The surprising ingredient you should be adding to your rice

Rice is something of a universally satisfying dish because it's so versatile. You can add tons of different ingredients to make it more flavorful like herbs, vegetables, or even different sauces, and you'll create an incredibly comforting and delicious meal or side. But, there's one ingredient that you should undoubtedly be adding to your rice, and surprise, it's cheese. 

If cheese and rice sound odd to you at first, then chances are you should experiment more with cheesy rice. Rice bakes with cheese are simple and easy, but cheesy rice can also be an elegant dish — all you have to do is add Parmesan, goat, or gorgonzola cheese. When you add cheese to rice, it's similar to pasta that's loaded with cheese. The dish becomes creamy and rich, but adding older and stronger kinds of cheese will also help add umami to it, which increases the depth of flavor as well (via Reader's Digest).

Make your rice richer

You might find that simply stirring in different kinds of cheese to add depth of flavor just isn't enough. So, should you want to experiment even more, you can add cream cheese to your rice. Carolina Rice even provides a recipe for rice mac and cheese that employs cream cheese, as well as butter, cheddar cheese, and milk. When combined and added into the rice, the dish becomes smooth, silky, and luxurious. Is your mouth watering too?

Cream cheese also helps add tanginess to any rice dish. While some similar cheeses like mascarpone are better for dessert, cream cheese is perfectly versatile for any kind of savory rice dish (via Websteraunt Store).

Make a cheesy risotto

Risotto might be the best option to start with if you want to dip your taste buds into cheesy rice. While risotto does take time to make, the rice absorbs flavors beautifully, which creates a surprisingly complex dish. A base of herbs is sautéed in butter and added into the rice that's cooked in broth or wine. Those base flavors can set the stage for some of your favorite cheese pairings that you might otherwise have in many other dishes or foods (via Pampered Chef).

For example, if you love cheese and herbed bread filled with rosemary, sage, parsley, asiago, and provolone cheeses, then you can use all of those ingredients in your risotto. Rice is so versatile that you can really replicate most flavor pairings you love in risotto. Combinations like cheese and ham, Caprese salad's tomato and basil with mozzarella, or sweet and tart cranberries with creamy camembert are all good options (via Food for Net).

Consider a cold rice dish

Just because you are adding cheese to rice doesn't mean it has to be melted and stringy. You can always add flavor to a cold rice salad with cheese too. Martha Stewart recommends a tomato and spinach salad made with brown rice. But if you love Caprese salad, you can always draw inspiration from that classic pairing by tossing in mini mozzarella balls.

Another recipe from Martha Stewart is a rice salad with asparagus and peas, which could pair nicely with harder cheeses like parmesan. It could also get a tangy boost from something soft and crumbly like feta or even goat cheese. 

Another unusual way to combine rice and cheese is to use rice as the base of a Caesar salad, according to Sargento. The rice is cooked in chicken broth then cooled to room temperature so the flavors blend perfectly with the garlic in the salad. To top it all off, the salad gets a sprinkling of Italian cheese blend to round everything out.

How to add cheese to your rice

No matter what you're cooking, choosing a cheese to add to your rice really depends on what the final dish or meal is going to consist of. For example, if you are cooking for adults with a more refined palate, you might want to choose more sophisticated cheeses like a smoked gouda. For a meal with kids, or if you just want to revisit your own childhood, then you might want to stick to cheeses like American.

We love Taste of Home's creamy cheese rice made with Velveeta. All you have to do is cook the rice separately along with any other toppings or ingredients that will be incorporated such as shrimp or mushrooms. Then, stir in the cheese at the end so it slowly melts into the rice and stays soft.

So, the next time you make rice, try folding in cheese for a different take on a pantry staple. We're pretty sure you won't be sorry.