Vegan Red Beans and Rice

While Kevin and I were on our (year and a half later) honeymoon last month, our cruise left out of Galveston, Texas, and we were determined to try some Cajun food before we headed back home.  We planned on staying two extra days after our cruise made it back to Texas so that we could check out the Houston Zoo and NASA Space Center.

The evening after the zoo, we explored a small pier area near our hotel close to NASA, called Kemah Boardwalk.  The little rides and shops were wonderfully picturesque, but unfortunately, it started to downpour with a huge thunder storm passing through.  In the distance about a half a mile from the boardwalk, we could see a place called the Swamp Shack.  With no taxis in sight, we decided to hike it through the storm to get our taste of Cajun food.

By the time we arrived at the restaurant, we were soaking!  We rewarded our daring hike through the storm with a pitcher of beer and ordered some delicious food.  Kevin got a giant platter of crawdads, while I ordered a big bowl of red beans and rice.  These beans were not Nutritarian-friendly and contained meat, but after a long trip, I was happy to have some beans in my system, and boy they were delicious!

Once we got home, I knew I would be able to recreate the Red Beans and Rice in a vegan version.  After doing some research on red beans and rice, I came up with my own recipe.  WOW!  This will be a new regular recipe for our household for sure!

Vegan Cajun Red Beans and Rice
Prep time: 12 hours, or 1 hour quick-soak
Cook time: 2.5 hours
Servings: 6-8
        1 lb dried red beans, soaked over night or using the quick-soak method (see directions below)
        1 medium sweet/yellow onion, finely chopped
        1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
        3 celery stalks, finely chopped
        4 cloves garlic, minced (approximately 1 Tbsp)
        4 cups vegetable broth
        2 cups water
        1 Tbsp chili powder
        1 tsp smoked paprika (or add regular paprika and a drop or two of liquid smoke)
        1 tsp thyme
        1/2 tsp oregano
        1/2 tsp parsley
        2 bay leaves
        1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
        Fresh ground black pepper to taste

        Cooked brown rice or whole grain of your choosing
        Sliced green onions to top
        Favorite hot sauce to top

    Bean Pre-Soak:
        1.)  In a colander, rinse the dried beans and pick out any sticks, stones, or wrinkled beans.
        2.)  Place the sorted beans into a large pot and add water until the beans are covered by two or three inches of water.  Allow to soak overnight, or do the quick-soak.
        3.)  If you are choosing to quick-soak, bring the pot of beans and water to a boil.  Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and cover.  Allow to sit for 1 hour.
        4.)  After pre-soaking with either technique, drain the beans and rinse with cool, clean water.

    Red Beans and Rice:
        1.)  In the empty pot that the beans were soaking it, water saute over medium-high heat the finely chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic for several minutes, until fragrant and tender.  Add small amounts of water to prevent the veggies from sticking to the pot.
        2.)  Add in the spices, vegetable broth, water, and beans.
        3.)  Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn to low, COVER, and simmer for 2 hours.  Make sure to maintain a good simmer, increasing the heat as needed.
        4.)  After cooking for 2 hours, the beans should be very tender.  Cook for 30 minute increments at a time and test if they are not.  When tender, use an immersion blender or a hand-potato masher to mash some of the beans.  Do not puree the whole pot, you want most beans to remain intact.
        5.)  After lightly blending or mashing, allow the pot to simmer for 30 more minutes with the lid off, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the bottom from burning.
        6.)  Serve hot with a hefty serving of the beans in a bowl and top with a few scoops of rice, green onion, and your favorite hot sauce.

Amy's Notes:
The traditional southern dish of red beans and rice, obviously, comes with rice, but feel free to use whatever whole grain you want.  I would suggest trying brown rice, wild rice, barley, farrow, or quinoa!

Feel free to make this dish as mild or as spicy as you want it by adding more cayenne pepper while cooking, or hot sauce when serving.

This recipe could work perfectly for a dinner party with vegans and non-vegans alike.  It would be really easy to cook up some andouille sausage on the side for meat eaters, like my husband, to add in to their liking.  some excellent side dishes could be corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and corn bread.  Yum!

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