Thomas is an award-winning chef with 40+ years of experience. He loves to cook and share recipes.
Why Do You Eat Red Beans and Rice on Mondays?
The date that New Orleans unofficially adopted red beans and rice as a traditional Monday meal seems to elude food historians; however, we do know that it has been a part of the city's culture for at least 200 years or more. For some cooks, ham hocks or andouille sausage are a must, while other cooks think they must have pickled or salt pork.
It is a well-known fact that red beans and rice was a favorite of Louis Armstrong. In a letter to a fellow New Orleanian, Armstrong wrote:
"It really shouldn't be hard for you to figure out my favorite dish to eat. We were all brought up eating the same thing, and that is red beans and rice with ham hocks."
A Beloved New Orleans Recipe
Red beans and rice are oh-so-good—especially if they are made and cooked right so that the beans make their own red gravy, which is one of the tastiest things you will ever eat over rice. In New Orleans, this is the one dish that almost everyone loves to eat. Jazz it up a bit by serving it with a small dish of chopped green onions (including the tops) and a dish of diced jalapeño peppers. You allow your guests to add these to their own plates.
Making this dish right does take some extra time, but it is well worth the effort.
- 1 pound of dry red kidney beans
- 1 or 2 ham hocks (smoked is okay)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground garlic
- Canned chicken broth, as needed
- 2 pounds of smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Place the beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with water. Soak your beans overnight, adding more water as needed.
- Once the beans are soaked, drain them well and place in a large pot with a lid.
- Into the pot, pour chicken broth until your beans are well-covered.
- Add in your salt, pepper, ham hocks, and hot sauce and start to cooking on low heat.
- In another pan, saute the onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil until the onions are done but not brown. Add to the beans.
- Cook on low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring often to make sure your beans don't stick. Add your sausage in during the last hour of cooking time. Do not add water. If you need more liquid, add chicken broth.
- During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, stir in your powdered cayenne pepper. You can, of course, leave out the cayenne pepper, but if you do you will be missing part of the soul of this dish.
- Serve your beans over hot buttered rice.
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Tips and More Information
- Red beans cooked with a ham bone, bacon, or fat back is very popular in large parts of the American South. The beans are usually served over cooked hot buttered white rice. Andouille sausage is almost always served in or with the red beans and rice in Louisiana, though not in all parts of the South. If you cook a pot of red beans with a ham bone with ham still on it in a pot of water and red beans, I bet you'll be hooked for life.
- You need to keep in mind that there is a small red bean that is not a kidney bean. There are also red kidney beans that are called red beans. And in some parts of the American South, pintos are used as red beans. I myself like red kidney beans. Try all of them and see what your favorite bean is.
- Let me tell you a real secret about red beans. They will almost always taste better the second day after spending a night in the refrigerator. I usually cook my red beans one day and then serve them the next day.
- I like my beans to cook down until they have a rich, thick soup. I also like to use chicken broth instead of water. If you do this, you're going to find you'll have some of the most wonderful flavors you'll ever taste in your life.
- You can easily cook a pot of red beans and rice in a crock pot or slow cooker. You just need to remember to reduce the liquid used in the recipe by 1/3 and keep a close eye on the red beans so they don't cook dry.
- Most people like to take green onions, including the tops, and dice them up very fine. These are served in a bowl on the side, and people get to put the onions on top of their red beans and rice.
- Some people like to serve diced fresh chives on the side along with their red beans, and some people like to serve a bowl of sour cream on the side. I like sour cream served on top.
- I also love to serve small squares of corn bread on the side.
In New Orleans, a baked ham was often served on Sunday, and the ham bone and leftover ham was often saved and added to the pot of red beans that was cooked on the back of the stove on Mondays. Monday was the traditional wash day, and beans didn't require as much watching as other meals. You just went by the pot of beans and stirred it about once an hour and made sure the beans didn't boil dry.
Adding Andouille Sausage or Cajun Sausage for Flavor
In time, people started to cook andouille sausage in their red beans and rice, and it was a huge hit. Andouille sausage is a Cajun sausage you can probably find in your local deli or supermarket. I like to serve the sausage on the side, getting it good and brown first.
Serve your red beans and rice with the andouille sausage on the side along with small squares of corn bread, finely diced green onions, and your favorite hot sauce. In New Orleans, Tabasco sauce is almost always served.
Hot buttered cooked white rice is put into the bottom of the bowl, and then a big ladle of red beans is put in the bowl over the rice. A piece of fried and browned andouille sausage is put on the top of each bowl. The diced-up green onions and the hot sauce are served on the side so each person can add what they want to their particular bowl of red beans and rice. The corn bread is also served on the side.
Making It Spicier
I like mine with a little more fire than most people. You can add more cayenne pepper if you like more fire or leave it out if you want no fire. I suggest trying it with the cayenne pepper because it really adds to the taste.
Some people in New Orleans like to add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to their bowl of red beans and rice when they get ready to eat it. It's really good for you, and it really does add a delicious unique flavor.