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Louisiana Food Origins: Red Beans and Rice

April 16 2012 | What's New

This month, New Orleans Restaurants serves up some history in our Louisiana Food Origins series! Discover the birthplaces of your favorite dishes, from jambalaya and gumbo to oxtail soup and Eggs Sardou.

Everybody knows that Monday is red beans and rice day. But do you know why? Leave it to clever New Orleans housewives. In the 19th century, Monday was laundry day in the city. Without washing machines, the ladies of the house had to clean every dirty article of clothing by hand! This didn’t leave much time for cooking, so dinner had to be something that could cook by itself.

Enter the red kidney bean, brought to New Orleans by those fleeing Haiti’s slave rebellion. The beans needed to soak overnight before cooking, but these days, you’ll find a “quick soak” method on the back of the package. After soaking and draining them, housewives simply set the beans on the stove with fresh water to boil until tender, and then added a delicious helping of sauteed “trinity”--the quintessential Cajun/Creole cooking base of diced onions, celery and bell peppers.

From here, it’s traditional to throw in Sunday dinner’s ham bone, letting it flavor the beans along with a bay leaf. You can omit the meat, or add in some andouille sausage or tasso ham while your rice cooks up. And voila: your family’s clothes are clean, and dinner’s on the table. Serve your red beans with some Tabasco or Louisiana Crystal hot sauce so guests can make it as spicy as they like!

Did you know? Louis Armstrong loved red beans so much, he signed his name, “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong”!

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