Nutty, fragrant vermicelli rice is an easy side dish with loads of flavor. Toasted vermicelli noodle pieces add a new texture to fluffy basmati rice, and a hint of cinnamon warms the whole dish right up. Plus, everything is toasted in buttery ghee, including the pine nut garnish!
Rice is a staple ingredient throughout the world thanks to its affordability and versatility. Throughout the Middle East, you can find rice in everything from side dishes like tachin (Persian saffron rice) and oven baked rice pilaf to heartier entrees like kabsa (Arabic chicken and rice).
This Lebanese vermicelli rice recipe combines nutty basmati with toasted pasta pieces for a warm, comforting dish that complements just about any meal. It cooks quickly on the stove and freezes beautifully, too, making it a fantastic option for make-ahead meals.
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Enjoy vermicelli rice as a side dish to other Lebanese favorites such as kafta and arayes (meat-stuffed pitas). Or, transform it into an entree by mixing in spiced ground beef and lamb — otherwise known as Hashweh.
Why toast pine nuts and vermicelli
Toasting enhances flavor, aroma, and texture, adding a nutty crunch to salads, pastas, or other dishes. To toast pine nuts, heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts in a single layer, stirring frequently until golden brown and fragrant—be vigilant to prevent burning. Transfer immediately to a plate to cool.
- Ghee – Similar to clarified butter, ghee is cooked a bit longer until the water evaporates and the milk solids caramelize. Look for it near the cooking oils or in the international food aisle, or simply use regular butter instead.
- Vermicelli – This is a long, thin pasta, also known as rice stick noodles. Break up these long, thin noodles into 2-inch long pieces. You want them to be longer than the grains of rice so the toasted texture really comes through.
- Basmati Rice – This variety has a natural nutty flavor and a separate grain structure — perfect for this rice pilaf recipe! Jasmine rice is a close substitute, though it’s naturally more sticky when cooked, so be sure to rinse it very well before cooking.
- Seasonings – Boost the flavor in this Lebanese vermicelli rice with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus one surprise ingredient: cinnamon! It adds a lovely warmth to the dish without adding heat like cumin or paprika might.
- Pine Nuts – These have a natural buttery flavor and are especially delicious when toasted. As pine nuts can be a little pricey, slivered almonds or finely chopped cashews are a fine alternative.
- Fresh Parsley – Adds a burst of fresh, herbal flavor to brighten the whole dish. Chervil is the closest substitute in terms of flavor, but cilantro may be easier to find.
- Rinse the Rice. Place basmati rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear. Drain well and set aside.
- Toast the Ingredients. Melt ghee or butter in a deep pan over medium heat, then add the vermicelli pieces. Cook until golden brown, stirring often, then add the rice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Mix until everything is well combined, then continue stirring and toasting the mixture for 2-3 minutes
- Cook Vermicelli Rice. Slowly pour boiling water into the pan — it will react with the fat and may splatter if you go too fast — and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Toast Pine Nuts. While the rice cooks, melt the remaining ghee over medium and add the pine nuts. Sauté just until golden brown, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Fluff Rice & Serve. Let Lebanese vermicelli rice rest for 5 minutes once cooked, then fluff with a fork and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.
- Deep Pan or Skillet – While rice is often cooked in a saucepan, we want more surface area when making vermicelli rice.
- Fine Mesh Strainer – Rinsing rice is an absolute must! Not only does it sift out any dirt or debris, but it helps remove excess starch that would ruin this rice pilaf recipe. We’re aiming for soft, fluffy grains and not a clumpy, sticky texture.
- Small Sauté Pan – It just needs to be big enough to toast the pine nuts in an even layer.
Storing and Reheating
Allow Lebanese vermicelli rice to cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Leftovers will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 4 months in the freezer.
Reheat vermicelli rice in the microwave, covered with a damp paper towel, for 1-2 minutes. You can also spread the grains on a sheet pan and sprinkle with a little water, then bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through.
Dried fruits like raisins or apricots are often added to Lebanese rice pilaf to enhance the flavor and texture. It would make this a bit more sweet than savory, so you can increase the cinnamon if you’d like.
While both are types of pasta, they are not the same. Vermicelli is actually a ribbon-style noodle, slightly thicker than spaghetti, that gets broken into small pieces when used in a rice pilaf recipe. Instead, orzo is already shaped like grains of rice and plumps when cooked.
Toast vermicelli thoroughly, until it’s a deep golden brown, before simmering with the rice. Also, be careful not to overcook vermicelli! Though it may appear too wet when the timer is up, the last of the moisture will absorb during the 5-minute resting time.
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Lebanese Vermicelli Rice Pilaf
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear. Set aside.
- In a large, deep pan melt 1/4 cup ghee (or butter) over medium heat. Add the broken vermicelli pasta and brown, stirring often, until they are a deep golden brown. Be careful to not let the pasta burn!
- Add rinsed rice, salt, pepper and cinnamon to the pan and stir to combine with the vermicelli. Toast the mixture for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Carefully pour boiling water into the pan and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes.
- In a small saute pan melt 1 tbsp ghee (or butter) over medium heat and saute pine nuts until golden brown. Set aside.
- Remove pan from the heat and rest 5 minutes covered. Fluff rice with a fork before sprinkling with fresh minced parsley and pine nuts, then serve.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.