Vegetarian red beans and rice is a New Orleans-style dish that uses healthy meatless ingredients to please vegetarians and meat-lovers alike! Serve as a main course or side dish.
Although the ingredient list isn’t short, this version of red beans and rice is budget-friendly and uses pantry staples that you may already have on hand. This healthy and nutritious recipe is made with all-natural ingredients loaded with protein, fiber, and a list of vitamins and minerals to go along with it. This is also a vegan-friendly recipe.
This shortcut recipe uses canned beans and comes together faster than you can dig out the slow-cooker or instant pot.
Try this deliciously easy vegetarian dish for Meatless Monday!
Why do folks in Louisiana eat red beans and rice on Monday?
In the 19th-century in New Orleans, Monday used to be the “wash day” of the week. So, women would put on a pot of red beans to cook all day while they tended to the laundry. The beans would pretty much cook themselves and did not require much attention. The beans were seasoned mainly by the leftover ham from Sunday dinner, quickly becoming a Louisiana Creole sensation.
Ironically, Monday is wash day at our house too. David and I started Monday wash days while living in Louisa County many years ago when he was off on Mondays, He and His Royal Highness did the laundry while I was at work. (Yes, he’s a keeper, that’s why I married him!)
Are Red Beans and Kidney Beans the same thing?
No, red beans and kidney beans are two different types of beans. Kidney beans are red but darker than red beans, which are pinker. Red beans are also known to have more of a bean taste. However, either of these beans will work for this recipe, so use whatever you have on hand.
Is Red Beans and Rice a Spicy Dish?
Only if you make it spicy, the beauty of making this recipe is that you can adjust the spice level to your liking. If you like spicy food, add in more cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper if you don’t leave it out altogether.
We love red beans, and rice with spicy kick served with rice to help balance the heat.
Is Red Beans and Rice Healthy?
Yes, this vegetarian version of red beans and rice is healthy. You’ll be pleased to know that this recipe is rich in fiber, plant protein, and vegetables, with one serving below 500 calories. The classic recipe for red beans and rice is not very healthy because they are usually loaded with salt and fats from smoked sausages.
What You’ll Need to Make This Recipe and Substitutions
- Oil: For sauteing the vegetables. Our oil of choice is extra virgin olive oil. Use whatever cooking oil you prefer.
- The “Trinity”: The quintessential cooking base to most Cajun food consisting of onions, bell peppers, and celery. I used red bell pepper and white onion. Use your favorite kind.
- Other Vegetables: diced carrots and minced fresh garlic.
- Herbs and Spices: bay leaf, dried thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, fresh cracked black pepper.
- Smoky Flavor: instead of adding fatty smoked sausage, add smoked paprika to give the beans a nice rich smoky flavor. If you don’t have smoked paprika, just leave it out altogether.
- Spicy Heat: crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Leave them out if you don’t like spicy food. To really make it hot, add your favorite hot sauce!
- Vinegar: red wine vinegar adds a savory depth of flavor to the beans. You could also use apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, rice vinegar, or sherry. Balsamic could also be substituted for red wine vinegar, adding an even more rich flavor to the beans.
- Red Beans: a couple of cans of cooked red beans drained and rinsed. It’s important to drain and rinse them because it helps you control the sodium in this dish. You could also use red kidney beans or pinto beans if you don’t have red beans on hand.
- Cooking Liquid: to keep this dish vegetarian, use vegetable broth. If you don’t have vegetable broth, you could use water, but the beans will not be as flavorful.
- Rice: Use your favorite type of cooked white rice or brown rice. I use basmati rice because I love its long grain and texture.
- Garnish: fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro gives the finished dish some color and fresh, bright flavor.
How to Make Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice
- Saute the vegetables: Cook the vegetables until the onion is translucent and the mixture is fragrant about 7-10 minutes.
- Season: Toss in the bay leaf and stir in the paprika, thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using). Stir until well combined, then add red wine vinegar to the pan.
- Simmer: Add in the beans and pour in the vegetable broth. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture up to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Serve: add some cooked rice to individual serving bowls and top with the red bean mixture. Garnish with fresh parsley, and enjoy!
Tips Making this Recipe
- Mash Half the Beans: use a potato masher to mash about half of the red beans. This gives the beans a thick creamy texture.
- Adjust Thickness: If the mixture is too thick, add a little more vegetable broth at a time to thin it out a bit. If too thin, simmer a bit longer.
- Adjust Seasonings: Give the beans a final taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
How to Store and Freeze Red Beans and Rice
Add any leftovers to an airtight, freezer-safe container. Allow the beans and rice to cool completely in the refrigerator. Eat within three days, then freeze for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice
Reheat refrigerated or frozen beans quickly in the microwave or a saucepan on the stove.
Can I Use Dried Beans?
Yes, but it will take much longer to cook. Remember to soak them overnight and simmer slowly for hours.
What Goes with Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice?
This dish is a meal in itself, but if you would like to serve it with something else, we suggest the following side dishes:
- Collard Greens
- Corn on the Cob
- For Carnivores: pork chops or fried chicken or if it isn’t Meatless Monday.
This vegetarian spin on red beans and rice is so good you won’t even miss the meat! Try it tonight for Meatless Monday. You’ll be so glad you did!
Making this recipe? We’d love your feedback. Leave us a comment and a star rating below. We value your opinion and appreciate your time.
See ya on the mountain!
Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup white onion diced
- ½ cup stalks celery diced
- 1 large red bell pepper diced
- ½ cup carrots diced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste about 1 teaspoon of each
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional) or more if you like it spicy!
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 cans cooked red beans drained and rinsed (15.5-ounce cans)
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- cooked rice for serving
- fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro for serving
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot, and garlic. Cook the vegetables until the onion is translucent and the mixture is fragrant about 7-10 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, use a potato masher to mash about half of the red beans.
- Toss in the bay leaf and stir in the paprika, thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using). Stir until well combined, then add red wine vinegar to the pan.
- Add in the beans and pour in the vegetable broth. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture up to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.If the mixture is too thick, add a little more vegetable broth at a time to thin it out a bit. Give the beans a final taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- To serve, add some cooked rice to individual serving bowls and top with the red bean mixture. Garnish with fresh parsley, and enjoy!