Vegan Rice and Beans

Vegan rice and beans.     Photo by Keri White

With winter comes a craving for warming comfort foods: Think soups, stews and hearty stick-to-your-ribs dishes.

But these dishes can often be heavy, meaty and not the most heart-healthy selections. That is not to say that beef stew and chili have no place on my table, quite the contrary, but these days I try to mix in some vegetarian and vegan dishes while keeping the theme of warm and cozy in mind.

This rice and bean dish fits the bill nicely. It’s vegan, but can be adapted to a meat palate with the addition of your choice of ingredients, if desired. It is an ideal side with Mexican dishes and does double duty as a main. And even though it is vegan, it does not scream “rabbit food” or “bird seed,” both common slurs leveled at plant-based dishes.

I used white beans because that is what I had on hand, but any dried bean — pinto, kidney, black, pink, etc., would work fine. I also used brown rice in an effort to bolster the health factor with a whole grain, and no one complained. I also stuck with a traditional Mexican flavor profile, but you could tweak this to include whatever seasonings you like.

Vegan Rice and Beans

Serves 4-6 (depending on whether it is a side or a main dish)

1 pound dried beans

1 tablespoon cooking oil (canola, corn or vegetable)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chipotles in adobo

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown rice

8 -10 cups water or vegetable broth

Soak the beans in boiling water for one hour in a large pot. Drain them in a colander.

Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onions, garlic and spices until fragrant. Add the chipotles in adobo; press the solids against the side of pot with the back of a spoon to crush. Add the beans and 8 cups of water or broth. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Check the liquid level; it should be about 2 inches above the beans — if needed, add more water or broth. Add the rice, and cook for another 40- 60 minutes until done.

If too much liquid remains after the rice is cooked, you have a couple of options: Remove the lid, raise the heat and boil it to reduce the liquid (but watch it carefully so you don’t burn the bottom), leave the liquid as is and have a soupier dish or pour off the liquid, saving it to make soup or to add to sauces.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.


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