The Best Rice and Beans: My Mom’s Favorite Recipe

For as long as I can remember, there was always a bowl of soaking beans in the kitchen of my childhood home. This side dish was almost a daily occurrence, along with the gentle hissing of my mother’s stovetop pressure cooker.

Vertical image of a bowl of rice, legumes, and fresh herbs, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I have fond memories of her chopping up peppers and onions almost to the rhythm of the release valve dancing in place.

And soon enough, she’d place a heaping bowl of steaming hot beans coated in her special sofrito in the middle of the table. Along with a healthy portion of perfectly salted white rice, it was more than enough to satisfy.

Other times, there’d be a roast chicken or a beautifully seared steak. But when I think of home, the memory is redolent with the heady aroma of peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and rich spices like cumin.

This follows my mom’s original recipe as best as I can remember, and it tastes like home.

Vertical image of part of a bowl with rice and legumes topped with green herbs next to a metal spoon on top of a gray towel.

You’ll want to make sure that if you are using dried legumes, clean them fully and get rid of any grit or dirt that might be lurking in the bag.

You can use canned legumes instead, and I often have. Being a mother of three doesn’t leave me with much extra time on my hands, so pulling out a can works in a pinch.

But between you and me, there’s something that feels just a touch more heartwarming when you transform them from their dried state into something so filling and nutritious for your loved ones.

I take such pride in placing that bowl on my table now. And yes, on occasion, I’ll use one of my mother’s serving bowls from so long ago.

As for the vegetable mixture, otherwise known as sofrito, you’ll want to cook the vegetables down until they are just a bit tender, but not too much. They’ll continue to cook down later on.

Vertical image of a large bowl with rice and beans on a gray towel next to a metal spoon, all on top of a wooden table.

In this dish, we use red onions, as they add a hint of sweetness. But feel free to use white or Vidalia onions instead. Dice them into small cubes, so they will easily be distributed throughout the dish.

Green peppers or red? The truth is, I have used both. There is a slight flavor difference between the two.

I think red peppers have a bit more of a kick, and the green variety has a gentler taste profile. But both look gorgeous in this dish. Maybe we’ll try yellow peppers next time.

You should be able to find a bouillon cube easily. We use the chicken version, but the beef flavor works in this dish as well.

As for the rice, give the grains a thorough washing and remove as much starch as you can before cooking. The water should run clear.

During the cooking process, a little salt goes a long way. Be sure to fluff the grains with a fork once they’re cooked, to avoid clumping.

Vertical close-up image of a bowl of rice and beans.

If you’re like me and you’re trying to lose that little bit of extra weight caused by having children (but they’re worth it!), you might want to omit the rice, or exchange it for a whole grain instead.

The flavorful beans are delicious served alone, or you can pile a few spoonfuls over lightly oiled spinach, or a simple arugula salad. You’ll still get to appreciate the delectable taste and excellent nutrition, without the carbs.

Feel free to make a large batch and store the rest in the fridge in an airtight vessel. It should keep for up to a week. Or, divide into portions and store in the freezer.

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Horizontal image of a wooden spoon inserted into a bowl of rice and beans garnished with herbs.

My Mom’s Favorite Rice and Beans


  • Author: Katherine D'Costa
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours, 55 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

This is a classic, nutritious dish that’s full of flavor, which makes it the perfect comfort food. It’s fantastic as a side, and even better as a main course.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces dried kidney beans (or 4 15-oz cans)
  • 4 quarts warm water (128 fl oz)
  • 1 small red onion, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, or your choice of color, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ripe Roma tomato, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

To Prep:

  1. Clean and rinse dried kidney beans, removing any debris.
  2. Soak in 4 quarts warm water for at least 8 hours before cooking.
  3. Reserve 11 cups of the water for cooking, and discard the rest. Rinse and drain beans, and set aside.

To Make Sofrito and Pressure Cook:

  1. Add the onion, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a medium-sized saute pan, and place over medium heat. Saute for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add 1 cup reserved water, bouillon cube, smoked paprika, ground cumin, and black pepper.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set pan aside for 2 minutes.
  4. In either a stove-top or electric pressure cooker, add drained beans and 6 cups reserved water.
  5. Transfer vegetable mixture to pressure cooker. Stir. Secure lid and cook for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally.

To Cook Rice and Finish Dish:

  1. Meanwhile, coat a large, heavy pot with remaining vegetable oil and place over medium heat. Add rice and salt.
  2. Saute rice for 2 minutes until slightly toasted, then add 4 cups water and mix well. When water starts to gently boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover rice and fluff thoroughly with a fork.
  4. Fold rice and beans together in the pot or in a large bowl, using a rubber spatula.
  5. Sprinkle cilantro on top and serve.

  • Category: Grains, Legumes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Side Dish

Keywords: rice, beans, beans and rice, kidney beans

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Soak

Horizontal image of a pot with water and dried red legumes.

First, thoroughly clean the dried kidney beans, removing any grit or debris. Rinse in a colander to remove any remaining dust or grit, then place them in a large stockpot or mixing bowl, and cover with about two inches of water.

To speed up your prep time, you can use a canned option instead. If you choose to do this, opt for unsalted kidneys if you can find them, and rinse them well before using. For a detailed guide on the difference between canned and dried, check out this article.

The beans should be softer to the touch after a thorough soaking. Drain them in a colander and set it aside. To save water, I reserve 11 cups of the water that I used for soaking to use throughout the recipe. If you start with canned, you will need 11 cups of water total for cooking.

Also, never store soaked legumes, as they’ll spoil. Once soaked, you’ll need to cook them right away or freeze them in airtight containers.

Step 2 – Prepare Vegetable Mixture

Horizontal image of a sofrito mixture cooking in a pan.

This type of vegetable mixture is commonly referred to as sofrito. In a medium-sized pan, saute the onion, green pepper, tomato, and garlic in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on medium heat for 4 minutes.

Be sure to stir constantly, so all the ingredients incorporate fully, and nothing sticks to the pan.

Slowly add one cup of water, while stirring.

With a spoon, swirl the bouillon cube against the bottom of the pan to break it down faster.

Add the smoked paprika, ground cumin, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer for five minutes.

Step 3 – Pressure Cook

Horizontal image of a black pot with a mixture of liquid, beans, and vegetables.

In a stovetop or electric pressure cooker, mix the sofrito and the soaked and drained kidney beans together gently with 6 cups reserved water. Secure the lid and cook for 20 minutes.

For safety reasons, we advise allowing the pressure to release naturally.

Step 4 – Cook Rice

Horizontal image of a pot with cooked white rice.

While that’s cooking, toss the grains with the salt and remaining oil to coat, and saute it briefly in a large pot over medium heat. This will add another layer of flavor.

Stir for about two minutes. Do not to saute for longer or use a higher level of heat, so as not to burn it.

Add 4 cups of water and stir gently. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Don’t try peeking into the pot, as this will prolong the required cooking time by allowing heat and moisture to escape.

When your timer goes off, remove from the heat. Open the lid and fluff the grains with a fork. Let the pot sit for a few minutes to allow the steam to evaporate.

Step 5 – Combine Ingredients

Horizontal image of a spoon inserted into a bowl filled with flavored rice and legumes in front of a wooden bowl and on top of a gray towel.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cooked legume and sofrito mixture into the rice. Keep in mind that the legumes are tender and can easily break apart if they’re mixed too aggressively. Keep folding until all of the grains are coated.

Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro on top.

Can I Use a Different Type of Bean?

You sure can! Black beans can easily sub in for red kidneys. These are a bit smaller and denser than their red counterparts, but they are just as nutritious and easy to prepare. You can also use pinto or navy varieties.

Horizontal image of a wooden spoon inserted into a bowl of rice and beans garnished with herbs.

Are you serving this as a side dish, or a main course? Did you use canned or dried legumes? Let us know below. We look forward to your comments.

For more tasty dishes made with your favorite grains and legumes, take a look at these fabulous recipes from Foodal:

Photos by Katherine D’Costa, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 22, 2011. Last updated: January 8, 2020 at 13:31 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Eddie & Katherine D'Costa

Eddie and Katherine D’Costa are a married professional chef and journalist duo from Atlanta, where they cook up a variety of international dishes, tested for the home cook. Katherine holds an MA in journalism from Northeastern University and Eddie’s professional experience spans 20 years working with Wolfgang Puck, Jean George Vongerichten, and Todd English.

38 thoughts on “The Best Rice and Beans: My Mom’s Favorite Recipe”

  1. This looks great. I’m bookmarking it to try it during the week. I love beans so much, my mouth is watering just looking at this picture.

    Reply
  2. You cannot beat a simple dish that is done very well. While this is not a common dish in the country where I live, I do enjoy it. Thanks for the recipe Lynne.

    Reply
  3. Its my favorite dish despite my qualms with beans…i tend to bloat afterwards…beans do contain acid right?…you mentioned soaking them in water overnight, well that’s what mom would do too but in this case, she’d say its to save me the hyper-acidity and gassy feeling {embarrassing situations} and for a fact it worked…she said it {soaking} had something to do with extracting the acid contained within the beans…how true the theory is, i don’t know..maybe its an ol’ wives tale but am proof it works ;).

    Reply
    • Diane, beans tend to do a number on me as well but I haven’t found anything at all that works for me. I’ve read that you should even try changing the soaking water a few times to discard the gases that have dissipated from the beans but that was no help. I’ve even tried adding baking soda to the soaking water because I saw that trick, too. Maybe another reader can add their tips to try and de-gas my beans! 😉

      Reply
      • In my situation adding baking soda to remedy that will just offset everything in my digestive tract…i just had to give up beans all together, then again just looking at the presentations within this site, i find myself rethinking and actually craving the beans altogether…just like you’ve said, i guess we’ll have to wait for someone to come up with a great tip/remedy on how to de-gas the legumes.

        Reply
      • Yes indeed, soaking and then changing the water is the answer! I soak them and then wash them before cooking. I do like the sound of this recipe very much. Tasty, nutritious and comforting. Definitely one for an autumn evening.

        Reply
  4. I definitely know what I am making this week! I’ve been using an old crock pot recipe for my beans and rice for years, but I am going to give your recipe a try. It sounds perfect. I’ve never heard of putting an egg on top, but I’m going to add that as well. Now my belly is growling!

    I call red beans and rice my poverty lunch. It’s just so cheap and easy to make such a large quantity. Since no one else in my house really cares for it, I just eat it for lunches for a while.

    I’ve just recently discovered this blog, but I am so happy I did. Thanks for the new red beans and rice recipe!

    Reply
  5. Beans and rice is such a staple dish. I continue to make it to this day. I have never used cumin and paprika in my version, but I am going to try it next time I make it. I bet the smokiness of the cumin and the kick of the paprika add whole new layer of flavor. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Reply
  6. I think I can have this at breakfast and add a fried egg, perfect! It’s an easy and simple recipe yet delectable. At a low cost, I guess that I could share this with my family even everyday. I have taken down notes of the essential key in cooking good rice. Thanks Lynne for this article!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure about you but… Whenever I eat beans, I become too “gassy” (lol, *farts*). But even so, I still eat and love beans. Not for breakfast though XD (I’ll end up farting the whole day XD)

      *Sorry for the awkward comment, lol*

      Reply
  7. I really enjoy eating rice and beans. I’m definitely going to try this recipe. I like eating them with tacos or enchiladas…or stuffing them inside burritos. I’m the only one in my house who likes to eat them so whenever I cook a batch I end up with a lot leftover. This is okay with me because I eat the leftovers with just about everything. Or sometimes I make a huge batch of chicken fried rice. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. I am so shocked that beans can be dirty, I have never heard of a mention about it. People usually start by explaining the soaking part. 🙂 Anyway, I love beans and rice, I remember a “corner” grocery store in New Orleans named Natal, Chef Menteur Highway, that had a little restaurant. Their red beans and rice was amazing, along with everything else they served. lol I tried the recipe on yesterday and I am super satisfied. Yum!

    Reply
  9. Beans and rice is one of my favorite dishes. It’s so easy and it’s a dish that most people really enjoy. This looks like it would be a really easy dish. I don’t really use paprika, cumin, or cilantro but I will try them with this. Always looking for different things to try out.

    Reply
  10. This recipe is a little different than the one I use, and since I’m always on the lookout for different ways to cook things, I’ll try this. My recipe calls for onion, garlic, celery seed and cumin. I also add a ham hock and some andouille sausage. I haven’t tried using the pressure cooker for beans. I make mine in an enameled cast iron dutch oven.

    Reply
  11. I know many don’t think it’s healthy, but I always use animal fat when I cook pinto beans. I like lentils with olive oil, but pinto beans really need that meaty flavor.

    Reply
  12. This is very similar to how I make my rice and beans but I use rosadas ( small pink beans) and small diced pieces of calabasa ( pumpkin) and I do not use chicken broth anymore instead I now add a small amount of tomato sauce. I also prefer medium grain rice. Rice and beans is definitely an economical dish that fills up everyone’s tummy. I once had a call from my son’s grandmother accusing me of not feeding her grandson because every time he stopped by her house, which was around the block form our house, he would answer “No, not yet” when asked if he had eaten. The reason he answered no was because no matter what he ate prior to supper, he felt he had not yet eaten until he had rice and beans, which at that time we had everyday with supper, be it rice and beans made traditionally or rice and gondulez ( pigeon peas) .

    Reply
  13. Great recipe. I find Mexican rice and beans are really great in tortillas or tacos. Very similar to how I do it, although I look to add a bit more heat with chilli sauces such as Tabasco, habanero or Cayenne. Like I say for many of these recipes will be trying this one this week!

    Reply
  14. Beans and Rice is my favorite, I like red beans and rice, black beans and rice. I must have beans and rice at least once every other week.

    Great recipe. I have the rice cooker – great tool to have in the kitchen.

    Reply
  15. I’ve always thought rice and beans seemed a bit bland and boring but this recipe looks delicious! I’m eating frugally right now and this looks like something else I can add to my “poverty meal” repertoire.

    Reply
  16. It is interesting that you saute your rice first and then add water. I am accustomed to just boiling my rice. I will have to try it to see the difference. Something else you do different is the saute and puree of the veggies that go into the beans. I simply love beans and rice, and this gives me a new take on it. I do already know to soak the beans first, but it is great you include this point because it is crucial. I have never used fresh cilantro in my beans though. Cilantro is so strong, I will have to try it in just a small amount of beans first.

    Reply
  17. I’m TOTALLY saving this for when I become broke again. Everyone around me’s eating rice and beans, and I was SO SICK of it, this recipe actually makes me wanna try it again.

    Reply
  18. Rice & beans: One of the most under utilized, nutritious, & cheap dishes of all time. So many variations it can ridiculously camouflage itself for every meal from any region. Love it. Thanks for this great recipe.

    Reply
  19. I’m always looking for good rice and bean recipes. I like the idea of this one, but have tried to cut out chicken bouillon cubes since the brand I used to buy has MSG. I’m curious if there are other brands of bouillon cubes that are MSG free? It might be worth looking into, because I do like the flavor, and could see trying this recipe!

    Reply
  20. I have never had rice and beans being from the UK, but I guess that it is similar in taste to some of the Indian dals I make?

    I am just wondering about the quantities. 3 cups of rice and 1lb of beans seems to be an awful lot for 4 people though. I am also guessing the water situation is variable with the beans, an add it as you go kind of approach if you don’t have a pressure cooker when using a pan? I have never really cooked the beans with the intention of running out of water in the pan as the are cooked and certainly never tried it will a whole load of pureed vegetables in the water with them? Does it make a huge difference to the taste of the beans?

    Reply
  21. Wow! I never knew that beans and rice could be made so deliciously. I don’t have a pressure cooker, but I’m pretty sure I can adapt the recipe accordingly.

    It’s great to come across really healthy dishes – rice and beans together are an excellent source of nutrition, and something we should try to incorporate into our diet more often.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  22. Since I don’t have a pressure cooker, I’ve never used one to cook beans, but making them in a pan really does take quite a bit of time, so this may be the impetus I need to finally buy a pressure cooker. I’ve never used oil to make rice, nor have I sauteed it first, but I can see how that would add a lot of flavor, so I’m definitely going to try it next time I make rice, and I am looking forward to trying this recipe, it sounds delicious.

    Reply
  23. Yummy, this is a favorite dish to mix up. I would of not thought to use a bouillon cube for this. Plenty of other seasonings in this one. It would be good to try it both ways with or without to see the difference. I’d probably use a safflower or sunflower oil. Coconut oil might be interesting because it’s sweet. I like to add this kind of thing to my wraps and keep it around to add to other dishes.

    Reply
  24. This is a classic dish no matter where you live. Sometimes even the simplest of things cam prove to be tasty. I wish I had a pressure cooker so I could cook the beans faster. That just might make cooking other things faster as well. This recipe is also good for beginner cooks since it’s not top complicated.

    Reply
  25. Got to love simple, tasty, affordable dishes. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on really delicious hearty meals. Every pantry should have beans and rice in it, but many don’t keep these staples on hand.

    Reply
  26. I usually eat beans as is. I never really liked how it mixes with rice or bread. Although I guess that’s because I use plain rice. Trying this recipe wouldn’t hurt 😀 I need a change of perspective, after all 🙂

    Reply
  27. This recipe brought a smile on my face. I have very fond memories of this dish, my grandmother used to cook it for me when I was a little girl and it was a simple yet delicious meal. I’ve tried to reproduce it but no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get a decent result. Your recipe sounds great, I’ve already saved it and I will try it out as soon as possibile, thank you for the tips, I think I’ll follow your lead and I’ll use a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process.

    Reply
  28. Oooh, my hubby loves this for a side dish. I’ll have to try this one out for him.

    I’ve been looking for stuff to do with my pressure cooker too, so this is perfect. I never thought about making beans in it. Great idea! I think I’ll try them with ham as well, with a side of cornbread.

    Reply
  29. Ooh, that looks so good. My father is Columbian, and rice and beans is one of the first meals I learned to cook with him. He’d cook parboiled rice with red canned beans, add onions, garlic, ketchup, hot sauce and a spice called Triguisar, and mix it all. It’s so amazing and simple, I recommend it to everyone interested in more variants! This reminds me i haven’t cooked that in a while, and I have a sudden craving…

    Reply
  30. I make a this lot – my version is a little simpler than yours. What I love about the dish is that it comforting and hearty eaten hot in the winter and very fulfilling cold with a salad in the summer.

    Reply
  31. This is the staple food where I am at now in central america and is called Gallo Pinto. In the poorer areas, it is probably 50% of a persons calories throughout the week. But even as a non-native, it is a great food to take advantage of because beans are so cheap and plentiful year-round and more importantly, they are one of the healthiest foods, especially for those trying to get protein while limiting red meat consumption.

    For me, I generally go light on the rice, and instead make my gallo pinto about 75% beans. I also dice a few strips of beacon and add it when cooking the beans. Even a tiny amount of bacon gives a really strong meaty flavor. Once finished with the beans, we usually saute some onions and green peppers which are diced to add a little more flavor.

    Reply
  32. Rice and beans is definitely a great dish to use either as a base for other dishes, or to eat on its own as an inexpensive and healthy meal. I have never tried making it with this many ingredients, but I’m curious to incorporate these ideas into my next batch!

    Reply
  33. This has been on my list of things-to-try for ages and I finally got round to it tonight. Oh my goodness! Lush, delicious comfort food. I can already think if lots of slight variations in flavoring. What a revelation, thank you so much.

    Reply
  34. That just looks amazing, just flat out amazing. I know that it is my bias towards rice and beans in general coming out, but still. I am a pretty simple man, but even the simplest, like a rice and beans, has to be done very well in my opinion. I love this recipe and cannot wait to try it.

    Reply

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