Rice and beans
Rice and beans is a very popular dish
A recipe is a set of instructions that describe how to prepare or make something, especially a culinary dish.-Components:Modern culinary recipes normally consist of several components*The name of the dish...

 in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, and in communities of Latino
The demonyms Latino and Latina , are defined in English language dictionaries as:* "a person of Latin-American descent."* "A Latin American."* "A person of Hispanic, especially Latin-American, descent, often one living in the United States."...

, Caribbean or Sephardic people elsewhere. Given the basic nature of its ingredients and wide availability, rice and bean dishes are a staple food
Staple food
A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a diet, and that supplies a high proportion of energy and nutrient needs. Most people live on a diet based on one or more staples...

 in many regions of the world.


The dish usually consists of white rice
White rice
White rice is the name given to milled rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. This alters the flavour, texture and appearance of the rice and helps prevent spoilage and extend its storage life. After milling, the rice is polished, resulting in a seed with a bright, white, shiny...

 accompanied by brown, red or black, dry bean
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae used for human food or animal feed....

s (typically Phaseolus vulgaris
Common bean
Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean, is an herbaceous annual plant domesticated independently in ancient Mesoamerica and the Andes, and now grown worldwide for its edible bean, popular both dry and as a green bean. The leaf is occasionally used as a leaf vegetable, and the straw is used for fodder...

or Vigna unguiculata
The Cowpea is one of several species of the widely cultivated genus Vigna. Four cultivated subspecies are recognised:*Vigna unguiculata subsp. cylindrica Catjang...

) and seasoned
Seasoning is the process of imparting flavor to, or improving the flavor of, food.- General meaning :Seasonings include herbs and spices, which are themselves frequently referred to as "seasonings"...

 in various ways. Different regions have different preferences. In Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, for example, black beans are more popular in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro (state)
Rio de Janeiro is one of the 27 states of Brazil.Rio de Janeiro has the second largest economy of Brazil behind only São Paulo state.The state of Rio de Janeiro is located within the Brazilian geopolitical region classified as the Southeast...

, Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul is the southernmost state in Brazil, and the state with the fifth highest Human Development Index in the country. In this state is located the southernmost city in the country, Chuí, on the border with Uruguay. In the region of Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul, the largest wine...

 and Santa Catarina
Santa Catarina (state)
Santa Catarina is a state in southern Brazil with one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Its capital is Florianópolis, which mostly lies on the Santa Catarina Island. Neighbouring states are Rio Grande do Sul to the south and Paraná to the north. It is bounded on the east by...

, while in most other parts of the country these are mostly only used in feijoada
Feijoada is a stew of beans with beef and pork, which is a typical from Brazilian Cuisine, is also typical in Angola, Mozambique, Goa, India and other former Portuguese colonies. In Brazil, feijoada is considered by many as the national dish...

s. The New Orleans specialty known as "red beans and rice
Red beans and rice
Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, vegetables , spices and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice...

" is often accompanied by a side of smoked sausage
A sausage is a food usually made from ground meat , mixed with salt, herbs, and other spices, although vegetarian sausages are available. The word sausage is derived from Old French saussiche, from the Latin word salsus, meaning salted.Typically, a sausage is formed in a casing traditionally made...

 or a fried pork chop
Pork chop
A pork chop is a cut of pork cut perpendicularly to the spine of the pig and usually containing a rib or part of a vertebra, served as an individual portion.-Variations:...


In many areas, rice and beans are often served side by side rather than mixed together. Either way, they may be considered a meal, frequently with a topping of meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

 or chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

. Meat or other ingredients are sometimes placed atop rice and beans or (less often) mixed into it.

United States

While beans are native to the Americas, rice is not. Rice was introduced to the Caribbean and South America by European colonizers
European colonization of the Americas
The start of the European colonization of the Americas is typically dated to 1492. The first Europeans to reach the Americas were the Vikings during the 11th century, who established several colonies in Greenland and one short-lived settlement in present day Newfoundland...

 at an early date with Spanish colonizers
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 introducing Asian rice to Mexico in the 1520s at Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

 and the Portuguese
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 and their African slaves introducing it at about the same time to Colonial Brazil
Colonial Brazil
In the history of Brazil, Colonial Brazil, officially the Viceroyalty of Brazil comprises the period from 1500, with the arrival of the Portuguese, until 1815, when Brazil was elevated to kingdom alongside Portugal as the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.During the over 300 years...

. More recent scholarship suggests that African slaves
African slave trade
Systems of servitude and slavery were common in many parts of Africa, as they were in much of the ancient world. In some African societies, the enslaved people were also indentured servants and fully integrated; in others, they were treated much worse...

 played a more active role in the establishment of rice in the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 and that African rice
African rice
Oryza glaberrima, commonly known as African rice, is a domesticated rice species. African rice is believed to have been domesticated 2,000-3,000 years ago in the inland delta of the Upper Niger river, in what is now Mali...

 was an important crop from an early period. In either case, varieties of rice and bean dishes were a staple dish among the peoples of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, and they remained a staple among their descendants subjected to slavery in the Spanish New World colonies
Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies
Slavery in the Spanish colonies began with the enslavement of the local indigenous peoples in their homelands by Spanish settlers. Enslavement and production quotas were used to force the local labor to bring a return on the expedition and colonization investments...

 and elsewhere in the Americas.


The dish is very nutritious. Rice is rich in starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

, an excellent source of energy. Rice also has iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, vitamin B and protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

. Beans also contain a good amount of iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 and an even greater amount of protein than rice. Most significantly, the consumption of the two in tandem provides all the essential amino acids. One authority writes:

"Rice and beans are an inseparable pair of staple food
Staple food
A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a diet, and that supplies a high proportion of energy and nutrient needs. Most people live on a diet based on one or more staples...

s for millions of Latin Americans, parts of Central America, the Caribbean, and the Andean Mountain
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 zone. Whether consumed separately or together, these crops figure importantly in the human diet and in national economies across the entire region, and trends in their production are a matter of immediate relevance to practically all of its inhabitants."
In addition, rice and beans are common and affordable ingredients, often available even when times are hard. A Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

n explained life after Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful hurricane and the most destructive of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph . The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season. Along with Hurricane Georges, Mitch...

 by saying:

"For breakfast, we have beans and rice. For lunch, we have rice and beans. For supper, we have rice and beans mixed together."

In Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, rice and beans are commonly eaten as everyday lunch, along with a different variety of meats and vegetables. It is also common to prepare dinner using the lunch leftovers. Brazil is the world leader in dry beans production and Latin American leader in rice consumption.


In discussing Puerto Rican cuisine, food critic Susan Fairbank wrote:

Rice and beans are sacred .... They are our "daily bread," our comfort food. When you mess with someone's rice & beans, you mess with their mind. Rice & beans are soul food [...] I ordered Arroz con habichuelas and when they arrived, I poured the entire bowl of beans over the plate of rice and mixed them thoroughly to absorb the gravy
Gravy is a sauce made often from the juices that run naturally from meat or vegetables during cooking. In North America the term can refer to a wider variety of sauces and gravy is often thicker than in Britain...

. I mention mixing because rice & beans are eaten together in the same bite and not, as I saw the uninitiated do, eaten separately in isolated mouthfuls. It's a synergistic dish and makes a deliciously healthy block of complete protein when combined together.

Today, the term "rice and beans" is used as a metonym for basic needs of food and phrases such as "the poor can't afford their rice and beans" are frequent. It is also used more generally for anything that is basic, fundamental, or simple in phrases like "just do the rice and beans and you'll succeed". The term is also used to describe any pairing that works together well, such as "they're like rice and beans".

See also

  • Louisiana Creole cuisine
    Louisiana Creole cuisine
    Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana which blends French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Asian Indian, Native American, and African influences, as well as general Southern cuisine...

  • Gallo pinto
    Gallo pinto
    Gallo pinto is a traditional dish of Costa Rica that was introduced by nicaraguan immigrants. During the 1980's many nicaraguans immigrated to Costa Rica influencing their food and music. Though many variations exist, the dish at its most basic is composed of pre-cooked rice and beans fried together...

    , a Nicaraguan/Costa Rican version of rice and beans
  • Arroz con gandules
    Arroz con gandules
    Arroz con gandules is a combination of rice, pigeon peas and pork, cooked in the same pot with Puerto Rican-style sofrito. This is the signature dish of Puerto Rican culture and also has become very popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean....

    , a Puerto Rican version of rice and pigeon peas
  • Platillo Moros y Cristianos
    Platillo Moros y Cristianos
    Platillo Moros y Cristianos is a famous Cuban dish. It can be considered to be the Cuban version of rice and beans, a dish found throughout the Caribbean and in Brazil.-Name:...

    , a Cuban version of rice and beans
  • Beans on toast, a British cereal + beans dish
  • Rice and peas
    Rice and peas
    Rice and Peas also called Moros de guandules con coco in the Dominican Republic.-Dominican Republic:Moros de guandules con coco is a traditional coconut rice and pigeon pea dish served on Christmas. Moros in Dominican cuisine is very similar to Jamaican rice and peas...

    , a Jamaican staple dish
  • Kongbap
    Kongbap is a Korean dish consisting of white or brown rice cooked together with one or more beans . Kongbap may be made from scratch by combining and cooking together dried rice and beans, although it is also commercially available premixed packages in dried form in grocery stores throughout Korea,...

    , a Korean rice and beans dish
  • Rajma
    Rājmā or Rāzmā is a popular North Indian vegetarian dish consisting of red kidney beans in a thick gravy with lots of Indian whole spices and usually served with rice and roti. Although, kidney bean is not of Indian origin, it is a part of regular diet in northern regions Punjab, Kashmir, Delhi,...

    , an Indian bean dish usually served with rice
  • Mujaddara
    Mujaddara consists of cooked lentils together with groats, generally rice, and garnished with roasted onions that have been sauteed in olive oil or butter.-Name and origin:...

    , a rice and lentils dish from Middle East
  • Haitian cuisine
    Haitian cuisine
    Haitian cuisine originates from several culinary styles from the various historical ethnic groups that populated the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African, and the Taíno Amerindians.-History:...

External links

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