7 Hearty and Delicious Rice Dishes to Make for Dinner

Anyone who’s not afraid of eating some carbohydrates now and again has a favorite, be it pasta, potatoes, or bread. But no one ever seems to get excited about rice, calling it bland or boring. This can definitely be the case if you do nothing but boil the grain in unseasoned water. With the right accompanying ingredients, rice can become something spectacular. These seven recipes prove rice has what it takes to taste great.

1. Arroz con Pollo

Cuban chicken and rice, arroz con pollo, with bell peppers and peas

Chicken and rice dish | iStock.com

Chicken and rice is one of those combos that appears in cuisines all around the world. Try Cuba’s answer to the dish with this easy arroz con pollo from Cooking Light. It’s loaded with boldly flavored ingredients, including ham, olives, and spices.

Though this dish certainly delivers big flavor, none of it is terribly spicy. Contrary to popular belief, Cuban food doesn’t rely on heat from chiles. You’re more likely to see ingredients like sour orange, cumin, and garlic.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks, skinned
  • 6 chicken thighs, skinned
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • ½ cup diced ham
  • 2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 914.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • ½ cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives

Directions: Season chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove chicken to a plate and drizzle with lime juice. Cover and keep warm.

Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to same pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in remaining oregano, turmeric, and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add rice and ham and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium and add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, add chicken, nestling into rice, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 18 minutes, or until liquid is almost absorbed. Add peas, cover, and cook for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Garnish with olives and serve.

2. Bacon and Shrimp Fried Rice

fried rice with shrimp and veggies

Shrimp fried rice | iStock.com

Fried rice’s ability to use up leftovers makes it one of our favorite go-to dishes. Saveur’s twist on the takeout favorite includes shrimp and bacon, but it could just as easily be tofu and mushrooms. Consider this recipe more of a guideline, then let your fridge dictate the ingredient list.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked Japanese sticky rice, cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile bean paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup bean sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons frozen peas
  • 4 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
  • 1 scallion, minced

Directions: Stir rice and egg in a small bowl and set aside. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add sesame oil, bean paste, garlic, and ginger. Cook until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add sprouts, peas, and shrimp and cook until shrimp are just pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Add rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sake and soy sauce and cook until everything is golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add bacon and scallion, and serve.

3. Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli

Indian chicken biryani on a silver platter garnished with mint

Rice pilaf | iStock.com

Boxed pilaf is an easy way to make a side dish for just about any meal. When you consider all of the unnecessary additives and the price tag, it doesn’t really make much sense to buy those packaged versions. This homemade pilaf from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food is made from pantry staples, so you might not even have to make a trip to the store.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce angel-hair pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ⅔ cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Using kitchen shears, cut pasta into ½-inch lengths. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice, pasta, and remaining oil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pasta browns, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. Fluff with a fork and serve.

4. Quick Paella

shirmp and chorizo paella with parsley and lemon

Paella | iStock.com

Authentic paella is a labor of love, and figuring out the correct ratio of rice to liquid to seafood is all but impossible. As long as you’re not determined to stick with tradition, Epicurious’s sped-up version is a great option. With a total preparation time of 45 minutes and just eight ingredients, you can even make this dish during the week.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ pound cooked chorizo or linguiça sausage, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (1-pound) bag saffron rice
  • 1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 cups chicken or fish broth
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

Directions: In a large skillet with a lid, brown sausage in oil until brown and crisped, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice, artichokes, peppers, broth, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in shrimp and peas. Cover and continue to cook until shrimp are opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve.

5. Broccoli-Cheddar Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Broccoli casserole | iStock.com

Broccoli and cheddar, while delicious together, aren’t substantial enough to make a satisfying meal. When you add some rice to the equation, suddenly you have dinner. See for yourself with this creamy casserole from Budget Bytes.

If you’re trying to find more ways to eat meatless meals, this casserole is perfect as is. For nights when you want something just a little heartier, you can easily bulk it up by adding some cubed chicken or ham. Running short on time during the week? Assemble this casserole when you can over the weekend, then just pop it in the oven on whatever night you feel too tired to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound frozen broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces medium or sharp cheddar cheese, grated, divided
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix broccoli, rice, and three-quarters of cheese to combine.

Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stream in milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue to cook, whisking often, until sauce simmers and thickens. Remove from heat.

Season sauce with salt, paprika, cayenne, and pepper. Pour sauce over broccoli and rice mixture. Stir to combine, then transfer to a greased 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Spread into an even layer, then top with remaining cheese.

Transfer casserole to oven and bake until golden and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve.

6. Jambalaya

traditional jambalaya with shirmp, sausage, and trinity veggies

Jambalaya | iStock.com

With seafood, spicy sausage, rice, chicken, and veggies, jambalaya might be the perfect one-pot meal. We like Gimme Some Oven’s version of the Cajun dish because the method is simple and it feeds a crowd. While you could certainly live off the leftovers for a few days, this dish is a great choice for entertaining. Your friends will be wowed.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded or unseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, thinly sliced into coins
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1½ cups white rice
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup thinly sliced okra (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Optional garnishes

  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Thinly sliced green onions
  • Hot sauce

Directions: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet set over medium high. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are soft. Stir in remaining oil along with chicken and sausage. Continue to cook, stirring, until chicken is nearly cooked, about 5 minutes.

Stir in stock, tomatoes, seasoning, bay leaf, thyme, and cayenne. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until rice is fully cooked, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in shrimp and okra. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are opaque. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and serve with your desired toppings.

7. Mushroom Risotto with Peas

risotto with wild mushrooms and thyme

Mushroom risotto | iStock.com

If you’re a mushroom fan, The New York Times’ savory risotto flecked with peas will become a fast favorite. It’s rich and creamy, perfect for a chilly or rainy day. You can serve it as a side with your favorite protein, or eat it as a main dish. The only real rule is to dig in right away. If you end up with leftovers, turn it into arancini.

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion or 2 minced shallots
  • ¾ to 1 pound wild mushrooms, cleaned and torn into small pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or chopped sage
  • 1½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Bring stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep at a very low simmer while cooking.

Heat oil in a wide, heavy nonstick skillet or saucepan set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase heat and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until they begin to release liquid, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook over medium heat until soft. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in rice and cook until it begins to toast. Add wine and cook, stirring, until mostly evaporated. Stir in enough stock to just cover rice. Stock should be at a low simmer. Cook, stirring often, until stock is nearly absorbed. Continue to ladle in stock and cook in this manner for 15 minutes.

Add peas and continue adding stock and stirring for another 10 minutes. Rice should be tender, but not mushy. Adjust seasoning.

Add another ladle or two of stock. Stir in parsley and cheese. Remove from heat, season with pepper, and serve at once.

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