Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bean and Rice Breakfast Bowls

I have had numerous requests for more breakfast ideas that don't involve eggs or soy, and of course without gluten or dairy. Here is a tremendously simple idea for you to take into your kitchen.

Beans and rice. With a Spicy Avocado Sauce recipe.

The idea isn't a new one. Cultures all over the world consume these two staple foods for most meals of the day.

Here in the United States these foods go almost unknown in most households. So now, I invite you to try them out for breakfast. Notice how you feel for the remainder of the day. For Tom and I, we feel energized and satisfied. I am not really all that hungry during for the remainder of the day when I start out with this meal.

Why are beans and rice so beneficial for breakfast?

In Tom's words: Breakfast is a very important meal. The literal meaning of the word is to break-the-fast of your evening rest. Part of what wakes you up in the morning is the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is increased in a state of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. The brain needs sugar to function, the body knows this. Whole grains and beans have the necessary carbohydrates to fuel the brain and calm the cortisol. Because of their high fiber, amino acid, B vitamin, and magnesium content, they supply the necessary carbohydrates in a time-released fashion. This sets up a pattern of a steady blood sugar-to-insulin response for the entire day.

As long as you have your rice and beans pre-cooked, throwing together this meal is a snap! I like to use Sticky Brown Rice that I have made the night before. You can find the recipe here. Any kind of beans can be used. Yesterday Tom cooked a large pot of pink beans which are similar in flavor and texture to pinto beans. Black beans would be good too.

A basic lesson on cooking beans:

1. Buy your beans in bulk from a co-op or health food store. If you let your beans sit for too long in your cupboard or pantry they will have a difficult time cooking and may never cook thoroughly. Tom and I did this once with some black beans we had in the cupboard for too long. I had soaked them overnight and then cooked them the next day but after 2 1/2 hours they still were not cooked, just slightly crunchy in the center. So I composted them and threw the rest of the bag into the garden. Pretty soon we had black bean plants popping up everywhere! That Autumn we enjoyed our first crop of fresh black beans! Lily was 2 years old at the time and had so much fun shelling the beans!
2. Sort though the beans and pick out any rocks or shriveled, discolored beans. Place them into a bowl, rinse them and fill the bowl with water. Let them soak for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. If you wish to sprout your beans before cooking then drain off the water (after soaking for 8-24 hours) and cover with a damp cloth, rinse and drain every few hours until you see a very tiny sprout form on the beans. Then they are ready to cook.
3. Drain off the soaking water and rinse well.

4. Place the beans into a large pot and fill with fresh water. Add a 3-inch strip of kombu seaweed. This will help to break down some of the indigestible sugars to make eating beans more enjoyable.

5. Simmer until the beans are cooked through (timing will depend on what variety of bean you are cooking, see the bean cooking chart in my book, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook). You can take a few beans out of the pot every once in a while and taste them, if they are soft and mash easily then they are done.

6. Once the beans have cooled a bit, I place them into containers for freezing. Make sure you pour some of that bean cooking liquid over the beans before freezing. They seem to freeze better if suspended in liquid. Store the remainder of your beans in glass containers in the fridge.

Bean and Rice Breakfast Bowls with a Spicy Avocado Sauce

The avocado sauce is what makes this breakfast so yummy. It is super fast to prepare. It only requires you to toss everything into a blender and blend. The consistency somewhat reminds me of our Avocado Mayonnaise Recipe. Chop up a few green onions for a garnish and you are good to go!

cooked beans (try pink, pinto, adzuki, or black)
cooked Sticky Brown Rice
chopped fresh arugula, Napa cabbage, or romaine lettuce
chopped green onions

Add all ingredients to a bowl and top with the avocado sauce below.

Spicy Avocado Sauce

2 medium, ripe avocados
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded
large handful of fresh cilantro
juice of 1 small lime
1/4 cup water (or more for a thinner sauce)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more water for a thinner sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Store extra sauce in a small glass container with a squeeze of lime over the top to prevent browning.

Elimination Diet modification: If you are on Phase 1 of the diet then you can have this recipe as long as you use either mung or adzuki beans in place of the pink beans. For the sauce, omit the lime and peppers, you may need to add extra water.

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. This is such a great idea. I am forever trying to get my clients to understand that breakfast does not have to be eggs and toast and jam and juice. This is breakfast is such a perfect balance of the best kinds of carbs, proteins and fats.

  2. This is often what we eat for breakfast too. I have not tried pink beans yet, haven't seen them at our food co-op but I will check next time I'm in. The avocado sauce looks good, I am going to make that one tonight. My wife and I also eat the nori roll recipe with tempeh quite often for breakfast. Both meals keep me centered and provide sustained energy throughout the day. Thanks for posting the bean refresher, we could all use some more tips for cooking these.

  3. Thanks for the simple meal suggestions. It is so helpful to have the nutritional information along with "tastes good" :O)
    This reminds me of when our family has Breanner (Dinner for Breakfast). We occassionally have Dinch (Dinner for Lunch).

    Can you answer this question?
    We are very concerned about gluten cross-contamination in bulk bins. We haven't yet uncovered a "dedicated gluten-free bean packager" :o)

    Are you aware of any research/study than confirms gluten contamination is rinsed off by water?

    Thank you!

  4. meghantelpnerblog - Yes this is such a perfect breakfast, isn't it! Our kids love beans and rice or beans and quinoa for breakfast! Better to get them started young otherwise it is so much harder to change when you get older!

    David D. - Glad to hear you are enjoying the nori rolls for breakfast, enjoy the avocado sauce tonight!

    Anon - Cross-contamination is always a risk in bulk bins. Tom does his best to educate the bulk people at our local health food store about the proximity of near-by flours, as well as making sure bins that are gluten-free do not cross with gluten containing foods and vice versa. If the proximity of the beans and wheat flours are very close at your co-op I would not recommend buying them or any other bulk product that is nearby.

    We also rinse the beans before soaking and after soaking. This will lessen the risk of gluten cross contamination. Does it eliminate it? No. The reality is that 20ppm or even less may excite the immune system. It takes very little exposure to cause problems in some individuals. Ideally, you would source your beans from a supplier that was gluten-free certified (like Arrowhead Mills), and buy the beans directly from them in bulk, but this may not be necessary for everyone who is gluten-sensitive.

    Hope that helps.

    -Ali :)

  5. This sounds great for breakfast! I would never have thought of this combination. I love the idea of the avacado sauce, because beans and rice seem quite dry to me.
    Thanks for your blog.
    I look forward to getting your ideas and recipes every time they show up in my inbox.

  6. Ali!! Thank you.
    I am so grateful for your through instructions on cooking beans. Like you mentioned in the post, beans were an unknown for me growing up. Never saw them!
    I am so excited to try this. I use avocados to make dressings and sauces all the time so I knew yours will not disappoint! Yum Yum.
    You mention for people on the elimination diet to replace the pink beans with either mung or adzuki beans.. are these ones less starchy?
    I am so excited to try this!! Yummy :-)

    P.S. I just posted a gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free breakfast recipe too!

  7. Beautiful breakfast. :-) Did you know that you can use your freezer to speed up the "processing" of beans? The contraction/expansion brought on by the freezing/thawing is the same as what happens with cooking them for a long time. This method came from Tightwad Gazette years ago. You soak your beans overnight. Drain. Then package in whatever quantities you like (e.g., some 4 cup, some 2 cup). Freeze. Then cook the beans (you don't even have to thaw). They will soften right away, in about 20minutes. Of course, they take even less time if cooked in a pressure cooker, but I am still a chicken when it comes to pressure cookers. LOL

    Oh, how neat about growing your own black beans!


  8. Mo - Yes the sauce does make the rice and beans moister and just tastes better!

    CoconutGal - You are welcome for the detailed directions. Avocados do make all kinds of great fresh sauces. Tom uses the adzuki and mung beans in the e-diet, I believe, because they are not as allergenic as other beans, but I would have to check with him to be sure.

    Shirley - What a fantastic idea to freeze the beans after soaking. Then when you are ready to make a pot of fresh bean soup or whatever, they are ready to go and can be cooked with the onions, spices, and herbs to flavor them. Thanks for your tip!

  9. I don't think I have ever made beans and rice for breakfast! I like the lighter foods that early in the morn!

    This recipe looks super tasty for dinner though! I love *love* avocados so I am sure the sauce will be great.

    Thanks. ~J

  10. Hi Ali,

    I soak my beans (usually black beans or chickpeas/garbanzos) overnight with 1 Tbsp lemon juice per cup of dried beans and the rest water. I've heard that the acidic medium helps break down the beans a bit and make them more digestible. The next day, I drain and cook in the crockpot on low for about 8 hours with a quartered onion and bay leaf. For the black beans, I reserve about 1 cup or so of bean liquid and drain the rest. I then add sea salt and/or Herbamare with the liquid to taste (I find black beans need quite a bit of sea salt to be able to taste good "plain"). For the chickpeas, I've heard that the cooking liquid becomes usable as a vegetable stock so I'm going to try that for the first time tomorrow in a butternut squash. I love the idea that I might have free stock! Have you heard this?

    Anyhow, my question is do you think it would work to put the kombu in with the onion and bay leaf (or omit those) with the water for the cooking part in the crockpot?

    Also, I've tried freezing cooked beans in quart size mason jars, and each time (I tried this 3 times), the glass broke. Even when I did not fill the beans beyond the freezer fill line. But in the 2 cup mason jars, they were fine. Ultimately, however, we decided to use ziplocs since they are more space efficient. I haven't noticed any problems caused by not adding any liquid but I'll try your recommendation to do so next time. Thanks!

  11. Also, can you explain why mung and adzuki beans are better than other beans in terms of an elimination diet?

  12. ~M - Great ideas about cooking / soaking beans! Thanks for sharing. I have black beans soaking right now. I was going to make the kids a black bean stew tomorrow. I think I will cook them via your crockpot method instead - sounds easy! So yes, add the kombu, onions, and bay leaf together. Thanks for the lemon tip!

    I have found that the chickpea cooking liquid is very flavorful and I often add it to my soups.

    I either use pyrex glass containers or plastic ziploc containers for freezing beans. I have never had a problem with the glass breaking.

    As far as the elimination diet goes, there are a number of folks who react to some beans, particularly kidney and pinto. Adzuki and Mung beans are hypoallergenic and very easy to digest.

    -Ali :)

  13. Request: when you write "here" (as in a link) I wonder if it would be easier to see if you used a different color that stood out a bit more from the black text on your background. Maybe bright pink or bright purple... I have a hard time finding the links when I'm just browsing through. LOVE your blog!

  14. Should beans be simmered covered or uncovered? i usually cook them covered, but it seems like they always come out overdone in less time than most charts say they need to cook. I have been wondering if maybe the lid is my problem...? Thanks!

  15. I had never thought of beans and rice for breakfast, or for just about anything growing up. But, I married a hispanic man and all that went out the window. With his family, I have been exposed to some super yummy food combinations and my mother is always saying yuck! lol.
    Beans and rice are super yummy, even for breakfast. I think I just might soak some and cook them in the crock all night while I sleep. So they can be ready first thing in the morning.
    My in laws like to have beans, rice, and eggs together with plantains and some super yummy cream. I know it's not good for allergies, but boy is it yummy and they really eat quite a bit for breakfast. Throw in a freshly warmed corn tortilla, and some homemade salsa and there is no way you can go away unstuffed.

  16. I just made this for the first time and it's delicious! I made it with pink beans and red cabbage. I left out the jalapeno because of a sensitive tummy, but it's still so satisfying. I'm not much of a cook, but I'm learning. I have your cookbook and am going to make my first recipe from it tomorrow.

    I've been on an anti-inflammation diet for six months now and am thankful to find yummy foods that are easy to make and good for me. Thank you for being part of this big change in my life. I can't wait to try more of your recipes!

  17. Here's a way to make the avocado sauce tastier for Phase 1 folks:
    I found that since you have to omit the lime and pepper in the sauce it turns out pretty plain. I added 8 garlic cloves to give the sauce the kicky I was looking for.


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Thanks and Happy Cooking! ~Ali :)