With deep, Lowcountry roots, this Gullah Red Rice is a one-pot rice dish with so much richness and soul. Also known as Charleston red rice, this side dish gets its bright red hue from tomato-forward ingredients. Tons of sautéed aromatics, bacon, and smoked sausage make this a rice dish that does not play around…so good!

Gullah red rice in large black pan with wooden utensil on the side

We’re tapping into a stunning side dish today, friends! I know we all love us a main course and what not, but sides are worth the buzz, too. That’s especially true when the side piece is filled with cultural flair and then some. Gullah red rice is sooo dang good to say the least and I know you’ll love it. Rice is a big-time staple in a lot of cultures and each one prepares it in different ways.

Gullah Red Rice 🖤

So, Gullah red rice, also known as Charleston red rice, is a signature side dish that’s well-known of in the South. It has an incredible amount of flavor-forward ingredients, and a bright red color thanks to different kinds of tomato products. It’s a 1-pot red rice loaded with hearty elements like sausage, bacon, an aromatic trinity, and other flavors. This is an oven-baked rice dish as well.

⇢ More recipes: red wine braised short ribs, southern smothered pork chops, my very best collard greens, these red beans and rice, real deal southern green beans, delish chicken and waffles, and of course, potato salad– whew.

black hand holding side of small black plate with Gullah red rice and gold fork on the side

Gullah-Geechee History & More

Gullah Geechee people, distinctive Black people living in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina; are the origin of culinary influence here. These specific folks are descendants of Africans. Gullah is also a term used to appoint the Creole dialect (Gullah Geechee language) of English and African tongues. When you get a taste of Gullah cuisine, you’ll find flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques steeped in West and Central African cultures. There are so many notable staples that are prominent and deserve recognition and respect.

Main dishes under the Gullah umbrella often include rice and seasonal local seafood. There’s a big omnipresence of okra, braised vegetables, tomatoes, and long-simmered greens. Alternatively, consistently used grains like millet and benne seed often make an appearance. However, rice is a base ingredient, and the Gullah Geechee people are considered masters at rice.

The Gullah Geechee folks have held onto specific ways of living and certain customs. Typically found in mostly insulated (not isolated) communities like the Sea Islands; and low country area of coastal regions in Georgia and South Carolina is where the Gullah population is deep. There’s no denying the stamp that Gullah Geechee people and their cuisine have offered with their heritage/traditions: soul-smacking, thick + rich, scrumptious, Southern food.

ingredients for baked Gullah red rice laid out on beige surface

Ingredients Needed For Gullah Red Rice

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • Bacon: Gahhh, bacon forever and ever, amen. Listen, bacon adds smokiness and then we’ll use the luscious, rendered bacon fat to cook down the veggies. It adds even more flavor and depth to the Gullah red rice!
  • Veggies: You’ll need an onion, bell pepper, and celery– aka the Cajun/Creole holy trinity! This aromatic mixture gives the red rice extra oomph.
  • Garlic: No explanation needed…garlic is #bae, garlic is life!
  • Andouille sausage: This is pre-cooked sausage that I usually get to make my Gullah red rice (it’s smoked, nicely seasoned, and a staple among cajun/creole cuisine) but you can also use any other smoked sausage that you favor. Kielbasa or beef sausage make great substitutes for andouille sausage.
  • Tomato paste: A must for that robust tomato-y flavor.
  • Tomato sauce: This adds some rich, tomato-based flavoring to the pot. Kicks up the umami flavors and strengthens the red rice coloring.
  • Brown sugar: This helps provide some balance among the bolder flavors.
  • Cajun seasoning: One of my favorite seasoning blends! This type of seasoning is a blend that contains salt, red pepper, black pepper, garlic, and more. Brands like, Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere’s, stay in my kitchen pantry.
  • Long grain rice: We can’t make this Gullah red rice without rice, right?!
  • Chicken stock/broth: Flavor on flavor! This is one of the elements that make this recipe so delicious, the rice is not cooked in water. I like to use low sodium because the cajun seasoning will give us plenty of salty vibes already.
  • For serving: Freshly chopped parsley or scallions- optional.

Let’s Talk About Rice! 🍚

Now, Carolina Gold or Charleston Gold rice is the most ideal rice to use for this recipe. It has a golden hull and distinct nuttiness. If authentic, the grain itself is cultivated and harvested in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Because this specific type of rice is not easily accessible, we’re using long-grain white rice.

Most importantly, go on and say it with me: RINSE THE RICE!!!

Oof, I cannot recommend this enough, y’all. We want to remove as much surface starch as possible from the rice by rinsing it well. I do this about 6 times for good measure. Otherwise, you may end up with super gummy rice, I’d hate this for you. Completing this extra step will yield fluffy, tender rice 👌🏾

How To Make Gullah Red Rice

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

  1. Preheat & prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Then rinse the rice until the water runs clear, drain all water and set the rinsed rice aside.
  2. Crisp the bacon. Add the chopped bacon into a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring often, until crisp and then set aside. There should be plenty of rendered bacon drippings left in the skillet.
  3. Sauté the veggies. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper into the same skillet. Sauté the trinity mixture, until tender and golden, about 4-5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and continue cooking.
  4. Add the sausage into the pan and cook with the aromatics until the sausage is golden brown, stirring often, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and stir into the sausage/veggie mixture, continue cooking. 
  5. Add the tomato sauce & spices. Pour in the tomato sauce and season the mixture with the brown sugar and cajun seasoning, stirring to combine. Add the reserved bacon back into the pan along with the rinsed rice directly into the same skillet, stirring to coat with the tomato mixture.
  6. Toast the rice, bring it all together. Let the rice toast up in the tomato mixture for 3-4 minutes. Then pour in the broth, stirring to combine.
  7. Cover and bake. Remove the skillet from heat and tent the skillet with foil. Place the skillet onto a large baking sheet and then transfer the entire skillet into the oven. Bake the dish for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the rice is tender. 
  8. Rest & then serve. Remove the rice from the oven and let sit. Afterwards, fluff the rice. Taste the rice and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve Gullah red rice immediately with a garnish of chopped parsley/scallions, if desired, as-is or alongside your favorite main dishes. Enjoy!
baked Gullah red rice in large black pan with wooden utensil on the side

Baked Rice vs. Stovetop Rice

You might be thinking, “Why bake rice instead of cooking it on the stovetop?” This is a great question, let’s dig in. Rice cooked on the stovetop is cooked from the bottom up, sometimes causing an uneven distribution of heat. Whereas baked rice tends to cook more evenly because the flow of heat is steadily coming from all directions. Additionally, the risk of the bottom scorching is almost impossible. It’s a method of cooking rice that is more foolproof.

On top of that, oven-baked rice yields tender, fluffier rice that is chef’s kiss. The Gullah red rice soaks up all the rendered bacon fat, sausage, aromatics, tomato ingredients and all else so beautifully. Baked rice steams better, resulting in a texture that’s perfect. It’s the preferred method for this rice dish, friends.

baked Gullah red rice in large black pan with wooden utensil on the side

What To Serve With Red Rice?

This red rice pairs great alongside many things, all types of main dishes, and even just as-is because it has lots of filling goodness. However, I love it with hearty mains like:

Gullah Red Rice Leftovers & Storing

Store any red rice leftovers inside of an airtight container. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Simply reheat in the microwave until warmed through. Add a little splash of water/broth to rehydrate, as needed.

baked Gullah Red Rice in large black pan with wooden utensil on the side and small black plate with gold fork

There’s so much depth here in this Gullah Red Rice, y’all! If you’re looking for a new rice recipe to make, this one is it. Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

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baked Gullah red rice in large black pan with wooden utensil on the side

Baked Gullah Red Rice

  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 15m
  • Cook Time: 55m
  • Total Time: 1hr 10m
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop, Baking
  • Cuisine: Southern

Description

With deep, Lowcountry roots, this Gullah Red Rice is a one-pot rice dish with so much richness and soul. Also known as Charleston red rice, this side dish gets its bright red hue from tomato-forward ingredients. Tons of sautéed aromatics, bacon, and smoked sausage make this a rice dish that does not play around…so good!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped into pieces
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 23 teaspoons cajun seasoning, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice, rinsed until the water runs clear!
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • freshly chopped parsley or scallions, for garnish- optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Prep the rice: Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. I like to place the rice into a large bowl, fill with cool water, and then gently swish the rice around. Careful not to aggressively handle the rice to not break the rice grains. Drain the water and repeat this process about 6 times to remove as much surface starch as possible. Then drain all water and set the rinsed rice aside until called for in the recipe, below.
  3. Add the chopped bacon into a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring often, until crisp. Then use a slotted utensil to remove the bacon and set aside. There should be plenty of rendered bacon drippings left in the skillet.
  4. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper into the same skillet. Sauté the trinity mixture, stirring every so often until tender and golden, about 4-5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the sausage into the pan and cook with the aromatics until the sausage is golden brown, stirring often, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and stir into the sausage/veggie mixture to coat. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes to meld. 
  6. Pour in the tomato sauce and season the mixture with the brown sugar and cajun seasoning, stirring to combine. Add the reserved bacon back into the pan along with the rinsed rice directly into the same skillet, stirring to coat with the tomato mixture.
  7. Let the rice toast up in the tomato mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Then pour in the broth and stir everything to combine.
  8. Remove the skillet from heat and tent the skillet with foil. Place the skillet onto a large baking sheet and then transfer the entire skillet into the oven. *If your skillet is not oven-safe, simply empty the rice contents into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish and tent with foil.
  9. Bake the dish for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the rice is tender. 
  10. Remove the rice dish from the oven and let the rice sit, undisturbed, for at least 10 minutes. Afterwards, use a fork to fluff the rice. Taste the rice and season with more cajun seasoning to preference, if needed. Serve Gullah red rice immediately with a garnish of chopped parsley/scallions, if desired, as-is or alongside your favorite main entree. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.

Keywords: Gullah Geechee, Gullah red rice, low country, Gullah food, southern rice, southern food, Charleston red rice, red rice