Today is Mardi Gras, a special time to celebrate traditional Louisiana cuisine and culture. But when it comes to spicy, satisfying Cajun and Creole food, vegans can feel a little left out. While omnivores feast on boiled crawfish, long-simmered gumbos and “dirty rice” with andouille sausage, those who eat vegan are too often sidelined to salads.
That situation is starting to change, as more and more people choose a diet without animal products. Down in Los Angeles there’s even a vegan Cajun restaurant, Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen, that bills itself as “100 percent cholesterol-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free.”
You could say the same about our recipe for this week. A hearty plant-based take on an iconic Southern staple, it’s packed with protein, fiber and so much spicy flavor that even your omnivore friends will clamor for more.
You can make a version of this dish with just about any dried bean, but red beans are the most authentic. Try Domingo Rojo beans from Napa’s own Rancho Gordo. They have great flavor and hold their shape very nicely when cooked.
Vegan Red Beans and Rice with Smoky Tofu
For the beans:
2 cups dry red beans
1 tsp. sea salt
5 cups water or vegetable stock
For the tofu:
1 box sprouted or extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/8 inch cubes
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. crushed chipotle chilis
For the rice:
1 cup rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
For the vegetables:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 whole bay leaf
1 1/2 cup cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 cup chopped celery stalk
1 1/2 cup chopped carrot
3 Tbsp. Whole Spice Cajun Seasoning
2 tsp. granulated onion
1 tsp. granulated garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Fresh cilantro, parsley or mint leaves for garnish
In a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, bring to a boil 5 cups of water with the dbry red beans and sea salt. Cook on high for 15 minutes and lower the heat. Cook on low for an additional 15 minutes, or until beans are soft and tender.
Strain the beans, reserving the liquid, and set both aside. There should be about 1 1/4 cups of liquid.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the tofu and the rice.
Heat up a nonstick pan and add coconut oil. Add cut tofu and sauté on high heat until tofu is slightly brown on both sides. Remove from the heat and season with chipotle flakes. Gently mix and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cup water with the oil, salt and rice and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
While the rice is simmering, prepare the vegetables.
Add bay leaf and onion and sauté over high heat. Add bell pepper, celery, and carrot and stir-fry over high heat for about 15 minutes, until the onion is browned but not burned. Add Cajun Seasoning, granulated onion and granulated garlic.
Mix gently and lower the heat. Add the cooked red beans and tofu. Add lime juice and black pepper and slowly add the reserved liquid from the beans.
Gently mix all the ingredients and set aside.
Remove the bay leaf. Pour a heaping amount of the red beans over the rice and garnish if desired.