Traditionally, red beans & rice were served on Mondays using the leftovers from a more elaborate Sunday night dinner. But from its humble origins as a cleanup meal, it has grown into a beloved tradition in its own right.
Today, all across the South you’ll see restaurants marketing their red bean and rice specials. But once you learn how to make it yourself, you can enjoy red beans and rice any day of the week!
We found this meal to be a natural fit for cool weather camping. The entire meal is prepared in a single pot, which not only makes cleaning up easier, but allows the flavors to build on top of one another. Each step adds another wonderful flavor to the mix, resulting in a complex and satisfying meal far greater than the sum of its parts.
This recipe is definitely not an authentic representation of Red Beans & Rice, but we find it to be a great version to cook up on a car camping trip!
Why We Love It
Builds layer after layer of flavor in one pot
Can be easily converted to be vegetarian / vegan (see below!)
A very economical meal that can feed a lot of people
So if you’re looking for a smokey, spicy, and hearty meal to keep you warm, give this red beans and rice dish a try! We think you’ll really enjoy this one.
Large Pot With A Tight Sealing Lid: We prefer to use our 10” 4 quart Lodge Dutch oven for this, because of how well the cast iron retains heat. The heavy cast-iron lid also makes a really nice seal for steaming the rice.
Mesh Strainer: If you have the ability to do so, we HIGHLY recommend rinsing the rice and beans. The meal will work just fine if you aren’t able to (no running water, limited water), but the quality of the rice and beans is greatly enhanced by rinsing the starch off the rice and liquid off the beans.
Metal or Wooden Spatula: Sauteeing the veggies and sausage will create a deep, flavorful fond on the bottom of your pot. When it’s time to make the rice, you’re going to lift that fond up by deglazing with liquid and scraping with a spatula. You want a sturdy spatula so you can really break that fond up and release all the flavor.
Beans: We call for canned kidney beans in the recipe since they are well suited for camping. Traditional Red Beans & Rice use true red beans, which are a different kind of bean than kidney. Unfortunately, we’ve never seen them sold as a canned bean. If you make your own beans at home, you can use the equivalent amount of true red beans.
Seasoning blend: Red Beans and Rice is technically a Creole dish, but we do find that this meal works well with Cajun seasonings too. If you’re interested, here’s a great article about the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking! If you want to make your own seasoning blend instead of buying a pre-made blend, this recipe is a great place to start.
Other ingredient changes: One notable ingredient missing from our camp version of Red Beans and Rice is ham hock. Traditionally, a ham hock from Sunday’s dinner would be added in with Monday’s red beans and rice. We left this out for simplicity’s sake, but if you want to add it in, please do! Just chop it up and add it in with the sausage.
How to Make Red Beans and Rice
Begin by heating a little bit of oil in the bottom of your Dutch oven, over medium heat. If you’re using Andouille sausage, slice them up into bite-sized rounds and sautee them until lightly browned on each side.
Once the sausage starts to pick up a little color, add in the Holy Trinity (chopped green peppers, onions, and celery). Occasionally stir this around until the onions and peppers start to soften and pick up a little color.
Next comes the spices. Add in your sliced garlic, cajun seasoning mix, smoked paprika, bay leaf, and salt. [Note: Red Beans & Rice is technically a Creole dish, not Cajun, but we’ve only seen Cajun spice blends in grocery stores] Knock these around in the pot until all sausage and veggies are covered and the spices begin to smell fragrant.
It’s now time to add the beans (rinsed if possible) and rice (rinsed if possible). Finally, add in the water. As soon as the water hits the hot pot it will start to hiss and steam. Now is the time to take your metal spatula and firmly scrape the bottom of the pot to release all the tasty brown bits that might have adhered to the bottom. This fond layer is pure flavor and really adds a lot of depth to the meal.
Then cover the pot with the lid and reduce the heat to low. If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, or if your lid has a bunch of holes in it for straining, consider folding a cloth napkin around your lid to make a tighter seal. Being able to trap the steam inside the pot is critical to making good rice.
After 20 minutes, remove the lid. The rice should be light and fluffy
Add 2-3 tablespoons butter (or use a butter alternative) to the hot and steamy rice mixture. Gently mix everything together with the spatula, until the butter is melted in and the all ingredients have been evenly distributed.
Top with chopped parsley and serve!
What to Prepare at Home
Pre-chop peppers, onions, and celery. While you don’t want this to languish in your cooler for too long, there’s no reason why you can pre-chop the Holy Trinity a few days ahead of time. Combine them all together (as they go in at the same time) in a resealable container.
How to Make it Vegetarian / Vegan
Make it Vegetarian: Swap out the Andouille sausage for a plant-based sausage alternative. Tofurky makes a plant-based andouille sausage, but you can also use a spicy Italian or sweet Italian if need be. We’ve also made the meal without any sausage before and it tastes great.
Make it Vegan: Swap out the sausage (see above) AND swap out the butter for a plant-based butter alternative like Earth Balance.
Dutch Oven Red Beans and Rice
Smoky, spicy, and deeply satisfying, this hearty one-pot meal is a camp-friendly adaptation of red beans and rice.
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
If using raw andouille sausage, remove it from the casing and crumble into the pot. If using pre-cooked sausage, cut it into ½-inch slices and add to the pot. Cook over medium heat until the sausage browns slightly, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the finely chopped green bell pepper, diced onion, and celery. Stirring frequently, cook until slightly browned, 10-12 minutes.
Add the garlic, seasoning blend, smoked paprika, and bay leaf. Cook for two more minutes. Drain and rinse the red beans and add to pot. Add the rice and 1 ½ cups water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Add butter, and salt to taste. Top with flat-leafed parsley, serve and enjoy.
*Red Beans and Rice is technically a Creole dish, but either a Creole or Cajun spice blend will work well. Creole spices will be a bit milder, while a Cajun blend will bring more heat.