Back to Basics – Rice Pilaf

Rice Pilaf can be an eye opening recipe if you’re just starting out.  I honestly had no idea (before trying this) how easy it was to make from scratch.  We always just bought a box of the mix from the store.  Well let me tell you this one recipe opened a rabbit hole and a half.  A tasty one, but a rabbit hole none the less. PS this also applies to couscous as well.

How to make rice pilaf

Warning: food and cooking are very personal so don’t be afraid to find what you like. I’ve been told a recipe should be exact so that anyone can follow it. Now that might be very sound advice, but, it doesn’t actually show you the versatility of a recipe or technique such as making rice pilaf. This is what I would consider a basic recipe or more of a how to. That means there’s lots of room for you to decide how you want it.

Some times things are so basic that it just doesn’t even dawn on me that people make it themselves without the box.  This recipe was a turning point for me.  We LIVED off of the boxes and bags from the store.  There wasn’t a whole lot of cooking in general growing up, let alone from scratch.  Then throw in college where you get really creative and usually do use the box etc for the convenience of it all and you just settle into a routine.

Rice Pilaf Box

If you step back and think about it the box doesn’t have a lot going on. You have your rice and pasta, plus seasoning blend.  That’s it! Now if you know how to cook you might be shaking your head a little or even laughing and that’s okay. We all have different skill sets. If I look back even I chuckle at myself now because I never put the pieces together. But that’s really all there is to it.

Now this is awesome for two reasons: 1. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to put those ingredients together yourself and 2. Now you’re not limited to the flavor combinations that are on the shelf. Your options really are endless.  Oh, plus you don’t need to worry about them discontinuing your favorite flavor.  Sounds like a win win for me.  Especially when you consider those little boxes were getting very expensive.

Easy Rice Pilaf

One nice thing about making it yourself is that how you do it really doesn’t change. You’ll still melt some butter, toast up the rice and pasta, add some water and toss in your seasoning. It really doesn’t get too much easier than that.

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Homemade Rice Pilaf Ingredients

In order to make homemade rice pilaf let’s start at the beginning shall we. When you’re  making it at home use regular long grain rice, or whatever you keep on hand. It’s about a 3:1 ratio of rice to pasta. Now for the pasta you can go at least two routes. Vermicelli (which is generally in the box) or even the precut spaghetti works well. Extra bonus if you use the precut, you don’t need to do anything  to it. Otherwise you have to cut the pasta (pair of kitchen scissors works just fine) which honestly wasn’t too bad. You probably could really use any thin pasta if you want to know the truth. At home when we make it we’re using about 3/4 cups rice and 1/4 pasta.

We also still use about 2 cups of water or you could use 2 cups of stock. If using water we’ll add 1-2 cubes of bouillon (enough to make 2 cups worth). Generally we’ll stick with chicken or maybe vegetable depending on who we’re serving (we’ve got some vegetarian friends).


Last but not least your seasoning. Now here’s where it gets fun because you can use pretty much anything. Now, not everything works based on personal preference. We’ve tried a few that will never be made again, however, we also have a bunch that we love even though we didn’t think they’d work. So the downer here is you’re a little on your own as to what you should use. However, we do tend to stick with the seasoning blends be it either McCormick or Mrs Dash.  (haven’t gotten to the point where we’re making our own just yet) For the most part we’ve had more good than bad, and even our “fails” might be total winners for you. So have some fun experimenting, have a good laugh and see what works. Chances are if you’ll use it on food and enjoy it, you’ll like here as well.

How to Make Rice Pilaf

Now that you’ve got everything gathered together it’s the same thing as the box.  Have two cups of water (or stock) set aside and waiting.  Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter (olive oil works too) in a skillet, toss in your rice and pasta. Then stir to coat in melted butter and toast rice and pasta. I would say you want the pasta to turn to a slightly golden brown.

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The rice really won’t change color but it isn’t kinda cool to watch the rice change as well. Make sure you stir frequently. You’ll find the pasta goes from doing nothing to, okay I’m done, very quickly once it gets going. Hence why I recommend you keep water close by. Once the pasta is to the color you want add the water in.  This will generally stop the toasting process.

Throw in your boullion if using (not needed if using stock) and 1-2 tablespoons of your seasoning. There’s a range here because while we’ve found 2 tablespoons to typically be the correct amount, there’s a few blends that are super strong and we’ve dialed it back a bit.

Just remember you can always add more but it’s a bit difficult to take away. I probably should add that you might want to watch the salt on any spice blends you use. As our tastes changed any seasoning with salt as the first ingredient apparently is way too much for us now. Again though personal preference.

Cooking Rice Pilaf

Once you have everything in the pot and mixed up. That’s it! Throw your lid on and bring everything to a simmer, then turn heat down to low. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes. I can not stress keeping an eye on this one enough though. Especially the first time you’re making it.  We have a gas stove and have a burner that can cook this, no joke, in 7 minutes. Really only cook it until the rice and pasta is cooked.  So I would say watch it closely once or twice to get a feel for your stove and burners.

Now if everything is cooked but you have a lot of liquid left just give it a minute or two without the lid. Even on the extreme that you have no liquid but not every thing is cooked, well this is forgiving as long as you add some more liquid in.

Heres a fun trick for you. If you currently use the box mix. Just cut out the directions (label it if there’s nothing about the name in the direction) and keep them. They’ll serve as an awesome reminder on how to cook this.

Hope you enjoyed. If so come check out our community and feel free to share.

Print Recipe
Rice Pilaf
This basic rice pilaf lets you customize it to go with any dinner you have planned. Also very easy to adjust amounts when feeding a crowd or size it down for just one or two.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat, turn down to low add butter to melt. May need to stir
  2. add rice and vermicelli to pan. Turn heat up to about medium and toast until just browned
  3. add water, bouillon, and spice blend. Mix until well combined
  4. cook covered 10-15 minutes until rice is done and liquid has been cooked off. May want to check after about 7-8 minutes and stir.
  5. If rice is done and liquid still remains, cook uncovered and stir frequently until liquid has cooked off. If rice isn't quite done add about 1/4 cup water, stir to combine and recover.
Recipe Notes

Cooking time will vary based on your stove top.  I actually have a burner that will completely cook this in only 7 minutes.  What I love about this recipe is that the flavor is completely up to you.  With this you have so many more options than any box you could pick up in the store.  So pick your favorite and get cooking.

PS It's also easy to scale up or down for just one person or a crowd.

Back to Basics - Rice Pilaf

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