4 Different Ways to Cook Red Beans {Tips From a Red Beans Pro}

I am a born-and-raised New Orleans girl who was blessed enough to grow up eating my MawMaw’s red beans and rice nearly every Monday.

My husband, however, grew up in Colorado and the first time he’d ever had red beans was in his mid-twenties on his first visit to New Orleans. He liked them so much, he tried to make them himself when he returned home from his trip… using black beans! <facepalm> It was a disaster, but his red bean story does have a happy ending. (Mostly because he married me!)

These days, he gets pretty excited when he sees my big white Tupperware “soaking” bowl out on the counter because he knows that can only mean one thing: we’re about to have red beans!

Since I love big batch cooking so I can freeze meals for later, I don’t cook red beans each week (though we do eat them almost weekly). No matter how you cook them, red beans are GREAT for freezing!

But how do YOU cook red beans?

Over the years, I’ve cooked them 4 different ways:

  • On the stove
  • In the crockpot
  • In the Instant Pot
  • Doctored up canned Blue Runner beans

Each method has its merits.

There’s nothing like dragging out that big ol’ Magnalite pot and making a batch of red beans. Stovetop is great if you’re going the traditional route. But it also requires the most babysitting, so I hardly ever use it.

The Instant Pot method is gaining steam (see what I did there?) and makes it completely possible to whip up a spur-of-the-moment batch of beans on a weeknight. I’m an Instant Pot fan and red beans is one of the first things I made when I first got my pot. I especially like that there’s no need to dirty another pot since you can saute right in the liner!

The crockpot method is my preferred method because, in my opinion, the texture of the beans is <chef’s kiss> every time. Now, you don’t *actually* need to brown the sausage or saute the trinity prior to adding to the slowcooker — you could just dump it all in there and it’ll turn out fine. But I like the deeper flavor the precooking adds.

What red bean lover among us hasn’t made a batch of doctored up Blue Runners? You could just season it with a little Cajun seasoning, but if you’re willing to go a little farther, I can show you how to really dress them up.

Take it from me: You don’t need much talent in the kitchen at all to make a killer batch of red beans.

Red beans are very forgiving and pretty easily fixable. Just keep in mind the biggest rule of cooking: You can always add, but you can’t take away.  Better to under-season than over-season; better to have too little liquid and add more as it cooks down than to have watery red beans. (But if you do have watery red beans, just take the lid off as it continues to cook and let some of the liquid evaporate.)

No matter the method I use, the ingredients basically stay the same when I make red beans:

  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans, sorted over to remove any bad beans or debris
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 package of tasso, diced
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (I like to use half andouille and half green onion sausage)
  • 3 cups trinity — traditional New Orleans blend of onion, bell pepper & celery (I use a tall container of the pre-chopped Guidry’s brand in the refrigerated produce section to save time)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 32-ounce containers chicken broth (you will only need some of the second container unless you’re using the stovetop method)
  • Cooked rice for serving

The Crockpot Method (My Preferred Method)

Turn crockpot on LOW. Place your red beans in the crockpot. In a large skillet over medium heat on the stove, heat your oil or butter and add in your diced tasso and sliced sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes or until your meat is just browned. Add in your trinity, garlic, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt & pepper and cook until your onions are clear. Dump the skillet contents into the crockpot. Pour one entire container of chicken broth over the beans and add just enough of the other container until the beans are just covered in liquid (usually about half). Add in your bay leaves. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Personally, I like to cook my beans more like 12 hours so that they’re creamy and don’t need me to mash them against the side of the pot, but time doesn’t always allow for that. At least 15-20 minutes before you want to eat, take a heavy spoon or potato masher and mash some of the beans. Just be careful not to smash the sausage too. Continue to cook about 15-20 minutes and the beans should be nice and creamy. Remove the bay leaves. Serve over rice.

The Instant Pot Method

Using the Sauté function on the Instant Pot, heat your oil or butter in the pot and add in your diced tasso and sliced sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes or until your meat is just browned. Add in your trinity, garlic, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt & pepper and cook until your onions are clear. Add your beans to the pot, pour in one and a half containers of the chicken broth, and stir. Add in your bay leaves. Turn off Sauté mode. Put on your Instant Pot lid and lock and seal it. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes (40 minutes if you didn’t soak your beans) and then let it naturally release the pressure for another 20 minutes. Carefully turn the knob on the lid to vent the remaining pressure and once it’s safe to open the pot, remove the lid. Use a big spoon or a potato masher to mash beans to until they’re as creamy as you’d like them. Season to taste and serve over rice.

The Stovetop Method

Place your soaked red beans in a large, heavy stockpot. In a large skillet over medium heat on the stove, heat your oil or butter and add in your diced tasso and sliced sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes or until your meat is just browned. Add in your trinity, garlic, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt & pepper and cook until your onions are clear. Dump the skillet contents into the stockpot. Pour both containers of chicken broth over the beans and, if necessary, add in water until the beans are just covered in liquid. Add in your bay leaves. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 or more hours, stirring often and making sure the beans don’t look dry. At least 15-20 minutes before you want to eat, take a heavy spoon or potato masher and mash some of the beans. Just be careful not to smash the sausage too. Continue to cook about 15-20 minutes and the beans should be nice and creamy. Remove the bay leaves. Season to taste and serve over rice.

The Doctored Up Canned Beans Method

***Use the same ingredient and measurements listed above, but substitute the pound of dried red beans for 3 cans of Blue Runner Creole Cream Style Red Beans. Also, you will only need a cup or so of chicken broth or water.***
In a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat, heat your oil or butter and add in your diced tasso and sliced sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes or until your meat is just browned. Add in your trinity, garlic, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt & pepper and cook until your onions are clear. Lower the heat and add in your three cans of Blue Runner beans. Add in enough chicken broth until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Cook for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve over rice.

My Best Bean Tips

  1. Soak your beans. I hear your collective groan. I know, I know… this step technically isn’t necessary. But my MawMaw wouldn’t have even considered cooking red beans without soaking them first, so I always choose to soak. But you do you, boo.
  2. Use Camellia brand beans. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with other brands, but the die-hard New Orleanian in me just can’t seem to branch out.
  3. Choose your sausage wisely. Regular smoked sausage works just fine, but don’t be afraid to switch it up. If your kiddos aren’t into spicy foods, green onion sausage is a great option. For spicier beans, go with a good andouille. I like to do half andouille/half green onion, but there are plenty of options out there.
  4. Pork pointers: Pickled pork, ham hocks, tasso, even bacon… the list goes on and they all add a little extra oomph to your beans. My preference is tasso, but my MawMaw always used pickled pork.
  5. Prep your meat ahead of time. Whenever I bring my meat home from the grocery, I try my best to slice it ASAP. I use my trusty vacuum sealer to package my sliced sausage and diced tasso, but freezer bags work great. (Plus, having sliced sausage ready to go makes whipping up some Jambalaya Girl gumbo or jambalaya even easier, too!)
  6. Shortcuts: The Trinity Chopping your own onions, celery & bell pepper is wonderful. But so is using the pre-cut stuff in the produce section or even the freezer section. Save yourself some time and clean up!
  7. Chicken Broth > Water It’s a small change, but I swear by it. The flavor of the chicken broth adds another level to your beans.
  8. I LOVE using Cajun seasoning… just not in my red beans. Trust me, you won’t even miss it after you use the spice rack staples in my recipe!
  9. Mashing is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I mash beans all the time. But I prefer to let those beans cook down on their own to get the creamiest, dreamiest texture.
  10. Freeze those leftovers. I actually cook 2 pounds of red beans at a time in my 8-quart crockpot because I freeze portions of them for later meals. Red beans freeze and reheat perfectly.
Joey is a New Orleans native, Dominican alum, and LSU grad who joined the ranks of motherhood in the summer of 2019. She and her Colorado born-and-raised husband, Phil, left their Mid-City apartment for a house on the Northshore about ten days before they welcomed their son, Sam, into the world. Though she’s always had a passion for writing, it’s her work as the Director of Marketing for a Louisiana-based electrical firm that pays the bills. She’s a longtime member of the dance troupe The Muff-A-Lottas and when she isn’t covered in glitter and dancing through the streets of New Orleans, she’s usually cooking, trying new restaurants, and listening to true crime podcasts. A consummate Pinterest fanatic, she’s always looking for her next DIY project or recipe to try. She believes good senses of humor and random acts of kindness make the world go ‘round.

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