Lighter Red Beans & Rice (Crock Pot Recipe)


Lighter Red Beans & Rice is a flavor-packed crock pot recipe that tastes decadent, yet is lighter than traditional red beans and rice recipes.


Have you ever taken a trip to a place you knew little or nothing about? Just gotten the urge to go, so you booked a ticket and went with only your bag and a vague idea as to what you were going to do when you got there?

A couple years ago Ben and I did just that when we hopped aboard a plane and headed south to spend a week in the Big EasyNew Orleans.

At the time neither of us knew a great deal about the city, except what we’d seen on the news during coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and our experience in the south was limited to sunny SoCal, Epcot Center, and watching Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood on repeat in college.

With a why not attitude though, and no expectations, we packed up, headed out, and ended up having the time of our lives!

From whooping it up on Bourbon Street with huge ass beers, to learning more about the history of the South on several plantation tours, and exploring nearly every inch of the French Quarter, Ben and I found the city, surrounding areas, and people to be simply enchanting.

I think it it officially beat San Francisco as my favorite city in the US as I was sitting at the oldest bar in America, Lafitte’s in the French Quarter, sipping an ice cold Abita beer, and watching horse drawn carriages clop by, thinking – this is the life.

One of the things we enjoyed most about our trip was of course, the food. There’s no shortage of restaurants in NOLA, more packed into a smaller area than a lot of cities I’ve been to, and if there was a line at the door, you knew it was worth waiting for. Especially if it was a Mother’s Po’ Boy smothered in “debris”.

Or a mouthwatering side of red beans & rice. One week wasn’t nearly enough time to get our fill of this famous Southern side dish. Fluffy white rice engulfed in a savory thick sauce packed with creamy beans, and salty andouille sausage. I mean…

Today New Orleans is celebrating Fat Tuesday, during Mardi Gras, and although we can’t be there to join in on the fun, at least we can eat like we’re in the Big Easy with homemade Crock Pot Red Beans & Rice.


Fat Tuesday is traditionally celebrated by eating indulgent, over-the-top foods (hence FAT Tuesday) before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. I took the name a little less literally though, and made a lightened up version for dinner.


No bacon grease or extra fat here! Just beans, veggies, seasoning and, ok, some decadent andouille sausage. Totally worth it. Each huge serving of the recipe is packed with protein and fiber, and clocks in at just 250 calories (without the rice.) As if it couldn’t get any better, the crock pot did 90% of the work for me!


Start the recipe by chopping up what’s called the “Holy Trinity” in Southern Cajun & Creole cooking – bell peppers, celery and onions in roughly equal quantities. BTW, click here for an explanation of “Cajun” and “Creole” cooking and culture. Interesting stuff!


Psst – my trick for not making a mess when cutting bell peppers is to cut each “cheek” off, leaving the stem and seeds neatly intact.


Chop the bell pepper and follow suit with the onions and celery, then toss everybody into the pool, aka a 4-quart crock pot.

DSC_0289 DSC_0291

Next add in a full pound of dried red kidney beans. No need to soak ’em ahead of time or nothin’.


Then add in the salty awsomeness that is andouille sausage.


Andouille sausage is a smoked pork sausage used heavily in Cajun cooking. It is delicious, and I nearly doubled the amount the original recipe called for. Livin’ on the edge!


Finally, add minced garlic,


Creole seasoning (I halved this recipe and still had a ton leftover,)


and lots of water.


Give the whole thing a stir then cook for 7.5 hours on high, cracking the lid open for the last half hour so the sauce can thicken up. YOUR HOUSE WILL SMELL AMAZING!!!


Cook some fluffy white rice to sit underneath, and soak up all that succulent sauce. Top with green onions for color and crunch, and have at it my friends!


Lighter Red Beans & Rice (Crock Pot Recipe)

Serves 6


Lighter Red Beans & Rice is a flavor-packed crock pot recipe that tastes decadent, yet is lighter than traditional red beans and rice recipes.


  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 14oz andouille sausage, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Creole seasoning (see notes for recipe)
  • 1lb dried red kidney beans
  • 7 cups water
  • cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Place first 8 ingredients into a 4-quart crock pot and cook on high for 7.5 hours. Remove the lid partway for the last 30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. Serve over cooked white rice.


Barely adapted from

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,


I am not kidding you – this tasted just as good as anything we had in New Orleans. I couldn’t believe it!


Of course there was no “coat your tongue” feeling that you get with truly rich and fatty sauces (which must be enjoyed while on vacation – it’s the law) but honestly, it was thick and silky, and just a touch spicy. Ben and I both loved it. Leftovers are aplenty too. Which only lengthens the time I get to reminisce about our time down south.


Now if only there was a way make healthier beignets at home… ;)

Off to make Ben pour me a Sazerac…or two?!


Have you ever traveled somewhere that totally exceeded your expectations? Where was it?

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  1. Brilliant! I’m a Michigan girl who went to school in Mississippi. There were MANY a weekend trip down to NOLA, and boy do I miss it!

  2. Jenny 02.21.2012

    Boston! We went for a week and I loved it, I could have stayed a month! Also….I’ve seen baked (not fried)beignets online recently. I think it was eatliverun?

  3. I absolutely LOVE New Orleans and would love to live there. Mother’s is amazing, but next time you go…get a shrimp poboy at Parkwood Tavern!

  4. I’ve wanted to go to NOLA ever since I’ve read your recaps, etc.!

  5. Sarah 02.21.2012

    I’ve been to New Orleans twice and I love it. But each time was only for a day or a few hours. I really want to go back. It is such a wonderful city. I love the food. When I was down there, I had some really good gumbo. Yum! Those red beans and rice look delicious!

  6. Wow, looks great! I’m really hoping for a slow cooker for a wedding present :) I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes.

  7. Mollie 02.21.2012

    Yum! This looks so yummy! I love NOLA! I was there right before katrina with a group of girlfriends. Soo fun!
    Are u sure u don’t have to rinse the beans. I’ve read that kidney beans needed to be rinsed because of the toxicity they contain?

    • Iowa Girl Eats 02.21.2012

      I haven’t heard that, but you could definitely rinse beforehand if you like!

  8. Ahhh we LOVE New Orleans, such a wonderful city, full of great food, drinks, and fun. We are hoping to go back sometime in the near future :)

  9. Gwen 02.21.2012

    What a coincidence….I am eating the exact same thing tonight for dinner! I found something out today….Cajun Seasoning and Cayenne Pepper are NOT interchangeable :) The recipe called for 2 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning and I didn’t have any. So I proceeded to fill my tablespoon with Cayenne Pepper instead. Thank goodness I decided to cut it short at about a half tablespoon because yowzers, it was hot hot hot! At the end of the day after about 9 hours on low in the crockpot it came out just right! The other notable difference in my recipe was 5 cups of water and a can of tomato sauce. This is a delicious filling meal!

  10. Tracy 02.21.2012

    Boston was hands-down the best vacation we ever took. I spent my childhood in love with Joey McIntyre – and 5 years later later Matt Damon – and I always dreamed of going to Boston to see where they were from. Silly, right? Well, for the week we were there (over St Patty’s nonetheless), I didn’t even think about Joey or Matt. I just loved the city, the parks, the history, Cambridge, the subway, the food. It was amazing.

    This red beans and rice recipe is going in my “to make” list. Another IGE week in the making! Thanks. :)

    • Tracy 02.29.2012

      Uh oh. I had the crock pot on low all day. I don’t think my beans are done. :(

  11. This is crazy, but as someone who was never a huge red beans and rice fan, I’m craving it all of the sudden! No surprise that the beniegts looks amazing (I actually just made a slightly healthified version of zeppolis, which are the Italian answer to beniegts – still not exactly healthy though).

  12. ahealthymom 02.21.2012

    You should definitely try the beignets from eat, live run. I made them this morning and while not as good as the ones from Cafe Du Monde they are very good for a lightened up version and my 5 year-old has been wanting more all day.

  13. Kaelin 02.21.2012

    My family went to NOLA when I was in high school (not quite 10 years ago) and we loved it! I didn’t know much about it, but we stayed in the French Quarters and did all the usual touristy stuff. And boy did we eat!! My dad grew a passion for cajun food during our trip and still favors that kind of food today.

    My absolute favorite trip was our anniversary trip to Manitou Springs, CO this summer. I NEED to go back to those mountains. I have never had a place call to me like it has since we left. The people there just got “it” – health, fitness, outdoors. It was amazing!

    • maria 02.21.2012

      @Kaelin — I grew up in Manitou Springs and live in Salida/Denver now! I LOVE to hear that others LOVE Manitou!

      • jennyv 02.21.2012

        Also a Manitou Fan!! I’ve been fortunate to go for work the past two years to Colorado Springs and always make the short trek to the Manitou incline. Such an intense hike!

  14. Yumm!! My parents both love red beans and rice so I may have to make this for them soon :-) I have never been to New Orleans, but my boyfriend and I are dying to go!

  15. jennyv 02.21.2012

    Was the “Klement’s” brand the only brand of andouille sausage you could find? I ask because I went to Target and couldn’t find any… and then went to Hy-Vee and it was the only brand there.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 02.21.2012

      It was the only brand available at HyVee, but Trader Joe’s has some too!

      • lisa 02.21.2012

        Oh Iowa Girl! Get your andoullie sausage at Gateway Market – Niman Ranch brand! Its Da Bomb. I stock up when I find it.

        I laughed at your first pic of the Royal Sonseta too….I was there a year ago today! :)

    • Tracy 02.29.2012

      At my Target I got Johnsonville brand, 6 links. I hope they taste OK. Perhaps not the most authentic andouille out there, but the price was right!

  16. Jennifer 02.21.2012

    I am with you on NOLA being totally unexpected. I went down two years in a row to help with Katrina cleanup. I was surprised by how positive and enjoyable the people were despite the tragedy that they had to go through. And the FOOD, I know I couldn’t live there or I would gain waaaayyy too much weight!

  17. Holly D 02.21.2012

    I have been in New Orleans for the last 5 days visiting a friend for Mardi Gras and it is amazing!! The parades are like nothing I have seen and of course the food is amazing! You definitely need to talk your husband in to taking you some year!!!

  18. Caroline 02.21.2012

    I love that the blog world celebrates Mardi Gras — being from New Orleans’ French neighbor Mobile, I’ve celebrated MG my whole life. It’s such a fun, fun tradition! Red beans and rice is one of those smells that evokes warm feelings for me. I’ll have to try this recipe! To celebrate MG this year, I went with a glass of Milk Punch for me and my “Roommate” and gahh that stuff is good! Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

  19. Bethany 02.21.2012

    NOLA is by far one of my favorite places on earth and I can’t wait to get back, but China is up there as well. Totally exceeded my expectations! Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou. No matter where I went I was surrounded by beauty and amazing people. Even despite the language barrier, people were so friendly! Plus, when I hiked the Great Wall of China, I felt like a rock star. People would come up to me and want to take their picture with me. If you ever get the chance. GO. Don’t even hesitate.

  20. Kim 02.21.2012

    These pics are amazing! This recipe sounds soo good- makes me want to jet back to NOLA RIGHT NOW. Yummy!

  21. Katie 02.21.2012

    So weird – this is exactly what I made for dinner last night! The only difference is that I added crushed tomatoes!

  22. M 02.21.2012

    Please make sure to boil the kidney beans for at least 10 minutes before putting into crockpot…according to the FDA, there is a toxin in dried beans, especially kidney beans, that can make you sick. Boiling takes care of the toxin. Not all crockpots get hot enough to kill it and can actually make the toxin worse.

    You dont have to take my word for it (I question everything I see online)–here is the Link to the FDA site explaining it:

    Otherwise, that recipe looks very tasty! I’m adding it to my list to try.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 02.21.2012

      Cooking the beans on high for 7 hours ensure the beans are safe in this dish!

      • M 02.21.2012

        If you read the FDA article, it says that not all crockpots get hot enough and that can actually make it worse…one of the outbreaks they cite was from crockpots.

        I’ve made kidneys beans in crockpot before I knew about this without issue but I think I’ll be boilimg them from now on…better safe than sorry.

    • Gwen 02.22.2012

      Made these today and I was worried after reading this (although the last hour I had the crockpot on high)…however, we are all fine. No one got sick. I did not boil the beans and they did cook on low most of the time. That being said…next time I will boil them first as suggested. Thanks for the info…I had never heard this before!

  23. This looks superrrr delicious!! Love a good crockpot recipe too :) Kind of random, but not sure if you’ve ever read about red kidney bean poisoning? It has to do with not boiling this type of bean before adding to a slow cooker – I know, I know – chances are probably slim, but just thought I’d share anyways!

    • Ahhhh perhaps I should have read the comment above ;) So does the slow cooker get hot enough to make it safe for this dish even w/out boiling first?

      • Iowa Girl Eats 02.21.2012

        Yes they boil for several hours.

        • Stephanie 02.21.2012

          So good to know! I’ve always been a bit nervous to cook w dried kidney beans bc of this, thanks so much girl!

  24. Molly 02.21.2012

    i love new orleans so much! this post almost made me cry because Iā€™m so ready to go back!!!

  25. ashley 02.21.2012

    San Fransisco…I love that city with the bottom of my heart. The people, food, architecture, and the golden gate have captured my heart.

    Hawaii is right there next to SF…pure amazingness.

    ps: i am in davenport, iowa right now as im typing this and i cant help but think about you as im in your state…youre the only person i feel like i know that lives here so i hope this doesnt wierd you out =)

  26. Noelle 02.22.2012

    Now I want red beans & rice AND a crock pot… Thanks for this recipe – looks awesome.

  27. Emilia 02.22.2012

    Wow, that recipe looks seriously delicious! I went to New Orleans once when I was a kid, but I don’t remember much about it other than that it was the middle of the summer and very hot. I’d say that the city that most exceeded my expectations, however, was Boston! Such a cute place and much more exciting than I had expected. :)

  28. Ris 02.22.2012

    We went to New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina and it was amazing! We loved meeting the people, eating the food, and seeing a wonderful city picking itself back up and returning to its former glory. I’ll definitely be making this dish soon in celebration of the time and place!

  29. Amy 02.22.2012

    This recipe looks amazing! I loved to hear about your experience in New Orleans. Makes me itch for a visit!

  30. Kristin 02.22.2012

    Looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it. Quick question…is it super spicy? Husband and I love spicy food but the kids not so much. Thanks!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 02.22.2012

      I would say a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the spiciest.) I would definitely not call it spicy!

      • Kristin 02.22.2012

        Sounds good. Thank you! it’s going on the menu for next week :)

  31. sarah k 02.22.2012

    Don’t you just ADORE New Orleans?! It is such a fun city and the people are so nice. My husband has never been and I really want to take him, if for nothing else other than the food!!

  32. My most favorite place to travel was to Alaska. We flew in to Anchorage and rented a car and visited lots of small towns and fishing villages for the two weeks we were there. It was an amazing place because everywhere you looked there was something even more beautiful to see than the last thing you looked at. I can’t wait to go back!

  33. Jen 02.22.2012

    I always had an intense love for NYC – and finally one day up and drove there with some friends (From MI) I was afraid that I had built it up too much in my mind, but thankfully that was not the case. It exceeded my extreme expectations and remains my favorite city by far, I love uncovering something new each time I go.

    I’d never heard of beignets before, but after looking it up, I think they look/sound delicious. Here in Michigan we lovingly refer to Fat Tuesday as Paczki Day instead. It seems to be concentrated in the eastern Midwest. But now I see what people do without paczki – beignets!

  34. This looks delicious – and fiberlicious! I can’t wait to give this recipe a try!

  35. danielle 02.22.2012

    Hi Kristin! Cute striped shirt!

  36. Elyse 02.22.2012

    Yum! I have always wanted to visit the Big Easy! I’m hoping I can add that to my list this year! The one city that went above and beyond for me was Chicago. I fell head over heels in love with the people, the sights, and my lord the food. Deep dish pizza, garrett’s carmel popcorn (I DIE!), and about a million other places. I love Dallas, but I would drop everything here in a heartbeat should I ever get the chance to move there.

  37. Esther Sam 02.22.2012

    Yum! This looks awesome and healthy and I love that I can put it in the crock pot while I am at work. Thanks for sharing :)

  38. I’m SO making this! YUM!

  39. morgan 02.22.2012

    Oh, NOLA….I need to get back! I’m not a huge fan of kidney beans, so I wonder if this would be any good with cannelini or Great Northern bean? And maybe with kielbasa instead of andouille? Of course, it would be more like white beans and rice then….thoughts?

    • Andie 02.22.2012

      we actually do the same treatment with navy beans & rice- so yes, you could do this with Navy beans. And yes, with kielbasa, too. In fact, I actually usually just use low fat turkey kielbasa in lieu of andouille to save fat/calories on a pretty regular basis (I live in the suburbs of New Orleans)

  40. The food in NOLA was amazing. Probably the best eating I have ever done on a vacation. Fresh seafood, gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets, oh the beignets. Good thing there are no Cafe du Monde’s in the Midwest because I would want to drive there and eat them. Also cannot forget the hurricane drink and walk-up beer counters so you can sip your beverage on the street.

  41. Andie 02.22.2012

    and Kristin- if you want some “Cajun Seasoning” (Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s) I can send you some. The ingredients in most “cajun seasoning” recipes are pretty much the same as what’s in those brands. I can also send you some of the best “already made” red beans and rice that probably at least 70% of New Orleans area residents eat instead of cooking them ourselves. :)

    There is a brand called Blue Runner Red Beans that cooks their own (and they taste just like homemade) and can them. If you want me to send you some of those too, I can. Just email me and let me know! I stopped making homemade Red Beans & Rice a looong time ago when I discovered blue runners. All you have to do with them is saute your sausage (i use low fat turkey kielbasa) with some of the trinity and then add your canned beans with a little water and stir and it tastes just like the beans you get in a restaurant. Takes literally 15 minutes. I always keep a couple of cans of Blue Runners in my pantry for an emergency dinner!

    here’s their website if you want to check them out: (oh, and they are pretty low fat and high in fiber, especially if you serve it over brown rice!)

    Hope you had a nice Mardi Gras! :)

  42. Tiffani 02.22.2012

    Love this recipe – it looks so yummy! I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it is on my bucket list of places to visit.

    Quick question (if you have time) – do you have a fool-proof recipe to make “fluffy” white rice, without the use of a rice cooker?

    • Iowa Girl Eats 02.22.2012

      I boil 2 parts water to 1 part rice (2 cups water to 1 cup rice, for instance) then add the rice. Put the lid on top and turn the heat down to medium low (3 out of 10.) Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until it looks like there’s little holes on the top. Stir and taste at this point to see if the rice is cooked through. Put the lid back on top if not and just keep cooking on low until done. Hope that helps! :)

  43. Tiffani 02.22.2012

    Yes it does! Thanks so much!

  44. I am always so excited to hear when people love New Orleans. It has such a mixed fan base, you either love it or hate it. I absolutely love New Orleans – the food, the people, the fun and the history is all amazing. I’m actually going tomorrow (!!!) for our annual conference. My husband and parents are joining me next week for a few days of fun. My parents have never been, so I’m excited to show them around.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe, I’m always looking for good ones like this!

  45. Jackie 02.22.2012

    I’m heading to NOLA for work next week! It is my first time. I am very excited!

  46. Julie S. 02.23.2012

    We LOVED San Fran when we went last fall. I used a lot of the posts from your trip as a guideline when planning ours. Sounds like I need to add NOLA to my bucket list. :)

  47. For me it would be my first visit to the farm my husband grew up on in Indiana, Stoney Gap Farms (even the name is cool). I have been on many farms and wasn’t prepared for the magic of this one. From the first morning watching the fog rise up over the pond, the deer grazing in the fields, and the Arabian horses running wild. I was hooked. We slept under quilts that were stitched by his grandparents and ate food that had been canned and “put up”. Pure bliss.

  48. alex 02.26.2012

    I loved New Orleans too, so much! Best food ever. For Fat Tuesday I made a way more ghetto version of jambalaya but will have to try your recipe!

  49. […] for this Tuesday, Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats tempted me with some Lighter Red Beans and Rice last week and they’re simmering away right now. There’s no excuse for bad Chinese food […]

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