Say ‘Aloha’ to Hawaiian Beans and Rice Tonight

When I published Tasty Twists on the Classic Complete-Protein Meal: Rice and Beans 5 Ways earlier this summer, I let you in on my biggest weekday-dinner secret.

With just one core 5-ingredient recipe and a couple of spices, you get to parade around your kitchen like an international epicurean, all the while eating like an athlete.

The response to those five quick, easy, and cheap meals was wonderful—you loved that they were quick, easy and cheap.  And I was totally touched when months later, lots of you wrote in after the Vegan Starbucks Petite Lentil Scones post to tell me that the beans and rice variations are still part of your regular meal rotation.

So today I’m back (dare I say by popular demand?) with another flavorful complete protein recipe, this one perhaps the most exciting of all: Hawaiian beans and rice.

Everyday Flavors To Make You Say Mahalo

Luckily for me, beans and rice is not a static concept—the meal is constantly changing, based on where in the world you are, what season is here, and even what’s leftover in the fridge.

The idea for the 5-ingredient Hawaiian variation starts with island-drenched color: magenta cabbage, golden pineapple, lush-green spinach, and shiny black beans.  Okay, so maybe I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I’ve definitely had Hawaiian pizza before.  And just like it does in my Homemade Vegan Bacon, the smoked paprika in this recipe does a nice job of evoking the flavors of smoked ham.

A quick pan-fry with the pineapple rings gets all that luau flavor without the fuss of firing up the grill.  And if you want the whole tropical experience, be sure to try the variation with toasted coconut folded into the rice.  It’s divine!

I hope that just as many of you who tried the other beans and rice recipes give this one a whirl too.  When you do, be sure to let me know what you think!

Basic Beans and Rice Recipe


  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 1 can drained and rinsed beans, or 2 cups cooked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Cook the brown rice in a rice steamer or follow the directions here.  Heat up the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with rice.

Hawaiian Beans and Rice

You’ll need one batch of the basic recipe above, as well as:

  • 2 cups chopped red cabbage (about quarter of a head)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 can sliced pineapple, juice reserved

Stir the red cabbage, 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and smoked paprika into the bean and onion mixture.  Cook for 5 minutes, until cabbage is cooked but still crunchy.  Stir in spinach and cook for 2 more minutes, until slightly wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat on medium high.  Lay pineapple rings in pan, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.  Fry for 2 minutes per side, until nice and charred.  Serve on top of beans and rice.

Feeling fancy?  Add a chopped red bell pepper in with the cabbage, sprinkle beans with a minced jalapeño pepper, and fold 1/2 cup of toasted coconut into cooked rice.



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  1. That sounds awesome! I’ll have to give it a try. I do love simple recipes that seem a lot more complicated than they really are.

  2. Oh that sounds great – especially with the coconut mixed in; big flavours in simple ingredients – awesome.

  3. Looks good. I finally got around to making one of the earlier versions and I loved it(mexican). My kids ate every bite too, but I gave it to them with just the basic version so I didnt burn their mouths off. I’m sure they will love the pineapples in this one. Where do you find smoked paprika? I have the regular kind, but was looking for it to make the bacon and didn’t have any luck.

    • Hey Pete! Glad you liked the other beans and rice recipe. I usually get smoked paprika at Giant, it’s Spice Islands brand. McCormick makes it too. Using the smoked kind makes a huge difference, I put it in everything from pasta sauce to guacamole. Life-altering!

  4. That looks so good! I will be trying this soon. I love beans. 🙂

  5. I am a huge fan of beans & rice! Love the Hawaiian twist!


  6. Most perfect dish ever! This is going on my must-eat-now list!

  7. Looks delicious! I’ll have to check out your other bean and rice recipes too.

  8. Awesome. I thinking about my next shopping trip and I need some no meat recipes.

  9. Sounds fresh and tasty! I love Hawaiian pizza and rice n beans… Combine them for perfection.

  10. We are loving the rice and beans recipes. Thank you!! Can’t wait to try this next one.

  11. ow! Adding this to my to make list. I made the asian beans and rice and loved it! Pineapple makes everything better too 😉

  12. Michelle Novak says:

    thank you again! genius! delicious!

  13. Those sound good, I’ll have to give them a try!

  14. I could eat rice and beans till doomsday without a pinch of boredom. They are a match made in food heaven, nutritionally and in terms of taste and texture!

  15. Wow that sounds amazing! I love pineapple but normally stick to hawaiian toast (cheese and pineapple under the grill).
    This I MUST try.
    Thanks for the fab idea

  16. I went to the store to buy some smoked paprika in the bulk section….they have spicy smoked paprika and sweet smoked paprika. Which one do you use?

    • Hey Bridget,

      I think for this dish I would choose sweet smoked paprika; the kind I have isn’t labeled either way but definitely isn’t spicy hot.

      I have some ground chipotle pepper which is smokey and really hot, and I’m addicted to that as well but have to use it more sparingly!

      As long as it’s smoked, I guess it just depends on how much heat you like.

  17. Once again awesome! This was dinner tonight, and needless to say, I was feeling fancy 😉

  18. We had this last night! Yum! And filling.

  19. Just made this, loved it. Used coconut oil and left out the spinach, added the pineapple directly to the mixture and a heavy dose of pepper and “da kine” for sure. thanks

  20. We just made this per recipe – first night it seemed a little bland for me, like it needed a chile pepper (which we’ll add next time). Leftovers were actually better than the first night. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Sounds lovely, almost tempted to give up my meat! Have there been any studies comparing athletic performance between vegetarians and meat eaters? That would be an interesting piece to review.

    • Jon, I haven’t seen any comparisons like that. It seems to me that there’s a disproportionate number of pro endurance athletes who are vegetarian or vegan, but it might just be that they make the news more often because of their diet, or that I just notice them more. You’re right, it’d be interesting to read and review.

  22. This is interesting, plus some references below which discuss endurance athletes:

    e,g, Nieman DC (1999). Physical fitness and vegetarian diets: is there a relation? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70, 570S-575S

    May have a dig later to see if I can find the actual papers or abstracts. Maybe Google Scholar would be better …

  23. Ann-Drea says:

    I love this site, but I’m confused why many of the posts refer to complete proteins. There is no such thing as an incomplete protein. Numerous docters, particularly those that promote a vegan/vegetarian, diet have shown time and again that complete/incomplete proteins are a myth through their research.

  24. sounds delish!!

  25. I can’t wait to try these! Well, unsure about the Baltimore one. I have tried Kale on one occassion and it was terrible! But the others I will probably LOVE!! Thanks for this post! Protien options are always scarce but not anymore.

  26. A complete protein contains an adequate amount of all of the essential amino acids that should be incorporated into a diet. Some protein contains all the amino acids needed to build new proteins, which generally come from animal and fish products. A complete protein must not lack even one essential amino acid in order to be considered complete. That’s what I read anyway.

  27. It feels like it has been ages since a good food post on NMA! Thanks for another great recipe Christine!

  28. I do apologize, but this was one of the most bland dishes I’ve ever had. I even tried to add some chili powder thinking it would spice it up and it was still just flavorless. I’ve been a vegetarian for years and have learned that spices are very important. This dish could really use some more flavor!

    • Hmm, that’s strange … this is one of the least-bland dishes I know of! Maybe it’s just a different a taste, or we’re doing something different when we make it. The smoked paprika is the big flavor for me.

  29. Charlene says:

    This recipe is great! Take the time to “get fancy with it!” Second NMA recipe in a row… So far, 2 for 2. Delicious. I really appreciate your creative and wide range of recipes. I love cooking but I’ve been running out of ideas. Using your healthy meal planner has really helped to keep me motivated to cook after work. THANKS!!!

  30. Made this tonight for dinner. My husband loved it. He just got braces and it was very easy for him to eat. His mouth is very sore. I liked it, but the flavor seemed a bit light. I love smoked paprika. I buy it from Costco. I think I might try this again, but with maybe a Jamaican Jerk spice.

  31. This was so, so good! And I am picky!! Made it with red beans. Thanks for something healthy and delicious.

  32. Loved this recipe so much I decided to feature it on my blog post this week! Thanks 😀

  33. I didn’t see how many this recipe serves. We are three hungry eaters who like a dish or two of leftovers. Should I double the recipe? Thanks!

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