This might be the best slow cooker recipe you’ll make all year. Beware, though, if you are like me, it will be easy to dismiss the homey, simple idea of cooking red beans and sausage in the slow cooker, but don’t be like that; I don’t want you to miss out on all the gloriousness that is this slow cooker meal.
Brian, who gets teased by friends for being really, really spoiled in the dinner department (little do the hecklers know that sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be around here at dinnertime), could not stop talking about this meal even though it’s probably one of the simplest meals we’ve eaten lately. After a while, I was a little bit like “ok, ok, I get it, you like it, thank you, that’s nice, can we stop talking about beans and rice now?” He fought us all for the leftovers (and won, blame it on his wrestling background and savvy fridge hiding skillz) and has already requested it for his birthday dinner in December. Apparently it’s the closest he’s ever gotten stateside to what he ate for meals on end when he lived in Brazil many moons ago.
I love how easy this meal is. No precooking, no fussy ingredients. Toss almost everything into the slow cooker and let it go to town. I like to add the chicken sausage (since it’s already cooked) at the end just to warm through – to avoid the boiled-texture meat thing. But if that doesn’t bother you, go ahead and add it with the other ingredients and it will be even easier (if that’s possible). Surprisingly, the short list of seasonings provides the perfect amount of flavor to the warm, simmering ingredients. It really is amazingly delicious.
Don’t call me out on authenticity (I know there are many who are very particular about their red beans and rice) but if you want simple, tasty, homestyle comfort food, this is it. And it’s pretty healthy and inexpensive to boot so there is that. I’ve included my typical “what to serve with this” ideas below but a special shout out to pao de queijo (gluten-free, shockingly easy Brazilian cheese bread) for being the best little side dish to serve with the red beans and rice. And speaking of shout outs, thanks to Jessica (a sweet MKC reader) who sent the recipe to me and clued me into serving it with the cheese bread. I think we’ll be eating this all fall and winter.
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice with Chicken Sausage
- 1 cup diced yellow or white onion
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 4 (15-ounces each) cans kidney beans, undrained
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coarse or freshly cracked black pepper (see note)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 1/2 pounds kielbasa or chicken sausage, sliced (see note)
- Hot, cooked brown rice, white rice or quinoa for serving
- Combine all the ingredients except the kielbasa/sausage in a medium slow cooker and give it a good stir. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. Add the sausage and cook until warmed through (anywhere from 20 minutes to another hour).
- Add additional salt to taste before serving. Serve over hot, cooked rice (white or brown) or quinoa.
For the kielbasa/sausage, you’re looking for precooked sausage that you slice into rounds – I like using the chicken sausage (Aidell’s brand). Something similar, pork or beef or turkey, would work for this recipe.
UPDATE: A lot of the flavor (given the short list of seasonings) comes from the black pepper. I used coarse ground black pepper (from Costco) and the full 2 teaspoons was perfect for us but depending on the brand/type of black pepper you are using, it might add more heat than you like. You can always add 1 teaspoon during cooking time and add more at the end, to taste, if you want to play it safe.
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Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Jessica K., an awesome MKC reader who sent it to me (a favorite family recipe of hers!)