How to Thicken Red Beans and Rice?

Last Updated on April 14, 2023 by Lauren Beck

Red beans and rice is a classic Creole dish that originated in New Orleans. It’s a hearty and flavorful meal that’s perfect for cold winter nights or any time you’re craving some comfort food. 

However, if you’re new to making red beans and rice, you might find that the texture is too thin or watery. In this article, we’ll show you ways how to thicken your red beans and rice and make it even more delicious.

What Is Red Beans and Rice?

Red beans and rice is a popular dishes in Louisiana Creole cuisine. It’s made with red beans, rice, and a variety of spices and seasonings, including onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and thyme. The dish is traditionally made with smoked sausage or ham hocks for added flavor, but you can also make it vegetarian by omitting the meat.

6 Ways to Thicken Red Beans and Rice

  1. Mash some of the beans: Take a ladle or spoon and mash some of the beans against the side of the pot. This will release some of the starch from the beans and thicken the liquid.
  2. Add a roux: A roux is a mixture of flour and fat that’s used to thicken sauces and gravies. To make a roux, melt some butter in a saucepan and whisk in an equal amount of flour. Cook the roux over low heat, constantly stirring, until it turns a light brown color. Add the roux to your red beans and rice and stir until it’s well incorporated.
  3. Use a cornstarch slurry: Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to your red beans and rice and stir until it thickens.
  4. Cook the beans longer: Sometimes, the liquid in your red beans and rice just needs more time to thicken. Keep simmering the dish until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
  5. Use a stick blender: Use a stick blender to puree some of the beans in the pot. This will help thicken the liquid and give your red beans and rice a creamier texture.
  6. Add bread crumbs: This may seem unconventional, but adding bread crumbs to your red beans and rice can help thicken the liquid. Simply stir in a handful of bread crumbs and let them cook for a few minutes until they absorb the liquid.

Alternative Thickening Agents

If you don’t have any of the above ingredients on hand, there are other alternative thickeners you can use:

  • Masa Harina: Masa Harina is a type of corn flour that’s commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It’s great for thickening soups and stews, including red beans and rice.
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes: Instant mashed potatoes can also be used to thicken red beans and rice. Simply stir in a handful of instant mashed potatoes until the liquid thickens.

How To Make Red Beans and Rice?

making red beans and rice

Here’s a simple recipe for red beans and rice:


  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (optional)
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. In a large pot, sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in some oil until softened.
  2. Add the bay leaves, thyme, smoked paprika, and cumin, and stir to combine.
  3. Drain the soaked beans and add them to the pot with 6 cups of water or chicken stock.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1-2 hours, or until the beans are tender.
  5. If using smoked sausage, add it to the pot during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  6. Once the beans are tender and the liquid has thickened, remove the bay leaves and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Serve the red beans over cooked white rice.

What to Serve With Red Beans?

Red beans and rice is a complete meal on its own, but it’s also delicious and served with cornbread, green salad, or sautéed greens.

Why Didn’t My Beans Get Tender?

If your beans didn’t get tender after cooking for a few hours, it could be because:

  • The beans were not soaked overnight: Soaking the beans overnight helps to soften them and reduce the cooking time.
  • The beans are old: Older beans take longer to cook and may never become fully tender.
  • The beans were cooked with acidic ingredients: Acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or vinegar, can prevent beans from softening.

How to Fix Beans That Are Too Dry?

If your red beans and rice is too dry, you can add more liquid, such as water or chicken stock. Be sure to add the liquid slowly and keep stirring until you get the desired consistency.

Are Red Beans and Kidney Beans the Same Thing?

Red beans and kidney beans are not the same things, but they are very similar. Both types of beans are kidney-shaped and have a similar texture and flavor. However, red beans are smaller and have a darker, reddish-brown color, while kidney beans are larger and lighter red.

Are Red Beans and Rice Good for You?

Red beans and rice are great protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrate sources. They’re also low in fat and calories and contain various vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and folate [1]. 

However, if you’re watching your sodium intake, use low-sodium chicken stock or water when cooking your red beans and rice.

What Is the Best Way to Store Dry Beans?

The best way to store dry beans is in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in direct sunlight or near sources of heat or moisture, as this can cause the beans to spoil or become rancid.

How Long Do Dry Beans Last if Stored Properly?

Dry beans can last up to two years if stored properly. However, using them within a year is best for optimal freshness and flavor.


Red beans and rice is a delicious and satisfying meal that’s easy to make at home. If you find that your red beans and rice is too thin or watery, don’t worry! There are several ways to thicken it up, from mashing some of the beans to adding a roux or cornstarch slurry. Experiment with different thickening methods until you find the one that works best for you. And remember to store your dry beans properly to keep them fresh and flavorful for up to two years.


Lauren Beck
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