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Astoundingly Savory Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice Recipe

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My grandmother was an excellent cook. Fortunately, many of her recipes and techniques were handed down through the generations.

This savory vegetarian red beans and rice dish comes with a smoky kick.

This savory vegetarian red beans and rice dish comes with a smoky kick.

Smoky With a Hint of Sweetness

Who needs another red beans and rice recipe? We all do when it's this good! Even though a search on the Internet for "vegetarian red beans and rice recipe" returns more than two million results, there's always room for one more when it's different and outstandingly tasty.

This recipe is easy to make, although it does have a lot of parts. It is by no means a quick meal, but you will be rewarded with an unusually savory dish that is rich and earthy with a slight touch of sweetness. It's one of those rare vegetarian dishes that appeals to the sense of umami. This recipe also makes a lot of food and freezes well. Although I cook for one, I put extra effort into this red beans and rice dish so that I can freeze individual portions for quick meals on the fly or for when unexpected company comes calling.

Prep and Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

45 min

2 hours 30 min

3 hours 15 min

8 to 10 servings


  • 1 pound kidney beans, dried
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, with salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, large, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppercorns, multi-colored, freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme, fresh (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, or to taste
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons Colgin’s Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 1/2 green bell peppers, large, diced
  • 13-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 5 or 6 cups brown or white rice, cooked

Optional Ingredients

  • Feel free to add hot sauce, diced jalapeno peppers, or ancho or chipotle chiles in adobo to taste. If you use the chiles in adobo, reduce or eliminate the liquid smoke.
  • Add thinly sliced scallions and grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, if desired.

About Colgin's Liquid Smoke

Colgin's Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke is the ingredient that gives this recipe its distinctive savory, smoky taste and aroma. Colgin's contains no additives or preservatives and it is a vegan product. It also packs quite a smoky punch. A little goes a long way.


  1. Rinse and sort the dried kidney beans, place them in a large bowl, cover them with cold water, and refrigerate them overnight. When you are ready to cook them, drain the soaking water and rinse the beans thoroughly. (The prep time for this recipe does not include the soaking time.)
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, pour in the 6 cups (total) of water and vegetable stock and add the beans and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover with the lid ajar, and keep at a gentle boil until the beans have just begun to get tender (about an hour). Stir frequently to make sure the beans are not sticking.
  3. While the beans are boiling, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the diced onions. Cook on low, stirring infrequently, until the onions are transparent and starting to get golden (about 45 minutes). To save some time in the preparation, you can dice the bell peppers (and optional hot peppers) and celery, grate the carrots, and mince the garlic and ginger while the onions are sautéing.
  4. When the beans have started to become tender, add the sautéed onions and stir. You want to keep that gentle boil going, so up the heat if you have to. Then add all of the other ingredients except for the tomatoes. As when you added the onions, keep a boil going while you add the carrot, celery, and green bell peppers. Optionally, add hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, or ancho or chipotle chiles in adobo.
  5. If the beans are starting to stick to the pot, add more vegetable stock. Heat the stock to boiling before you add it to the bean pot so that you don't cool the pot down. The beans have more cooking to do.
  6. When all the ingredients except the tomatoes are in the pot, cover with the lid ajar, reduce the heat so that the beans are simmering, not boiling, and cook until the beans are tender, stirring and adding vegetable stock as needed. This part of the cooking will take approximately an hour, depending on how long the beans soaked.
  7. Cook white or brown rice according to package instructions. When done, cover and set aside until the beans are done.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes, stir, cover with lid ajar, and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes until the beans are tender and falling apart.
The onions are cooked when they all take on a golden color.

The onions are cooked when they all take on a golden color.

Serving Suggestions

When I was growing up, my mother had a rule of menu planning that was and is a constant in my life: dinner has a green vegetable, a salad, a meat (protein), a carbohydrate, and something pickled. Then, no one thought of rice, potatoes, pasta, or bread as a carb, but that’s what she meant. This red beans and rice dish is high in good carbs (beans and rice) and protein (again the combination of beans and rice), and although it is full of vegetables (celery, onions, green peppers, scallions), it could use a side dish of a salad or green or yellow vegetable to make it a balanced meal according to my mother. Here are some suggestions for those sides.

  • A chopped salad with plenty of greens, dressed the way you like it
  • Steamed asparagus, broccoli, or sugar snap peas
  • Glazed carrots

How Did You Like This Dish?

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Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.

© 2012 Sherri