There’s a reason rice is one of the most beloved grains in the world. Rice side dishes are inexpensive, hearty, nutritious, and extremely versatile.
Human beings have been cultivating rice for thousands of years or longer, and part of the awesomeness of rice is how versatile it is. Every cuisine in the world has rice as a staple, and you can get creative with rice with casseroles, soups, and other main dishes.
You can create rice side dishes that serve as the perfect vegetarian or vegan meal.
On the other hand, a rice side dish is perfect to go with any meat, including beef, chicken, turkey, and pork.
There are just so many things you can do with the world’s most humble grain.
Rice, a versatile and widely consumed staple, has a unique ability to absorb flavors, making it the perfect canvas for an array of delicious and creative side dishes. With seemingly endless varieties of rice available, from fragrant jasmine to nutty brown, it’s no wonder that cultures across the globe have developed their own distinctive rice-based sides. These comforting, yet appetizing side dishes not only complement the main course but often hold their own as standalone creations.
When it comes to selecting the ideal rice-side-dish, consider factors such as texture, flavor profiles, and regional influences. Some of these dishes showcase the rice’s natural taste, while others introduce bold spices, herbs, and ingredients that transform it into something truly extraordinary. With the right recipe and technique, rice elevates itself from a simple side to an unforgettable dining experience.
Rice dish recipes can be sweet, as with coconut rice. However, some of our favorite rice side dish recipes are savory. Think Southwestern rice, classic rice pilaf, or cheesy spinach rice.
Whatever your dinner entrée is going to be, a rice dish can be right there to make your meal complete.
Are you ready to dive into some delicious and simple rice recipes? Let’s check out these 21 easy rice side dishes.
We love this spinach rice recipe that’s made with cheddar cheese (you can use Velveeta for extra creaminess). The original recipe for this cheese rice dish called for instant rice, but you can easily make this with long grain rice like brown rice or basmati rice.
This recipe also calls for finely grated Romano cheese and heavy cream (or milk), so it’s creamy with a super cheesy flavor.
Do you want another reason to love this rice side dish recipe? This spinach cheese rice dish is a one-pot meal, and it’s super easy to make.
To make this cheesy rice side dish, you add the rice, water, butter, beef bouillon (or chicken bouillon), and most of the seasonings to a pot and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Then, the rice mixture is allowed to simmer, the same way you always cook rice.
Here’s where the magic happens. When the rice is tender, remove the lid to the pot and stir in the mayonnaise, cheese, and spinach. Then put the lid back on the pot and allow it to sit for about eight minutes. It practically cooks itself!
Spices include minced onion, minced garlic, and dried parsley flakes.
2. Curried Rice
Another one-pot rice side dish, curried rice is a great side for Indian food main entrees. You can also make curried rice an entrée by itself by adding chicken, seafood, or tofu.
This recipe calls for diced onion, three cloves of garlic, sweet curry, and rice. You can use whatever type of rice you like with this, including basmati rice, Jasmine rice, or brown rice.
This recipe is super simple and has only a few ingredients. However, if you want to experiment with more spices, consider ginger, coriander, paprika, cumin, or chili powder.
To make curried rice even heartier, you can add other veggies, including peas or carrots.
Want protein but still want to keep this rice vegan or vegetarian? Sprinkle cashews or pistachios into your curried rice.
This curried rice is perfect when served with garlic prawns or pan-fried fish.
Perhaps one of the most popular rice side dishes for chicken, broccoli and cheese rice casserole is perfect for a hearty dinner side dish.
It’s not difficult to find rice recipes to go with chicken because roasted chicken or grilled chicken is such a versatile dinner entree. We love this broccoli and rice casserole because it’s hearty enough to be the main meal by itself, too.
Do you need a good vegetarian meal? This broccoli rice casserole is perfect for vegetarian dinners.
Also, some broccoli, cheese, and rice casseroles are made with canned condensed soup, and this recipe doesn’t call for that. This is a truly “from scratch” recipe for this timeless classic casserole.
This rice casserole has two types of cheese: shredded cheddar cheese and cream cheese.
Serve your broccoli and rice casserole with a green salad and some crusty bread for a delicious comfort food meal.
Our list of rice side dishes isn’t limited to just traditional classic rice recipes. You can also make risotto dishes like this mushroom risotto.
First, what is risotto rice? Risotto is made using a short-grained Arborio rice from Italy. Arborio is the Italian town where risotto originated.
Risotto is also grown all over the United States.
Arborio rice has a starch content that is higher than that in other starches, and this results in a creaminess when the risotto is cooked.
To create a creamy risotto, you can use three different types of rice: Arborio rice, Carnaroli rice, and Vialone Nano rice.
Note that Carnaroli rice is difficult to find in the U.S., so you may have to buy it online.
For mushrooms to use in this mushroom risotto dish, you can use button mushrooms, crimini, portobello, hen of the woods, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms.
This risotto dish gets tons of flavor from shallots, garlic cloves, fresh thyme sprigs, dry white wine, fresh lemon juice, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and chicken stock.
When we were looking for healthy rice recipes, we were delighted to stumble across an amazing brown rice salad recipe. If you’ve never enjoyed a rice salad, you’re in for a huge treat!
We love this rice salad recipe because it’s easy to double or triple it. This gives you not just a hearty and delicious lunch or dinner, but also plenty of leftovers that are ideal for meal prepping.
To make this brown rice salad, you can use any type of apple. However, we love the flavor of Granny Smith apples in a rice salad.
The red bell pepper, apples, and green onions make this rice salad super hearty, and cheddar cheese adds tons of delicious creamy protein.
Fresh lemon juice and cider vinegar add tartness to this brown rice salad, along with some excellent preserving qualities.
The only spices you need for this plain rice salad are fresh parsley (or parsley flakes), sea salt, and black pepper.
6. Black Rice
For a unique and healthy rice side dish, consider black rice. This recipe is known as Forbidden Black Rice, and black rice is the most nutritious rice available.
Black rice is high in protein, and black rice has the lowest carbs and calories of all of the rice varieties.
The name Forbidden Black Rice comes from the legend that says that some noble Chinese men saw the opportunity in black rice and stole it from everyone in the country. This allowed the dishonest men to control the production of black rice.
The noblemen (who weren’t very noble) sold black rice to royalty only, and they forbade commoners from growing or eating black rice.
Forbidden Black Rice is a gluten-free and vegan side dish that goes with so many types of meals, including beef, chicken, pork, stir fry, and tofu meals.
We love this Forbidden Black Rice recipe because it shows you how to make this classic rice side dish using the stovetop or Instant Pot.
We love turmeric for so many reasons. First of all, it’s flavorful and makes any recipe pop with aroma and flavor. Second, the bright yellow color adds so much beauty to a recipe. And finally, turmeric is super healthy.
Anytime you can add turmeric to recipes, you have a winning meal to serve to your family or guests.
This turmeric rice recipe calls for coconut oil, but you can use olive oil if you prefer a nonsaturated oil.
Spices in addition to turmeric are dried thyme and ground cumin.
The veggies in this turmeric rice recipe add so much filling, and they include fresh or frozen green peas, garlic, carrots, and onion.
Keep in mind that turmeric can stain your fingers, so be sure to work carefully with it and consider wearing gloves. The stain will come off, but who wants yellow fingers at a dinner party?
One of the most popular flavored rice recipes in the last several years has been cilantro rice. Cilantro rice became popular in large part thanks to Chipotle.
At Chipotle, you can select cilantro rice as a filling for your burrito or burrito bowl. However, this flavored rice dish is super easy to make at home.
When you make this cilantro rice, you have a gorgeous side dish for any Mexican food meal. You can serve this cilantro rice with burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and more.
However, don’t limit your use of this cilantro rice recipe to just Mexican food meals. Cilantro is also a key ingredient in other world cuisines, so feel free to experiment with how you use this rice recipe.
Ingredients for this rice recipe are garlic clove, scallions (green onion), lime zest, fresh lime juice, chopped cilantro, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.
9. Cumin Rice
If you’re looking for a unique rice side dish that will go well with Indian food such as curry, you will love this Indian cumin rice recipe.
Also called Jeera rice, Indian cumin rice is super easy to make but incredibly flavorful.
This Jeera rice recipe is ready to eat in about 10 minutes.
Premium-quality basmati rice is best for making Jeera rice. Other ingredients are ghee (or butter), a bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, chopped serrano pepper (or another green chili), coriander, and sea salt.
Cumin is a spice that is found in tons of Mexican food recipes, so Jeera rice would be a great side dish for Taco Tuesday or to go with your weekend fajitas.
This rice dish is something that’s totally unique and different from the other rice side dish recipes on our list.
Arancini di Riso rice appetizers are rice balls that originated in Sicily. These little rice balls are full of goodness like mozzarella cheese, peas, and meat sauce, and they’re very addictive.
In Rome, similar rice balls are called suppli, and they’re just as tasty. However, suppli is usually made with just cheese and they’re not necessarily always round.
Whatever you stuff inside your arancini or suppli, you ultimately dip them in egg, flour, and breadcrumbs. Then, these little wonder balls are deep-fried until they’re golden brown.
Italian rice balls are sold at bars, pizza shops, and other places as snack foods in Sicily and Southern Italy.
Here’s a pro tip: Make your Sicilian rice balls in advance and refrigerate them. This helps them to stick together nicely so that they hold together when you fry them.
11. Greek Lemon Rice
Greek lemon rice is a Mediterranean rice side dish that is made with sautéed garlic and onions.
The rice is cooked in chicken broth, and the flavor comes from herbs and lemons. This rice recipe is essentially a rice pilaf with some extraordinary flavors.
What makes a dish rice pilaf? Rice pilaf is a rice dish that begins by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil or butter (or both). Then, the rice is stirred in until the grains become translucent from the olive oil. The rice is then cooked in chicken broth, beef broth, or vegetable broth.
This Greek lemon rice is made with garlic, a large lemon, finely chopped parsley, and chopped dill. You can also substitute oregano, mint leaves, or basil chives for the herbs.
You can serve Greek lemon rice with your other favorite Greek recipes, including gyros, Greek meatballs, Greek chicken, or Souvlaki.
Anytime we can cook wild rice, we know it’s going to be a great day.
This wild rice casserole is a perfect side dish to go with beef steak, grilled or roasted chicken, lamb, ham, or even venison.
However, a wild rice casserole made with broccoli and two types of cheeses is an excellent vegetarian meal or Meatless Monday entree.
The cheese in this wild rice casserole is white cheddar cheese and gouda cheese. Heavy cream makes this wild rice dish super creamy.
To make this rice casserole, you can use all wild rice or a wild rice blend.
Spices in this casserole are crushed red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt.
Load this wild rice casserole up with tons of veggies in addition to the broccoli florets. You can use carrots, celery, and diced sweet onion.
The key to making this wild rice casserole absolutely perfect is to use both olive oil and butter.
We love Southwestern flavors, and this Southwestern rice side dish does not disappoint.
Because it’s loaded with black beans, this rice side dish could easily serve as a vegetarian or vegan main dish meal, and it’s also a great option for Meatless Monday.
Additionally, this rice and black bean side dish is perfect as a side for your Mexican dinner. Serve it with grilled chicken breasts, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more.
Want to make an alternate version of this black bean dish? Use red beans instead.
This black bean and rice recipe makes an excellent side dish for Mexican soups such as tortilla soup. The recipe calls for chicken broth, but to keep it vegan, you can use vegetable broth.
The veggies in this rice side dish are black beans, garlic, green bell pepper (or red bell pepper), diced tomatoes, and yellow corn. You can also add some diced serrano peppers or chopped jalapeno pepper.
Spices are smoked paprika and cumin.
Are you looking for a one-pot rice dish that is loaded with veggies and simple flavors? This summer squash and rice dish is sure to please your family.
This recipe is super flexible. You can use a combination of zucchini and yellow squash, or you can cook this rice dish with just one type of squash. If you can only find zucchini, this rice dish is perfect that way, too.
The carrots add flavor, nutrition, and color. You can also use other veggies, including broccoli.
For a healthier option, make this rice recipe with brown rice.
This summer squash and rice recipe goes beautifully with any entree, including beef steak, chicken, pork, or turkey. However, this rice side dish is also excellent as a hearty and filling vegetarian meal.
Do you want to keep this dish vegan? That’s easy. Just substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
15. Rice Pilaf
Rice pilaf is one of the more well-known and beloved rice sides, and for good reason. This yummy rice side dish is easy to make and delicious.
This rice pilaf recipe will give you rice that’s perfectly fluffy and flavorful. When you use this rice pilaf recipe, you won’t have to worry about mushy rice.
To make this rice pilaf recipe, you need long-grain white rice and vermicelli (or orzo).
Spices are garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper.
You can use brown rice for this recipe, but you will need to adjust the cooking time.
You can also freeze this rice pilaf. To pack your rice pilaf up in the freezer, allow the rice to cool completely. Then, place the rice pilaf in airtight bags that are freezer-safe.
Frozen wild rice pilaf will keep for up to three months, and you can reheat it in the microwave oven.
We love a one-pot meal because it makes weeknight dinners so easy. But hey, simple weekend dinner recipes are always a good thing, too.
This rice side dish creates a wonderful creamy garlic parmesan rice dish that absolutely melts in your mouth.
To up the nutrition in this easy rice side dish, you use spinach. To make this rice dish creamy, use vegetable broth or chicken broth, along with milk and butter.
This is a recipe where the rice is sauteed with the garlic for a few minutes so that it gets nicely coated with the melted butter. Parmesan cheese gives this rice recipe an incredible flavor.
Garlic parmesan rice is perfect served with chicken, seafood, or steak.
You can even serve this garlic rice side dish on its own as a delicious vegetarian meal. Just add a green salad and some bread and dinner is on the table.
17. Mushroom Rice
For an easy and satisfying side dish with an earthy flavor, this mushroom rice hits the spot.
To create this perfect mushroom rice recipe, you need mushrooms (whatever type you like), garlic cloves, vegetable broth, and butter. Chicken broth can be substituted for the vegetable broth if that’s what you have in your pantry or freezer.
The recipe as written calls for long-grain white rice. However, you can use brown rice if you like. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly because brown rice takes longer to cook.
You can even make this mushroom rice with Arborio rice to make it a mushroom risotto dish.
Want even more mushroom flavor? Use mushroom broth instead of vegetable broth for a completely vibrant flavor and aroma.
You can make this mushroom rice even heartier by adding other ingredients, including green peas, parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon, baby spinach, and green onions.
When you need rice ideas for holiday meals, this Persian cranberry rice pilaf will bring so much deliciousness to your table.
We love cranberries, and it’s so fun to find unique recipes that call for this versatile holiday berry. When paired with saffron, the cranberries in this rice pilaf really pop with flavor.
This rice side dish is another rice recipe that can serve as a full meal, even if you don’t serve meat. It’s loaded with nuts (you can use pistachios, pecans, or almonds) and the fluffy basmati rice is so filling.
You can use dried cranberries or fresh cranberries for this rice pilaf recipe. Also, you can make this recipe into a dried cherry rice pilaf, too, so it’s super versatile.
19. Coconut Rice
When you need a rice side dish for a Thai main dish meal, grilled chicken dinner, seafood dinner, or tropical meal, coconut rice may be your new go-to rice side dish.
Coconut rice has a rich and delicious natural coconut flavor and it works beautifully with so many other flavors.
Best of all, it’s easy to make coconut rice because it requires just a few basic pantry ingredients.
We recommend using Jasmine rice or high-quality basmati rice to make coconut rice.
The other ingredients you need are canned coconut milk (not canned coconut cream or coconut milk beverage), coconut water (or plain water), and sea salt.
Be sure you use salt (we like sea salt or kosher salt) for coconut rice because if you leave it out, your rice will end up tasting flat.
To make coconut rice, you need to rinse your rice under cold water before cooking it. You can also cook coconut rice in a rice cooker. Add soy sauce for more flavor.
20. Salsa Rice
Similar to Mexican rice or Spanish rice, salsa rice is a little easier to make and calls for fewer ingredients. For example, you don’t need Caldo de Tomate for this Mexican rice recipe.
To make this salsa rice, you need either vegetable broth or chicken broth.
Also, this is a recipe that’s great to make with brown rice. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time because brown rice takes longer to cook.
You can use your favorite store-bought salsa to make this salsa rice. Alternatively, you can also make this rice side dish with homemade salsa.
Spices are ground cumin and garlic powder.
Feel free to add some protein to this salsa rice recipe to make it a super hearty and filling meal. For example, you can add ground beef, cooked chicken, beef steak, chili beans, or black beans.
You can also add veggies to this salsa rice dish. Consider poblano peppers, green peas, or corn.
Serve cooked rice with any Mexican food, including tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, or tamales.
21. Mexican Rice
Are you looking for rice side dishes for Taco Tuesday? Or perhaps you need a Mexican rice dish to go with weekend fajitas.
This recipe for authentic Mexican rice has you covered, and this side dish is perfect with any type of Mexican food.
One ingredient you need to make authentic Mexican rice is a product called Caldo de Tomate. Essentially, Caldo de Tomate is a tomato bouillon.
You can make Mexican rice without Caldo de Tomate, but this is the secret to authentic Mexican rice dishes.
The other ingredients needed for Mexican rice are olive oil (or canola oil), long-grain white rice, tomato sauce, and water. You can use chicken broth instead of water if you want to add even more flavor to your Mexican rice dish.
The only seasonings you need for Mexican rice are garlic (or garlic powder) and chili powder.
Do you want to make an excellent rice pilaf recipe that uses saffron? Watch the video below to learn how to make classic rice pilaf from scratch. This video shows you exactly how to make this classic rice recipe step-by-step.
Our 20+ BEST Delicious Rice Side Dishes (+Brown Rice Apple Salad)
- 6 cups whole grain brown rice
- 2 apples
- 2 red bell peppers
- 3 chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients together.
- Serve fresh or store in the refrigerator.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.