Charleston red rice is a Lowcountry dish of rice cooked in a mix of tomatoes, onions, peppers, bacon or sausage and spices, served as a side or main course.
Easy Red Rice Recipe
We're cooking up a big panful of Charleston Red Rice in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. This is a recipe you're going to want in your cooking rotation.
I've enjoyed many rice dishes, but first encountered this particular version of red rice while visiting the beaches of the American south, and fell in love with it.
This is how I like to make my version. Some recipes cook the rice in a baking dish, but I prefer a simple stovetop recipe in a covered pan, where the rice absorbs all those wonderful spices and flavors.
What is Charleston Red Rice?
Charleston red rice is a South Carolina Lowcountry rice dish cooked in a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and bacon or sausage. The recipe often includes other ingredients such as garlic, celery, and local seasonings, and can be served as a side dish or a main course.
You may have heard it also referred to as Carolina red rice, lowcountry red rice, or simply "red rice".
The dish has Caribbean, European, and West African influences, and is a staple of Gullah cuisine, a unique blend of African American culture and cuisine found in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina.
It can be compared to African jollof rice, made with more regional seasonings and ingredients.
The dish is big on flavor, and perfectly at home in any spicy food lover's kitchen.
Let's talk about how to make red rice, shall we?
Charleston Red Rice Ingredients
- Bacon. You can also use andouille or other smoked sausage. See the recipe notes.
- Cajun Holy Trinity. Onion, bell pepper, celery, plus garlic. I like to use jalapeno peppers in place of the bells for a spicier version.
- Long Grain Rice. You can also use medium grain rice or extra long grain rice.
- Tomatoes. I prefer canned fire roasted tomatoes for the extra flavor. You can also use tomato sauce. The recipe also works with fresh tomatoes.
- Cajun Seasonings. Try my homemade Cajun seasoning recipe, or this homemade Creole seasoning blend. Plus salt and black pepper to taste.
- Chicken Broth.
- Hot sauce. Use a Louisiana style hot sauce
- For Serving. Fresh chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.
How to Make Red Rice - the Recipe Method
Warm the Chicken Broth. Add the chicken broth to a small pot and heat to warm it.
Cook the Bacon. Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook for 5 minutes to crisp up the bacon. Remove the bacon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve the bacon grease in the pan.
Cook the Vegetables. Add the onion, peppers, and celery. Cook 5 minutes to soften.
Add the garlic and cook another minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Toast the Rice. Add the butter and melt, then add the rinsed rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to lightly brown the rice.
NOTE: It is best to rinse the rice until the water runs clear. This removes much of the outer starches in the rice, resulting in fluffier rice.
Tomatoes, Spices, and Stock. Add the tomatoes, Cajun seasonings, salt and pepper, and chicken broth, and hot sauce to taste. Stir to incorporate.
Boil, then Simmer the Rice. Bring the rice to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes to 20 minutes, or until the rice absorbs all of the liquid.
Do not stir the rice while cooking. Just let it absorb the liquid and all those flavors. If the rice gets too dry, add a few tablespoons of extra chicken broth or water.
Rest the Rice. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Any remaining liquid will absorb into the rice.
Fluff the Rice and Serve. Stir the reserved bacon into the rice. Fluff with a fork and serve your red rice! Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.
Boom! Done! Your Charleston red rice is ready to serve. Pretty easy, isn't it? Time to eat! What are you serving with yours?
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Rinsing the rice until the water runs clear ensures fluffier rice for serving. I usually rinse it at least 3 times.
- Red rice is great with other proteins, like chopped chicken or leftover cooked turkey.
Serving Ideas for Red Rice
Serve red rice as a side dish with roasted turkey or chicken, baked ham, or grilled pork chops. It pairs nicely with a side of braised collard greens, Cajun corn maque choux, Creole potato salad, or skillet cornbread.
You can also serve Charleston red rice as a main dish by including lots of smoked andouille sausage to round out the meal.
Cooked red rice will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Simply warm in gently in a hot pan or small pot to enjoy again.
You can also freeze cooked rice for 1 month.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this easy red rice recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how you served yours, and which spices you used.
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Charleston Red Rice Recipe
- 3 strips bacon chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 bell pepper chopped (use jalapeno for a spicier version)
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1.5 cups long grain rinsed
- 1 15- ounce can tomatoes drained (I prefer fire-roasted tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning or more to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups chicken broth warmed
- Hot sauce to taste use a Louisiana style hot sauce
- Fresh chopped parsley and red pepper flakes for serving
- Add the chicken broth to a small pot and heat to warm it.
- Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook for 5 minutes to crisp up the bacon. Remove the bacon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve the bacon grease in the pan.
- Add the onion, peppers, and celery. Cook 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Add the butter and melt, then add the rinsed rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to lightly brown the rice.
- Add the tomatoes, Cajun seasonings, salt and pepper, and chicken broth, and hot sauce to taste. Stir to incorporate.
- Bring the rice to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice absorbs all of the liquid. Do not stir while cooking. If the rice gets too dry, add a few tablespoons of extra chicken broth or water.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Stir the reserved bacon into the rice. Fluff with a fork and serve your red rice! Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.