Before I get into the specifics of this great recipe, I have to acknowledge several things:  I’ve never been to Louisiana and know zilch about cajun cooking. Red Beans and Rice is traditionally served during Mardi Gras, so this is a bit out of season. My food photography skills leave a lot to be desired.

All that being said, a couple of weeks ago I developed a strange craving for Red Beans and Rice. I researched a lot of recipes and found this one on the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen website. The author, Susan Voisin, grew up in Louisiana, and seems to know a lot about red beans and rice. Over the years she’s adapted her recipe, eliminating the traditional ham hocks and sausage, to make it vegan. I love it that she substituted chipotle chilis for the liquid smoke to give it that smokey taste. The only change I made was the addition of fennel seed, a predominant spice in sausage,  which is one of the few meat items that Matt and I miss being on a plant-based diet.

An interesting note about the beans, which you’ll find at the end of the recipe: the older your beans are, the less likely they are to fall apart (unlike humans), so you may have to puree them a bit at the end of the cooking time.  You want the end result to be a nice, thick mash. This recipe makes a pretty big pot of beans- we ate it for dinner and lunch throughout the week.

Red Beans and Rice


  • 1 pound small dry red kidney beans
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1 large bell pepper (I used a red one)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp fennel (I used 1 tsp whole seed fennel, and ground the other 1 tsp in my grinder)
  • ½-1 tsp red pepper
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
  • ½-1 tbsp Tabasco sauce, or as much as you like
  • salt to taste
  • cooked rice, to serve

  1. About 8-10 hours before you want to make the recipe, rinse the beans, put them in a large pot, and cover them with water (2 inches above the beans) to soak.
  2. Drain the beans, put them back in the pot and again cover them with water 2 inches above the top of the beans. Start cooking these on high heat while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. You’re going to want to chop the garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper very finely, and the easiest way to do this is in a food processor. Throw the 4 peeled cloves of garlic in first, and then add the onion, quartered, and pulse until finely chopped. Add this to the pot on the stove, and then do the same thing with the celery and bell peppers, adding each to the beans. Add the remaining ingredients, except the salt and the rice.
  4. When the beans reach a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring every now and then, until they are completely tender and falling apart. This can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending upon the age of your beans. (Add more water as necessary to keep them hydrated.) When they are completely tender, add the salt to taste, and check the seasonings. Add any additional spices you want, and cook for at least 10 more minutes, until sauce is thick and beans are disintegrating. Remove the bay leaves, and serve over rice.
Note: If your beans are old, they may never disintegrate, or at least not in time for dinner. What you have to do is take out a bunch of them, mash them up well, and add them back into the pot (or use a hand blender right in the pot). Then proceed as though they had fallen apart on their own.
Note: Just for fun, I added some coconut milk to the water when I cooked the basmati rice. (About ½ water, ½ coconut milk ratio.) I’m sure this isn’t traditionally done with Red Beans and Rice, but it gives the rice a sweet taste which goes really well with the spicy beans.