Living with two working parents meant dinner was sometimes “whatever you can heat up in the fridge”: pulling out some spaghetti-stained container, looking for something to accompany whatever meat I cooked up. This meant my mom made big pots of food on the weekend. At least twice a month, I’d wake up to the smell of onions, garlic and chili powder. 

Red beans and rice is a Southern classic, and every family has its own version. My mom’s pinto beans are spiced with chili powder and slow-cooked with onions creating a thick savory broth. I like my pinto beans with a little more Creole flair, andouille sausage and the holy trinity: onions, celery and peppers.

While many people are yelling “soup season!,” I want to talk about legume season! Pinto beans are one of my favorite comfort foods; the smell filling the apartment reminds me of home, comforting and inviting. A bowl of pinto beans on a cold fall day warms you up from the inside, filling your belly and sticking to your ribs. 

This recipe is a perfect way to use the final bits and bobs of your Thanksgiving feast; remaining celery stocks, onions and even leftover turkey can be used in this recipe. Pair with your favorite protein, over a bed of white rice, or a delectable piece of cornbread. 

Southern Red Beans 

Preparation time: 15 minutes (additional time needed if soaking beans, see steps below)
Cook time: 1-3 hours (4-6 hours in slow cooker; see Step 4)
Servings: 6-8

  • Neutral oil
  • 2-3 andouille sausage links or 2 cups of leftover turkey, skin removed (if using turkey, remove meat from bone)
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced 
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced 
  • 2 jalapeños, diced (optional)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 3 tablespoon chili powder 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (reduce or forgo for less spice)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2½ cups dry pinto beans (you can presoak for at least 6 hours before cooking)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (3 extra cups broth, optional)
  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil over high heat. Add andouille sausage and brown on both sides. Don’t worry if the sausage is not cooked in the center as you will add it to the pot later. Remove sausage from the pot. If using leftover (cooked) turkey, skip this step as you will add the turkey later on. 
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add green peppers, onions, celery, jalapeños (if using), garlic, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and white pepper, and season heavily with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 5 minutes; do not cook until translucent or soft as they’ll all get to know one another in the pot. 
  3. Add beans, broth and an additional 3 cups of water or broth. If you’re using pre-soaked beans, reduce this to 1 cup. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally. Add boneless meat halfway through cook time. Cook times: dry beans: 1½-2 hours; pre-soaked beans: 45 minutes-1 hour. 
  4. If you’re using a slower cooker: Add all raw ingredients to slow cooker. Cook low 6-7 hours or cook high 4 hours.

Tips: If you’d like thicker liquid with your beans, cook covered for 1 hour, and then uncovered until beans reach desired doneness. You may have to add liquid to the pot, so keep an eye on the beans. If you’d like more liquid in your beans, I suggest adding an additional 4-5 cups of water (or broth), not 3. Cook with lid on the entire time. This may reduce cooking time. Stir throughout cooking so beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot.