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Easy Rice Recipes for Sides and Dinners

You can never have enough easy rice recipes, right? Rice is a simple side dish, so it's nice to have a few recipes for flavored rice on hand for variety. Plus, you can use rice in one-pot meals and casseroles for a hearty dinner.

At our house, we eat rice often because it's naturally gluten-free. It's also the basis of many of my family's favorite meatless meals. A bed of rice is the perfect way to serve Easy Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken or Slow Cooker Red Beans.

easy rice recipes for sides and dinners - white rice, mexican rice and brown rice

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Types of rice

The most common rice used in family kitchens is long grain white rice, but many like Minute Rice because it cooks so quickly. Other prefer long grain brown rice. There's also specialty rices like jasmine rice and basmati rice. Cuisines like Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, and others tend to use basmati rice.

Different between white rice and brown rice

The main difference between white and brown rice is that brown is a whole grain, where white is processed to remove the bran and germ. White rice also cooks faster than brown rice.

Brown rice has a slightly nutty flavor and is more chewy, compared to light, fluffy white rice. Kids tend to prefer white rice, sort of like with white vs. wheat bread.

Research has shown that whole grains like brown rice can help lower blood sugar levels. But white rice can also be party of a healthy diet even with lower fiber, since it's easier for some people to digest.

When eating rice as a side dish, 1/2 cup cooked is a healthy portion size. If rice is the main dish, aim for 1 cup per person.

Fluffy brown rice cooked with wooden fork

What to do with leftover rice

If you have leftover rice, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I love using leftover rice in casseroles like Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole or Green Chile Chicken Casserole. It's also necessary to have cooked rice to make homemade fried rice.

When we have rice in the fridge, I love using it to make soups more hearty. I tend to make my soups with no carbs in them (like pasta), so my husband and I can control the amount. With leftover rice, I can put a portion size in the bottom of a bowl, then fill it up with soup for dinner.

Can you freeze rice?

If you don't plan to eat the rice within those 3-4 days, you should freeze it. There's a bacteria called bacillus cereus that can lead to food poisoning if rice is left out too long at room temperature. Freezing is a better option than refrigerating, plus it's so easy to reheat cooked rice. Just use the microwave, and make sure is hot and heated through. Avoid repeated reheating.

I like how handy it is to have rice ready-to-go in my freezer, especially brown rice, since it takes so long to cook in the first place. I put mine into gallon zipper freezer bags, then store it flat so it doesn't take up a lot of space. Frozen rice lasts about a month in the freezer.

blue bowl with white rice and spoon

How to cook rice

There are many ways to cook rice, like on the stovetop in a pot with a tight lid. You can also use a rice cooker or Instant Pot. As long as there's enough liquid, you can even cook rice within a one-pot meal or casserole. Or, include raw rice right in the soup recipe, like this Slow Cooker Turkey Soup With Rice.

I often use my pressure cooker to cook brown rice in bulk at the beginning of the week. Then, we have it available for dinnertime. My kids also love taking beans and rice for a hearty lunch.

How much liquid do you need to cook rice? That depends on the method of cooking. These amounts are general–you'll want to follow the package directions for stovetop or the appliance instructions for a rice cooker or pressure cooker.

  • Stovetop: 1 part rice to 2 parts water/broth, such as 1 cup rice with 2 cups water
  • Rice Cooker: 1 part rice to 1.5 parts liquid
  • Pressure Cooker: 1 part rice to 1-1.25 parts liquid

And of course, this can also vary depending on the type of rice you use: long-grain, jasmine, basmati, etc. For me, it took a couple of tries in my pressure cooker to get my brown basmati rice the texture we prefer. Now, it's easy!

Why make homemade rice dishes?

While using a boxed rice mix is super convenient, they often have preservatives and other additives plus a lot of sodium. Making your own flavored rice dish at home not only costs less, but it's healthier. You can control the ingredients, which is helpful if you're cooking around allergies or avoiding things like MSG.

White plate of fried rice with peas and corn

How much does one cup of rice make?

Generally, one cup of uncooked rice will yield 3 cups of cooked rice. The rice absorbs the cooking liquid and expands during cooking. You may find that basmati rice yield slightly less, about 2 3/4 cups cooked.

More easy rice recipes

Many of our family recipes here at MoneywiseMoms include rice, like Instant Pot Mexican Rice. Here are more to enjoy. These are all one-pot recipes, which makes them easy!

One Pot Rice Recipes

These easy rice recipes cook up in just one pot.

white bowl of fried rice on wooden table - easy rice recipes for dinner