Dirty rice is one of my family’s go-to weeknight meals. Ready in about 30 minutes, it’s the perfect dinner for those busy days when you’re lucky to get time to breathe let alone cook dinner.
Dirty rice is traditionally a Cajun dish that’s called “dirty” because when you add the meat and other ingredients it takes on a bit of a dirty look. This is a slightly different take on it, using black beans and simplifying the ingredients.
My husband originally taught me how to make this. At first, I’d never even heard of it let alone tried it. Once I did, it immediately became a staple for me like it was already for him.
My favorite part of this meal is how quickly it comes together. I like to make the rice in my Instant Pot. It takes about 20 minutes total with the time to come to pressure, a 5 minute cook time, and about 8-10 minutes to depressurize. By the time I’m done cooking the meat, the rice is ready to go.
What Makes this Dirty Rice Different?
We like to add seasoned black beans to this dish. I haven’t run across any other recipes that add beans, probably because there’s already a rice and beans Cajun dish that’s very popular. I love a good rice and beans recipe, but I like this version of dirty rice even more.
This recipe uses a lot less seasonings than others. When you want to be quick, you can’t be reaching for 10 different spices in the spice drawer. This recipe uses a few “convenience” ingredients to increase the flavor and make it a lot faster to make.
There’s no celery, offal, or other atypical meat in this dish. I’m certainly not apposed to eating offal, liver, or any other type of meat. In fact, I’m very much in favor of adding those to your diet. They add a lot of really great nutrition that almost all of us are lacking these days. But, when you’re in a hurry and need a quick meal, grabbing liver or chicken gizzards to cook is probably not what you’re looking for.
Plus, in this modern day it’s going to be hard to convince most children (or adults for that matter) to eat those unless they’ve grown up with them. Most of them haven’t, so this recipe skips all of that and just uses ground beef.
Making Dirty Rice
Start the Rice First
Regardless of whether you are using a rice cooker, an Instant Pot like I did, or making rice on the stove top go ahead and start it first. Usually at minimum, it will take the rice about 20 minutes to completely cook.
Since the rice is added at the very end, cooking it while everything else is cooking will save you a lot of time.
Check out my post on how to cook rice in an Instant Pot for directions on how to make it. You’ll want to make 1 cup of rice for this recipe.
Cook the Meat and Vegetables
Dice 1/4 of an onion, about 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, and 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves. I recently got a garlic press and that has been a big game changer for me when it comes to dicing garlic!
Heat a 12″ cast iron skillet or a dutch oven on medium-high heat. When the skillet is heated up, add the onions and garlic. Cook for a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant and the onions start to become soft.
Add the diced red peppers and 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef to the skillet. Cook until the meat is browned. You can also add part ground beef and part sausage to give the dish a slightly different flavor, just make sure it adds up to 1 1/2 pounds (or the equivalent if you’re scaling the recipe up or down).
When the ground beef has turned a light brown, drain the fat while doing your best to keep the ground beef and vegetables in the skillet. Continue cooking the meat until it starts to get a nice dark browned color. This color bring out what’s called the “umami” flavor of the meat, meaning it makes it much more flavorful.
Add the Beans and Seasonings
Add a can or jar of seasoned black beans to the meat once it is nicely browned. I use my own home canned black beans but you can use some from the store as well. If your store doesn’t carry seasoned black beans, use regular black beans and add a bit more garlic to your skillet along with about 1/2 tsp of onion powder and 1 tsp of chili powder.
Add about 1/2 cup of water to the skillet. I like to put a little bit of water in the jar, rinse it, and pour that water into the skillet. This way I don’t waste any of that delicious seasoned black bean flavoring. A little bit of water will help deglaze the skillet from cooking the meat, and help marry all the flavors you’re going to add. Skipping the water will leave you with a rather dry final product.
Add about 1 tablespoon of lime juice into the skillet and some hot sauce. I like to use Tapatio hot sauce, but you can use whichever one is your favorite. I add about 2-3 teaspoons of hot sauce to my dirty rice. If you like yours more mild, don’t add as much.
There’s no right or wrong way, so go with what you like.
Lastly, add salt and pepper. Again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this but do add enough salt to where it tastes a little bit salty. When you add the rice it’s going to soak up some of that salt and the final meal will not taste salty. If you don’t add enough, though, the flavor will not be as good. I use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in mine, you can use that as a base line.
Assemble the Dirty Rice
When you have the spice level where you want it, it’s time to add the rice. By now your rice should be done, but if it isn’t, keep your meat and bean mixture on low heat so it stays warm.
Add the cooked rice to the skillet and mix well. The rice will soak up all of those flavors you added and really bring everything together.
No need for any side dishes with this one, it’s an all-in-one kind of meal. Those are my absolute favorite on busy nights.
- 1 c. long grain white rice
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or a mix of ground beef and sausage)
- 1/4 of an onion
- 1/4 c. roasted red pepper
- 1 large garlic clove or 2 smaller ones
- 1 14.5 oz or 1 pint of seasoned black beans
- 1/4 c water
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- hot sauce
- Cook rice according to the directions for your method of choice (I like the Instant Pot)
- Heat a 12" cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat
- Dice onion, garlic, and pepper
- Add onion and garlic to the heated skillet, cooking 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant and onions start to soften
- Add red peppers and ground meat
- Cook until meat is lightly browned, drain fat
- Continue cooking until meat is starting to become a dark brown color
- Add beans, water, lime juice, pepper, and salt
- Add hot sauce to your taste
- Heat thoroughly then add cooked rice
- Mix well and serve