The Best Rice and Beans

In this part of the world, Rice is a staple and eaten at most meals. Growing up in Guyana, white rice was a faithful part of practically every meal; with the exception of days that cookup rice was on the menu. Rice is both comforting and filling. Eating these familiar grains, whether they be brown, parboiled or white, gives a sense of well-being and contentment which we commonly associate with eating carbohydrates. Rice is also a great vehicle for absorbing flavors from sauces and meats, so it’s the perfect accompaniment to many meals for several ethnicities.

Rice with pigeon peas, fried snapper, sautéed spinach and fried breadfruit

In Haïti, rice and beans are a staple. They are consumed in every household and are the basic components of the main meal for Haitians. White rice and bean sauce is an important protein consumed here for its economic and affordability factor. Rice is rich in starch and is a great source of energy. There is a small amount of protein in the grain. Beans are high in iron and protein and therefore when eaten along with rice, it stimulates the production of amino acids and becomes a complete protein and a crucial part of a healthy balanced diet. The combination is a delicious and filling one, and is also a healthy vegetarian option.

Raw ingredients for a Haitian rice and beans: parboiled converted rice, red beans, bouquet garni of herbs and red pepper.

Rice was first cultivated in the Yangtze River Valley in China over 10,000 years ago. Rice production spread all over East and South Asia and quickly became a basic food staple for the people of this area. Today rice is grown all over the world and is consumed by a vast majority of the world population. Rice had also been cultivated in Africa for 3500 years, which made it also a staple on the continent. The African rice strain however was never really cultivated far beyond it’s borders. The armies of Alexander the Great introduced rice from the Asian continent to the Mediterranean. The Spanish introduced Asian rice to Veracruz, Mexico in about 1520. At around the same time, the Portuguese also introduced rice to their South American colony of Brazil, which they had learned from the African continent. Today the most common variety eaten and cultivated around the world is the Asian strain. Many rice and bean dishes of West African origins remain to this day in the culture of the people of the Caribbean. Though separated from the motherland through slavery, the West Africans took with them their vibrant culture, and their food to the New world as they established the critical work force of the Spanish, Portuguese and British colonies in the West Indies and the Americas.

Parboiled converted rice in the coconut shell and jasmine long grain rice below

In North America, the African slaves brought with them the knowledge of rice cultivation. They taught the plantation owners how to dyke the dams and flood the fields. This enabled the firm and prosperous establishment of the rice industry in the Southern United States and the production of the grain known as Carolina Gold.

In homage to the mighty grain which we all consume in this part of the world, here is my recipe for the Haitian Coat of Arms; Red Beans and Rice. I learned how to cook this from some great Haitian cooks over the years. I have always found that Haitian rice and beans is particularly delicious compared to all of the various rice and bean dishes in the Caribbean; they have just have worked the method down to a science. Every cook will have their own special ingredients which they may add, such as sweet peppers, bacon or cloves. This recipe will assure you a delicious outcome, once you follow the method. You may tweak the seasoning as you like. I prefer to make it with the converted parboiled rice as it gives a fluffy rice which never sticks together. You may opt for a short grain if you prefer, it will give a slightly stickier texture which is also very good. Note that if you chose to use regular long grain rice, the proportion rice to water will differ slightly. The converted parboiled rice swells up and is a puffier grain, so I use slightly less than long grain rice. The choice of beans can vary but I used the traditional red beans for Riz Colle à l’Haitienne.

A serving bowl of the Haitian coat of arms rice with red beans

Rice and beans Haitian Style ( Riz Collé a Pois Rouge)

Serves 8


1 cup dried beans, red, pinto or black

6 cups water for boiling the beans, plus more if water is absorbed during cooking and beans are not tender.

3 cups converted parboiled rice

3 cloves garlic

2 pieces chive or green onion

1 scotch bonnet pepper

3 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs parsley

3 cloves or a pinch of ground cloves

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp butter

1 bouillon cube, vegetable or chicken* optional, but highly recommended for a more flavorful rice.

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Extra water for cooking rice in addition to the liquid from the beans. Total 7 cups of liquid for cooking the rice.


In a medium pot, pour 6 cups water and add the dried red beans. Note that there is no addition of salt to this process as this will make the cooking of the beans much longer. Salt is added when cooking the rice. Boil in medium heat until tender, about 1 hr. Remove the beans and reserve all of the liquid for the rice. This is very important as the bean liquid will color and flavor the rice.

Red beans being boiled for use in rice and beans.

In a mini electric grinder or with a mortar and pestle, grind together the garlic and chives or poireaux to a paste.

In a large deep heavy bottom casserole, add oil and ground green seasoning and stir until lightly golden, do not allow the garlic to burn. Add cooked beans and fry together with seasoning for about 5 mins.

Green seasoning being fried before the addition of cooked beans.

Add the reserved bean liquid and extra water. The liquid should at least double the quantity of cups of rice, plus a bit more for the beans. In this case 7 cups of liquid to 3 cups rice along with the beans. Add a crumbled bouillon cube, cloves, salt & pepper.

The beans in the cooking liquid just coming to a boil. The rice will be added at this point.

Bring to a rapid boil and add the rice. Stir the grains well in the liquid and beans and leave the heat on medium high. Add a tablespoon of butter.

Tie together a bouquet garni of thyme leaves and parsley and leave to steam in the rice along with a whole pepper. The whole cloves are stuck into the whole pepper for easy removal after the cooking process. Do not cover the pot until all of the liquid has been absorbed. This is a crucial part of the process in the rice cooking.

A typical bouquet garni of spices used in Haitian cooking for flavoring rice, stews and sauces.

Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot tightly. Leave to steam for 20 minutes. Stir the rice grains gently to separate. Be careful not to allow the pepper to burst. This is the part if the process which is referred to as “etouffé le riz” or to allow to steam, low and slow. Cover and keep on the lowest temperature for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni and steamed pepper with the 3 whole cloves. Serve.

The rice and beans still in the stovetop in its final stages. The rice has just been fluffed and the bouquet garni removed.

Recommendations: Serve hot along with a meat of your choice. A typical Haitian meal consists of rice and beans, chicken creole, fried pressed plantains and a green salad or some steamed vegetables. A bowl of spicy slaw or pickleez is also a very common condiment served at meals.

Creole goat with rice and beans, fried plantains and okra

I hope you enjoy this rice dish as much as we do in my home. Bon appetit !

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lois Sizam- Bastareaud says:

    Awww Sharon,really enticing and apetising, as usual!

    1. Thanks Lois and I hope you try the recipe!

  2. Love the way you write and explain your recipes!!!

    1. Thank you so much. I appreciate your support!

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