NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — If you grew up in Louisiana, you’ve probably had a bowl, or plate, of red beans and rice at least once in your lifetime, and it’s likely it was made on a Monday.
This classic Louisiana dish combines beans, the trinity (known to many Louisianians as bell pepper, celery and onion) and sausage into a meal that can be left on the stove all day long. All you have to do is add rice to create that homey, nostalgic meal.
In 2022, Governor John Bel Edwards declared Oct. 24 Red Beans and Rice Day. Coincidentally, it was a Monday!
But how did this tradition start? WGNO talked with a local chef to get the scoop, and we’re not talking about rice!
Kent LeVan, a chef instructor at the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, says the tradition of red beans in Louisiana stems from the settlement of the Acadians and Haitians in the state.
He said the Haitian revolution sparked the addition of rice, as beans and rice were considered a complete Caribbean meal with protein and starch all in one bowl.
LeVan said the tradition of eating the dish on Mondays started with the need for something that could sit on the burner all day long during laundry day, as people worked throughout the day.
“Something that could just go on the burner throughout the day was a necessity, and this [red beans] fulfilled that,” LeVan said.
He said the addition of ham or pork stemmed from Sunday meals, typically after church, that included a ham or pork.
“Nestling that left over ham hock in with the beans gives it that nice smokey flavor,” LeVan said.
Making red beans at home is simple. According to LeVan, all you need is water, beans, a ham hock, the trinity, the Cajun seasoning of your choice and sausage.
While it may have become a tradition over time, LeVan said soaking your beans overnight isn’t necessary.
When it comes to sausage, LeVan prefers andouille. He also likes to add picked ham into the mix to “add that layer of brightness.”
LeVan said his secret to a good pot of red beans is adding bacon.
“In French its ‘butter makes it better,’ but I say bacon makes it better,” LeVan said.
Before adding his andouille and trinity, LeVan renders bacon in the pot and uses the fat to flavor the beans.
“It never fails,” he said.
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