Hearty Red and Green Rice and Beans with Pesto

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Close up of a white bowl filled with rice and beans

When you’re new to the idea of vegetarianism or meatless meals, making dinner can feel a bit uneasy. Your mind cycles through questions with a doubtful edge. Will I know how to cook it? Will it taste good? Will I feel full? Luckily, there’s a simple stand-by that veg-heads have been relying on for decades to calm these fears: rice and beans.

Early in our marriage, when I was trying my very first vegetarian recipes in our very first house, one of our stand-by dinners was a Cooking Light recipe called Rice and Beans with Pesto. I’ve revised it a bit as our way of cooking has evolved, but it’s still a go-to meal nearly 18 years later.

Rice and beans in a white bowl


Once the rice is cooked, this is a one-pot meal. Saute some onions, dump everything else in, and stir. The recipe card estimates 20 minutes total but the last time I made this I was done in 17 minutes flat. And leftover rice in the fridge will help get dinner to the table at lightning speed. I opted for short-grain brown rice because I’m partial to the chewy texture. The recipe would work just fine with long-grain brown rice or even instant brown rice too. And the beans are pretty interchangeable. Pinto, garbanzo, or kidney could fill in here nicely for the black beans.

The key to the flavor and color of this recipe is the pesto sauce. I often use ready-made pesto from my local food co-op’s deli, but if you want to know the top choice at the grocery store check out this review.

The next time you’re fretting about what a meal without meat might look like, give this foolproof recipe a try. It’s a breeze to cook, it tastes delicious, and the hearty mix of protein and fiber will keep you full and satisfied. Disaster averted.


What’s your go-to recipe for rice and beans?



Hearty Red and Green Rice and Beans with Pesto

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Keep pesto on hand, and this tasty meal comes together quickly. It makes a big batch, so you’ll get several meals taken care of at once.

  • Author: Veg Girl RD
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 7 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Diet: Vegetarian


  • 4 1/2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice, cooked in vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cans black beans, drained (approximately 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 12-ounce bag frozen petite green peas, thawed (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto sauce
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated and more for serving (about 1 1/2 cups grated on a microplane grater)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Stir in rice, beans, peas, tomatoes, pesto, and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve topped with a bit of cheese grated right on top.


I used a rice cooker to prepare the rice ahead of time: starting with 3 scoops/cups short-grain brown rice, filling the cooker to line 3 with water, stirring in enough bouillon powder for 2 cups broth, and running the brown rice setting. You could also do it on the stove-top following the directions on the bag.

You can up the pesto if you prefer a stronger basil flavor, but it significantly increases the fat and calories which is why I’ve compromised with 1/3 cup.

I’d recommend weighing the grated cheese to be sure you get 2 ounces. Grating with a microplane grater adds a lot of air, so mine ended up being a billowy 1 1/2 cups. But regular pre-grated Parmesan cheese will have less volume to equal 2 ounces.

Adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe for Rice and Beans with Pesto.


  • Serving Size: 1.5 cups
  • Calories: 355
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Sodium: 236 mg
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 51 g
  • Fiber: 10 g
  • Protein: 14 g
  • Cholesterol: 10 mg

Keywords: rice and beans, pesto, vegetarian

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2 thoughts on “Hearty Red and Green Rice and Beans with Pesto”

  1. omg this looks SO GOOD. I’m going to try it. Thanks! And with those sprouted beans you recommended. this is actually a really useful blog, Kristine. I’ll share it with my current wordpress class tomorrow. 🙂

  2. I only use pesto for pasta dishes; it never occurred to me to venture out and use it with other things like rice & beans. Thanks for broadening my horizons and I am anxious to try the recipe, it looks very tasty and easy.

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