Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

This vegetarian red beans and rice recipe is budget-friendly meal with ingredients that are accessible in most supermarkets. Zesty and nutrient-dense, it’s full of veggies, legumes, and Cajun spices.

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice | Vegan Red Beans and Rice Recipe

48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children (nearly one in five children in America)—lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. They live in food- insecure households and as a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.


A bit about food access and hunger

A sobering truth is that while most people we know are blessed with the ability to eat whatever we want whenever we want, millions of people around us are not. It’s easy to put on the Pinterest-tinted glasses and create a happy world where everyone eats veggie enchiladas and drinks green smoothies — but the truth is, many Americans simply don’t have the resources or access to get to even half of the veggies in a trendy green drink.

Alex and I are thankful to know people who are passionate about combating food access and hunger in our country, and it’s an issue we are naturally interested in as well, as people who care deeply about food and nutrition. So we couldn’t be more pleased to be joining with our inspiring friend Nicole to use today’s post to raise awareness in a campaign called Food Bloggers Against Hunger (and, check out the link to see the 200 other food bloggers that have joined in the effort! So cool.).

Millions of Americans who participate in the nation’s food stamp program are limited to an average of $3 or $4 per person each day to supplement their food budget. And since government subsidies generally focus on products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce,  most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.

Vegetarian red beans and rice

With that in mind, today we’re sharing a budget-friendly meal with ingredients that are easily accessible in most supermarkets. This take on Red Beans and Rice can be made on a budget, for about $4 per person. But even better, it’s very delicious and nutrient-dense: full of veggies, legumes, and Cajun spices that pack a large amount of flavor into some humble ingredients. It also works for various special diets, including dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian.

The ingredients in this vegan red beans and rice recipe are simple: onion, celery, green pepper, tomatoes, and red beans. What makes the zesty flavor is the homemade Cajun spices: cayenne, paprika, oregano, and thyme. And if you can handle the heat, the finishing touch is the hot sauce! We ate our vegetarian red beans and rice with brown rice, but any type of rice will do. If you have a rice cooker or Instant Pot, it’s perfect to throw in the rice while you make the remainder of the recipe.

Related: Cuban Black Beans with Rice and Brown Rice Recipes

Looking for vegan recipes?

This Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice recipe is also vegan! Here are a few of our favorite vegan recipes:

This recipe is…

This Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice recipe is vegetarian, gluten free, vegan, plant based, dairy free and naturally sweet.

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Red Beans and Rice

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (110 votes, average: 4.01 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 1x


This vegetarian red beans and rice recipe is a budget-friendly meal with accessible ingredients. Zesty and nutrient dense, it’s full of veggies and Cajun spices.


  • 4 cups cooked brown rice (use How to Cook Rice or Instant Pot rice)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans (3 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, to garnish
  • Hot sauce, to garnish


  1. Cook the rice according to package instructions.
  2. Dice the onion and celery. Dice the pepper. Mince the garlic.
  3. In a large saucepan (or dutch oven), warm the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, celery, and pepper for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes more; watch the pan to avoid burning the garlic.
  4. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the red beans. When the vegetables are ready, add the beans, diced tomatoes with their liquid, and vegetable broth. Stir in the cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, thyme, 2 bay leaves, kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
  5. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile, roughly chop the parsley leaves.
  6. When simmering is complete, remove the bay leaves and serve the beans over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and hot sauce.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Cajun

Keywords: Red Beans and Rice, Vegetarian, Vegan, Vegan Red Beans and Rice, Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 8:38 am

    This is so my kind of meal!!! I have been all over mexican food lately and rice is a staple in our house! Seriously, we have it multiple times a week! Cant wait to make this!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    April 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

    This is such a fabulous project, and this recipe looks so lovely!

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve tried many times to make a good vegetarian RB&R but I can’t get it to taste right without a ham bone and homemade chicken stock. I’ll have to give veggie stock a try. I’ve tried a “curried” variation that replaced meat with potatoes and used curry and coconut milk instead of stock that came out pretty good.

    Adding the tomatoes is interesting. Louis Armstrong’s RB&R recipe adds tomato paste. I’ve tried it a few times but I found it was too heartburn inducing.

    I can’t believe you only stew it for 20 minutes! I leave mine on at minimum 2 hours.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Yeah! We definitely aren’t going traditional here — and using the canned beans it can be cooked rather quickly. You’ll have to let us know if you try it and what you think!

  • Reply
    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet
    April 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you so much for participating in this event and for sharing this AMAZING recipe! I am definitely going to be making this soon.:)

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    This is the prettiest beans and rice I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure the tastiest! What a great cause, too. I wish I would have known about it earlier!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      Oh, thank you Ashley!

  • Reply
    Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health
    April 9, 2013 at 1:09 am

    I think it is awesome that you are raising awareness for this! Whenever I throw something away, I feel guilty as I know so many families are suffering from hunger out there. I totally support this cause and love your simple and wholesome recipe!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      Thank you so much for your support, Sarah!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    We were going to post a beans and rice recipe as well, then we opted for a breakfast dish. But you’re right, never everyone drinks and eats like Pinterest shows us, it’s important to know that others don’t have those opportunities!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Yes, as much as we’d love to live in a Pinboard, it’s good to know it’s not reality — for most of us :)

  • Reply
    Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies
    April 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I ate a whole lot of Red Beans and Rice when I was in college and I still have a fondness for it! It’s one of those rare comfort foods that’s also good for you. And the budget-friendly aspect of it is a great bonus too!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      Beans and rice is pretty standard, but we’d actually never made red beans and rice Cajun style! We were pleasantly surprised at how tasty they were :)

  • Reply
    April 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    I have been looking for a vegetarian red beans and rice recipe for a long time and I was so excited when I saw this recipe. My husband and I loved this meal, and it will surely become a staple in our rotation. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      April 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it :-)

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ Salt Is Your Friend
    April 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for this. I just saw it today so I clearly missed the April 8 event but this post led me to Nicole at The Giving Table. I emailed her and asked if there are any other events coming up and she responded right away with some suggestions.

    The food crisis in our country is a cause that tugs at my heart and ultimately what led me to blogging. Collectively, we’re forgetting how to cook real food. The more we rely on someone else to do our cooking (whether it’s restaurants or factories), the more they can charge us for it. My goal is to help people in the kitchen so I love blogs like yours who teach people how to cook with whole ingredients, too. Thank you for making me (and many others) aware of this organization. I’m excited to get involved!

    • Reply
      April 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      Stephanie — Yes! Thank you so much for your passion for this issue! I took a look at your site and it is very in depth with a great amount of information. Your heart for helping people in the kitchen is evident! I’m excited to hear about how you continue to become involved — I’d love to stay in touch! Thanks for this note.

  • Reply
    Kiyomi D
    April 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I love this recipe and as a family on a budget it is perfect! I could eat this a couple times a week. I made it tonight and doubled everything since we had company (I always add more peppers and celery) and it was good, even the one who never clears a plate, at cleared 2 tonight! Thanks.

    • Reply
      April 24, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      Kiyomi, thank you for writing! It is so nice to hear that you found this recipe enjoyable, and it worked on a budget! It’s encouraging since we develop in our own kitchen, but never know how it might translate to others. Thank you for letting us know!

  • Reply
    May 26, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Thank you so much for this recipe! This is the best vegetarian red beans and rice I have ever had. Though, I made a few changes. I doubled the amount of cayenne pepper, used 6 cloves of garlic instead of 4, and added 2 diced serrano peppers with seeds. This made it have more of kick, but I still added hot sauce while eating it, as I adore spicy foods. I’ve bookmarked this, and will definitely make it again in the future!

    • Reply
      May 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

      So glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like this version is super spicy — we may have to try this variation!

  • Reply
    July 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    For this recipe, is it dried oregano and thyme or fresh?
    Looking forward to make this later this week!

    • Reply
      July 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      This recipe is for dried. Thanks for clarifying!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Hi this recipe looks great- reminds me of the beans and rice I had in Africa which seems to be a staple there. Can you tell me please what is hot sauce? I am in the UK and not sure exactly what it is. Is it just chilli sauce? I think it’s great what you are doing and whole heatedly agree with the lady who said that we are losing the skills to cook real food.

    • Reply
      November 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Hi! Yes, it appears that you would refer to it as chili sauce or pepper sauce :) I think we used Tabasco for this recipe.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I am from New Orleans and this is a good recipe. My mom and grandmother started teaching me to cook more than 20 years ago. I do have to say, if you can get lucky enough to find cans of Blue Runner red beans, especially Creole Creme Style, then tant mieux! If not and you like your beans a little creamy, just puree a portion of the cooked beans. Tony Chacherie’s seasoning is good; Slap Ya Mama is good also and has less salt. White pepper and bay leaves are also a common addition to Cajun and Creole foods. This recipe is healthy and seems delicious!

    • Reply
      October 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks, and thanks for the tips! We’ll have to try to get ahold of these seasonings!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    This was very yummy! Even better the next day! Left out most of hot stuff because we are wimps.

    • Reply
      April 23, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Irene what did you leave out? I’m worried about it being spicy with 2 little kids.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I have been looking for a red bean and rice recipe. I came across this recipe and made it last night. The only thing I did different was I added some organic soyrizon meatless soy Chorizo. Thank you for this easy and tasty recipe.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I loved this recipe! I made it while on the Daniel Fast and it was delicious, easy to make also! I’m making it again tonight for the family. I know that they will love it as much as I did.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I love red beans and rice, however it is difficult to find meatless versions of the recipe. My family loved this. I omitted the celery because my husband dislikes it, but other than that I followed the recipe. What a wonderful, easy to prepare and very filling meal. I will definitely be making this again soon.

  • Reply
    September 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I’m a recent vegetarian (~6 weeks now)… I used to think of myself as a pretty decent cook but a lot of my know-how is based on the Midwestern meat-and-potatoes diet. I’ve been looking for some satisfying vegetarian staples and decided to give this a try… it definitely makes the cut! Yum – thank you!

    • Reply
      September 13, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      So glad to hear it! We’d love to hear what other go-to recipes you discover :)

  • Reply
    November 28, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Would I be able to use beef broth instead of vegetable? I already have that in my cupboard and I’m looking for a reason to use it!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Yes. This would work.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Made it tonight and it was delicious! I will be adding it to my recipe box. Very flavorful even without meat.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Sonja and Alex,

    Thank you for raising awareness of this issue and for the recipe! I’m not sure if it’s cajun per se to me (but I’m not from down south, so I’m not an expert at that), but I like this easy to make recipe. Do you have more recipes using the $3-$4 budget you mentioned?

  • Reply
    Chad Short
    May 17, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for the recipe, which I will be trying tonight. And thank you for the information about hunger in the US and beyond. I plan on checking out the movie you mentioned too.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I can vouch that this recipe is simple and very, very good. My boyfriend actually said, definitively, “this is the best dish you have ever made.” Which at first I’ll admit I was a touch annoyed– I’ve made dishes that were way more complicated! But it’s true, this meal is that good. Congrats, you guys nailed this recipe.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 11:39 am

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe. We make it at least three times per month in this house. Thank you!

    • Reply
      April 3, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Oh wonderful! We’re so glad you enjoy this — thank you for letting us know!!!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    My family and I have refently turned to a vegetarian diet and this was JUST what I was looking for. Made this for dinner and even the children liked it! I will absolutely will be making this again and again! Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      December 6, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      are so glad to hear this! Thank you so much for making it!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Delicious! My family and I love it.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      Ahhh so glad to hear it! Thanks for making it!!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Love this recipe, it’s so delicious! We make it at least once a week in our household :) We put Cholula chipotle hot sauce on it, and it is AMAZING! Thank you for such a great recipe!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      October 7, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      Yum to the cholula chipotle sauce! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Reply
    May 4, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    This was so good. Going to try int in a crock pot.

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