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Red Beans and Rice (Better Than Popeye’s!)

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Have you ever had traditional Red Beans and Rice? It’s a southern staple! I tried Popeye’s Red Beans and Rice for the first time a while back, but these beans are even better. They are so creamy and flavorful, with the perfect smoky Cajun spice! 

red beans and rice

I took the kids off to school for their first day this morning! Valentine is at home with me still, and 2 seconds after we got home she managed to spill an entire cup of milk all over the kitchen. I walk in and start cleaning it up, and she keeps saying “S**t… s**t… s**t.” I’m dying laughing and trying to figure out where she learned that word (because no one in our house uses it) when I realize that she spilled milk on her SHIRT.

red beans and rice

No use crying over spilled milk, right? She’s so cute I can’t even be mad at her. Also, a baby cussing (even if unintentional) is so funny that it makes a spilled milk situation a lot more bearable.

red beans and rice recipe

I ate at Popeye’s for the first time just a few months ago, and now I’m totally obsessed with their red beans and rice. I told my brother Nathan about it and he just rolled his eyes at me. He lived in Richmond, Virginia for a few years in residency, so he had access to legit southern food. Popeye’s might not be a real Southerner’s top choice for where to get red beans and rice, but for this California girl who had never even heard of it? I was in love. Also, today’s recipe is even better than Popeye’s red beans and rice, thanks to the meaty ham bone we are using. It makes the beans so smoky and delicious!

easy red beans and rice recipe

(But really though, shout out to Popeye’s. Again, I’m not Southern, but that place has delicious food. Nathan told me that once in Richmond they had a fried chicken contest with a bunch of local restaurants, and Popeye’s chicken won. BOOM.)

If you aren’t from the south (more specifically, New Orleans), you might not have heard of this delightful red beans and rice combination. Rice and beans is nothing new of course, but it’s the special Cajun twist on the beans that makes it unique. Traditionally it was made on Mondays, because that was laundry day, and you could set the pot of beans on the stove to cook all day while you were working. Red beans and rice was Louis Armstrong’s favorite food, and he used to sign letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours,” how cute is that?

how to make red beans and rice

I’m here to let you in on a few secrets about cooking beans from scratch. You do NOT need to soak the dry beans overnight. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many recipes call for this unnecessary step. Now, it is true that you can reduce some of the, ahem, intestinal effects of beans by soaking for a few hours and discarding the water. But it is absolutely not necessary and in my opinion a huge waste of time.

popeye's red beans and rice

Second tip. DON’T salt the beans until the end, about the last 30-60 minutes of cooking. Salting the beans makes it harder for them to absorb water, resulting in a slower cooking time. Meaning you have to wait even longer before you can get to red bean bliss. Low and slow is really the only way to cook beans. It’s the perfect lazy-day-at-home meal.

how to make red beans and rice

(Chop up some of those celery leaves to go in the beans. They have so much flavor!)

how to make red beans and rice with ham bone

(Aren’t those red beans beautiful? If you can’t find them, kidney beans work great too!)

Third tip. Save your ham bone whenever you make a ham. It gives the beans such an amazing smoky flavor. They will keep for a long time in the freezer. I’m pretty sure the one I used for this recipe was from last Thanksgiving, almost a year ago. If you don’t happen to have one, use a ham hock, those work great too and you can just buy them in the meat department. Some recipes call for andouille sausage instead of ham. I haven’t tried that yet, but it sounds delicious.

Red beans and rice is considered a main dish all on it’s own. It really does fill you up and leave you satisfied! This is true especially if you use a ham bone that is nice and meaty.

popeyes red beans and rice recipe

But if you are craving a main dish that is not so beany, fried chicken is your best bet. It tastes amazing with these beans. I picked some up at the grocery store. I actually don’t have a recipe for fried chicken (have not mastered that technique yet! Anyone have a good recipe?) but these beans would taste great with this Simply Amazing Grilled Chicken Marinade.

You could also check out my post for How to Make Ultra Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, because what’s better than buttery biscuits and beans?? It would also pair amazingly well with My Favorite Coleslaw. Put this all together and you will have an amazing Southern feast!

UPDATE! A reader named Patrick commented below and mentioned that Red Beans and Rice is served with French bread in New Orleans, not biscuits. So here’s my favorite recipe for One Hour French Bread! Thanks Patrick!

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One year ago: Classic Stromboli Recipe
Four years ago: Pineapple Spinach Salad
Six years ago: Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

Have you ever had traditional Red Beans and Rice? It’s a southern staple! I tried Popeye’s Red Beans and Rice for the first time a while back, but these beans are even better. They are so creamy and flavorful, with the perfect smoky Cajun spice! 

by The Food Charlatan

*You can also use dry kidney beans if you can’t find red beans.

Basic rice recipe: For this amount of beans, I like to use about 3 cups of DRY rice:

Add 3 cups dry rice to a medium pot. (You’re supposed to rinse it and I never do…oops.) Add 4 and 1/2 cups water. Add the salt and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat with the lid on. Once it boils, lower the heat to low. Do not remove the lid. Let cook for about 15 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Turn off the heat and put the lid back on and let steam in the pot for another 5-10 minutes.

More bean recipes you are going to love!

Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans (Slow Cooker) << this recipe is from my brother-in-law’s grandma. It’s one of my favorite recipes on my blog!

Traditional Tejano Beans from The Food Charlatan

Cowboy Pinto Bean Soup (Slow Cooker):

Cowboy Pinto Bean Soup from The Food Charlatan


Bacon Baked Beans << these are so good to bring to barbecues.

Bacon Baked Beans from The Food Charlatan


More bean recipes from friends that you will love!

Skillet Beans and Rice with Kielbasa from BellyFull
Instant Pot Beans from A Mindful Mom
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup from Valerie’s Kitchen

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