This is a great meal to bring some Cajun flare in a one pot vegan delight featuring traditional Cajun ingredients such as bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and beans. Served as a main or side dish, this recipe offers simple ingredients and preparation with heat that can be adjusted. This meal can be adapted to include meat or dairy, as preferred!
We’re officially halfway through the soccer season and it is taking 3 adults to manage these 2 little girls’ schedules! And the fact that tomorrow is May 1st is just mind-blowing. Perhaps because spring-summer temps have teased us just a time or two and the skies have returned to grey gloom sweater weather? Our tree that blossoms so beautifully for about 3 days a year, was a mere 1.5 days this year, I swear.
One huge relief this week? Securing summer camp for BOTH girls for ALL WEEKS this summer. One wouldn’t think that would be such a challenge but between limited options and very poor communication on the part of the camp, here we are. They’ve got just a handful of weeks left before we morph into summer mode! Can’t wait! We’re entering the season of never wanting to go indoors or to work and my desire to cook hits its rotational low. But currently? Loving the kitchen and entertaining! I made this dish for some friends following church a few weeks ago and it was a (spicy) hit!
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Weeknight Meal…or Side: A one pot vegan dinner – hello, beauty! All the veggies (onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno) can be prepped ahead of time. Quick-cooking orzo makes for easy weeknight dinners! That said, the meat-eaters may prefer this as a side dish and that works well, too.
- Cajun Flavor and Heat: I would say this recipe offers medium heat, but Cajun seasoning most definitely provides that bit of kick that I love! The additional smoked paprika and oregano enhances, too!
- Vegan: Naturally vegan, this recipe does not leave any sense of missing meat. The color contrast provided by the kidney beans is stunning and you can bulk up the beans or swap in different varieties for this bean skillet.
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Orzo Pasta: A short pasta in the shape of rice, orzo is versatile and cooks quickly. It is made of durum wheat and is unfortunately, not gluten-free like rice. Another small or short pasta or risoni will work find in its place. Be sure to measure as dry orzo – it will plump up during cooking.
- Cajun Seasoning: Some Cajun spice mix varieties give more heat than others. If you prefer milder flavors, reduce this amount by half – the amount called for is a fairy generous amount of Cajun spices! Store-bought blend options of Cajun seasonings tend to have variable amounts of sodium in them, so you can also look for one that’s lower in sodium. A traditional Cajun seasoning blend will contain black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Old Bay leans on the salty versus spicy side, but it’s OK to use. There’s several other commonly sold options at nearly any major grocery store. All taste buds are a bit different.
- Jalapeno: If you’re sensitive to heat, you may register jalapenos as medium-high heat – it’s OK! Some are certainly hotter than others (though mild in the land of peppers!). Remove the membrane and white ribs of the pepper’s insides to reduce the heat significantly.
- Green Chiles: Offering a bit of heat, these can be omitted or doubled, as you prefer!
- Onion: Any onion will do in this recipe – I prefer a sweet or vedalia variety almost always, but any will do! Or if onion isn’t your thing you can omit it altogether.
- Beans: Kidney beans and red beans are fairly interchangeable – smaller in size, red beans are a bit nuttier in flavor while kidney beans have a darker hue and a thicker skin that make them a good idea when going meat-free. Creating a bit of texture variation is important to keep omnivores and all palates happy! That said, any bean can be swapped in place of kidney beans: black beans, Navy beans, cannellini beans, etc.
- Bell Peppers: A red bell pepper and green bell pepper gives that traditional Cajun color and flavor combination. However, feel free to use whatever bell peppers you have available.
- Crushed Tomatoes: Any variety of canned tomato (diced, crushed) or sauce will work here. Crushed tomatoes are lower in sodium and less processed than tomato sauce, In place of crushed tomatoes, you can use a bit if tomato paste (4 ounces) with diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. If you want to enhance the tomato flavor you can add a bit of tomato paste (1-2 tablespoons) at the same time as the crushed tomatoes.
- Vegetable Broth: To keep this vegan and lower in sodium, use a low-sodium vegetarian broth or stock option. Chicken broth or chicken stock work, too. Alternatively, you can use water of coconut milk (or dairy milk) as noted below.
- With over 7 grams of fiber per serving, this meal is an excellent source of fiber.
- Kidney beans contain phytonutrients and are a good source of iron, phosphorous, and potassium.
- Vegan lifestyles have been linked to longer life expectancy, healthier blood cholesterol levels and lower rates of diabetes, and lower rates of most cancers and most significantly, colon cancer.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, & TIPS
- Use a LARGE skillet with deep sides and a fitted lid. Cast-iron skillets, even if well-seasoned, can stick a bit especially with something like orzo. A nonstick skillet is best, if available, to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan or skillet.
- Any number of additions can be made to this recipe: add roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomato, halved cherry tomatoes, or brussels sprouts sound fun (add with the beans)! Or top with an avocado sauce or drizzle of hot sauce for an extra bit of heat!
- If you want a creamy (but vegan) version of this recipe, use unsweetened or canned coconut milk in place of the vegetable broth. Voila! You’ll have a creamy Cajun orzo to enjoy and the coconut milk will tame any heat, as well. If you prefer a dairy option, whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream works, too.
- Finish with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice to make the flavors pop!
- Chicken: You can add diced chicken breast or raw chicken pieces at the first step of the recipe along with the onions. Continue with the recipe as indicated on the recipe card. Cajun Chicken Orzo sounds delicious, too!
- On top of the orzo, the pop of fresh herbs (cilantro) and sliced green onions provides both a beautiful presentation, added texture, and added nutrition, too!
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, diced
- 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
- 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ¼ cup orzo dry
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 4 green onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Heat olive oil in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeño; cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, oregano, and black pepper; mix well and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the green chiles, beans, orzo, broth, and tomatoes to the skillet and stir to combine.
- Bring it to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover with a fitted lid, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir. Remove from heat and top with the green onions and cilantro before serving.
Recipe from This Savory Vegan
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1/5 recipe (about 2 cups)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 329Total Fat: 6.6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 841mgCarbohydrates: 55.0gFiber: 7.8gSugar: 7.2gProtein: 14.2g
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