This is a post by Christine, Matt’s sister with a knack for vegan baking. Today she’s bringing us something not-so-sweet but just as valuable: five twists on that old vegetarian runner’s standby, rice and beans.
Whether you’re new to vegetarian cooking or just in a beans-&-rice rut, I’ve got five quick and delicious variations to keep you fueled without breaking the bank.
A Nutritional Match Made In Heaven
The amino acids in rice and beans come together to form a complete vegan protein, making a simple way to get both complex carbs and protein in a single vegetarian meal (though the “complete protein” thing is actually not important — your body pools amino acids and can combine them from several meals, so no need to always get them in the same meal).
Throw in fantastic versatility at pennies per serving and you’ve got yourself not just the backbone of the plant-based diet, but also a universal staple food.
Learning to cook hearty vegetarian meals was a process for me. It started with just a “Meatless Monday” night that felt so good in my belly and my wallet that it evolved into meat just twice a week. Soon everyday was “Meatless Monday!”
At first I followed recipes to the letter, but soon I began to recognize patterns in regional flavor combinations. So today I’m here to share the tricks I learned about escalating ho-hum healthy food into nutritious ethnic cuisine.
I’ve got a standard five-ingredient framework to use for basic beans and rice, and then a five-ingredient update to represent whichever fare you desire: Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian, and even our local Baltimorean food.
Basic Beans and Rice Recipe with Five Variations
- 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.
Indian Beans and Rice
You’ll need chickpeas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- a thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Stir the curry powder and cinnamon into the chickpea and onion mixture. Fry for a minute, than add the ginger and tomatoes and their juices. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw. Stir the cilantro into the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy? Serve with warm naan and a side of sliced mangoes.
Mediterranean Beans and Rice
You’ll need Great Northern White Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- 1 small can (2.25 oz) black olives
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tsp dry dill weed
Add the celery and olives to the bean and onion mixture and fry for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and heat through. Stir the dill into the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy? Add a can of chopped artichoke hearts and serve with warm pita bread .
Mexican Beans and Rice
You’ll need Pinto Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Stir the cumin and chili powder into the bean and onion mixture and fry for a minute to coat. Add the can of tomatoes and lime juice. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw. Stir the cilantro into the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy? Serve with a side of sliced avocado and warm corn tortillas.
Asian Beans and Rice
You’ll need adzuki beans or black beans in the basic recipe, as well as:
- 4 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
- thumb size piece fresh ginger, minced
- 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
- small can (11 oz) mandarin oranges, juice reserved
- 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
Fry the carrots and ginger with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until the carrots are cooked but still crunchy. Stir in the soy sauce and 2 tbsp of the reserved mandarin orange juice. Remove from heat and gently stir in mandarin orange slices. Mix the Chinese Five Spice with the Rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy? Throw in some chopped cabbage, thinly sliced green bell pepper, and mushrooms. Drizzle with hoisin sauce.
Baltimorean Beans and Rice
You’ll need Black-Eyed Peas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- 2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1 tsp Old Bay, or any Chesapeake-style seafood seasoning
Fry the kale with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until wilted. Add the cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and corn, heat through. Sprinkle rice with the Old Bay seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy? Stir in some chopped yellow squash from the garden, and crack open an ice cold can of Natty Boh.
All these recipes work great for leftover lunches too— just stuff inside a big whole wheat tortilla and you’re good to go. I included a Baltimore version because that’s the region I know best; hopefully it will inspire you to apply your local flavors to beans and rice too. Please feel free to post your favorite 5-ingredient version and we can start to create a regional reference for this amazingly simple meal.
This post is part of a series on how to start eating a vegetarian diet, for new vegetarians or endurance athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.
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