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Red Beans and Rice: A Monday Tradition

Team photographer Robert Giglio's mother made these red beans last Monday. A perfect example of the Louisiana custom. Photo by Robert Giglio


To the rest of the country, red beans and rice is a New Orleans tradition. In New Orleans, it is a Monday tradition.

Growing up in Louisiana, I remember seeing Monday specials for red beans and hearing people say they wanted the dish solely because it was Monday.  Red beans on Monday was a generally accepted fact.  It wasn’t until recently that I stopped and thought, “Why Monday?”

The answer came out in the wash.

Before washing machines, women in New Orleans would do laundry by hand — using a crank and wringer, sometimes boiling the clothes.  And on laundry day, they needed to prepare a dinner that didn’t need a lot of TLC. Thus the tradition of making red beans on washday, Monday. My aunt once described the facility of cooking the soft, spicy beans by explaining that they cook themselves when left on a simmer.

I know this practice may sound like a myth.  But, in my 20 some interviews with Ninth Ward residents, the majority has recalled making, eating or smelling red beans on a Monday — without a question prompting them.

Former Ninth Warders Joan Lee, her husband Jefferson Lee and sister Jane Miceli spilled the beans on the custom, whimsically describing the aroma of red beans drifting through the old neighborhood on Mondays.

[audio:https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/files/2012/07/RedBeansClip1.mp3|titles=Red Beans on Monday]

Feeling inspired to whip up this New Orleans staple? I previously posted my family’s recipe here on my cooking and lore blog, The Old Country Blog.


  1. […] actually a Monday night tradition in New Orleans, regardless of Mardi Gras, or any other occasion. The story behind this custom is that Monday was typically the day to do the weekly laundry. Before m…. Red beans are typically cooked with ‘The Holy Trinity’ along with a menagerie of Cajun spices […]

  2. Teresa
    Albany, LA
    August 29, 2016, 2:47 pm

    As long as I can recall, Monday has always been red beans and rice day. Another good reason is on Sundays we usually had our best meal of the week, whether pork or beef roast, baked chicken, etc. So the leftovers of the meat portion did not go to waste and was offered with the beans.

  3. lsu tiger fan
    northwest la
    July 2, 2012, 12:16 pm

    What no bay leaves?