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The Big Fat Secret Behind Creamy and Flavorful Red Beans

Fat is the key to flavorful, creamy red beans.


What’s your favorite kind of fat?

If you love red beans and cook them religiously, you probably have a favorite kind of fat that adds the dimension, flavor and creaminess you can’t live without – whether it’s canola, corn or olive oil, butter, margarine, bacon grease, or even lard. In fact, red beans & rice fans have spoken when it comes to their secret ingredients, and which kinds of fats they swear by. So we’ll cover the most popular ones here, giving you a taste of their flavor profiles and what they bring to the table.

Fat tastes good. And it makes other flavors taste even better.

Keep in mind that fat not only has the useful functions of keeping cooking water from boiling over and transferring heat to food, but it also adds an awful lot of depth to a pot of red beans. Fat feels good in your mouth and makes other flavors taste better, too. Fatty foods are often more flavorful because many flavors dissolve in fats. In fact, some flavors like to stick to fat molecules, so fat can actually prolong the release of flavors in your mouth.

Cooking oil

Cooking Oils: With mild, nuanced flavors, oils add depth and creaminess and complement other flavors in the pot.

A fat favorite mentioned by many is oil. Because of its mild, nuanced flavor, it adds depth to savory dishes and complements other flavors in the pot. Lots of red bean lovers wouldn’t dream of adding anything else to the pot until they’d first sautéed the trinity (a combo chopped onion, green pepper and celery), as well as garlic, in a few generous glugs of olive oil. The combination of those aromatics plus the oil makes a wonderfully flavorful base for red beans. Others adamantly insist that adding corn oil or canola oil near the end of cooking is the key to the creamiest red beans. Following are some interesting quotes and tips to chew on:

“If using meat, brown it in olive oil after patting it with your favorite seasonings. Afterwards, use some of the oil and the drippings to sauté all the veggies.” Michael D.

“Pickled pig tails and cooking oil @ the end.” Teara M.

“A big cooking spoon of Mazola Corn Oil for creamy beans! These are the best!! Cooked in a crock pot!!!!” Cindy N.

“U want creamy beans? Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil at the end. Works every time.” Shana T.

“Sauté onions, garlic in canola oil.” Susan P.

“At the end, a l’il cooking oil – the best!!!!!” Tammy B.


Butter: Luxuriously smooth and creamy, it carries flavors and spices into the rest of the dish.

Another popular choice is butter. With its rich, creamy dairy flavor, real butter is made from milk fat and has a delicious, smooth texture. Interestingly, it has a melting temperature of 98.6° F, which happens to be the temperature inside your mouth. And it works well as a flavor carrier for spices and other ingredients; for example, when you sauté an onion in butter, all the flavor from the onions will be carried by the butter into the rest of the dish – complementing and enhancing the flavor of the beans. Sound good? Try one of our favorite red bean recipes that features butter. These fans say it’s their secret ingredient:

“I use a little file and a little butter.” Harvey H.

“Garlic and butter.” Patrick S.

Bacon grease

Bacon Grease: The king of flavorful fats

Now – nothing against oil and butter, but when it comes to adding meaty, smoky flavor and richness, lots of red beans & rice fans claim there’s nothing better than bacon grease. Cooking bacon in a cast-iron pan or heavy skillet over very low heat for 10 – 12 minutes will give you a good rendering and a nice amount of fat to work with. But remember, bacon is salty because it’s cured – so when cooking with bacon grease, be careful of the amount of salt you add. You can always put more in if need be, but it’s hard to fix if you over-salt. Check out some bacon fan suggestions below:

“Chicken broth, bacon grease, and ham hocks.” Heather V.

“Bacon grease. Gotta have it!” Claire S.

“Smoked bacon, smoked turkey neck, and the grease from the bacon, celery.” Theresa G.

“Bacon grease.” Kuris N.

“Sauté onion, celery, garlic in bacon fat.” Rose Anne L.

“Bacon grease-sauté onions-pickled pork, Tasso, a little roux, ham base, low and slow till they cream, green onion tops at the end!” Jimmy Y.

“I use bacon grease to help make my beans creamy.” Rhonda K.

“A teaspoon of bacon grease.” Connie W.

Making you hungry for a pot of red beans? Start cooking and maybe give one of these fan suggestions a try.