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Ultimate BBQ Red Beans and Rice

There’s something comforting about the velvety fatty consistency of perfectly cooked rice and beans. I’ve had many versions in my travels around the world including Puerto Rican Arroz Con Grandules, Korean Kongbap, and Louisiana Creole Red Beans and Rice. Whatever the iteration, they’re all wonderful when properly executed.

I know I risk blasphemy when I confess that my gold standard for rice and beans is from the Popeyes fried chicken fast food chain. Not any Popeyes, mind you, but the one in East Los Angeles near where I work located next to the Kaiser Hospital where their high-volume turnover keeps the crew on their toes to produce the most consistent fried chicken. Their red beans and rice surpass all the many other Popeye’s places I’ve tried. And if you don’t believe me, sample it yourself when you’re in the area. The Red Beans and Rice served at the East LA’s Popeyes has the perfect combination of smoky peppery goodness with a Goldilocks combination of rice, beans, and liquid that makes it my favorite side dish to eat with fried chicken.

If you’ve tried to make rice and beans yourself, you’ll soon realize, as I did, that it’s not easy to make a superb rendition of this deceptively simple dish. So, when I set out to create the Ultimate BBQ Red Beans and Rice, I asked myself what made my gold standard benchmark so special. In my opinion, the perfect rice and beans dish should have a combination of whole and crushed beans, flavorful meaty gravy, sufficient smokiness, peppery and cayenne heat, and perfect liquidity and bean consistency.
I believe that I’ve succeeded, and my version is a huge one-up on the Popeyes. The Holy Trinity of green bell pepper, onions, and celery adds a lot of flavor. The bay leaf and thyme provide aromatics. For the meaty goodness, I added ham hock broth with bits of shredded meat and fatty collagen. The ham hock was smoked in my Weber Smokey Mountain pit with hickory and apple wood chunks to add another flavor dimension to the meat and the dish was cooked in a Dutch oven in a barbecue pit.

I cook a lot of barbecue, especially pork and brisket, for 10+ hours so tossing a package of Walmart ham hocks and a cast iron pot of beans in my WSM was an effortless no brainer. Voila, when my long-haul meats were cooked, I had a tasty side dish ready also. I made some Uncle Ben’s converted rice (out of convenience) and topped it off with sliced scallions.
In my Ultimate version, the dish looks much more appealing–more whole beans, subtle visible fragments of holy trinity, and tiny bits of ham hock meat. Smoking the ham hocks again added volumes more smoke which is good as I didn’t want to use liquid smoke which I suspect was in the Popeye’s version.
Read on for the recipe details such as how to cook the beans in your pit so that they are not too starchy and not dissolved as much as Popeyes. The key is to cook them just the right amount of time to get the fat and gelatin out of the hocks, evaporate the water, and to get all the starchiness out of the beans, without over cooking them. In my recipe, you actually smoke the water the beans are immersed in so the liquid is smoky – sort of like slow crock pot beans in the pit.
In summary, smoke the ham hocks first and smoke the liquid the beans are in. Take the little nuggets of meat of each ham hock before disposing, mince it up, and disperse it back in with the beans.

  • Total Time: 10 hours 45 mins
  • Yield: 6 1x


Units Scale
  • 3 ham hocks (about 1 1/2 pounds from Walmart)
  • 1 pound of dry red beans (not kidney beans)
  • 6 cups of water

The Holy Trinity:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon lard (or bacon grease / cooking oil)
  • 1 teaspoon SYD Hot Rub

The Aromatics

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp SYD Hot Rub
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rice Ingredients

  • 1 cup of converted white rice (e.g. Uncle Ben’s)
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp of butter (add a hefty pinch of salt if unsalted butter)
  • 1 tbsp minced green bell pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp minced onion (optional)
  • 1 tbsp minced celery (optional)


  • Sliced Scallions


  1. Soak the beans in plenty of water for 8 hours (or overnight), then drain.
  2. Setup a smoker such as Weber Smokey Mountain with enough briquettes to burn around 10 hours at 250F. Once your smoker is stable around 250F, add a couple of your favorite wood chunks. I used apple. Do this dish next time you cook pork butts which takes about 8 hours anyway
  3. Smoke 3 ham hocks (about 1 ½ pounds) at 250F for 1 hour in your pit. The internal temp will be around 140F
  4. Pour the soaked and drained red beans into a 6 quart pot. Add the double smoked hocks and 6 cups of water. Put the pot on your kitchen burner on high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, skim off any scum off the top and dispose
  5. In a separate saucepan, sauté the Holy Trinity in the lard with 1 teaspoon SYD Hot Rub (or 1/2 tsp salt) until the mixture is soft, translucent, and slightly caramelized. Turn burner off and mix in the aromatics with the holy trinity.
  6. Add the sauteed holy trinity and aromatics to the pot of simmering red beans. Turn stove to high and once boil is achieved again, turn off the burner.
  7. Transfer the pot in the smoker. To minimize the outside of your pot being stained, you can cover the outside of the pot with foil to keep it clean
  8. Smoke the beans in the pot uncovered for 5 hours then remove the ham hocks using tongs and set aside. This step will keep the hocks from breaking up into tiny pieces and minimize leaving small annoying bone fragments that would be hard to pick out later
  9. Cover the pot with a lid and close the smoker back up and continue cooking for 3 more hours, or longer, to the tenderness you want
  10. After the reserved hocks are cooled down, pick all the meat off the hocks and mince into pieces and reserve.
  11. Pull the finished beans out of the smoker and add in the reserved pieces of minced hock meat. Put the beans on the stove on high for just a few minutes, stirring constantly–this will help break up the beans a bit and make a nice velvety consistency. Adjust the thickness of the beans to your liking by either adding a little water if too thick or reducing it a bit if too watery. When you have your desired consistency, add 2 tbsp of SYD Hot Rub and then salt to taste.
  12. Prepare the converted rice by putting the rice, water & butter (and optional minced holy trinity) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and steam for 20 minutes. Open and fluff gently with a fork.
  13. To serve, ladle in beans into a bowl, then take a tea or coffee cup (8 oz and rounded) and pack in an appropriate amount of cooked converted rice. Then flip the molded rice into the center of the bowl. Garnish with sliced scallions. Enjoy!
  • Author: Harry Soo
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 hours
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: American