Vegetarian Creole Spiced Red Beans & Rice
Like many humble bean dishes, this one is usually enriched with some sort of cured meat or sausage, which creates its smoky flavor — and it's made with slow-cooked dried beans. But our version is week-night friendly and vegetarian. It's made using canned beans enriched by using a touch of butter or coconut oil, with Creole Spice and smoked paprika providing a little heat and a lot of flavor.
Serve these beans over plain, long-grain rice (white is traditional but brown rice is also delicious).
3 tablespoons neutral tasting oil, such as canola or avocado
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1 cup diced onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
½ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried Greek oregano
2 teaspoons Creole Spice
1½ teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cans (14 ounce) small red beans,* drained, not rinsed
1¾ – 2 cups warm vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Black pepper, to taste
Put the oil and butter (or coconut oil) into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onion, green pepper, celery, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are translucent, very soft, and starting to brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute or so.
Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and drop the spices and tomato paste into the cleared space; cook for a minute or two until the spices are fragrant and the tomato paste darkens to a dark chocolaty red, then stir it into the vegetables.
Add the beans to the pot and stir to mix them with the vegetables, let them heat through for a moment, then add 1¾ cups broth plus ½ cup warm water. (Scrape the bottom once or twice to free any browned bits stuck there!) Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the liquids are simmering in a self-assured way but not boiling.
Simmer for 20–30 minutes, stirring the pot from time to time. Stir in the vinegar and black pepper. Taste for salt, add more if needed. If the sauce is thicker than you’d like, add a bit more broth. If you’d like the sauce to be thicker, scoop about ¼ cup of beans into a small bowl and mash them with a fork; then, stir them back into the pot (this thickens the sauce a bit.
* If you live in New England, Stewart’s Shelled Beans (canned, from Maine) work well and are readily available at grocery stores. What you’re looking for is a red bean, smaller and creamier than big, red kidney beans. Pinto beans make a good substitute for red beans here.