Rice and legumes 3 ways

Plant-based chef Mica Vaipan has created this vegan legumes recipe for us.

Plant-based chef, Mica Vaipan whipped up these options for us, for some simple dinners that make the most of the nutritional value in our cupboards. Thanks, Mica! Using unrefined (e.g. not white) rice in your meals makes sure you’re getting the most possible nutrients, including polyphenols and antioxidants.

Why is this recipe good for my brain?

White rice on a table surrounded by other dishes

Rice is pretty magical when it comes to brain health. It’s linked to improved sleep quality , cognition, and helps your central nervous system do its thing too - so an all round great grain for the brain. Legumes in all their forms are a great source of folic acid , and can help with memory.

While each of them a staple food, the “rice and legumes” combo is a powerhouse of nutrients that together, make up a complete protein source. During these challenging times, protein is extra important as it's used to build antibodies and neurotransmitters, as well as to carry various substances, vitamins and minerals around our body.


Option 1: Tomato Beans Casserole & Brown Rice

  • 200g brown rice

  • 2 x 400g cans beans (black, black eyed, kidney, pinto or any other you have), thoroughly rinsed

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, chopped in small bite-size chunks

  • 700g tomato passata, sieved tomatoes or chopped tomatoes (canned or from a jar)

  • 200g sliced bell peppers, frozen or fresh

  • 2-3 tbsp herbs de Provence, dried basil or any mixed dried herbs

  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika or smoked paprika

  • 1.5 tbsp

  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground (or to taste)

  • Salt to taste

  • 4 tbsp, to sprinkle when served

  • 4 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped (optional)

Option 2: Coconut Curry Chickpeas & Rice

  • 200g red, black or brown rice

  • 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed

  • 1/2 medium cauliflower head, chopped in florets

  • 1 medium broccoli head, chopped in florets

  • 200g green beans, chopped in 1 inch segments

  • 2 x 400ml coconut milk cans

  • 2-3 tbsp medium curry powder

  • 1 tbsp cumin, ground

  • 1 bay leaf, torn up

  • Salt to taste

  • Juice of ~ 1/2 lime or ~ 1/4 lemon per serving

  • 4 tbsp, to sprinkle when served

  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional)

Option 3: Exotic Wild Rice & Lentils

  • 200g wild rice

  • 200g lentils (green, brown, puy), boiled OR 2 x 400g cans lentils, thoroughly rinsed

  • 200g garden peas, frozen

  • 200g sliced bell peppers, frozen or fresh

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 200g pineapple chunks, frozen

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds

  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds

  • 1/2 tbsp sumac

  • 2 tbsp herbs de Provence or any mixed dried herbs

  • 2-3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and chopped in small cubes

  • 1.5 tbsp

  • Black pepper to taste

  • Salt to taste

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)

  • 4 tbsp, to sprinkle when served

  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional)


  1. Set the rice to boil following the instructions on the package – this will take ~ 30-40 minutes depending on the rice. For Option 3, also set the lentils to boil if you're using dry rather than canned – they should take around 30 minutes.

  2. While the rice is boiling, prepare the required veggies and set them steam or boil until just al dente. Don't over-cook them as you'll be cooking them further in the sauce once ready.

  3. Option 1 and Option 2: Start preparing the sauce by mixing all the respective ingredients in a large saucepan or deep frying pan. Bring to boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer under a lid until the legumes and veggies are ready. Option 3: Mix all the veggies and fruit with the spices in the large saucepan or the deep frying pan. Sweat them for ~ 15-20 minutes under a lid on medium to low heat. Allow for most of the liquid to evaporate.

  4. Option 1 and Option 2: Once the legumes and veggies are ready, mix them in together with the sauce and continue simmering for ~ 10 minutes.Option 3: Once the rice and legumes are ready, mix them in together with the veggies, fruit and spices and continue cooking for ~ 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the olive oil, mixing it all together.

  5. Serve in deep plates with a generous amount of nutritional yeast and fresh herbs if you have any.

For more brain boosting foods, read dietitian Sophie Medlin's top five here.

About the author:
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Laura Sugden

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