A hearty serving of rice and beans is closely associated with Southern cooking, but in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, the side dish is served at each meal. Bean types vary depending on the country or region, with some cultures serving the beans on the side and others mixing them into the rice.
Start to Finish: 25 minutes
Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 chopped bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups white rice
- 1 can beans, 14 ounces
- Fresh herbs such as cilantro or oregano
Finely chop a selection of aromatics including onion, garlic and bell pepper or hot Scotch bonnet peppers.
Drain the liquid from the canned beans and rinse the rice to wash away any dust or excess starch.
Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven, which will deliver a consistent heat, and lightly saute the aromatics for 3 to 5 minutes until they start to crisp and turn translucent. Add a pinch of salt, as well as any seasoning, depending on the regional version.
Add the rice and beans to the pot and stir gently to mix evenly, then add enough water to cover the rice. Cover the pot and cook on a low simmer for 20 minutes.
Check the rice occasionally and top it with warm water if the rice appears to be drying out. Some bean varieties absorb more water than others.
Finely chop some cilantro and sprinkle it on top of the rice once it is cooked. Fluff the rice gently with a fork and allow it to rest, uncovered, for a minute or so.
Resist the temptation to stir the rice or check it too much during cooking, or you will end up with mushy, potentially undercooked rice by overworking the starches and allowing steam to escape.
Using Dry Beans
- Rinse the dry beans and remove any pieces of grit, foreign objects or individual beans that appear to have perished.
- Transfer the beans to a bowl and cover them with cold water, soaking them overnight. The beans can be left on the counter top at room temperature.
Do not salt the water, as this will toughen up the skin of the beans without making any impact on the flavor.
- Drain the water from the soaked beans, and rinse them through a sieve to wash out any deposits. Transfer the beans to a fresh pot and cover with plenty of water.
- Bring the beans to a low simmer, cover and cook them until tender. Spoon away any foam that builds up during the cooking.
Cooking times vary for different bean varieties. Black or pink beans can be ready in an hour, but kidney beans take 2 to 3 hours.
Add salt once the beans are almost cooked. The softened skins will more readily absorb the seasoning than if the salt is added at the beginning.
If time is of the essence, dry beans can be brought to a quick boil first for a few minutes, then removed from the heat and left to stand for an hour. The beans can then be simmered as normal and should be ready in roughly the same time as beans soaked overnight.
- Creole beans, a favorite of Southern cooks, uses red kidney beans served separately from the rice, often cooked with a leftover ham bone from the Sunday dinner. If not, bacon or sausage will do. Fry onions, celery and bell pepper for the aromatics, and season them with Cajun spices and a dash of Tabasco.
- Mexican rice and beans incorporates diced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers into the mix, along with spices such as cumin and chili powder. The dish favors black beans, with the rice steamed separately.
- Rice and beans with an Indian theme call for cumin and chili for spice and turmeric for the alluring color. Start by sauteing onion, ginger and garlic, then add the rice and black-eyed peas.
- In Jamaica, the dish is referred to as rice and peas, using soft kidney beans or snappier pigeon peas. Typically, the rice is seasoned with fiery Scotch bonnet peppers, but the heat is tempered by substituting some of the water for coconut milk. The final dish has a creamy texture and pleasant pink color.
- In the Latin Caribbean, Cuban cuisine uses black beans for the popular moro, while pink beans are ubiquitous in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. To add flavor, drop a raw onion half into the beans during cooking and remove it before serving, by which time it will be soft.