Simple yet full of flavor, this rice pilaf is made with rice and tender orzo pasta. It’s an easy side dish that’s perfect with just about any main dish, and tastes like a homemade version of Rice-a-Roni!
This is one of my Side Dish recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
Do you ever have one of those nostalgic foods that you love, even though you know it’s not the best for you? Rice-a-Roni is one of those for me, and a lot of other people I know!
It’s so rich and flavorful, but I always wonder what exactly is in that little seasoning packet? Actually, I don’t want to know lol.
This recipe hits a lot of those same flavor notes for me, while adding extra texture, and I know exactly what’s in it. No weird and hard to pronounce ingredients!
A good classic rice pilaf is the ultimate side dish, since it goes so well with just about any protein and/or vegetable.
How to make rice pilaf?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Saute aromatics and pasta. In this recipe, we use butter to cook the onion, garlic, and orzo in.
- Add rice. You can saute the rice as well, but I’ve found you still get a great texture without adding that extra step.
- Add broth and simmer. After pouring in the broth, give everything a stir, cover, and cook.
- Fluff. Give everything a stir with a spatula or fork.
This recipe, as written, only works with white long grain rice. It hasn’t been tested with other types and varieties of rice (including minute rice), so if you change the type of rice, you’ll need to do some experimenting to perfect the amount of liquid used, and cooking time.
Variations of this recipe
- Pasta – instead of orzo, you can try using vermicelli or thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces.
- Spices – feel free to play around with the spices and use your favorites.
- More chicken flavor – to increase the chicken flavor, you could add some chicken bouillon or chicken base (chicken flavored Better than Bouillon).
- Vegetarian – to make this a vegetarian side dish, just swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or stock!
- Dried herbs – instead of using fresh parsley, try using 1/2 – 1 tsp dried parsley if that’s what you have on hand.
- Cheesy – try stirring in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese after cooking the rice pilaf!
It has to do with the technique of cooking the rice and pasta so they don’t stick to each other. This is achieved by sautéing the orzo in the butter, rather than adding it in with the rice. If you wanted to take it one step further, you can also saute the rice with the orzo.
I haven’t tested is specifically, but I’m sure it could be done! I would cook the onion, garlic, and orzo on the saute setting. Hit cancel, stir in the rice, and pour in the chicken broth (reduce the amount of chicken broth to 1 2/3 cups), add lid, then select pressure cook and change the time to 3 minutes. After the cooking time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then move the valve to release any remaining pressure. Remove lid, fluff rice pilaf, and stir in the parsley.
Making rice pilaf ahead of time
While I think this recipe tastes best when made fresh, you can make it completely ahead of time if you’d like. Just reheat before serving.
You can also prep parts of this recipe ahead of time!
How to prep ahead for this recipe:
- Onion and garlic – the onion and garlic can be minced and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Rice and orzo – the rice and orzo can be measured, and kept separately at room temperature until ready to use.
This recipe can also be frozen! Make as directed, then cool completely and transfer to a freezer-safe container.
Freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw in the refrigerator (and heat up before serving).
Leftover rice pilaf should be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed within 4-5 days.
You definitely need a skillet/pan with a tight-fitting lid for this rice pilaf recipe. This is the skillet featured in the photos, but any 10-12″ skillet with a lid will work.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 cup orzo pasta
- 1 cup long grain white rice uncooked – no minute rice
- 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley optional
- You'll need a skillet or saucepan with a lid for this recipe.
- Add butter to skillet or saucepan and heat over MED heat. Once melted, add onion, garlic, and orzo pasta.
- Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent, and the garlic and orzo are lightly golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, so don't walk away during this step!
Cook the rice
- Add rice, chicken broth, salt, and parsley (if using). Stir well, and bring mixture to a boil.
- Once it reaches a boil, cover with the lid, and reduce the heat to LOW and simmer. Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Fluff and serve
- Turn off the heat and remove lid. Fluff with a fork or rubber spatula. ** If there's liquid left in the pan, turn the heat back to LOW and continue stirring over low heat until the liquid is gone. **
- Serve warm, garnished with extra parsley if desired.
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- I’ve estimated this recipe serves approximately 4 people, however the exact serving size is up to you.
- Instead of orzo pasta, you can use vermicelli or thin spaghetti that’s been broken into small pieces.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.