The Big Easy — New Orleans Red Beans and Rice in the Crockpot

March 2009 186

Few dishes are as strongly associated with one city as Red Beans and Rice is with New Orleans. Louis Armstrong reportedly signed all of his letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours” in a nod to his hometown, where red beans and rice is a traditional Monday dish. And it’s no wonder that Red Beans and Rice are a signature dish of the Big Easy — they are easy to prepare, easy to afford, and easy to eat. Just a few ingredients — beans, some vegetables, a few spices — are transformed. It may not LOOK like much, but it tastes just dandy.

The simplicity, of course, made it perfect for my week of low budget meals. Dried beans are inexpensive, the vegetables are staples, and I have a well stocked spice cabinet. This is also a dish that is regularly in rotation in my household, because it cooks best in the crockpot. And if you are a working mother (or working anything, frankly), the crockpot should be your friend.

My recipe comes from my friend Betsy, who is a real, honest to goodness, native of New Orleans. OK, the New Orleans vicinity. But she’s the real thing. She’s also sweet, funny, and a great cook, though she’d probably be the first to deny it. I made a couple of changes in this week’s rendition, but I’ll make notes on the original.

You’ll need the following ingredients:
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New Orleans Red Beans and Rice in the Crockpot
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 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)
  • ¼ cup dried parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil (original just calls for oil -- I almost always use olive)
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • ¼ 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)
  1. 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.
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.)


What I love about this recipe: Dinner’s made when I get home, it stays good if you leave it in the crockpot on “warm” (in the event that your husband walks in the door starving at 9:30 p.m.), it’s good for lunches the next day and it freezes well.

But really, if it’s good enough for Satchmo, it’s good enough for me.

March 2009 188

6 comments to The Big Easy — New Orleans Red Beans and Rice in the Crockpot

  • Katie

    I don’t have a crockpot. I know…I know…but there’s no counter space left, thanks to the coffeemaker, the grinder, the toaster, the microwave, and the all-important Kitchen Aid.

    So, if I were to make this in my handy dutch oven, would I just saute the herbs/vegetables, throw in the beans and broth, and cook for a couple of hours?

  • Kate

    If you don’t have a crockpot, I would put everything in the dutch oven (and it’s really up to you whether you saute the vegetables, but it would be a nice addition), add additional water (probably 1/2 cup) cover, and cook in a low oven (300 degrees) for 3-4 hours. I like ovens better than the stove because the heat is more indirect. Try it and let me know how it works!

  • That looks really tasty!

  • This looks good. I have not made red beans and rice because I thought the reason they made in in New Orleans was because they had stock left over from a Sunday ham, which I never have.

    So I am going to try this, but is dried parsley absolutely necessary?

    I NEVER have dried parsley in the house

  • Michael Pheneger

    We tried this last evening from the crockpot that had been cooking this all day (mymouth watered all day from the aroma). It certainly took a spot at the top of my crockpot list. Bravo!

  • lAURA

    How I love red beans and rice….I’ve lost the page out of Silver Palate cookbook….YIKES! So found you on the web, looks delish! Will have with white rice, red wine and SF sour dough bread….

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