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This Vegetable Rice Pilaf is an easy-to-make, healthy side dish that’s packed with nutrition, flavor, and fresh vegetables. Have it ready to serve with any main dish of choice in just 30 minutes!
The Origins of Rice Pilaf
Rice pilaf is a popular dish that is said to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran). From Persia, the dish spread to various regions of the Middle East and Asia, where its since evolved into different regional variations and is enjoyed globally.
As is, the Middle Eastern style rice is very vegan friendly. Instead of sautéing the aromatics in dairy butter, we’ve swapped in vegan butter, but you can always use your favorite cooking oil, too. Otherwise, the remainder of the dish is filled with plant ingredients, including long grain rice, broth, fresh veggies, herbs, and spices. The result is a hearty, flavorful rice dish that can be served as the perfect side dish with your favorite main course any day of the week! It’s even perfect for at-home date nights or holiday meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- White rice: This recipe has been developed using white rice (basmati rice or jasmine rice work well) because it’s quick cooking, light in texture, and has a mild, subtle flavor that pairs well with several dishes. We wouldn’t recommend replacing the white rice with brown rice, wild rice, or alternative grains – the liquid ratio and timing is specifically for white rice.
- Aromatics: In addition to the classic onion and garlic, we love using a medley of fresh herbs in this easy rice pilaf recipe. Our favorites are sage, thyme, and rosemary, but feel free to use any blend of fresh herbs you desire. Or, substitute in 1/2 teaspoon each of dried herbs and adjust to taste!
- Broth: Any store-bought or homemade vegetable broth or vegetable stock of choice will work in this recipe. If you are using vegetable stock, add additional salt to taste.
- Vegetables: Feel free to swap out the veggies depending on the season. We typically crave this vegetable rice pilaf during the cooler fall months and like to make it with zucchini and carrot. Other fresh vegetables that would work well include green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, green peas, leafy spinach or kale, or asparagus. This is a great recipe to use up any extra vegetables or leftover veggies that need to get used up!
- Fresh lemon juice: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a bit of brightness and acidity that lightens up the entire dish and makes it taste fresh.
- Add nuts: Slivered almonds and pine nuts are popular additions that can add a nice crunch and nutty flavor to the vegetable rice pilaf.
- Add lemon zest: Love the freshness of the fresh lemon zest? Take it to the next level by grating fresh lemon zest over top.
- Season with soy sauce: If you want to add additional salt to the dish, as well as umami flavor, add a splash of soy sauce or tamari, if gluten-free.
- Add dried fruits: Raisins, currants, chopped apricots, or dried cranberries can add a sweet and chewy element to your vegetable rice pilaf.
- Top with fresh herbs: In addition to the sage, thyme, and rosemary in the rice, feel free to add additional fresh herbs right before serving! Fresh parsley compliments the flavors in the dish well.
- Add vegan cheese: Top the final dish with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese or vegan feta.
How to Make Vegetable Rice Pilaf
- Sauté the onions. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the butter. Once melted, add the diced onion and salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened and translucent.
- Toast the rice. Add in the rice, garlic, carrot, and herbs and mix to combine. Cook for a few minutes, until the rice is lightly toasted and fragrant.
- Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth, then increase the heat to medium. Bring the rice pilaf to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the zucchini. Once the rice has simmered for 10 minutes, add in the zucchini, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Steam for 10 minutes. Remove the rice pilaf from the heat then set aside for 10 minutes, while covered, to steam and finish cooking.
- Fluff the rice. After 10 minutes, uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Lastly, mix in the lemon juice, parsley, and salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve while warm. Serve the vegetable rice pilaf recipe immediately while warm with your favorite mains and additional side dishes of choice.
The beauty of a homemade rice pilaf is it pairs with almost anything! It’s the perfect side dish to prepare for quick weeknight meals, hearty lunches, or even meal prep. We personally love using it to make homemade rice bowls and pair it with mains like Lemon Pepper Tofu, Portobello Mushroom Steaks, Grilled BBQ Tofu, or holiday mains like this Vegan Holiday Roast!
Regular rice is plain, unseasoned rice typically cooked in water or broth. Rice pilaf, on the other hand, is a dish that is cooked in broth with seasonings, vegetables, and sautéed aromatics. Both work well as a great side dish, but rice pilaf is a more flavorful and textured dish.
Rice pilaf can become mushy if it’s overcooked or if the rice is simmered with too much liquid. To avoid mushy rice, carefully follow the liquid to rice cooking ratio. Check periodically for doneness, as you go (similar to cooking pasta!).
Unlike a mushy rice pilaf, dry rice pilaf is easily fixed! Simply put the rice pilaf back on the stovetop over low heat, add additional liquid, starting with just a couple of tablespoons, and increase until the rice is moistened and has a fluffy texture.
Leftover rice pilaf will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Freezing this recipe can work, but zucchini doesn’t always thaw well (it can become mushy). If you are making your vegetable rice pilaf with more hearty vegetables such as green beans or green peas, it will freeze and thaw much better!
Appetizers and Sides
Nutrition facts label provided by Nutri Fox.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!