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Israeli Rice and Beans Recipe

Israeli rice and beans is a delicious savory dish flavored with cumin and sweet paprika.  It can be eaten on its own or as a side to complement meat or chicken.

Israeli rice and beans in a white bowl

Israeli rice and beans was created by Sephardic Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem. Later, adopted by Jews across the country.

To this day it is still a common side dish made in Israeli homes including by my great aunt.

It is one of my favorite side dishes and I often eat it on it’s own.

Every year on my birthday, my mom and I go out to eat, just the two of us.  I look forward to the one on one time away from the business of life all year.

Before moving to Israel, the restaurant of choice was always Israeli and we’d always order the same thing: chicken shawarma with rice and beans.

Rice and beans is actually not something you’d see on the menu. 

For reasons unknown to me, they only list bean soup, which is a less popular dish in Israel.

So, my Mom would ask for them to pour the soup over the rice.

I was always amazed by how much these beans enriched the whole meal. 

To this day, Israeli rice and beans is one of my favorite foods!

You can serve it with regular rice, Israeli white rice, or Israeli Yellow Rice.

SORT BEANS

Sorting beans is a good way to make sure that there aren’t any pebbles mixed in. While I’ve yet to find any, my friend has. Better safe than sorry.

DO YOU NEED TO SOAK THE BEANS?

The short answer is, for this recipe, yes.  

Not all beans need to be soaked.   Smaller ones with thinner skins, like  black beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas, can usually skip the soaking step. 

At most, you’ll have a slightly longer cooking time. 

Heftier beans like chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, and more, on the other hand, do need to be soaked. 

You can sometimes get away with not soaking those beans, but not always.

The older they are, the more likely they will need to be soaked.

However, since we rarely know how old our dried beans are, soaking them is almost always a smart move.

FLOATING BEANS

It’s been held for centuries that floating beans are a sign that bugs may have burrowed a hole in it. I always remove floating beans.

Adding Salt

Salt not only adds flavor, but helps beans keep their shape. Bullion powder usually has plenty of salt so I just add a pinch extra.

I also generally believe in adding salt to the finished product or letting each person add their own salt.

As my friend Shosh says, it’s much easier to add salt than take it away.

DO YOU really NEED BAKING SODA?

Again, the short answer is yes.  There are two reasons for this.  

The first is that baking soda softens beans by creating an alkaline environment that helps speed the breakdown of pectin. 

Pectin is used by beans and other plants to keep them strong.

Another reason is that areas with hard water are high in calcium and magnesium which slow and even prevent beans from softening.

Baking soda adjusts the pH level of the water, fixing this problem.

All you need is a pinch of baking soda for a pound of beans. Be careful about adding too much.

I once forgot to add the baking soda and the beans took longer to cook.  When I remembered, I added it, but within a short amount of time, the beans became so soft really quickly that they ended up a paste.

Pressure Cooker

I love using my pressure cooker. It cuts the cooking time of whatever I’m making down drastically.

Also, if you don’t release the pressure vulvae and let it decompress on it’s own, you’ll end up with a nicer end product.

I use a pressure cooker for Israeli bean soup, Israeli rice and beans, chicken soup, stews, and more with great results.

HOW TO STORE

When cool, place both rice and beans in separate containers or in an resealable airtight bags. Store in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

HOW TO FREEZE 

Let beans cool completely and place airtight container or a resealable freezer storage bag. 

Store for up to 3 months. After that, they are still safe to eat but the quality begins to degrade.

It’s best to defrost overnight in the fridge before reheating.  However, when I’m in a pinch I do defrost it on the counter.

REHEATING Rice

FRIDGE

When reheating, place the rice in a pot, sprinkle a teaspoon of water over the top to help loosen stuck, dried grains. 

Warm over medium heat stirring constantly to keep the grains moving, but be careful not to mash them.

FREEZER

Frozen grains can be added directly to hot dishes like stir-fries.  If you’re planning on eating it on its own, follow the steps above.

Yield: 6 servings

Israeli Rice and Beans

Israeli rice and beans in a white bowl

This rice and bean dish is a favorite in Israeli homes, and I always request it when I'm in an Israeli restaurant in New York.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

Pre-soak

  • 3 cups navy beans (500 grams)
  • 4 cups water (1 liter)
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Cooking

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bullion powder, vegetarian
  • 2 tablespoons cumin*
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 8 1/2 cups water (2 liters)
  • pinch baking soda
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Put the beans in a pot with a quart of water and salt. Let it sit overnight.
  2. Remove beans that float to the top - this is a very old way of telling which beans may have bugs in them. Pour out the water.
  3. In the same pot you will be cooking the beans, heat oil and saute onion and garlic until the onions are soft and transparent.
  4. Add tomato paste, paprika, bullion powder, sugar, cumin, and mix.
  5. Add water, beans, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Cook beans until soft - about 25 to 30 minutes in a pressure cooker or 45 minutes to 1 hour on the stove or until soft.  Add more water as needed.
  7. Pour over white rice.

Notes

*If you are sensitive to cumin you may want to add to taste.

Calorie count does not include the rice.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 160Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 1201mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 19gSugar: 7gProtein: 15g

Did you make this recipe?

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Rivky

Friday 23rd of October 2020

This looks delicious! And love that it is not too high in added sugar. I generally don't have bouillion powder on hand- can you suggest a subsititute that might work?

ElissaBeth

Monday 26th of October 2020

You can use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. That should be somewhat similar.

Cassie

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

I used the instant pot, 8.5 cups was wayyyy too much, I ended up with soup. Recommend only 5-6 cups of water if using an instant pot.

ElissaBeth

Thursday 30th of July 2020

Actually, it's supposed to have a soup like texture. In fact, it is not uncommon for Israeli's to eat it as a soup in the winter instead of poured over rice. I'm not sure what gave you the impression that it was supposed to be any other way than how the recipe turned out.

Melanie Litz

Friday 7th of June 2019

Could I do this recipe in the instant pot?

ElissaBeth

Friday 7th of June 2019

Yes, though I don't have one so I've never made it that way. I'd recommend using the pressure cooker settings and following how long navy beans take to cook in that setting.

Leah

Monday 21st of January 2019

When u say “add fresh water” , how much water do I mean?

ElissaBeth

Tuesday 22nd of January 2019

Good question. It's enough to cover the beans. I just went back and clarified this in the instructions also.

jack

Friday 2nd of November 2018

i have a question how much baking soda you add to the water that you cook the beans thanks Jack

ElissaBeth

Friday 2nd of November 2018

I'm happy to answer your question :) As shown in the recipe, I put half a teaspoon of baking soda in with the beans when boiling them.

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