~ This Easy Rice and Beans recipe will be your new go-to side dish! It relies on pantry staples to come together effortlessly … in just minutes (you can even prep it ahead)! And we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you quickly adapt the flavors to match whatever main course you’re making! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead •
So … here’s the CliffsNotes of what we’re doing today. Ready? (This won’t take long!)
1) Mix together pre-flavored, cooked rice with black beans, spices, minced onion and a little cider vinegar.
2) Microwave for about 3 minutes, until hot.
(Told you it wouldn’t take long!)
Do you kinda feel like you just cheated? Like that was waaaaay too easy?
Booyah! That means you’ve got a delicious dinner under control, and you can move on with your night!
Weeknight Dinner Survival Strategy
There’s a little sanity tip lurking behind today’s recipe.
A “how will I possibly get dinner on the table???” survival strategy that hinges on the fact that it’s actually ok to cheat (no matter what your high school English teacher told you!).
The tip? Embrace those shortcut pantry items!
Seriously – you don’t have to make every single component of every meal completely from scratch. Who has the time?
Instead, focus on an outstanding main dish, or some unique new side you want to try, and then don’t feel badly about using a few shortcuts to create the rest of the meal. I definitely think it’s better to be able to offer up more whole grain and produce-filled sides whenever I can, even if sometimes that means I’ve gotta rely on some shortcuts.
It’s so helpful to have a few favorite, throw-together recipes that are infinitely adaptable. It’s even better if they’re made with ingredients waiting patiently in your pantry, ready when you need them.
This rice and black beans recipe is a quintessential example of “the cheat” – it’s pretty much exactly how this recipe sprang into existence, actually. (And yet my family looooved it – go figure!)
After we came home from Key Largo this spring, I was ridiculously excited to recreate the fantastic Broiled Fish Matecumbe recipe we’d had at The Fish House our very first night in the Keys. I wanted to really focus on that part of the meal, to be able to test and tinker and taste, so the fish was as delicious as it had been in Florida (even if I didn’t have a palm tree and sunshine handy to help me with the vibe).
So, I didn’t want to spend much time on the side dishes. (You see where we’re going here, right?)
The Recipe That Almost Wasn’t
This beans and rice wasn’t even supposed to be a “recipe”!
I mean, I knew that I wanted a black beans and rice side dish for the Matecumbe Fish, because you absolutely need something to soak up the awesome tomato-y “Matecumbe” cooking juices. But I didn’t want to worry over developing the flavors or simmering rice.
I needed a side dish that just sort of magically happened. (Spoiler alert: pantry staples + a microwave = magic.)
I also knew I wanted my rice to have a boost of flavor to lift it from a plain-Jane blank canvas, to something that had enough character to be delicious forked up on its own, too.
So I grabbed some chicken-flavored rice and took a couple cues (cider vinegar – brilliant!) from a Bush’s recipe I spotted online. I scooped up some extra onions that were left on my chopping board, and a few handy spices.
And then I just tossed everything together and moved on.
This beans and rice creation nearly stole the show at dinner that night!
And that’s saying a lot, since my family was thrilled to be tucking into the Matecumbe Fish we’d loved on vacation. They oohed and aaahed and raved about the fish, but then – to my complete surprise – they started raving about the beans and rice.
Oh no – I hadn’t really measured or written anything down as I’d thrown it together! How would I make it again (for them … or for you)?!?! It hadn’t even occurred to me that the rice and beans would be a thing, a recipe worthy of being labeled “keeper” and filed away to make again and again.
As soon as dinner was over, I rifled through the spices and measuring spoons laying around the kitchen counter, mentally recreating what I’d done and jotting notes. Whew! There was only a handful of ingredients, so it was pretty easy to figure out how to recreate this. Which was lucky for me, since my family wanted MORE!
So Simple – But Then, That’s the Whole Point!
Even once I’d gotten it all written down, I wondered – was this really a recipe I’d share with all of you? It was so simple. Hardly even a “recipe”!
Oh wait … but isn’t that the whole point here? The whole reason I share recipes with you is to help you find healthy, easy solutions for your busy, busy lives! DOH! Right!
This recipe-that-is-almost-too-simple-to-be-a-recipe is EXACTLY the point!
And if my family was asking me to please, please make it again, then it had pretty much passed the “share-ability” test!
Plus, with whole-grain brown rice and protein-rich black beans, it was a nutritious side dish I was happy to see my family shoveling in. So, it passed the “nutritious enough to post on THK” test, too!
Ok … I realized we needed this in our lives A LOT … and I thought maybe you did, too.
Plus, if you’re gonna make Matecumbe Fish (and truly you should!) … then you’ve really gotta have this side of rice and beans to go along with it.
Trust me, though – this super-simple version of black beans and rice has plenty of applications beyond Matecumbe Fish. It can get cozied up next to all sorts of main dishes, with lots of different flavor profiles. You can change it up in so many ways!
Customize Your Rice and Beans to Match Your Main Dish
No doubt, one of the most terrific things about this rice and beans recipe (besides … you know … 5 minutes!) is that it’s so totally adaptable.
Sure, it’s the perfect accompaniment for our Matecumbe Broiled Fish, but this black beans and rice recipe is also terrific as:
- A bed for grilled meats and kabobs
- Part of a Mexican-themed fajita bar
- A side for saucy skillet meals that need a flavorful rice to soak up the saucy goodness of the main course
Take your cues from the main dish you’re serving, and feel free to toss in different veggies, herbs and garnishes to tie it all together and to use up little bits of ingredients that are left on your chopping board.
Just keep in mind that this recipe will only be cooking in your microwave for about 3 minutes, so ingredients like big chunks of crunchy carrot might not work well, since they won’t have enough time to cook through (unless you’re going for that big crunch).
Here are some ideas to try …
• Any fresh herbs you’re using in your main dish could be sprinkled over top when serving. Minced cilantro and parsley are both great options. Or, you can add a bit of flavor and a punch of color with some finely chopped chives or green onions.
• Give your beans and rice some Mexican flair by stirring in bell peppers and jalapenos before cooking, and then adding some chopped tomatoes and a sprinkling of cilantro. You could even tuck some fresh lime slices alongside, stir in some jarred salsa, or dollop fresh guac on top – yum!
• Make it a little cheesy by stirring in some reduced-fat cheeses, or sprinkling cheese over top when serving.
• Sweet corn would be a pretty addition, and it’d add a wonderful, summery flavor if you cut it fresh from the cob and stir some kernels in before cooking.
• If you’re looking for a little kick (my son and hubby usually are!), you could add a dash of your favorite hot sauce, or pass it alongside.
Yep – You Can Make It Ahead (Think Delicious Leftover Lunches!)
At 5 minutes flat, this black beans and rice side dish is about as lightning-fast as it gets.
But, you can be even more ready for the dinnertime rush by stirring everything together earlier in the day or a day ahead. Heat it up as you set the table, and you’re good to go!
It reheats perfectly later, too, so you can reincarnate it for lunches the whole rest of the week!
So hey there, busy person (yes, I’m looking at you!) … take some of the stress out of dinner, and embrace easy-peasy recipes that fill out your plate without filling up your time!
Bookmark this recipe, and keep it handy for all those nights when you need dinner to magically happen. Embrace the shortcut cheat, friends … dinnertime sanity awaits!
- 2 (8.8-ounces each) shelf-stable pouches of Uncle Ben's Chicken-Flavored Whole Grain Brown "Ready Rice"
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans (preferably organic or reduced-sodium), rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup minced Spanish onion
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- optional garnishes such as minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or chives (depending on what you're serving this with – see suggestions in post)
Combine all ingredients (except optional garnishes) in a medium bowl, stirring to thoroughly combine.
Microwave for approximately 3 minutes (the exact power at wattage of microwave ovens varies), until hot.
Serve with optional garnishes as desired.
Make-ahead tip: You can mix all the ingredients together up to a day ahead, and then heat this just before serving. It also reheats well for leftovers throughout the week.