Slow Cooker Cajun Kidney Beans and Brown Rice

As being vegetarian became more mainstream in the U.S., my family of origin joined the movement. Along with many other books about vegetarianism, my mother read Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé.

Written in the 1970’s, Diet for a Small Planet centered around going vegetarian for environmental reasons, and how world hunger could be eradicated, if fewer people supported the meat industry. Lappé also discussed how plant proteins needed to be eaten in a certain combination to ensure vegetarians got all their essential amino acids.

As a result, our family ate a lot of beans and rice together, because it was touted as having all the essential amino acids. At many a beans and rice meal, my mother would remind us, “It’s a complete protein!”

Years later, I would learn vegetarians and vegans did not need to eat certain foods together at the same time. Lappé updated her book to reflect that protein combining was not necessary.

Regardless of how beans and rice came into my life, I’m glad that they are here to stay. It is one of my favorite meals, and in that way, it is a taste necessity for me. I can’t imagine a time I wasn’t comforted by it, and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t want it.

Taking inspiration from Louisana’s Cajun cuisine, this vegan beans and rice recipe involves stewed kidney beans, green peppers, celery, and onion with a bit of smokiness, a bit of heat, and a lot of savory flavor. I love it on top of some short grain brown rice, but you could also have it over savory corn grits or with a big, thick delicious piece of cornbread.

A few notes…

I used Spicely Organic Cajun Seasoning for this recipe; however, if Cajun seasoning is hard to find where you are or if you don’t want to buy yet another spice blend, you can make your own.  

While I incorporated dehydrated soy curls into this recipe, they are optional.  Simply add two 15 ounce cans of light red kidney beans, instead of one.  You’ll be good to go.  

Slow Cooker Cajun Kidney Beans and Brown Rice

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 medium green pepper, diced

2 celery stalks, diced on a bias

½ tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp Cajun seasoning (see note above)

2 bay leaves

½ tsp garlic powder

1-3 tsp hot sauce

14.5 ounce can of no salt diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

2 ½ cups broth (fake chicken or vegetable)

1-2 15 ounce cans of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (use 2 cans – if not adding soy curls)

1 ½ cups dehydrated soy curls – optional

1 Tbsp lemon juice – optional

Salt and black pepper

Cooked short grain brown rice, to serve

1. In a medium sized skillet, add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, celery, a dash of salt, and black pepper.  Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the onions become a bit golden.  

2. Add smoked paprika, Cajun seasoning, and the bay leaves, and sauté for another minute.  Spoon into slow cooker.

3.  Add everything else listed in the recipe EXCEPT for the lemon juice and cooked brown rice. Stir until well combined.  If you are not using soy curls, add 2 cans of light red kidney beans.  If you are using soy curls, one can of kidney beans will do the trick.  Break up the tomato paste with the back of a large spoon and incorporate as much as you can into the sauce.  

4. Cover with a lid, and set to HIGH for 4 hours.  Taste, and stir in lemon juice or additional hot sauce at the end of cooking.  Taste again, and make any additional adjustments to the flavor, if needed. Serve over brown rice.

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