Dry red beans and brown rice are cooked together with flavorful Cajun-inspired seasonings in this easy vegetarian Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice!
Red beans and rice are a staple recipe in every kitchen! I already have recipes for Instant Pot Black Beans and Rice, stove-top rice and beans, and vegetarian jambalaya, so adding Cajun-inspired Instant Pot red beans and rice is only natural.
The flavors in this recipe are inspired by Creole red beans and rice. My take on red beans and rice is by no means traditional, but it is heavily inspired by Cajun and Creole flavors and uses Cajun seasoning for a big pop of flavor.
Much history surrounds red beans and rice, most notably the connection to New Orleans and Creole cooking. While traditionally not a vegetarian recipe, this staple is easy to adapt for the modern-day vegetarian kitchen.
Why this recipe works
- Uses dry beans: Dry red beans and brown rice cook at the same time. The best part is that the red beans do not need to be soaked before cooking.
- Minimal active time: Instant Pot red beans and rice are ready in just over an hour and only require about 10 minutes of active time to make. The pressure cooker does all of the work for you!
- Flavors: Flavored with green peppers, onion, garlic, and Cajun seasoning, these red beans and rice are inspired by savory Cajun flavors.
- Versatile: While this recipe is vegetarian as-is, it's easy to make your own by sauteing your favorite protein alongside the onions and peppers. This recipe is also easy to double and freezes well.
- Dietary features: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, oil-free optional
- Red beans: Use a bag labeled with "small red beans" for this recipe. This recipe does not work with kidney beans.
- Brown rice is used because it has a longer cooking time than white rice. Choose medium or long-grain brown rice. One minute/quick cook rice does not work here.
- Cajun seasoning contains paprika, oregano, garlic, thyme, and other flavorful spices. You can use a store bought Cajun seasoning (this is my favorite brand) or make your own. You can also use a salt-free Cajun seasoning for more control over sodium content.
- Bell pepper, onion, and celery make the “holy trinity” base. Green pepper and yellow onion are preferred but any color works in a pinch.
- Hot sauce (not pictured) is optional and adds a pop of heat. I usually use Cholula or Tabasco here.
- Vegetable broth: You may notice we use water and vegetable broth. Since one container of vegetable broth usually contains 4 cups, I just find it more practical to use water for the rest of the liquid instead of opening a new container. Better than Bouillon vegetable base is also a great option here.
Equipment note: All of my Instant Pot recipes are tested in a Instant Pot 6 quart DUO60, including this recipe.
- Select “sauté”. Once the Instant Pot reads “hot”, add the oil. Add the bell pepper, onions, and celery, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until softened.
- Add the garlic and seasonings and sauté for 30 seconds more. Blooming spices with the aromatic ingredients (onion and garlic) is a quick way to deepen the flavor. Deglaze the pot with vegetable broth to remove any stuck-on bits.
- Add the remaining ingredients: Water, vegetable broth, red beans, brown rice, hot sauce, bay leaves. Do not sir. Lock the electric pressure cooker lid in place and set the vent to sealing. Choose "high pressure" and set the timer to 30 minutes.
- When the pressure has been released naturally, remove the lid. Test a bean to make sure it's fully cooked. If not, cook on high pressure for 3 more minutes, then release the pressure manually. Stir together, squeeze in lemon juice and top with green onions. Taste for salt and seasonings.
Expert tips and variations
- Spice level: In addition to hot sauce, you can add a diced jalapeño in with the garlic for spicier red beans and rice. Or choose a spicy Cajun seasoning.
- Add-ins: Mix in roasted okra, vegetarian andouille sausage, and fresh tomatoes to make an impromptu veggie jambalaya.
- To double the recipe: Yes, you can double this recipe if you have a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot. Double all of the ingredients in the recipe, including the liquids. The cook time will remain the same but it will take longer to come to temperature.
- Protein options: This recipe also works with dry black beans. While this recipe actually vegan as-is, you can make it your own by sauteeing additional proteins alongside the bell pepper and onions.
No, kidney beans do not work in this recipe. Kidney beans have a longer cook time than red beans.
Canned beans will not work in this recipe because of the water ratios.
Some readers like to soak beans because it makes them easier to digest and leads to a more consistently tender result. I don’t find this step necessary, but it does work.
Readers have had success soaking beans for 4-8 hours and reducing cook time to 23 minutes. Keep the liquid amounts the same.
No, you do not have to soak your beans for this recipe for red beans and rice because the red beans cook quickly in the Instant Pot.
Since sharing this recipe for red beans and rice nearly 5 years ago, I have not run into any problems with the burn error but I know that it is something that can happen.
The best ways to prevent the burn error:
- Wait until the Instant Pot reads hot before adding oil. Click “sauté” and wait until the pot reads “hot”, then add the oil.
- Deglaze the pot with vegetable broth after sautéing vegetables and spices. To do this, add in a splash (2-3 tablespoons) vegetable broth. Stir to remove any stuck on bits.
- Don’t stir the pot before cooking. Add the ingredients in the listed order then place the lid on and cook per recipe instructions.
There is really no way to know how old your dry small red beans are (they may have sat in storage for a year before making it to your grocery store!) which can result in inconsistent bean cooking.
I recommend starting the cooking time at 30 minutes and adjusting from there.
Always test 2-3 beans before serving. If they aren’t cooked through to your liking, replace the Instant Pot lid and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Do a quick pressure release.
Leftovers are best within 3 to 4 days. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating in an airtight container.
Freezing: Red beans and rice freeze well. Let cool before transferring to freezer-safe containers. Don't fill to the top, as the food will expand when it freezes. Rice and beans thaw best in the fridge, but in a pinch it can be thawed in the microwave or on the stove. Just be warned that the texture may degrade if thawed this way.
Freeze in single-portion containers (this is the brand I use) for easy last-minute lunches, or freeze all at once in a large container.
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Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice
- 1 and ½ cups dry small red beans see note #1
- 1 and ½ cups dry long grain brown rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 cup diced celery ~3 stalks of celery
- 1 medium green bell pepper diced (red also works)
- ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 and ½ tablespoons Cajun seasoning see note #2
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 2 teaspoons dry parsley
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce add more for heat
- 1 and ½ cups water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium lemon juiced
- 2-3 sprigs green onion sliced, for topping (optional)
- Rinse the dry beans and sort out any debris. Rinse the brown rice. Set aside.
- On the Instant Pot, select "sauté" on normal heat. Once it reads "hot", add the olive oil. To the hot oil add diced onions, celery, and bell pepper. Sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes or until softened.
- Stir in the garlic, Cajun seasoning, thyme, parsley. Sauté for 30 more seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth to deglaze the pot and remove any stuck on bits.
- Add the remaining ingredients: hot sauce, remaining vegetable broth, water, red beans, brown rice, and bay leaves. Do not stir. Lock the lid in place and set the pressure valve to sealing. Set to "high pressure" and adjust the timer to 30 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally. Once the pressure has released, carefully remove the lid. Taste for seasonings and adjust beans for doneness. Squeeze in fresh lemon juice and stir everything together. Remove the bay leaves and enjoy!
- Small red beans: Choose a bag labeled "small red beans". Kidney beans will not work.
- Cajun seasoning: I recommend using a salt-free Cajun seasoning so that you have more control over the salt content. If your Cajun seasoning contains salt, omit the ½ teaspoon salt and adjust saltiness to taste.
- Spice: Add a diced jalapeño in with the garlic or use a spicy Cajun seasoning for additional heat.
- Bean cook time: If you find that your beans aren't cooked all the way through, lock the lid back in place and set to high pressure for another 3 minutes. Do a quick pressure release.
- Leftovers and freezing: Keep leftovers refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. This meal can be portioned into large or individual containers and frozen for up to 3 months. These are the containers I use. It will need to thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours before enjoying.