Authentic Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

An authentic New Orleans red beans and rice recipe, from a Cajun! Creamy and velvety smooth red beans made with bacon, smoked ham, and smoky andouille sausage served over white rice. This Louisiana red beans and rice recipe is meaty, rich, and savory.

A bowl of red beans and rice topped with andouille sausage and green onions.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Growing up in New Orleans, this Cajun girl has eaten her fair share of red beans and rice. It just might be one of my favorite south Louisiana meals to cook and eat (besides gumbo)! Serve it with cornbread and smothered green beans on a Monday, and you can be an honorary New Orleanian. 

The simplicity of this dish is contrasted by the depth of flavor. It’s impressive how dried beans, smoked meats, and some veggies come together to make such an intensely flavorful dish. They are so savory and rich, with a creamy unctuousness from the pork. Red beans and rice is definitely a classic New Orleans comfort food. 

Traditionally in New Orleans, red beans were served on Monday. This was usually laundry day, and the pot of beans could be set to simmer on the stove while the washing was getting done. Making red beans on Monday also had the added benefit of using a leftover ham bone from Sunday dinner to flavor the beans.

Hundreds of years later, eating red beans and rice on a Monday is still an honored tradition in New Orleans. 

Recipe Quick Notes

TLDR: Ultra creamy and savory red beans and rice recipe, straight from a Cajun Louisiana native herself. 

Lauren’s Take: This is my version of authentic southern Louisiana red beans and rice. I think using 3 different meats (smoked sausage, bacon, and smoked ham) takes these beans to the next level of savory flavor. There is meat in every bite, and along with the rice, makes a very filling meal. 

Taste: Super savory, salty, and rich. Best served with something to balance the richness like a vinegar based hot sauce, pickled onions, chowchow, or a dash of red wine vinegar. 

Texture: Thick, creamy, and velvety. The beans melt in your mouth, and there is bacon, ham, and sausage in every bite. 

Time: A labor of love? Yes, but worth every minute. 2.5 hours of cook time, but only about 15 minutes of prep. Beans should soak at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Testing Notes: I’ve made these red beans many times with varying ingredients. Most smoked sausages will work just fine. I’ve made them with or without bacon, but using bacon and bacon grease makes them so much better. I’ve tested with and without a smoked ham hock and/or smoked ham. If using a ham hock, omit the smoked ham. Some prefer to serve smoked sausage on the side, but It has a better flavor if the beans get to simmer with the sausage.

Tips for the Best Red Beans

  1. Use a big sturdy pot. A heavy pot made from cast iron will heat evenly. A real Cajun will tell you beans should be made in a magnalite pot, but if you can’t get your hands on one, an enameled cast iron dutch oven at least a 6 quart capacity will do just fine. 
  2. Don’t skip the bacon! Bacon not only adds a delicious salty flavor, but gives you bacon grease – the perfect fat to sauté the holy trinity
  3. Don’t skip the sear. Searing the sausage before adding it to the beans adds an extra layer of flavor. Brown in batches if you need to. 
  4. Don’t salt until the end. The bacon and sausage should have enough salt to season the beans properly. If your beans do end up too salty, peel and quarter a potato and add it to the pot to simmer for a little while. The potato will help absorb some salt. 
  5. Thick vs brothy beans. Chefs will tell you properly cooked beans are cooked to just tender in a thin broth. This is not that kind of cheffy recipe. Authentic Louisiana red beans are meant to be thick and cooked down until they are melt-in-your-mouth and velvety smooth, not brothy. 
  6. Stir occasionally. Beans tend to stick to the pot once the liquid is low, so make sure to stir them occasionally, especially towards the end of cooking. Add a splash of broth and turn the heat lower if needed.
  7. Beans will thicken as they cool. If your beans get too thick, add a splash of broth to loosen them up. 
  8. Make a double batch. Red beans freeze really well, so make a big batch to freeze some for later. Just make sure you have a really big pot!

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients needed for Louisiana red beans and rice.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.

  • Dried red kidney beans – Will usually be found in a bag near the rice in the grocery store. Authentic red beans will use dried beans instead of canned beans. 
  • Bacon – Starting this recipe with bacon not only adds delicious salty bacon, but it also gives you bacon fat to sauté the holy trinity in. This adds a ton of flavor and a rich creaminess to your red beans. I like using thick cut, but any kind will work. Chop into small pieces. 
  • Smoked sausage – If you can get your hands on andouille sausage, that is great. Regular smoked sausage also works just as well. I like to do a mix of both when I can. Love andouille? Try Creamy Andouille Sausage Pasta.
  • The holy trinity – In cajun cooking, the holy trinity is the trio of onion, green bell pepper, and celery – a play on the French mirepoix. This is the basis for many South Louisiana recipes. Some also refer to garlic as the “pope”, an honorary member since it is also often used in addition. 
  • Chicken stock – Homemade chicken stock is the best! I like using a chicken broth concentrate too. It is like a paste you add water to to make a broth. 
  • Smoked ham – I like my red beans extra meaty, so I add in diced smoked ham as well. You can add leftover smoked or honey ham. Even better if you have a ham hock or tasso to throw in! 
  • Seasonings – I season these red beans with dried oregano, dried thyme, and bay leaves. You can add fresh thyme instead if you have it. Be careful with fresh oregano as it can be powerful and sometimes bitter. I also add a healthy dose of black pepper and cajun seasoning. 
  • Fresh herbs – It is best to add your fresh herbs in stages to get the best flavor! Fresh parsley and green onions is my favorite combination for red beans. You can use one or the other if you have to. 
  • White rice – Red beans are traditionally served over long grain white rice. Check out Perfectly Cooked White Rice for a tutorial for making perfect rice every time.

Equipment needed

Do You Have to Soak Red Beans Before Cooking?

Yes, it is best to soak dried kidney beans in water overnight before cooking them. This yields a creamier, more evenly cooked bean!

A debated topic, but in my opinion, you should soak the beans overnight, or at least 12 hours before cooking them. 

Dried kidney beans are very hard. Soaking them overnight helps them to soften as they absorb water. This makes the cooking process quicker. If you don’t soak the beans before cooking, they will take much longer to cook. This also means the longer you have to tend to a simmering pot on the stove, so soaking the beans overnight will actually save you active cooking time. 

As long as you are soaking the beans in clean cold water, you can leave them out at room temperature overnight. 

How to Make Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Red beans in a bowl after overnight soaking.

Step One: Soak

Cover red beans with 1-2 inches of water in a large bowl and soak them overnight. 

Red beans in a bowl with water soaking.

Step Two: Drain

The next day, drain and rinse the red beans. They should have almost double in size. 

Seared andouille sausage and crispy bacon on a paper towel lined plate.

Step Three: Sear

Cook chopped bacon until crispy and set aside. Sear the sausage in bacon fat until browned and set aside with the bacon. 

Sautéed holy trinity in a large pot.

Step Four: Sauté

Sauté the holy trinity in the leftover bacon and sausage grease until soft. Scrape up the browned bits on the pan as the vegetables cook. Add in garlic. 

Adding broth to a pot with red beans, ham, bacon, sausage, and seasonings.

Step Five: Simmer

Add bacon and sausage back to the pot along with soaked beans, chicken stock, ham, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered about 2 hours. 

Cajun red beans in a pot with a bay leaf.

Step Six: Remove

The beans are done when most of the liquid has reduced, and the beans are soft. Remove the bay leaves. 

Smashing red beans on the side of the pot.

Step Five: Smash

If you like your beans thicker, smash some of them against the side of the pot. 

Stirring parsley and green onions into red beans.

Step Six: Serve

Stir in remaining fresh herbs and serve these creamy red beans over white rice with a side of hot sauce!

Check out this post on making perfectly cooked fluffy white rice to pair with your red beans.

Storage & make ahead

Storage: Store leftover red beans separate from leftover rice in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 

Freeze: Red beans freeze really well. Cool and store in a freezer safe container in the freezer for up to 6 months. I like to store individual portions for easier reheating and an easy meal later!

Reheat: Red beans will reheat just fine in the microwave. You may need to add a splash of water or broth to loosen them up. 

Make ahead: This is the kind of dish that gets better with time, so feel free to make them a day in advance. If storing a large batch in the refrigerator, it is best to break it up into a few different containers. This will help the beans cool quicker in the refrigerator and stay less time in the danger zone

New Orleans red beans and rice in a bowl with hot sauce.

What to Serve With Cajun Red Beans and Rice

I polled a bunch of Cajuns to see what they serve with their red beans and rice. I compiled all their answers in What to Serve With Red Beans and Rice, but here is a quick summary!

Red beans are rich and meaty, so they benefit from an acidic ingredient for balance. A vinegar based hot sauce, like Crystal, works well for this. Not as common, but topping with a dash of red wine vinegar, Pickled Red Onions, or even Persillade makes the perfect acidic contrast! For dessert, try this Strawberry Dump Cake (it’s only 4 ingredients)!

Since these red beans are extra meaty and served over rice, they are really a whole meal themselves! Here are some side dish ideas if you need them. 

My favorite way to serve them – More beans than rice, a healthy dash of Crystal hot sauce, and lots and lots of chopped green onions. 

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Red beans and rice with andouille sausage, ham and bacon

Authentic Cajun Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Authentic New Orleans red beans and rice recipe, straight from a Cajun! Creamy and velvety smooth red beans made with andouille sausage served over white rice.
4.88 from 63 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Soak time 12 hours
Total Time 14 hours 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Cajun
Servings 8 servings
Calories 626 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • SOAK: The night before you want to cook, sort through beans and remove any stones. Add dry beans to a large bowl and cover with cold water by a few inches. Soak beans overnight. Before cooking, drain and rinse beans.
  • SEAR: Heat a large pot over medium heat. Cook chopped bacon until pieces are mostly crispy, about 10-15 min. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve some of the bacon grease in the pot. Sear sausage until browned on both sides, about 5-10 minutes. You may have to do this in 2 batches so it can brown properly. Set aside with the bacon.
  • SAUTÉ: Add onions, celery, and bell pepper and sauté while stirring until onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. Scrape up fond (browned bits on the bottom of the pot) as you go. Add garlic and cook until fragrant while stirring, about 1 minute more.
  • SIMMER: Add bacon and sausage back to the pot along with beans, chicken stock, ham, dried oregano, dried thyme, black pepper, half the parsley, and half the green onions. Stir to combine and add bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 2 hours until beans are tender, and liquid has reduced to desired thickness. Skim off any foam that arises to the top. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • SMASH: If you like thicker beans, smash some of the beans against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken. Remove bay leaves.
  • SEASON: Stir in the remaining green onions and parsley. Taste the beans and add cajun seasoning or salt and pepper as needed.
  • SERVE: Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve over rice topped with green onions and parsley. Top with hot sauce for heat. Add a dash of red wine vinegar or pickled onions for acidic balance.

Notes

  • Don’t salt until the end of cooking. The bacon and sausage should have enough salt to season the beans properly. If your beans do end up too salty, peel and quarter a potato and add it to the pot to simmer for a little while. The potato will help absorb some salt. 
  • Can substitute smoked ham for a smoked ham hock to simmer in with the beans.
  • Using ½ pound of smoked ham will result in extra meaty beans. If you want less meat, use ¼ pound or omit.
  • Soak beans for at least 12, up to 24 hours. You can leave soaking beans at room temperature for up to 24 hours as long as you are using plain water to soak them.
  • Try using Homemade Cajun Seasoning instead of store bought!
  • See perfectly cooked white rice for the best rice tutorial.
  • Storage: Store leftovers separate from rice in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Red beans freeze really well. Cool and store in a freezer safe container in the freezer for up to 6 months. 
  • Reheat: Red beans will reheat just fine in the microwave. You may need to add a splash of water or broth to loosen them up.
  • Make ahead: Red beans gets better with time, so feel free to make them a day in advance. If storing a large batch in the refrigerator, it is best to break it up into a few different containers. This will help the beans cool quicker in the refrigerator and stay less time in the danger zone

Nutrition

Calories: 626kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 34gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 1291mgPotassium: 1439mgFiber: 10gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 382IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 98mgIron: 6mg
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Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    My oh my, what a delectable dish. Pinned this one
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