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5 Cheap & Easy Rice and Beans Recipes

By Kristia Ludwick

rice and beansAs food prices continue to rise, I am always looking for ways to control my budget without sacrificing the quality of food that I feed to my family. Rice and beans have been an affordable and tasty addition to my family meal planning.

To some people, “rice and beans” may be synonymous with “dull and boring.” However, with the wide variety of beans available – such as black beans, great northern beans, lentils, red kidney beans, lima beans, and pinto beans – boredom is not an issue. Beans make a simple meal; they’re low in fat and high in fiber and protein, have zero cholesterol, and are inexpensive – thus making them a healthy superfood and a great substitute for meat.

By adding rice and beans to your weekly menu plan, you can reduce your meat consumption, add variety to your diet, and save money on groceries.

Cost Analysis of Rice and Beans

Canned vs. Dried Beans

Beans come in two forms: canned and dried. The canned version is the more convenient alternative, but it has up to 20 times the amount of sodium as dried beans and is more expensive.

Dried beans require some up-front prep work (i.e. soaking and cooking) in order to be edible, but they are healthier and cheaper than the canned variety. Also, dried beans can be cooked in bulk and stored in the freezer for future use, making them more convenient.

A two-pound bag of dried pinto beans costs $1.45, while a can of store-brand pinto beans costs about 75 cents. When cooked, that two-pound bag of beans equals six cans of beans and will save you $3.05! Still, the choice between canned and dried beans is personal; if you choose canned beans, store brands are about 30% cheaper than name brands and are usually a fine alternative.

Types of Rice

Rice is another example where you pay for convenience. Instant rice has been pre-cooked, rinsed, and dried, so when you cook it at home it only needs to be re-hydrated, thus the 5 to 10 minute cooking time. It also costs about $1.85 per pound.

Conversely, the store brand long grain brown rice costs about $0.95 a pound, but takes 45 minutes to cook. Another low-cost option is long grain white rice that cooks in 20 minutes and costs $0.82 per pound versus the instant version at $1.65 a pound. Again, the choice is personal and will depend on your time and budget.

dried beans

How to Cook Dried Beans

Rehydrating Beans

Dried beans must be re-hydrated before they are cooked. Depending on your schedule, there are two methods to choose from:

Quick Soak:

  1. Sort one pound (two cups) of beans on a rimmed cookie sheet, pulling out any pebbles or broken pieces.
  2. Rinse the beans in a colander with fresh water, and then pour them into a large pot and add six to eight cups of hot water.
  3. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for two minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for one hour.
  5. Carefully drain the beans in a colander and rinse with fresh water. The beans are then ready to be cooked.

Overnight Soak:

  1. Sort and rinse one pound (two cups) of beans as described in the quick soak and pour beans into a large pot and cover with six to eight cups of cold water.
  2. Allow the beans to soak at least eight hours or overnight.
  3. Drain in colander and rinse with fresh water. The beans are then ready to be cooked.

Cooking Beans

Beans can be cooked in a crock pot or on the stove top, depending on your preference and availability. I prefer the crock pot method because I don’t have to be home while the beans are cooking, but both methods work well.

Crock Pot Cooking Directions:

  1. Pour soaked beans in crock pot, cover with fresh water by three inches.
  2. Cover the pot, and cook on low for eight hours or until soft.
  3. Carefully drain.

Stove Top Cooking Directions:

  1. Pour soaked and rinsed beans into a large stock pot.
  2. Add six cups of hot water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes to 2 hours or until the beans reach your desired tenderness.
  4. Beans are ready when they can be smashed with a fork. Carefully drain.

To store beans in the freezer for future use, allow the cooked beans to cool completely, divide them into 1 1/2 cup portions in freezer containers or bags. 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans equals one (15-ounce) can.

dried beans

Rice and Beans Recipes

These five meal suggestions are full of flavor and nutrition, and are easy on your budget. I used cooked beans to calculate the total cost per serving.

1. Italian White Beans and Rice Soup

This hearty Italian white bean and rice soup is the perfect main dish for chilly fall and winter evenings. Serve it with a garden salad and homemade bread for a well-rounded meal.

Makes six to eight servings. Total cost per serving: Approximately $0.81.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped fine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. While rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion, and celery and cook until soft, for about four minutes.
  3. Add stock, tomatoes, and seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir in the beans, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cooked rice and serve. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

italian white beans and rice soup

2. Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice dishes commonly include sausage or ham. I reduced the sausage portion to a half-pound, keeping the flavor intact, but the cost and calories down.

Makes six to eight servings. Total cost per serving: Approximately $0.71.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Cajun seasonings, depending on your spiciness preference
  • 3 cups cooked red beans or 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked long grain white rice

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, garlic, pepper, onion, and celery. Break sausage into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. Stir until sausage is cooked all the way through and vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the seasoning, beans, water, and tomatoes. Mix well with the sausage. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked rice.

cajun red beans and rice

3. Fiesta Black Beans and Rice

Fiesta black beans and rice and can be eaten alone or as the filling in burritos, wraps, or nachos. It also pairs well with a garden salad.

Makes four to six servings. Total cost per serving: Approximately $0.71.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked (non-instant) white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked beans or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic and cook until soft, about four minutes.
  2. Add the rice and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly, so as not to burn.
  3. Add the water, spices, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

fiesta rice and beans

4. Baked Lentils and Brown Rice

Unlike other beans, lentils do not require soaking before they are cooked. Their cook time also varies from the other beans listed here. They cook up very quickly on a stove top in 15 to 20 minutes. In this recipe, no pre-cooking is required.

Makes six to eight servings. Total cost per serving: Approximately $0.57.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup whole grain brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of your favorite shredded cheese, such as cheddar.

Directions:

  1. In a 13×9 baking dish, combine all of the ingredients, except the cheese.
  2. Cover with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil. Spread the cheese over the beans mixture and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

baked lentils and rice

5. Pinto Beans and Rice Soft Tacos

The pinto beans and rice replace the traditional taco meat and help bring the price per serving down considerably, making this dish the cheapest of the five.

Makes six to eight servings. Total cost per serving: Approximately $0.53.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans, warmed
  • 6 to 8 small flour tortillas, warmed per package instructions
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • your favorite taco toppings, such as salsa, avocado, diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Layer the rice, beans, cheese, and toppings on the flour tortilla and serve.

pinto beans and rice soft tacos

Final Word

Rice and beans make a nutritious family dinner, and might even be a great addition to a pot luck dinner! Best of all, there are myriad ways to prepare these two staple foods.

While cooking dried beans is a healthier and cheaper option over canned beans, only you can decide if it is worth your time and effort. I have found that soaking and cooking the beans in my crock pot doesn’t require too much effort, just a little planning.

Whether you are trying to reduce your meat intake, lower your grocery bill, or add simple, healthy foods to your diet, adding rice and beans to your diet will help you achieve these goals.

Do you have a rice and beans recipe that you enjoy?

(photo credit: Shutterstock, Bigstock, Family Balance Sheet)

Kristia Ludwick
Kristia writes about family finances, frugal living, and food at Family Balance Sheet. She spends her offline time raising her two daughters, helping her husband run a small business, and training for her first half-marathon.

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  • patriot

    Can you make these recipes printer friendly? Thanks

    • Kristia

      Hi Patriot ~ I would recommend that you copy and paste the recipes onto a word document and you can print from there. I hope you enjoy the recipes. Thanks for the comment.

  • Basketblessed

    Thanks so much for the recipes & the informative post. I already love rice & beans and am always looking for new ways to fix them :)
    Smiles, DianeM

    • Kristia

      DianeM ~ Thank you for your comments. I hope you enjoy these rice and beans recipes!

  • Colleenwood

    I’m printing this off right now! Love this website and forgot that I’d saved this e-mail. Thanks!!!!

  • guest

    In your opinion, would these meals be freezer friendly? Do you have recommendations on reheating?

  • Action Kate

    Something is wrong with that lentil recipe. I baked it for over two hours and the lentils were still crunchy.

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