For the rest of the country, red beans and rice is a New Orleans thing. But in New Orleans, it’s more than just a simple meal, it’s a Monday tradition. This red beans and rice recipe is by far my favorite version. It’s creamy, smoky, it has some heat, and it means more to me than just a no-frills comforting meal. This is how I prepare my Monday Red Beans and Rice.
Why do you eat red beans and rice on a Monday?
The tradition started hundreds of years ago when Sunday was the day for the big dinner. More often than not, if you had the means, a large ham was being served. The ham not only offered plenty of leftovers, but it also supplied a ham bone.
Since Sunday was also a day for worship and rest, all of the chores were pushed to Monday. It was a busy day of laundry, ironing, sewing, etc. and Monday became the day to do get it all. This was also a time before the washing machine, so the domestic workers of New Orleans and southern Louisiana would have to wash each article of clothing by hand. It was a long and laborious process and took up much of the day.
In addition to performing these chores, they also had to think about feeding the family. The beans were put on after breakfast and slowly cooked all day so once the chores were finished, they didn’t have to worry about cooking after the long exhausting day.
Beans were in abundant supply and offered a way to prepare an inexpensive meal without too much effort. It was as simple as adding red beans to the pot, along with the leftover ham bone for seasoning, and allowing it to slowly simmer while the chores were getting done.
Red Beans are believed to have first come from Peru. The beans were traded around the Caribbean, and with New Orleans being a major port town, beans were one of the imported items.
Another import was human beings. Many slaves were forced to work the sugar plantations around southern Louisiana. These slaves were brought in from other parts of the Caribbean that also produced sugar and were more than likely originally from West Africa, where rice and beans or peas were a common meal.
One major influence on New Orleans started on the small island colony of Saint-Domingue. A massive slave uprising started in 1791 and went on until 1804 when the French government was overthrown and the new black republic became the first nation to abolish slavery and the second free nation in North America. They also changed their name to Haiti.
With the uprising, free blacks and whites that did not support the end of slavery fled the colony with a large population of their African slaves to America. One of the major landing spots for them was southern Louisiana because it was a region that was still mainly French-speaking. These slaves that arrived from Haiti brought with them the tradition of beans and rice.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SLAVE UPRISING: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-united-states-first-refugee-crisis-180957717/
The New Orleans tradition of red beans and rice
By the end of the 19th century, red beans and rice were already a major part of the culture. In 1901, the Picayune newspaper published the cookbook The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book and had multiple versions of the recipe in it.
The tradition grew in strength once it became a part of pop culture when Mr. “Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours“, Louis Armstrong, become known to add that now-famous line to his signature. Before long, on a Monday in New Orleans, you could smell the waves of red beans simmering in pots all across the city whether that day was laundry day or not.
Over time, the tradition of laundry on Monday faded away, but red beans on a Monday had become such a fabric of the culture, that it’s now apart of a ritual that will have a pot of beans simmering throughout New Orleans – whether it’s at a restaurant, served for lunch at school, or cooked in a home where the recipe has been passed down for generations.
In New Orleans, on Monday, you’re having red beans and rice.
And it’s not just you.
Red Beans represent New Orleans and the culture and the people.
It’s a communal meal that’s meant to be shared with others. When I make a pot and sit down with my family to eat a bowl, I think of everyone else that is also sitting down on a Monday night and enjoying a bowl along with me. We may be 1000 miles away from New Orleans, but we are right there in spirit. We participate in this tradition and treat it with respect because knowing the history of how red beans became apart of the fabric of New Orleans is important to me.
It’s more than just a bean and a comforting meal.
I know what it means to make red beans and rice on a Monday.
Hopefully, you do too.
This is how I red bean.
What brand of red bean should you use?
To start, you have to find the perfect bean. The Camellia brand has been a part of my Monday tradition for several years and my pot of beans has been better because of them. If you’re trying to get an authentic pot of red beans (other than being in New Orlean itself) you have to use Camellia beans.
They have been a staple in New Orleans since 1923 but the business started well before that time. Sawyer Hayward left Bermuda in 1850 and landed in New Orleans. He started out selling cotton, produce, and other dry goods to vendors in the French Market. While he was in the West Indies, he had learned about beans and began to offer them in bulk as one of his products. The city’s population of Creoles and other immigrants from the Caribbean created a big demand for dried beans.
Sawyer Hayward’s grandson, Lucius Hayward, took over the business and founded the Camellia brand. He chose the flower as the brand name and identity because that was his wife’s favorite flower. His focus was strictly on beans and supplying the beans in bulk to the French Market vendors and grocery stores around the city.
Supermarkets became popular in the 1940s. William Gordon Hayward, the son of Lucius, began the distribution process of pre-packaged bags of beans. With this revolutionary approach, it was an easy step for those that were shopping for beans to simply grab a bag of Camellia red beans instead of scooping their own and measuring it out.
Another important feature in having the beans pre-packaged was to have the package wrapper clear. This way the buyer could see the beans that they were purchasing. With this, William Gordon Hayward’s goal was strictly on the quality of the bean – with the package clear, you could see that you were buying fresh dried beans.
The high standard of quality is what sets the Camellia brand apart from anyone else. The beans are put through a state-of-the-art optical sorter and then sent through shaking tables that weed out the damaged, defective, lighter beans, and only accept the best quality ones that remain. The U.S.D.A. quality standard allows for up to two percent of damaged beans and debris in a package. (https://www.gipsa.usda.gov/fgis/standards/Bean-Standards.pdf page 12) This is unacceptable for the Hayward Standard. With Camellia beans, you’ll find that all of the beans are uniform in size, color, clean, and rarely have any debris or rocks in a bag.
The brand is also heavily involved in the community. You’ll find them sponsoring many great programs throughout New Orleans and beyond. They know how important they are to the culture and community of southern Louisiana and have been loyal since the beginning. The current 4th-generation owner, Vince Hayward, shows no intentions of stopping this and continues to build upon the traditions that have made the Camellia brand the number one bean company in the US.
Another important aspect of Camellia beans is if you love them, they’ll love you back.
That statement just doesn’t work for New Orleans itself as Drew Brees famously said.
It works in this case, as well, and I can tell you firsthand that that is true. You could even ask Devin De Wulf of the Krewe of Red Beans that same question. I’m sure he’ll agree. Camellia beans are loyal to those that love their beans.
When you use their beans, you’re participating in a New Orleans tradition that has been going on for generations. And you’ll find that their secret ingredient is quality.
FOR A DEEPER LOOK INTO THE HISTORY OF CAMELLIA BEANS: https://www.camelliabrand.com/about-camellia/
Do you have to soak the red beans?
Soaking the beans is a matter of tradition. It’s not a necessary step but it does reduce the cooking time and helps ensure that the beans cook evenly.
To soak beans overnight, cover them with cold water by about 2-3 inches, cover, and let them soak for 4 to 12 hours. Drain and rinse the beans before using.
As a personal preference, and from what I’ve learned and experienced, I like to soak the red beans overnight. If you’re using older beans – you can tell by hard dark they have become – you will want to soak them for the longest time possible to ensure that they absorb enough water to cook properly.
Again, if you’re using Camellia beans, this shouldn’t be an issue. A new pack of Camellia red beans will be almost pink in color. If for some reason you’re using another brand, be sure that the beans are not a darkish red.
What is the quick boil method?
Soaking the beans not only reduces the cooking time but also helps the beans to cook evenly. If you’ve forgotten to soak them overnight, or are suddenly craving some red beans, you can use this Quick Boil Method.
STEP 1: Sort through the beans for any debris then rinse them off.
STEP 2: Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with cold water by about 3-inches.
STEP 3: Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover the pot, and remove it from the burner. Let the pot sit for 1 hour.
STEP 4: Drain the water and start the recipe as instructed.
PRO TIP: If you want a more in-depth look at soaking beans, follow this link to my article How Do You Soak Beans?
What can I serve with red beans and rice?
Red beans can be hearty enough of their own, especially with the andouille or smoked sausage. A favorite side I like to include, especially with this version of my Monday Red Beans and Rice, is either Sauteed Cabbage or Collard Greens.
As a main dish, you can’t go wrong with Fried Chicken, Chicken Wings, additional links of Smoked Sausage, or pan-fried Pork Chops.
A favorite bread to offer is cornbread, French bread, or a dinner roll.
Sometimes to balance out the meal, I’ll add a simple side salad.
How do I store my leftover red beans and rice?
Cooked beans will last 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
Store them in an air-tight container or wrap them tightly in a heavy foil. If the beans have gone bad, they’ll put out a sour smell with a white liquid surrounding the beans.
How long will beans last in the freezer?
About 6 months if sealed properly.
You can place the beans in a ziplock bag and press out as much air as possible. Don’t forget to label and date the bag. To use again, you can thaw the frozen beans by placing them in the fridge and letting them sit overnight or place the bag in a bowl of warm water for a quick thaw.
PRO TIP: If you want more information about storing cooked beans, read this article on How Long Do Cooked Beans Last in the Fridge?
How do you make Monday Red Beans and Rice from scratch?
This is How I Red Bean:
The first initial step is to dice the Holy Trinity: onions, bell peppers, and celery. For more information on what the trinity is in Creole and Cajun cooking, and how that name came about, read What is the Holy Trinity of Creole and Cajun Cooking.
STEP 1: The right fat is a good base to start with a pot of beans. I like to begin with bacon fat. I take a 1/2 cup of chopped bacon and render the fat from it. Once I get that, I add the chopped smoked sausage. I like a smoky flavored red bean, so this step sets up that flavor for me.
STEP 2: Once the sausage has browned, with a slotted spoon, remove them and set them aside. Now, in the rendered fat, saute the trinity (onions, bell pepper, and celery).
STEP 3: When the onions have softened, I then add the garlic. Stir for a minute then add all of the seasoning – Creole seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and Crystal’s hot sauce. Make sure the ingredients as well mixed together.
STEP 4: Add the water, smoked ham hock, bay leaves, and red beans to the pot along with the browned sausage that was previously set aside. Bring the pot to a boil.
OPTIONAL: Save some of the browned sausage pieces to garnish your bowl with at the end.
STEP 5: Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir every 15-20 minutes to make sure that the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
STEP 6: After 1 hour, remove the lid and continue to simmer for 1-2 hours for the beans to become tender. If the beans become too dry, add more water, if needed. And again, stir occasionally to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
STEP 7: Remove the bay leaves and discard. Carefully remove the ham hock from the pot and place on a cutting board. Remove as much meat as you can from the bone and add the meat to the pot of beans. Discard the leftover bones. At this step, I also remove about 1 cup of the beans and mash them into a paste-like consistency. Return the mashed beans to the pot along with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired. Adjust flavoring as needed – like more hot sauce. Allow simmering for an additional 30-minutes.
The beans should be creamy in texture. If they have become too dry, again, add more water.
STEP 8: With about 30-minutes remaining in the cooking time, I start the rice. This is also when a start making the Sauteed Cabbage.
BONUS TIP: This is a tip the late great “King of Red Beans” Buster Holmes did to his pot of red beans. About 5 minutes before serving, he placed a 1/2 stick on non-salted butter into the pot. This will make them really creamy and rich in flavor. I do this extra step most of the time. If you’re worried about the added butter, you can also use 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
TO SERVE: I place a bed of rice in the bottom of the bowl then top with the red beans. Garnish the Monday Red Beans and Rice with chopped green onions or fresh parsley. Offer more hot sauce at the table.
I hope that you enjoy in this Monday tradition of red beans and rice as much as my family and I do. It’s a communal meal. No matter where you are on a Monday, know in the fact that an entire community is eating the same meal as you are, no matter where you are sitting at this moment. I know I’ll be right there with you – at least in spirit.
New Orleans might be known for its crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, po’boys, or beignets, but it will always be a red bean and rice town.
How do you red bean?
Let me know what you think of my Monday Red Beans and Rice in the comment section below.
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Monday Red Beans and Rice
For the rest of the country, red beans and rice is a New Orleans thing. But in New Orleans, it's more than just a simple meal, it's a Monday tradition. This red beans and rice recipe is by far my favorite version. It's creamy, smoky, it has some heat, and it means more to me than just a no-frills comforting meal. This is how I prepare my Monday Red Beans and Rice.
- 2 tbsp bacon drippings or vegetable oil, or ½-cup chopped bacon
- 1 lb smoked or andouille sausage sliced into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 large sweet onion diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper diced
- ½ cup celery diced
- 4-6 cloves of fresh garlic minced
- 2 tbsp Creole seasoning I prefer Tony Chachere's or Slap Ya Mama brands
- 1 tbsp Crystal Hot Sauce
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 lb smoked ham hock or pickled pork
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 cups water
- 1 lb Camellia Brand Red Beans sorted and soaked overnight
- 2 tsp salt if desired
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper if desired
- ½ stick non-salted butter, warmed optional (or 2 tbsp vegetable oil)
- green onions for garnishment
- steamed long grain rice I prefer Supreme brand rice
Soak the Camellia brand red beans overnight and rinse before using or use the quick soak method. The beans don't have to be soaked, but by soaking them you reduce the cooking time.
In a large pot over MEDIUM heat, brown the sausage in the bacon drippings until the edges have crispened. If you're using chopped pieces of bacon (½ cup), wait until the bacon has crispened and rendered some fat before adding the sausage to the pot. Once the sausage has evenly browned, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate, and set it aside.
In the rendered fat, saute the trinity (onions, bell pepper, and celery) until the vegetables have become tender, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to stir for 1 minute. Add Creole seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and Crystal's Hot Sauce and continue to stir for another 1 minute.
If you're using pickled pork, add it at this point. Return smoked sausage to the pot along with the smoked ham hock, and bay leaves. Optional: Save about ½ of the browned sausage to garnish your plate with when you serve teh red beans.
Pour 8 cups of water into the pot. Add the Camellia brand red beans to the pot and bring to a boil - about 10 minutes. Cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove lid, and continue to simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours, or until the beans have become tender - stirring occasionally. If the beans begin to dry out, add warm water to the pot.
Remove bay leaves from the pot and discard. Carefully take the ham hock out and place it on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, remove any meat from the ham hock and add the meat back to the pot. Discard the skin and bones. Remove 1 cup of red beans and mash into a paste, then return mashed beans to the pot. Season the beans with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and let the pot simmer for additional 30 minutes. The consistency of the beans should thicken up and become creamy the longer it simmers. If they become too dry, add 1-2 cups of more water.
Optional step: add ½-stick of non-salted butter, or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, about 5 minutes before serving. This will make the beans extra creamy and rich in flavor. Be sure that the butter is warmed. A cold stick of butter will not melt properly and give off the creamy texture needed.
Serve the red beans over steamed long grain white rice. Garnish with chopped green onions and offer more Crystal's Hot Sauce at the table. Enjoy!
NOTE: These red beans are on the hotter side. There is an added depth of flavor when the Sautéed Cabbage is added to the plate. The freshness of the cabbage along with the vinegar flavoring it was cooked in really offsets the heat of the red beans and the two complement each other. Here is my recipe for How to Make Sautéed Cabbage.
If you want to add Pickled Pork to the recipe, here is the recipe I use: How to Make Pickled Pork.
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KEEP THE RED BEANS COOKIN’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.