Indulge in a taste of New Orleans with this mouthwatering Southern Red Beans and Rice recipe! Loaded with savory Andouille sausage, smoked turkey, and a perfect blend of Creole seasoning, this dish brings the vibrant flavors of the Bayou straight to your kitchen.
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What Type of Beans to Use
Red kidney beans are the most common choice for this classic dish. They have a mild, slightly nutty flavor and a smooth, firm texture that holds up well during cooking. You may also see some beans labeled as “red beans” that will work.
If you’re looking for a specific variety of kidney beans, light red kidney beans and dark red kidney beans both work well in red beans and rice recipes. Dark red kidney beans have a stronger flavor and thicker texture.
Holy Trinity Ingredients
The “Holy Trinity” is a term used in Cajun and Creole cooking and includes three ingredients: onions, bell peppers, and celery. These are considered the foundation of many dishes and are used to create a flavorful base for gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, grits, and more.
What Type of Rice to Use
The type of rice traditionally used for red beans and rice is long-grain white rice. Long-grain rice is a staple in Southern cuisine and pairs well with the creamy, flavorful red bean sauce. It’s the classic choice for this dish and provides a fluffy texture that complements the saucy beans.
Short-grain rice has a different texture and starch content. It’s super sticky and will clump together. I don’t recommend it for a dish like this.
Here are more options:
- Basmati Rice: It’s known for its slightly nutty flavor. It has long, slender grains and can be a nice substitution for long-grain white rice.
- Jasmine Rice: Has a slightly sticky texture. It’s commonly used in Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines and can work well with red beans and rice if you enjoy its fragrance and stickiness.
- Brown Rice: If you prefer a healthier option, you can use brown rice, which is higher in fiber and nutrients compared to white rice. Keep in mind that brown rice typically requires a longer cooking time, so adjust your cooking process accordingly.
What Type of Meat to Add for Flavor
Smoked turkey is often used as a lean and healthier alternative to other meats like pork sausage or ham, which are higher in fat and sodium. It provides the richness of meat without the excessive fat content. The smokiness complements the earthy and savory flavors of the beans and spices.
Historically, the dish is made using ham hocks. Feel free to use those if you wish. Bacon or salt pork will also work.
Traditional soaking methods for dried beans involve soaking them in cold water for an extended period, often overnight. Quick soaking allows you to reduce the soaking time significantly, making it possible to prepare beans for cooking on the same day you decide to cook them. This method is particularly handy when you haven’t planned ahead for a long soak.
You have two options. You can soak them overnight in a large bowl filled with water. Or you can boil a large pot of water on the stove. Once the temperature reaches boiling, remove the pot from heat and add the beans. Allow the beans to soak for at least one hour.
Not soaking them in advance will likely add a couple of hours to your cooking time.
How to Make Southern Red Beans and Rice
Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Fill a Dutch oven or soup pot with water (enough to cover the beans) and place it on the stove to boil. Once the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and add the beans. Allow the beans to soak.
- Place a Dutch oven or soup pot on medium-high heat and add the sausage rounds. Cook for 5-6 minutes total on each side until browned. Remove the sausage and set it aside.
- Add celery, green peppers, onions and garlic to the pot. Saute.
- Pour the broth into the pot and use a wooden or silicone spoon to break down the brown bits in the pot and deglaze the pot.
- Add in the cooked sausage, beans, smoked turkey, spices, and bay leaf. Stir.
- Place the lid on the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook.
- Open up the pot and remove the bay leaf and serve with rice.
Cook Time/How Long to Cook
Decide how you like your beans. Do you like them firm, soft, or mushy? Check in on the beans frequently while they cook. They will typically need anywhere from 1 1/2 hours – 3 hours depending on your texture preference. I like to cook mine for 2 hours. I like for them to be soft, but not mushy.
You can test if they are done by grabbing one bean out of the pot and mashing it with a spoon or fork.
The simmering time for red beans and rice is not solely about cooking the beans. It’s also about developing the flavors of the dish and ensuring the meat and seasonings are fully integrated. Taste the dish as it simmers to adjust the seasonings and cooking time to your liking.
How to Cook the Rice
If you’re cooking the rice on the stove, I recommend following the package instructions on the rice that you purchase. You typically can’t go wrong here! I like to use my Instant Pot, so I cook it for 3 minutes, with 10 minutes of natural release of steam.
Since the canned beans are already cooked, you won’t need to simmer them as long as you would with dried beans. If using canned, I recommend heating them until warm. If you want smoked turkey meat or meat from the ham hock, you would still need to cook that for a couple of hours for tender meat.
Slow Cooker Beans
You can make the beans in a slow cooker by following my Slow Cooker Crockpot Black Eyed Peas with Smoked Turkey recipe.
Instant Pot Beans
Check out my Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice.
How to Store
You can store the dish tightly covered and sealed in the fridge for 3-4 days.
How to Reheat
You can reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stove. I recommend adding a little broth if the beans dry out during the heating process. Start with a tablespoon and add more as needed.
You can freeze the dish tightly covered and sealed for 5-6 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
Pair With These Recipes
More Cajun Recipes
Southern Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Turkey
- 1 pound dry red beans or kidney beans Rinsed.
- 6 oz andouille sausage Sliced into rounds 1/2-1 inch thick.
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
- 3 garlic cloves Minced
- 32-48 oz broth See notes. Any broth will work. (Chicken, vegetable, beef).
- 1/2-1 pound fully cooked smoked turkey leg or wing See notes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper Omit if you do not desire spicy.
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- cooked rice
Optional: Pre Boil the Smoked Turkey (See notes)
- Add the smoked turkey to a pot of boiling water. Use enough water to submerge the turkey. Boil for 45 minutes to an hour to soften the turkey. I like to do this as the beans are quick soaking.
Red Beans and Rice
- Fill a Dutch oven or soup pot with water (enough to cover the beans) and place it on the stove to boil. Once the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and add the beans. Place the lid on the pot. Allow the beans to soak for 1 hour.1 pound dry red beans or kidney beans
- Place a Dutch oven or soup pot (I use the same one) on medium-high heat and add the sausage rounds. Cook for 5-6 minutes or however long it takes to brown both sides. Remove the sausage and set it aside.6 oz andouille sausage
- Add the celery, green peppers, onions and garlic to the pot. Saute until translucent and fragrant.1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onions, 1/2 cup chopped green peppers, 3 garlic cloves
- There should be brown bits in the bottom of the pot from the cooked sausage and vegetables. Leave these intact because they contain flavor. Pour the broth into the pot and use a wooden or silicone spoon to break down the brown bits in the pot and deglaze the pot..32-48 oz broth
- Add in the cooked sausage, beans, smoked turkey, spices, and bay leaf. Stir.1/2-1 pound fully cooked smoked turkey leg or wing, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste, 2 bay leaves
- Place the lid on the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2-3 hours until the beans are soft. You can test if they are done by grabbing one bean out of the pot and mashing it with a spoon or fork.
- Open up the pot and remove the bay leaf and smoked turkey. If you like meat in your red beans, use 2 forks and shred the turkey and return it to the pot. Taste repeatedly and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
- Cool before serving and serve with cooked rice.
- Water can be used instead of broth if you wish. Broth adds additional flavor. You will need enough broth/liquid to cover the beans and smoked turkey as it cooks. If you don’t cover the dish with liquid it will add additional cook time and the beans won’t cook at an even and consistent speed.
- You can use ham hocks, a leftover ham bone, salt pork, country ham, or even bacon instead of smoked turkey.
- The smoked turkey is already cooked, so you don’t have to cook it beforehand. Boiling the turkey in water before adding it to the beans will produce fall-off-the-bone turkey meat for the red beans and rice. This step is optional.
- You can substitute Creole seasoning for whatever flavor or spice blend you like.
- Not soaking the beans in advance will likely add a couple of hours to your cooking time.
- Rinse the beans first to remove any surface dirt.
- Decide how you like your beans. Do you like them firm, soft, or mushy? Check in on the beans frequently while they cook. They will typically need anywhere from 1 1/2 hours – 3 hours depending on your texture preference. I like to cook mine for 2 hours. I like for them to be soft, but not mushy.
- Since the canned beans are already cooked, you won’t need to simmer them as long as you would with dried beans. If using canned, I recommend heating them until warm. If you want smoked turkey meat or meat from the ham hock, you would still need to cook that for a couple of hours for tender meat.