Try your hand at this rice pilaf recipe for an easy and satisfying side dish. Basmati rice, orzo pasta, and almonds are gently sauteed to maximize flavor before being simmered in chicken broth. We top off this Mediterranean masterpiece with sweet apricots, tangy feta, fresh parsley, and a squeeze of lemon.
Did you know that rice is a staple food for more than 3.5 million people worldwide!? As the cornerstone food for so many cultures, and for so many centuries, the different ways that we can prepare rice are virtually endless. We have Persian Crispy Rice, Hibachi Fried Rice, or Lubia Polo (Iranian Rice Dish) just to name a few.
Today’s rice pilaf recipe is an exciting dish with a Mediterranean twist. Using the pilaf method, we bring forth the natural toasty, nutty, and sweet tones of the rice and orzo that often go unnoticed. If we just stopped there, it would already be delicious, but the magic isn’t over yet! Mixing in the dried apricots, feta, parsley and lemon turns this rice pilaf into a delectable work of art.
This beautiful recipe is a real crowd pleaser at potlucks and makes a delightful weeknight side dish. You can even toss some chicken into your leftovers for a quick and satisfying lunch.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Almonds – Add a nutty, toasty, earthy crunch to the dish, especially when toasted.
- Olive Oil – This mildly nutty, mildly fruity oil is an ideal choice for this Mediterranean recipe. You can substitute another vegetable oil if needed such as grapeseed or sunflower.
- Orzo – Versatile rice-shaped pasta that can usually be found in the dry pasta aisle. If you are having trouble finding it, arborio rice or pearl barley are acceptable substitutes.
- Rice – Basmati rice is my top pick for rice varieties. It is a delicate and aromatic long grained rice that maintains its integrity while cooking. Any long-grained white rice will do, though.
- Chicken Stock – Water can be used instead, but I definitely like to go for the chicken stock for an extra helping of savory goodness. It is the vehicle that infuses the rice with flavor and moisture, helping bring the whole recipe to life.
- Salt – Just a little dash of kosher salt makes the flavor profile pop.
- Pepper – Adds just the right amount of subtle, peppery warmth to the dish.
- Apricots – Dried fruit contributes a chewy texture, vibrant color, and a dash of tartly sweet flavor.
- Parsley – Beautiful green herb with a clean, mildly peppery taste.
- Feta – Adds a lively dose of salty and tangy flavor. Goat cheese crumbles are a good option here too.
- Lemon – Squeezed on top, lemon adds a blast of sour flavor that awakens the senses and enhances all the other flavors of the dish.
HOW TO MAKE MEDITERRANEAN RICE PILAF
- Toast the Almonds. Place a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast for one minute before adding the orzo. Toast the almonds and orzo together, moving them around in the pan until a light golden brown.
- Add the Rice. Now add the rice and chicken stock (or water) along with the rice. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the Toppings. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and top with the apricots, feta cheese, and fresh parsley. Put the cover back on and allow ten minutes for the rest.
- Serve & Enjoy. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and add seasoning to taste. Serve warm along with lemon wedges for squeezing.
What Makes a Pilaf a Pilaf?
For rice pilaf, the grains are sauteed first — usually with aromatic herbs and spices — before any broth or water is added. Regular rice, on the other hand, is usually cooked in plain water without any seasonings added during cooking. Each rice pilaf recipe typically has extra ingredients in the mix as well such as other grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats or seafoods.
Should You Rinse Rice for Pilaf?
Yes. This step is crucial for any rice pilaf recipe. Removing excess starch prevents the individual grains of rice from adhering to each other, keeping the rice pilaf light and fluffy. Use a fine meshed sieve to rinse the grains thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear. Do this ahead of time if at all possible. You want the rice to be as dry as possible when it goes into the hot oil to avoid oil splatters.
Why is My Rice Pilaf Mushy?
This will happen when the rice has absorbed too much water as a result of overcooking. Make sure the temperature is reduced to low and that you set a timer.
Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Recipe
- In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat and add almonds. Toast for 1 minute and add the orzo pasta. Toast both almonds and orzo, moving around pan until golden brown.
- Add the rice and chicken stock (or water), salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil, turn to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove lid and top pilaf with chopped apricots, parsley and feta cheese. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Fluff pilaf, taste for seasoning and serve warm with slices of lemon.
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.