Here we have a plant based version of a Louisiana classic that is full of authentic flavor and just the right amount of cajun spice. This recipe for Cajun Vegan Red Beans and Rice is a comforting, slow cooked, delicious delight. It's downright OMG good!
As a staple meal in the south traditionally served on Monday, every family has their own recipe and way of making red beans and rice. This hearty dish has been filling bellies and keeping folks fed for many years now with it's comforting delicious cajun flavors. It's one of my favorite meals from down south. And one of the easiest ways to take the simple red bean and turn it into a family favorite.
But I didn't grow up eating red beans and rice. I'm not from the south. And at the age of 19 I moved to LA, which is even further from the south and cajun cuisine. Yet, ironically after planting myself all the way across the country, I met one of my best friends in California who did grow up in the south. In the great southern state of Louisiana.
And all of a sudden the subject of cajun foods like dirty rice, gumbo, okra, and red beans and rice were topics of conversation. And the food itself always smelled so amazing as the aroma would seep across the hall into my neighboring apartment. So as a cook and lover of food, my interest in the cuisine was peaked. My culinary curiosity took over and led me to start learning more about cajun food.
Then as life would have it, 10 years later I found myself living in New Orleans. Yep, that's right, NOLA was my home for six months in 2018 when Reed took a production job there for a TV show. While in New Orleans, we lived in a beautiful house right in the seventh ward and ate amazing food all over the city. I loved that house. I loved that food.
Yet, most of all I loved the opportunity I got to learn first hand about Louisiana style cajun cooking and flavor profiles.
This cajun classic requires simple pantry ingredients found in any market.
- Red Beans
- Green Bell Pepper
- Vegetable Stock
- Baking Soda
- Bay Leaf
- Smoked Paprika
- Cajun Seasoning
- Low Sodium Tamari
- Liquid Smoke
Beans! You need red ones for this vegan red beans and rice recipe. Do not mistake kidney beans for red beans. They are not the same bean.
You also need a pinch of baking soda. Why? It's a famous and little known cooking trick. A dash of baking soda added to beans helps them cook faster and creates better texture. It also makes beans less gassy! But just a pinch. Don't overdo it or you will end up with mush.
And what would cajun cooking be without it's famous seasoning. You will need your favorite cajun spice mix for this Louisiana recipe.
As for what goes into the beans, garlic, onion, green bell pepper, and celery are added to create depth in flavor as they slowly cook. Thyme, often used in cajun cooking, works as an aromatic along with the bay leaf.
But it is the combination of smoked paprika, tamari, and liquid smoke that elevates this recipe to the next level. Together this trio adds umami to this vegan version, which tricks the palate with savory "meaty" magic.
How to Make Vegan Red Beans and Rice
The recipe takes a few hours to make, but is oh so good and worth the wait. Once you get everything in the pot, all you have to do is sit back and relax as dinner cooks itself.
Before you can begin the recipe you'll need to soak the red beans the night before. Then drain them the next day when you are ready to start cooking.
Now that you have your beans ready to go, you will saute the garlic, onion, green bell pepper, and celery for a few minutes in a large pot or dutch oven until they soften up. Then you'll add the red beans along with the dash of baking soda, vegetable stock, water, thyme, bay leaf, and smoked paprika to the pot. Next, you turn the heat up to high to bring the beans to a boil. Once the beans are boiling you will turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 2 hours with the lid cracked.
Then after 2 hours of cooking, you mash some of the bean against the side of the pot to create that creamy authentic texture of red beans. I normally mash about a quarter of the beans, but you can mash as much or as little as you like.
Now it's time to bump up the cajun spice! Next, you will add the cajun seasoning, low sodium tamari, liquid smoke, and cayenne. Then allow the beans to simmer for another 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.
Finally, time to taste your beans and season as needed. You shouldn't have to add too much salt if any because the vegetable stock, tamari, and cajun seasoning all contain salt. At this point, you can also add more cayenne if you want for some extra heat.
To serve, top the beans with a scoop of warm rice. Then garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a splash of hot sauce for the full authentic experience.
Leftovers & Variations
This recipe serves 8 people. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 6 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. This is a fabulous meal to make ahead and freeze for later.
To add variation to the recipe, the level of spice can easily be adjusted to your taste. Vegan sausage could also be added to the recipe.
This recipe for Cajun Vegan Red Beans and Rice is so good because it's...
- Authentic Louisiana taste without the meat
- Delicious with notes of umami amazingness
- Creamy and comforting
- Easy to make and filling
- A family favorite
I hope you love this easy to make cajun classic! And it sends your taste buds on a culinary trip down south!
If you try this recipe please let me know how it turns out by leaving a comment and rating. You can also hashtag #danceswithknives with a photo of your creation on Instagram where you can find me @dances_with_knives.
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Cajun Vegan Red Beans and Rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (1 ½ cup)
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
- 3 stalks of celery, diced (1 cup)
- 1 lb red beans
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- ⅛ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cajun seasoning
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 2 tsp low sodium tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- Hot sauce to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Soak the dry red beans in a large pot of water the night before. Make sure the water covers the beans by at least 2 inches. The beans will expand as they soak. Then drain the next day and set aside.
- Saute the garlic, celery, green bell pepper, and onion over medium heat in the olive oil for about 5 minutes in a large pot or dutch oven. The onions should be translucent and just softened.
- Add the soaked red beans, baking soda, vegetable stock, water, thyme, bay leaf, and smoked paprika. Now, bring to a boil over high heat. Then once the beans reach a boil, turn down the heat and simmer on low for 2 hours with the lid cracked. Stir from time to time making sure that no beans are sticking to the bottom of the pot. If the water gets low add more as needed.
- After cooking for 2 hours the beans should be nice and tender. If not, just keep cooking for another 10 to 20 minutes. Once the beans are good and soft, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. This will thicken the beans to create the classic authentic texture of red beans.
- Next, add the cajun seasoning, low sodium tamari, liquid smoke, and cayenne. Then allow the beans to simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Taste your beans one last time and season with salt if needed. You likely won't need to add any salt because the vegetable stock, tamari, and cajun seasoning has salt in it. However, if you used a no salt or low salt version of any of those ingredients you will likely need more.
- Serve the red beans topped with a scoop of warm rice, a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley, and a dash of hot sauce. Enjoy!