In our house, we eat rice at least once a week. Sometimes as part of a main dish, but more often as a side dish onto which we can ladle stew or a stir-fry (if you are a member you may have noticed that Scramble menus often call for rice). While plain rice is a classic, it can also be fun to change up the flavor of steamed rice with different seasonings and add-ins, so I wanted to share 10 ways to liven up plain steamed rice as well as ways to use up leftover rice so that you don’t waste it.
Before getting to the flavor options, though, it is important to talk preparation. Because rice is such a staple, it is important that it be prepared properly (after all, unless you are eating sticky rice, you don’t want it to be all gummy and stuck together). What is more, while white rice is delicious, introducing healthier versions like brown and wild rice can be an easy way to get some added nutrition into your family’s diet.
While cooking times for white, brown, and wild rice are all different (follow the package directions for cooking times and special instructions), the basic principals remain the same no matter what kind of rice you are making.
Note: The directions below are for cooking rice on the stovetop. If you choose to use a rice cooker or pressure cooker, make sure to read your appliance manual to make sure you get the correct ratios and cooking times for your specific tool.
How Much to Make
I usually cook 1/4 – 1/2 cup dry rice per person per serving. For our family of four that works out to 1 1/2 cups dry rice if we want to have leftovers.
Rice to Water/Liquid Ratio
For all three types of rice, the classic rice to water/liquid ratio is 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid for the perfect, fluffy rice.
While this works well for all three types of rice, for brown rice I prefer a method I learned years ago where you bring 6 cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup of brown rice, and then cook uncovered, still boiling, for 30 minutes. You then strain the remaining water from the rice and then return the rice to the pot. This method produces incredibly fluffy brown rice (keep the ratio 1:6 ratio if you need to make more rice).
Introducing Brown or Wild Rice
First, a reality check. While we sometimes enjoy brown rice in our house, all three of my boys strongly prefer white. My Brazilian husband, in particular, has been very patient with my introduction of brown rice into our diet, but has confessed that he still vastly prefers the white variety.
But offering healthier, whole grain options is important to me, so one trick that I have found to be helpful is to mix half brown and half white rice together, which seems to go over well (I don’t cook them together because they have different cooking times). In addition, I have noticed that my boys are less likely to shy away from brown rice when it is smothered in a sauce such as a stew.
Using Up Leftover Rice
We are big fans of leftover rice in our house. So much so, that I often purposefully make extra rice to use in other meals throughout the week. Here are some of my favorite ways to use up leftover rice:
- Fried Rice. We often use leftover protein, cooked vegetables, beans, and egg in a Brazilian-style fried rice called Mixidinho. In addition, we love this Scramble recipe for Crispy Tofu Triangles with Fried Rice
- Frittatas. Did you know you can incorporate rice into fritattas? It add a wonderful texture and heft to make that frittata a full meal!
- Soup Add-in. Whether it is a pureed vegetable soup or a noodle soup where I swap out the noodles for rice, my family is always excited to have rice-filled soup on the table.
- Breakfast porridge. For a simple 5-minute breakfast, warm up leftover rice with some milk (any variety), cinnamon, and maple syrup for a delicious morning porridge. Top it with fruit and/or nuts and you’ve got a hearty breakfast for all.
10 Ways to Liven Up Plain Steamed Rice
I like to liven up simple rice by either using a cooking liquid other than water (bouillon or broth is an easy alternative), or by stirring in some fresh herbs, dried fruit, peas, nuts, or other flavor and color boosters. Below are 10 of my favorite ways to liven up plain steamed rice.
- Vegetable-Spiked Rice: Use half water and half salsa, carrot or tomato juice to cook the rice.
- Mediterranean Rice: Stir 1 – 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts and 1 – 2 Tbsp. dried currants or dried cranberries into the cooked rice.
- Festive Rice: Stir ¼ cup chopped pecans, ¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries, and 1/8 – ¼ cup vinaigrette dressing into the cooked rice.
- Indian Rice: Cook basmati rice with 1 cinnamon stick, 6 whole cloves, and 2 garlic cloves (use water or broth). Remove the cinnamon, cloves, and garlic before serving.
- Herbed Rice: Stir into cooked rice ¼ – ½ cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, scallions, basil, or cilantro
- Rice with Peas and Onions: In a small skillet, sauté ½ diced yellow onion with 1 Tbsp. oil until it starts to brown. Mix in frozen or fresh peas and sauté it for about 2 more minutes. Mix the onions and peas into steamed rice. Season it with salt or soy sauce, if desired.
- Cilantro Rice: Cook the rice according to the package directions (cook it in light coconut milk, if desired). When cooked, stir in the juice of ½ lime, ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt.
- Curry Rice: In a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, sauté ½ finely diced yellow onion in 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat until the onions are lightly browned. Add the rice, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. curry powder and stir the rice to coat the grains with the oil. Add the water or broth, bring it to a boil, and cook as directed.
- Caribbean Rice: Cook the rice in light coconut milk with 1/2 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or stir in 1 tsp. fresh thyme after cooking), and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves.
- Japanese Rice: When the rice is cooked, stir in 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 cup shelled and steamed edamame, 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds or sesame oil (stir in a tsp. of miso paste if you happen to have it.)
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What else do you do to liven up steamed rice? Please share in the comments below.
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