My slow cooker has been a very good friend to me throughout the last twelve weeks of clinical work. I rarely use it overnight on weeknights the way I used to, mostly because I have to rush in the morning (and don’t want to clean it). But it’s a wonderful helper on weekends, when I’m batch cooking: one less thing that needs careful monitoring, and great for cooking/freezing in bulk.
Since rice and beans are one of my staples, I recently got to thinking whether or not I could prep them in my slow cooker for a change. The answer is yes, and this recipe for slow cooker red beans, rice & tofu is my first try.
I’ve mentioned in past posts that I love adding tofu to rice & beans: it gives the dish extra plant protein, heft, and texture. In this recipe, extra firm tofu plays the role that sausage might play in an authentic red rice & beans recipe, except that, with my schedule these days, I didn’t do anything fancy to season the tofu beforehand. I just threw it into the slow cooker with all of the other ingredients and allowed it to soak up flavor—which is what tofu is great at doing!
My extra firm tofu of choice is from Nasoya, makers of awesome, organic soy foods that are accessible all over the country. I love the texture of this tofu, which is firm enough (in my opinion) to resist the need for pressing. If you do want to press it, it gets even denser. I’ve used it both ways, but in this recipe, I just patted it and squeezed it gently between paper towels before adding, without any time in my press.
When I add the Nasoya extra firm tofu to recipes, I usually cube it into pieces that are about 3/4-1″ big. When I cut the block up evenly, it’s 32 pieces (invariably they end up a little uneven, but it’s all good.
When I want the best flavor from a slow cooker recipe, I sauté the onions and other veggies (peppers, celery, etc) in some olive oil before turning the slow cooker on (my current slow cooker allows me to sear/sauté in the device, but in the past I’d just do it in a pan). For this recipe, you can skip that step or roll with it: it adds a bit more depth of flavor, but the dish will be perfectly spicy and flavorful no matter what, thanks to the spice mix.
Note that, for this recipe, rice gets added after the other ingredients have cooked for a while, so if you’re cooking overnight, you’ll want to plan to add in the morning. I cooked for 4 hours and added the rice 1 hour before cook time was done.
Slow Cooker Red Beans, Rice & Tofu
- 1 lb kidney beans, soaked overnight or for 8 hours and drained
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small onions, diced
- 3 large stalks celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 14 ounces Nasoya extra firm tofu, cubed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 7 cups water + 1 vegan chicken style bouillon cube or 7 cups vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoons fine salt (more as needed; the bouillon or broth will plenty of salt as well, but you can increase the starting amount to 1 1/2-2 teaspoons if you use low-sodium broth)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this is very mild, which is my style, but feel free to ramp it up if you like a lot of heat!)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/4 cups long-grain white or brown rice*
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, to taste
- Hot sauce and chopped green onions, for topping
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Boil the beans for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse.
- Optional: heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and pepper. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is gently browning. Add these ingredients to the slow cooker.
- Add all remaining ingredients except for rice and vinegar to the slow cooker. If you don't choose to sauté the vegetables, you can skip the olive oil and dump everything but the rice and vinegar into the slow cooker now!
- Cook the ingredients on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Add the rice. Continue cooking for 2 more hours on low or 1 hour on high (1 1/2 hours if you use brown rice instead of white). Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the vinegar and add additional salt as needed. Serve, with plenty of hot sauce and chopped green onions if desired.
This is, as so many of my recent recipes are these days, a staple that can be dressed up in a ton of ways. With a good squeeze of hot sauce it’s a light lunch. With a big salad or a couple veggie sides, it’s dinner. Stuffed into some corn or whole wheat tacos, it’s a perfect breakfast. I’m so happy to still have a ton of it in my freezer.
And, speaking of how voluminous the recipe is, it’s totally OK to cut the whole thing in half if you like—and it’s an especially good idea to do that if you have a smaller sized slow cooker.
Rice and beans is a perfect combination of foods in just about every way: nutritionally, texturally, economically. Tofu makes it all the better and all the more nutrient-dense, and I can’t wait to make this one again.
Wishing you a nourishing end to the week, and I’ll see you this weekend.
This post is sponsored by Nasoya. All opinions are my own, and I love this go-to brand of tofu and other creative soy products! Thanks for your support.