Rice experts weigh in on this.


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  1. don't forget that nice slice of ham--- that is a big part of the whole experience. you made me hungry. Beans thick ir thin it really does not matter. either way is good.

    4 Replies
    1. re: miss margie

      I make mine with small chunks of sausage in the beans. I haven't used ham . . . yet! Is that a Louisiana thing or a version of? My recipe is from Louisiana.

      1. re: danhole you use andouille sausage? I have some mediocre grade in freezer that I need to use up...I'd made a creamy cajun chicken dish a few weeks back with it...I guess it would work in the beans...right?

        1. re: Val


          I would use the andouille sausage. I use what ever I have on hand actually, and instead of a slab of ham I use a hambone to make to beans. I had to go look at the recipe!

        2. re: danhole

          sausage for me! And yes mine is a little thinner where the juice soaks in the rice. I enjoy it that way. Got mine from a LA girl I worked with. Her mom used to make it. Never changed from her recipe. Simple and good.

      2. When I had red beans and rice in new orleans it was more like a stew. I'd also love to see a recipe that makes them in the New Orleans style I had. The version I had also had andouille.

        3 Replies
        1. re: michele cindy

          My red beans and rice is more like a stew, but that's partially because I mash the beans a little bit. It sits on top of the rice in photos (see <a href=""> here</a>) but can be mixed in. You can also add more liquid and it makes it soupier.

          1. re: Amuse Bouches

            The photo looks great. Can you post the recipe? For some reason, I get an error page when trying to find it.

            1. re: michele cindy

              Sorry -- here's the link.


              Recipe is:
              1 pound dried red beans that have been soaked in water overnight. (I used small red beans because I like the texture, but the more authentic recipe uses red kidney beans
              )1/4 cup dried parsley
              1/4 cup olive oil (original just calls for oil — I almost always use olive)
              1 tsp garlic
              1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
              2 tsp salt
              1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I get mine from Penzeys but you can use Emeril brand too.)
              1 Tbsp sugar
              1 chopped onion
              1 chopped bell pepper
              2-3 stalks celery, chopped
              Sausage (I used a chicken breakfast sausage here because it was economical and I’ve been feeding them to my kid, who loves them. I’ve also used smoked sausage, like cajun andouille or even kielbasa, in the past. If I use a smoked sausage, I usually slice it up and add it to the crockpot at the beginning of the day)
              FYI — the “Holy Trinity” of New Orleans cuisine is the aromatics of onion, green bell pepper and celery. (Contrast this with the equivalent in French cooking — mirepoix, which replaces the bell pepper with carrot. There, you’ve learned something). I used red because I like them better. It’s blasphemy, but the truth of the matter is that I’m from California. We do blasphemy well. Ask any red state.)

              After soaking the beans in water overnight, drain and rinse them. Put the beans in the crockpot with the vegetables, the seasonings (these can totally be adjusted to taste. In fact, I rarely measure. I just dump some in), and the oil. Add two cups of water, or for more flavor (though less frugality) beer or broth. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours. Before serving, mush it up in the pot to make the beans a little creamier (I like my potato masher for this), and brown some sausage on the stovetop and add it to the pot. Stir, and serve over rice.

        2. I shoot for the creamy sweet spot between runny and dry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka


            That's how I like it, too. Not too dry and not too runny. Creamy is a good way to describe it. When I had it in NO it was creamy not stew like.

            1. re: danhole


              As was mentioned above, when the beans start to really get soft, smash some of them against the wall of the pot. Stir them in for a nice creamy consistancy.


          2. Recipe seekers go to and for authentic recipes. Down here there are many opinions and variations on red beans. The few times I've eaten them in NOLA and here they have never been super-thick, there's always some juice in them, otherwise you'd have "refried" beans when you reheated them. I make them all the time at home, usually in a crockpot b/c it's so easy. My south Louisiana mom-in-law taught me how to make them, and she always added a tsp. of brown sugar.

            1. Just experiment by mashing some of the cooked beans until it has the thickness or creaminess that you want. The starch in the beans thicken the broth/liquid just like flour or cornstarch would.

              17 Replies
              1. re: sagestrat

                I actually have a recipe that I like, but have noticed a trend of people making it a very different way than what used to be a more traditional method. I was just asking people to weigh in. Kind of hoping that MakingSense would jump in on this!

                1. re: danhole

                  Lifelong Louisianian here, and you'll find as much diversity in red beans consistency as you will in gumbos. Everybody has a personal favorite....some like 'em thin, with distinct, separate beans. Others go for the mashed-up, creamy style. Ask 10 cooks from LA and you'll get 10 different ideas on consistency. In NOLA, pickled pork is preferred as red bean seasoning, though ham hocks, smoked sausage, and other forms of smoked pork are very, very common.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Thank you Celeste! I am of the mashed-up creamy style myself. I've never made it with pickled pork, but have used ham hocks, or as I said, used a hambone for flavor. But always add smoked sausage.

                  2. re: danhole

                    As Celeste says, Red Beans are very much an "As You Like It" dish among South Louisiana cooks. My family likes them "juicy" but not "too liquid." Certainly not soupy.
                    Everybody uses Camellia beans which make their own creamy gravy so there's no need to squish them against the side of the pot unless you really like that.
                    They are "starchy" so when they're cooked a day ahead, it's usually necessary to add some water when reheating because they tend to thicken up.
                    My maternal grandmother used pickled pork (commonly called "pickled meat") but that it fairly hard to find now and not very widely used except by real traditionalists. She was German so that may have been part of the reason she used it. It gave a slight vinegary tang to the beans.
                    Most people in New Orleans followed the old tradition of using ham - whether the bone, hock or just chunks which are sold in stores, so you don't have to buy an entire ham.
                    Remember the "Red Beans on Monday" tradition came from the Ham-on-Sunday-Laundry-on-Monday schedule in households. The use of sausage isn't in older cookbooks. When we had sausage, which was rare, it was always served on the side, after having been cooked separately, never in the beans.
                    My Cajun father grew up eating white beans, not red, in St. James Parish and some of my older friends tell me that white beans were more popular than red in many of the Parishes along the River outside of New Orleans. It's a white runner bean that grows well in South Louisiana.
                    White beans were de rigeur as an accompaniment to jambalaya. Great combo.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      White beans are still favored in south LA outside New Orleans, east of the Atchafalaya. The standard Friday plate lunch in said areas of the state is fried fish & white beans.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        "Everybody uses Camellia beans which make their own creamy gravy"
                        Coming home from the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Thansksgiving we brought 6 lbs Red Kidney Beans and 3 lbs Large Limas.

                        Personally, and red beans are a personal thing, I soak my beans overnight, drain, saute veggies, then add the beans and CHICKEN STOCK. Cook till creamy so that the beans and "sauce" will sit atop the rice, but can be stirred into the rice. I prefer to add my sausage to the bean pot in big enough pieces that you eat them with a knife and fork.

                        My first visit to Commander's Palace was in winter when Jamie was chef. I got the mixed grill. Other than the house made sausage I can't tell you what meats were served, but oh the beans, the plate was covered with a thick paste of the most delicious red beans, with wonderful meats on top.

                        1. re: AreBe

                          Do you fry the sausage separatedly before you add it to the bean pot?
                          At what point of the beans cooking process do you add the sausage, at the start or towards the end?

                          One last question how much sausage do you use for a pound of beans?

                          I have been using kielbasa or spanish sausage but I haven't found the ideal timing and/or sausage proportion ratio yet.

                          1. re: maria_nyc

                            Here's the recipe I use, after years of experimenting and trying different recipes, this is the best I've had.

                            RED BEANS AND RICE

                            2 lbs beans
                            2 large onions chopped
                            4 celery stalks chopped
                            6 bay leaves
                            24 drops Tabasco
                            1 tbls & 1 tsp Italian seasoning
                            1 Tbls creole seasoning
                            1 tsp onion powder
                            1 tsp garlic powder
                            1 tbls & 1 tsp Lea & perrins
                            2 tsp soy sauce
                            2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
                            20 cups of water

                            2-3 pounds ham seasoning
                            2-3 pounds regular smoked sausage (not even remotely flavored)

                            Soak beans and all ingredients (except for ham and sausage) covered in fridge for 24 hours.
                            When ready to cook add chopped up ham and sausage.
                            Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer for 1 hour. Then reduce to low simmer for 2-4 hours. Near end of cooking time, pull out some beans and smash them up, you will want to do this with about 40% of the beans.

                            1. re: roro1831

                              With apologies. I'm sure that you really like your recipe but it sure is far from the traditional healthy and economical original version.
                              That is an awful lot of meat. Four to six pounds for two pounds of beans?
                              That much meat takes Red Beans and Rice from a beans dish to a meat stew with beans, doesn't it?

                              This is the same difficulty that I've always had with Paul Prudhomme's recipe which calls for 3 1/3 to 4 pound s of ham hocks for 1 pound of beans.
                              I don't know cooks in Louisiana who used that much meat in beans - at least when I was growing up. Nor do recipes in older cookbooks ever call for anything close to that much.
                              Is this just part of the general pattern of moving to more-more-more in America?

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                I'm glad you stepped in here MS. I read the recipe and thought it was way off. I like some meat with my beans, not some beans with my meat. That also leads to the reason I posted this thread in the first place. It seems like the current trend (and I am sorry if I am sounding like a broken record here) is to make Red Beans and Rice come out more like a thick stew than what it is meant to be. Or should I say, what it is to me. I have a great recipe but hesitate to post it, because as you, and celeste, have said it really depends on your mama's recipes and where you are from. I am not from Louisiana, but luckily got to taste some really good LA food and have been hooked ever since.

                                1. re: danhole

                                  Yeah, this may be one of those examples of a " heritage food" that went astray when Cajun food became trendy and recipes hit mainstream and got altered by food writers around the country to suit general American preferences for more meat or the idea that Louisiana foods always included andouille or tasso or whatever.
                                  Even in New Orleans, restaurant versions were altered to suit tourists. Who wants to eat plain old beans when they're on vacation? Tourists want to try that famous local sausage, don't they? And the restaurants can charge more for the hyped-up version. Pretty soon even some of the locals started jazzing up their home-cooked Red Beans.
                                  My family complains, "Hey, Mom, there's too much ham in here," if I use too much, so I've got to be careful to keep it balanced.
                                  Balance, danhole, balance. But as you say, it's how your mama cooked it, so heritage has a lot to do with it.

                                  I remember the famous Red Bean years ago at Buster Holmes in New Orleans. The sausage, pork chops, or even a ham hock, was always served on the side for an extra charge. It was usually ordered by workers for whom that was their big meal of the day.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Well back home we don't use meat at all when preparing beans. However, I do like the Puerto Rican version which includes ham. Therefore, I started incorporating some pork sausage into my recipe (in lieu of ham). I usually do 1 pound of sausage to 1 pound of beans. However, I feel the sausage flavor is getting completely lost in the dish. Next time I'm going to incorporate some pork bones, in addition to the sausage meat, to remedy that. So I have to ask, what meat do you use, and in what proportion, so the flavor doesn't get lost in the final dish?

                                    1. re: maria_nyc

                                      I use ham, with some bone in it if I have that.
                                      When hams are on sale - as they should be in the next couple of weeks leading up to Easter - I buy one. I ask the butcher in the supermarket to cut through the bone every several inches. Most markets have a big band saw even today.
                                      I stick the ham pretty much back together loosely and bake it at 350 until it starts to brown on the outside and is heated well through. The drippings will start to brown. Baked ham makes better beans than plain "pre-cooked" ham straight from the store.
                                      Hot ham is dinner that night.
                                      Save the pan drippings and use those for beans the next day! That's the best pot of beans of all - the drippings and the haitch bone.

                                      The rest is cut into fist-sized chunks, wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen in a big ziplock.
                                      Then I have ham for lots and lots of pots of beans at a bargain price. The last ham I bought was only about 99 cents/lb.

                                      I use one or two of those (my) fist-sized chunks for a pound of beans. One of them will usually have some bone in it from the hock or another bone from the ham. It's probably 8 to 12 ounces. I doubt it's ever over a pound.
                                      My family prefers that proportion and complains if there's "too much ham.".

                                      Traditional New Orleans Red Beans are actually faintly sweet. The Camellia beans are very creamy and make a silky gravy. The ham is probably what makes them sweet.
                                      It's Monday, so that's what I had supper. Like always.

                                      1. re: maria_nyc

                                        I use, at various times, any of the following: pickled rib tips (or other pickled pork), andouille, ham hocks, bacon, smoked sausage, or tasso (my favorite).

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            Do you think I can get Camellia beans here in Houston? I cook the sausage on the side but then mix into the beans and let it simmer with them to soak up some of the flavor. I certainly don't want soupy, but I don't want them too thick. My first taste of them was back in 1970 when we first moved back to Houston, from Indiana. Our neighbors were a couple from Louisiana. They had very thick french/cajun accents, and she sort of adopted me (I was 13) which meant she fed me! She served me a bowl that almost looked like a bean chili, on rice, with a nice kick to it. It was creamy, juicy and great. Took me years to find a recipe that came close to hers. She introduced me to all kinds of cajun foods, and was so tickled that I scarfed down whatever she put in front of me. I was one lucky girl.

                            1. re: danhole

                              How lucky you were to have such a sweet neighbor. Mrs. Stine, our landlady, would make me PB&J and kiss me on top of my head - maybe because I had dirt and PB&J everywhere else.

                              Houston is so close to Louisiana, and so many New Orleanians moved there 3-1/2 years ago, that one could expect to find those Camellia beans all over your town. Happy hunting. Here's a link to Camellia's website, and a picture of the bag.

                              1. re: danhole

                                Ta-da!!! Here are the indispensable Camellia Red Beans by mail order!
                                The One True Bean for the Real New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.

                                Geez, I hate to use "authentic" on CH because I know how that gets folks going, but in this case, it's the Gospel TRUTH.
                                I think these are red runner beans, different from kidney beans, but I'm a cook, not a botanist.
                                The only beans I have ever found that make their own proper "gravy."