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20 Rice Side Dishes That Are Easy to Make and Full of Flavor

If you want to trade in those bland piles of rice for delicious side dishes that you can’t get enough of, then you want to check out these recipes.

Rice is the grain that fuels the world.

It’s cheap, easy to grow, and nutritious, which is why it’s a staple food for nearly half of the planet, comprising more than one-fifth of the total calories that us humans consume.

What it’s not, though, is exciting. I don’t think my dogs would even perk up for a pot of rice for dinner.

What they–and most people–don’t know, though, is is just how delicious rice can be when you have the right recipes.

And that’s why I created this list for you.

Whether you want to make a meal out of just rice, serve it as alongside something heartier, or have it for dessert, you’re guaranteed to find something new and delicious.

Enjoy!

 

Fluffy Rice with Potatoes & Peas

Serves 6

An easy way to add veggies to your meal plan is to include them in your rice. This Indian side dish is mildly spiced with turmeric, cumin seeds, and dried curry leaves.

That’s where the flavor comes from, but what makes the dish are the peas and potatoes. They add different textures to the mix, plus nutritional benefits like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

305

Calories

6 g

Protein

56 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas

12 oz. white basmati rice

2/3 lb. new potatoes, washed and quartered

1/4 tsp. ground turmeric

2 1/2 Tbsp. ghee (or butter)

2 tsp. cumin seeds

8 curry leaves

1/4 tsp. asofoetida (or onion powder)

2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)

3 cups boiling water

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Butternut Squash Rice Casserole

Serves 6

Rather than worry about making rice as well as a vegetable, prepare them together in this easy casserole. You’ll only need a few minutes of active time in the kitchen to prepare two side dishes in one.

Cook the squash, onion, and garlic, and then mix everything together before putting this rice casserole with parmesan cheese into the oven.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

231

Calories

7 g

Protein

41 g

Carbs

5 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs.)

2 cups water

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white rice

1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp. seasoning salt

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”

Serves 8

If you’re making a lean meal that needs rice to feel complete – like chicken enchiladas or slow-cooked pork pernil – replace the grain with grated cauliflower for a similar feel.

Served plain, cauliflower “rice” won’t exactly pass the test, but once you mix in beans and cilantro, it’s a delicious low-carb rice dish to enjoy with your protein of choice.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

103

Calories

5 g

Protein

14 g

Carbs

4 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 large head cauliflower

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 small jalapenos, minced

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed

1/2 oz. taco seasoning mix

Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt to taste

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Chicken & Mango Fried Rice

Serves 4

Craving fried rice? Turn it into a whole meal complete with chicken, veggies, and even fresh fruit. With this Caribbean fried rice on the table, you won’t have to serve anything else for everyone to be satisfied.

Or this can be a delicious side dish as part of a family-style dinner with curry, jerk pork, and a simple cabbage slaw.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

657

Calories

30 g

Protein

74 g

Carbs

28 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 small red onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger

2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 tsp. sambal oelek chile paste (or Sriracha)

1 Tbsp. coconut sugar

2 tsp. sesame oil

4 cups cooked coconut Jasmine rice

1 large ripe mango, diced

1 lime

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (basil or mint)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Persian Rice Salad

Serves 4

Once you try this savory-sweet rice salad, you’ll want to have it in the fridge all the time, especially since it can be eaten hot or cold.

This easy Persian recipe is quick to make and can be a tasty way to use up leftover rice, whether you cooked it yourself or have takeout taking up space in the fridge. Just add seasoning, shredded carrots, raisins, and almonds. Then dig in.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

180

Calories

4 g

Protein

35 g

Carbs

3 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled

1/2 tsp. saffron

1/2 tsp. salt

Pinch of turmeric

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

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Lemon Parmesan Brown Rice

Serves 4

In most cases, it’s better not to compromise the complex carbs to eat white rice. The only problem is often the extra time.

Luckily, there’s par-boiled brown rice – aka minute rice – for both nutrition and convenience. Using the boil-in-a-bag variety means you won’t need nearly an hour to cook a healthy side dish. This fast brown rice recipe takes just 15 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

345

Calories

9 g

Protein

67 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

4 cups (2 packages) boil-in-a-bag brown rice

3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. (1/2 oz.) Parmesan cheese

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Cilantro Lime Rice

Serves 12

Plain rice is, well, plain. Using another cooking liquid can add dimension, but if you just have water, you’ll need to mix in other ingredients.

Some recipes require lots of mix-ins to layer the flavors, but for this one, just add your favorite herb. Cilantro and lime is a classic for Latin American meals. The same basic recipe can be used with other flavor combos like lemon and rosemary, or orange and basil.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

135

Calories

2 g

Protein

25 g

Carbs

3 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 cups dry basmati white rice

2 Tbsp. oil or butter

2 Tbsp. finely chopped white onions

1 clove garlic, minced

2 1/4 cups water

Salt to taste

1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)

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Rice Pilaf with Red Quinoa

Serves 3

Can’t decide what to serve as a side dish? This pilaf includes not just rice, but also quinoa and even pasta. It’s not much harder to make than a box of Rice a Roni, yet the result is a lot tastier without ingredients like hydrolyzed protein and gluten, which are made by boiling foods in hydrochloric acid.

This recipe starts with frying the pasta, then the rice and quinoa, and finishes with cooking all three in broth or water. Add herbs and spices to taste.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

489

Calories

12 g

Protein

82 g

Carbs

12 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (or butter)

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) broken angel hair pasta

1 cup dry white rice

1/2 cup dry red quinoa

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 3/4 cups vegetable stock (or water)

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Sweet Potato Rice

Serves 4

In some ways, sweet potato is an ideal starch for a bodybuilding diet – it’s low on the glycemic index, has magnesium and potassium to reduce cramping as muscles recover, and is rich in vitamin A, needed for the body to utilize all that protein you pack into your meal plan.

So you’ll love this Korean rice dish that adds sweet potato to the mix. This is a side you’ll want to wolf down post-workout with a lean meat like chicken or cube steak.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

307

Calories

7 g

Protein

64 g

Carbs

2 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 cup short-grain rice

1 lb. sweet potato

1/2 cup chopped chives

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tsp. pure honey

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

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Easy Fried Tomato Rice

Serves 4

When you think of rice mixed with tomatoes, what comes to mind is probably Mexican food. But in this recipe, tomato paste is mixed into fried rice with fish sauce and sesame oil for Asian flavor.

You could eat this as a small meal, especially since there’s protein from almost all the ingredients: meat, peas, eggs, and the rice itself. Or serve it with braised pork, roast chicken, or baked tofu for larger portions.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

374

Calories

13 g

Protein

65 g

Carbs

7 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 large eggs

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 slices bacon, chopped

4 cups day-old cooked rice

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 tomatoes

3 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 cup peas

1 Tbsp. chili sauce (or more to taste)

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. sugar

White pepper to taste

1/2 cup sliced green onions

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Jollof Rice

Serves 8

Jollof rice is a staple of West African cooking. And no wonder because it’s a one-pot rice dish that’s adaptable depending on what’s in your pantry.

You’ll definitely need some curry powder, tomatoes, peppers. Then you might add veggies like carrots, seasoning such as fresh ginger, and herbs if you have them. Jollof rice can also be cooked with diced chicken breast, or for a quick protein, serve it with canned fish stirred in.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

196

Calories

4 g

Protein

33 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

5 small tomatoes

2 small red peppers

2 Scotch bonnet chillies (more or less to taste)

1 red onion

Pinch of flaked sea salt

3 Tbsp. neutral oil

1 cup dry basmati rice

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 tsp. curry powder

1 stock cube (such as Maggi)

Pinch of nutmeg

1 small red pepper, diced small

1 small green pepper, diced small

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Indian Mint Rice

Serves 3

This flavorful rice is cooked with a fresh mint sauce. Indian recipes often have a lot of seasoning, but the only hard part is acquiring them all. In this recipe, the herbs, ginger, and garlic are ground into a paste. Them the dry spices are toasted, which means just putting them in a hot pan for a few minutes and watching so they don’t burn.

Similar to how you’d sauté onion and garlic before adding more ingredients for a stir fry, all the seasonings are cooked separately for a couple minutes before moving onto the main steps. After that, this Indian rice can be finished in a pressure cooker or on the stove.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

432

Calories

9 g

Protein

89 g

Carbs

5 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups rice

1 cup fresh peppermint, lightly packed

Handful of fresh cilantro (optional)

2 green chilies

1” fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 large onion (or 1/4 cup chopped coconut)

Salt to taste

2 tsp. oil

1 bay leaf

1 star anise

1 strand mace

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

6 whole cloves

2” cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods

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Spicy Chickpea Rice

Serves 4

For a twist on rice and beans, head to the Middle East by using chickpeas and a delicious blend of spices. There are endless ways to combine the two into a great rice dish. This recipe even adds cubed steak for when you want to serve your lean dinner with extra protein on the side.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

439

Calories

21 g

Protein

70 g

Carbs

8 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 cup (about 2/3 can) chickpeas

1 1/2 cups short-grain rice

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic

1/2 lb. top loin strip steak, cut into cubes

2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. turmeric

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

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Beer Rice

Serves 4

A quick trick to infuse rice with flavor is to boil it in broth instead of water. But this recipe has another idea – using a bottle of beer for the cooking liquid.

The alcohol will cook out, leaving behind notes of whatever ale, lager, or stout you used. Unless you buy a single bottle, though, you’ll have the better part of a six pack to polish off with friends and family at dinner.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

300

Calories

5 g

Protein

50 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. butter

1 1/4 cups dry rice

1 bottle (12 oz.) beer

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 tsp. onion powder

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Sushi Rice Egg Drop Soup

Serves 4

Not all rice side dishes have to be served next to the entrée on your plate. If you have leftover rice, use this recipe to turn it into a simple egg drop soup.

Skip the sake and rice vinegar if your rice is already seasoned for sushi, or use those simple seasonings to turn plain rice into a delicious soup. Customize it with garnishes like nori seaweed, fresh chives, or cilantro.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

146

Calories

5 g

Protein

25 g

Carbs

3 g

Fat

Ingredients

Soup:

3 1/2 cups dashi broth

1 1/2 cups cooked Japanese rice

3 Tbsp. rice vinegar (below)

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tsp. light soy sauce

 

Sushi Rice Vinegar:

2 Tbsp. sake

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. salt

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Cheesy Asparagus Rice

Serves 8

Since this side dish uses Arborio rice – the kind used to make risotto – the result is a creamy rice. But for this one, you won’t have to stand at the stove and stir.

It’s made like a pilaf instead, so once the ingredients are assembled in the pan, you can leave it to finish for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare a quick entrée like poached salmon or pan-seared chicken breast.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

180

Calories

7 g

Protein

23 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup Arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 1/2 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 lb. asparagus (about 20 medium thickness), trimmed and peeled

Fine sea salt to taste

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 large shallot, trimmed, finely chopped, rinsed in cold water, and patted dry

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) grated pecorino Romano

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 large scallions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced

Handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Coconut Rice & Beans

Serves 4

When you don’t have much on hand, just rice and beans can become a whole meal. It only takes those two things to make a vegetarian side dish that delivers complete proteins, awesome for when you’re trying to eat cheap.

Rice and beans can be a little plain, but with a few extra ingredients, you’ll have a flavorful side dish that’s inexpensive and nutritious. In this recipe, the rice is boiled in coconut milk, plus a bit of pineapple juice for natural sweetness.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

343

Calories

11 g

Protein

62 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 can (15 oz.) lite coconut milk

1/3 cup pineapple juice (or mango juice)

1/2 cup water

1 cup dry white rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups pinto beans (about 1 1/3 cans)

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Cabbage Rice with Saffron

Serves 6

Meatballs and pasta are a classic pairing, so why not meatballs and rice? This Persian take on cabbage and beef can be a whole meal, or you can reduce the servings to enjoy it as a side dish.

Spices like saffron and turmeric set this rich dish, called kalam polow, apart from Eastern European cabbage and beef recipes. And this is just one variation, so it’s adaptable to include other ingredients like tomato paste, or to leave out saffron if you don’t have any in the pantry. Check out Persian Kitchen for more ways to cook it.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

550

Calories

29 g

Protein

84 g

Carbs

10 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

2 onions

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. turmeric, divided

1 1/2 lb. white cabbage, shredded

3 cups dry rice

4 Tbsp. brewed saffron

Canola oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Thai Yellow Curry Rice Pilaf

Serves 8

Prepare this yellow curry rice mix ahead of time, and keep the dry ingredients in the pantry until you’re ready to cook. Splitting the work into two steps makes it a lot easier to prepare a fancy rice dish like this.

With the mix of almonds, cranberries, and curry pre-assembled, you just need the fresh ingredients like cucumber and tomatoes to make this pilaf. For a one-pot meal, cook the curried rice with chicken thighs.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

335

Calories

16 g

Protein

29 g

Carbs

17 g

Fat

Ingredients

Yellow Curry Rice Mix:

1 cup + 2 Tbsp. long-grain rice

2 Tbsp. dried chopped onion

1 Tbsp. Madras curry powder

1/2 cup chopped almonds (or cashews)

1 tsp. salt

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup dried cranberries (or dried pineapple)

 

Pilaf:

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 2/3 cups chicken stock (or water)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, cooked

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

1 cucumber, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup fresh cilantro

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Chinese Sticky Rice

Serves 4

With pork, shrimp, and mushrooms, this rice dish is a well-balanced meal. But if you’re serving a whole buffet of Chinese food like char sui pork, chili chicken, and sweet and sour shrimp, you’ll want this tasty rice on the table.

Sticky rice can also be vegetarian if needed, although then it won’t have nearly 25 grams of protein per serving.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

470

Calories

24 g

Protein

55 g

Carbs

17 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 cups dry rice

1 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 lb. pork loin, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. fried shallots

2 Tbsp. dried shrimp

5 dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 Tbsp. cooked rice wine

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1Tbsp. sesame oil

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OVER 100,000 PEOPLE HAVE USED MY COOKBOOK TO GET THE BODY THEY WANT EATING THE FOODS THEY LOVE. WILL YOU BE NEXT?

What if I told you that just about everything magazines and trainers “teach” you about dieting is wrong?

What if you could build muscle and lose fat eating “naughty” foods every week?

What if you didn’t have to suffer through low-carb dieting to get lean? In fact, what if you could eat all the carbs you wanted?

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In short, what if I told you that proper dieting--whether you want to maximize fat loss or muscle growth--is much simpler and more enjoyable than you’ve been led to believe?

Imagine eating delicious, filling meals every day...never feeling starved or stuffed...having great energy levels and workouts...and watching your body respond exactly as you desire, dropping fat or adding muscle each and every week.

And imagine finally understanding how proper dieting really works, never again falling for the BS, tricks, and gimmicks pushed by “gurus” and other shysters.

Well, I have good news.

All these “fantasies” can be a reality...if you know how to do a handful of “little” things correctly.

You see, when you know how to diet properly--and this doesn’t mean learning to eat boiled chicken and raw broccoli six times per day--getting lean and muscular becomes simple, convenient, and dare I say...enjoyable.

And this book will show you the way.

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like my articles, then you'll love my bestselling books. They'll show you exactly what you need to do to build muscle and lose fat without hating your diet or living in the gym.

If you're a guy, check out Bigger Leaner Stronger, and if you're a girl, Thinner Leaner Stronger is for you.

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