Red Bean Soup with Rice; a variation on Creole Red Beans

Red Beans and Rice is a New Orleans Creole standard dish traditionally served in homes and restaurants on Monday’s. It’s served at buffets, social functions and is often included in Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties.

It’s always tasty, but one of the best preparations I’ve eaten was with the red beans totally mashed and served as a soup. Red beans are soupy anyway, so this variation was logical. I’ve lost the recipe, and have been experimenting with what I might have done. It came out pretty good.

red bean soup - 1 - IMG_1952_1


In days gone by, Monday was wash day. The housewives would put a large pot of red beans on the stove to cook all day, adding the ham bone from Sunday’s dinner meal as they did their laundry. And dried red beans took several hours to cook as the laundry took a long time to wash. Over the years, smoked sausage, andouille sausage and/or a ham hock has replaced the ham bone. The tradition of serving Red Beans and Rice as a Monday special in local restaurants continues.

I’d classify Red Beans and Rice as a creole dish. Red beans are kidney beans, so named for the shape. They most likely originated in Peru thousands of years ago and made their way around the world. Wealthy planters moving to southern Louisiana from Haiti to avoid political upheaval in colonial times brought the red beans with them. The dish is not necessarily spicy; usually Tabasco sauce is placed at the table so a person can rev up the heat as much as desired.

Camellia Beans Brand

Red Beans are kidney beans and the dish is prepared with dried beans. Locally, the Camellia brand of beans out of New Orleans is often used to make this dish. Their brand of beans is a very large kidney beans. Other brands, with smaller dried kidney beans, work just as well.

Soaking Red Beans

Most types of dried beans, including red beans, benefit from soaking before they are cooked. Soaking in water helps soften the insoluble oligosaccharides or sugar-type molecules found in the plant cell walls. If this step is skipped, the result is that the bacteria in your digestive system and intestines begin to break down the insoluble fibers and sugars/starch resulting in alot of gas. That’s not any fun. So beans need to be soaked in alot of water — I found that 1 cup beans to 5 cups water was about right. Also salt and other ingredients impede the soaking process, so don’t add other foods while soaking the beans.

Soaking speeds up if the beans are first boiled in water for 2 minutes. Then the beans are left to soak for a hour with the heat turned off. The soaking liquid is drained off and the beans are rinsed. The traditional method of soaking is to place the beans in a large pot of water and let them overnight.

Red Bean Soup Recipe

My soup follows the traditional red bean recipe with a couple of exceptions. Rather than sausage or ham hock, I used either smoked turkey breast or smoked ham. These meats are leaner and lower in fat, and impart a good flavor.

After the beans are soaked, I cook them in lots of water and chicken broth along with sauteed seasonings of onion, celery, garlic, parsley and the ham. And always a bay leaf.

In the traditional preparation, some of the beans are mashed against the edge of the pot at the end of cooking to make the dish creamy. I mashed all the beans (after removing the bay leaf and ham/turkey), and used a food processor to speed this up. Since it’s a soup, I added come chicken broth as part of the cooking liquid.

a printable recipe can be found at

Bay Leaf

One ingredient I don’t ever omit is a bay leaf. A bay leaf imparts a flavor that is traditionally associated with this dish. I used to have a bay tree, and just stepped outside to get a bay leaf, but the tree eventually succumbed to some unknown disease.

Health Benefits

Red beans and other dried beans have numerous of nutritional benefits. Along with rice, they make a complete protein–so vegetarian preparations give all the amino acids a person needs. Beans contain lots of fiber and are being studied with their associations to reduced cancers, hypertension and diabetes rates. Beans contain iron, calcium, magnesium and folic acid. The latest Dietary Recommendations suggest that dried beans or legumes be included in a person’s diet twice a week along with less red meats.

So, enjoy this soup (or the whole beans–not mashed into a soup) any day of the week and think of New Orleans.


Purchase Camellia Brand beans at their online store:

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