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Cooking an authentic Charleston red rice



People from Georgia and South Carolina know what Charleston red rice or Savannah red rice is. It is a typical dish in all restaurants in the low-country regions of South Carolina.

However, what they perhaps do not know is its origins, ingredients, and how to cook it perfectly.

For general knowledge, let’s explain the history of this delicious side dish and the tips for making an outstanding meal.

Charleston rice backgrounds

Charleston red rice is an earthy one-pot rice dish related to African cuisine. It arrived in South Carolina regions by African slaves who brought with them their cultural and gastronomic heritage. This red rice resembles African preparations like jollof rice, jambalaya, and Thieboudienne.

Charleston red rice shows a reddish color. It has the perfect balance of sweetness, spiciness, and smokiness. It works as a side dish or as a complete meal on its own.

Select only the best ingredients

This classic southern dish consists of white rice, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, celery, pepper, bacon, and smoked pork sausage. It is cooked in water or broth. Its iconic taste results from the pork fat from cooking rice with bacon and pork sausage.

In this dish, the ingredients do all the work. If you want delicious red Charleston rice, check out the hint on the following components.

  • Rice: It is the heart of the dish. The final texture of rice makes the entire. People prefer to use long-grain rice for cooking this preparation. Long-grain rice gets firmer when cooking. However, medium-grain grain like can work as well.
  • Before cooking rice, it is better to rinse it several times to remove excess loose starch. You know rice is ready to cook when water for rinsing comes out clear.
  • Vegetables: Onion and garlic are responsible for giving the aroma to the dish. Celery and peppers offer extra flavor to the mix.
  • Tomatoes: They are the base of the dish. They bring a bright red color and a complementary flavor. You can use tomato paste or crushed fresh tomatoes.
  • Bacon and pork sausage: They give an authentic smoky taste. You must cook them in their fat and sauté rice with it.
  • Sugar: It provides the necessary sweetness for balancing the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Water or broth: You can use water or vegetable broth to cook rice.

Making an authentic Charleston red rice

You already know the base of this delicious red rice. What is missing is learning to cook it.

Charleston red rice

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 3 strips of chopped bacon.
  • 1 diced onion.
  • 1 minced clove garlic.
  • 1 diced bell pepper.
  • 2 stalks of chopped celery.
  • 3 ounces of cut smoked pork sausage.
  • 1 can of tomato paste.
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar.
  • 2 cups of water.
  • 1 cup of long-grain white rice.
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish.


  1. Rinse rice several times (at least three times) until the water flows totally clear. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, add the bacon strips and fry until they get brown. Take out of the saucepan, and drain on a paper towel. Use the fat for sautéing the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Incorporate onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, and smoked pork sausage. Cook for 5 minutes in the bacon grease. Keep stirring constantly.
  4. Add tomato paste, salt, ground pepper, and sugar. Combine all ingredients very well.
  5. Incorporate rinsed rice and cooked bacon. Mix and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Pour water and let it boil.
  7. Then, reduce the heat and cook uncovered. Stirring occasionally
  8. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Scrape up any bits from the bottom and sides of the saucepan with a wooden spoon.
  9. Serve warm with some chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

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