Dry red beans and brown rice are cooked together with flavorful seasonings in the Instant Pot in this easy vegetarian staple!
Rice and beans are a must-have in every vegetarian kitchen! I already have a recipe for Instant Pot Black Beans and Brown Rice and stove top rice and beans, so adding Instant Pot red beans and rice is only natural.
The flavors are different from my other instant pot rice and beans recipe because they are inspired by Creole red beans and rice. This recipe 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.
And, of course, I have to employ my handy-dandy Instant Pot for a speedier recipe using dry beans!
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.
- Dietary features: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, oil-free optional
- Dry beans and brown rice cook at the same time (no soaking required!)
- Ready in just over an hour
- Requires just a few minutes of prep
- Versatile, easy to double and perfect for meal prep
What you’ll need
- Red beans: Use a bag labeled with "small red beans" for this recipe.
- Brown rice is used because it has a longer cook 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. You can use 100% veg broth if you prefer!
Step by step instructions
- Select “sauté”. Once the 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 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 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.
Recipe FAQ and expert tips
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.
This recipe freezes well. Let cool before transferring to freezer-safe containers. Don't fill to the top, as the food will expand when it freezes.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. Sauté the veggies in 1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth instead of oil, replenishing as needed.
Since sharing this recipe 3 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 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 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 at 30 minutes and adjusting cook time 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.
Serving ideas and tips
- 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
- Add to corn tortillas with peppers and spinach for filling tacos
- Enjoy as a side dish with chicken fried tofu, cornbread muffins or garlic cheddar biscuits and a kale salad
Looking for more recipe ideas?
Check out my vegan jambalaya for another Cajun-inspired dish.
Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice
- 1 and ½ cups dry small red beans see note #1
- 1 and ½ cups dry 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.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared March 2019. It was updated August 2021 with new photos, a video and FAQ. The recipe remains the same with a few minor adjustments for flavor and improved process.