Red Beans and Rice and Collard Greens are the iconic combo of New Orleans. Louisiana’s cooks have made an inexpensive, home-style meal into a famous dish, right up there with Cuban Black Beans and Rice, Refried Beans and Yellow Rice, and other great bean and rice dishes of the World. Beans have always been an inexpensive way to get nutrition on the table, and with creative seasoning, legumes transform into comfort food of the highest order. Of course, the traditional Red Beans and Rice would probably have a hunk of pork thrown in, as would the long-simmered collard greens. I’ve taken a little license by cooking long grain brown rice with toasted sesame seeds, also called “benne seeds,” down South. I also cut the time and effort needed by opting for a quick saute, and using already cooked beans in a can. But Red Beans and Collard Greens over Rice is a plant-based comfort food you can assemble in minutes.
How to Make Red Beans and Collards Over Rice
The thing that takes the longest to cook is the brown rice. I used Brown Basmati Rice, and it takes 35-40 minutes to cook, so definitely start that first. For a nutty flavor boost, I swirled some brown sesame seeds over medium-high heat in the pot, so they became toasted and fragrant before I added the water. Once the water, brown rice and salt were in the pot, I put it over high heat and brought it to a boil. Then, I set it to low and covered the pot for 35-40 minutes. Always let whole grains sit for at least 5 minutes, covered, after they have absorbed all the water. The grains will be more tender and evenly cooked.
You may need a good heavy pot for cooking your brown rice-this one has served me well.
For the Red Beans and Collards, I warmed a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, then added chopped scallions, red and green bell peppers, red and green jalapenos and fresh thyme, and a couple of bay leaves, and stirred that until the vegetables softened. Because you aren’t going to cook dried beans, you can cook the vegetables until tender, then add the rest. Once the peppers were soft, I added some smoked paprika and salt and stirred for a minute before adding the canned kindey beans and their liquids. Don’t drain the beans, or you’ll need another liquid to add to the pan.
If you like the pan, check it out here.
After the beans simmered, covered, for about 5 minutes, I added the chopped collard greens. I had some lovely huge leaves, so I simply stripped them from the stems, then rolled the leaves for easy chopping. Once I stirred them into the simmering beans, I covered the pan and let them braise for about 5 minutes.
Make it in One Pot, Instead of Two
Red Beans and Rice is usually a two-pot affair, and the collard greens are cooked separately. I streamlined it a bit and cooked the greens in with the beans and veggies, and it works well. I also upped the veggie-to-bean ratio, and kept it colorful with red and green peppers that held their vibrant hues. If you’re curious about the Creole traditions of Red Beans and Rice, check it out here.
Because so many red beans and rice recipes call for smoky meats, I added some smoked paprika, which gives it a smoky kick. If you want more heat, you can always use Chipotle powder, instead.
Red Beans and Collards over Brown Rice
- 2 tablespoons brown sesame seeds
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large scallions chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large red bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 large green bell pepper chopped
- 1 jalapeno chopped
- 1 red jalapeno (Red Fresno) chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1 15 ounce can kidney beans with juices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 bunch collard greens
- In a small pot, swirl sesame seeds over medium-high heat until fragrant. Add the water, brown rice and salt, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, cook for 35-40 minutes.When all the water is absorbed, let stand, covered for five minutes.
- In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, peppers, jalapenos and thyme and stir, lowering theheat slightly to saute until tender.
- Add the paprika, salt and abeans and their liquids and stir. Cover for about 5 minutes to simmer.
- Stem and chop the collards and add to the pan. Stir and cover for about 5 minutes to braise.
- Taste for salt and heat, adding hot sauce if desired, and serve beans over rice.