Simple yet full of flavor, this garlic parmesan rice pilaf is made with rice, tender orzo pasta, and plenty of garlic and cheese. 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!
A rich rice pilaf is the ultimate side dish, since it goes so well with just about any protein and/or vegetable.
The garlic and parmesan flavors take this rice pilaf to the next level. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with adding those two flavors, right?
This isn’t a Rice-a-Roni copycat recipe, but it’s such a nostalgic food, for many people… and 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!
How to make garlic parmesan 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 seasonings, then simmer. After pouring in the broth and adding the seasonings, give everything a stir, cover, and cook.
- Add cheese and fluff. Stir in the parmesan cheese, then fluff it with a 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 garlic – if you’re a garlic fanatic (I’m right there with ya!), please feel free to add additional cloves of garlic, or add some garlic powder.
- More chicken flavor – to increase the chicken flavor, you could add some chicken bouillon or chicken base (chicken flavored Better than Bouillon).
- Richer flavor – sometimes I like to add an extra tablespoon of butter to the pilaf at the end of cooking, when you add the parmesan.
- Citrus – try adding the juice of about half a lemon, as well as the zest of the whole lemon, when you add the chicken broth.
- Vegetarian – to make this a vegetarian side dish, just swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or stock!
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, salt, parsley, pepper, and oregano and pour in the chicken broth (reduce the amount of chicken broth to 2 1/3 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 parmesan cheese.
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.
Making cheesy 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.
This pan is definitely not cheap, but I wanted to be transparent that this is the pan I use in my kitchen. However, you can use any large and deep skillet/pan with a fitting lid.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 cup dried orzo pasta
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup long grain white rice uncooked – no instant or minute rice
- 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese freshly grated is best
- You'll need a skillet or saucepan with a lid for this recipe.
- Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet or wide saucepan (that has a lid), over MED heat.
- Add onion and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
- Add orzo pasta and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until orzo is golden brown. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.
Cook the rice
- Add rice and stir.
- Pour in chicken broth, then add salt, dried parsley, black pepper, and oregano. Stir well and increase the heat to MED HIGH to bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to LOW, cover with lid, and simmer until rice and pasta are tender, and the broth has been absorbed, about 20-23 minutes.
Rest, fluff, and serve
- Remove pan from the heat, with the lid still on, and let stand for about 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in Parmesan cheese, and fluff well with a fork.
- Serve warm and enjoy.
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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.